1. Pack extra supplies. The last thing you want to spend your holidays doing is searching for diabetes supplies in a strange place. If you take medication or insulin to manage your diabetes, take enough to last at least a week or two longer than you plan to be away. Same goes for blood glucose test strips and lancets. It’s also a good idea to pack an extra blood glucose meter and lancet device, and spare insulin pens. If you use an insulin pump, most companies will provide you with a spare loan pump for travel. If your meter or pump uses batteries, carry spares of these too.
2. Consider time zone changes. If you take insulin or medication to manage your diabetes, you’ll need to consider any time zone changes during your travels. Speak with your doctor or diabetes educator about adjusting your insulin or medication timing.
3. Keep supplies safe. If you’re flying, always keep your diabetes supplies in your hand luggage. It’s a good idea to split your supplies between two bags, in case one gets lost. If possible, give one bag to a travel partner to carry. For all types of travel, it’s also important to protect your insulin and test strips from temperature extremes, so consider an insulated pack (available in many different shapes and sizes) to keep them safe.
4. Prepare your paperwork and identification. If you’re flying, you’ll need a letter from your doctor stating that you have diabetes and outlining any medication and devices you need to carry on board. Also take your NDSS card, which is accepted as proof that you have diabetes. If you are taking insulin or medication, pack these in their original box with the pharmacy label, and carry your scripts for these medications. Also consider wearing medical ID stating that you have diabetes, particularly if you are taking insulin or diabetes medications that can cause hypos. This is particularly important if you’re travelling alone.
5. Have a sick day plan. While hopefully, your holiday will be illness-free, it’s always best to be prepared. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator about a sick day plan to help in managing your diabetes if you become unwell, including what to do if your blood glucose levels are high or if you can’t keep food down. And remember to pack your diabetes sick day kit. If travelling overseas, consider travel insurance to cover you in case you need medical care while away.
6. Have help on hand for hypos. If you are taking insulin or medication that can cause hypos (low blood glucose levels) you may find these are more frequent when you travel due to being out of your usual routine and perhaps being more active. Carry plenty of food to treat hypos (such as glucose tablets or jellybeans) as well as extra carbohydrate snacks in case of meals being delayed. Also, make sure that someone you are travelling with knows what to do if you have a hypo and need assistance. If you are travelling overseas or somewhere where it would be harder to access emergency medical care (e.g. camping or sailing) it’s a good idea to carry a Glucagon Hypokit and to ensure that one of your travel companions knows how to use this in an emergency.
While having diabetes can present some extra challenges when you travel, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some time away. So, follow these steps to make sure you are prepared, and then relax and enjoy your holiday!