The Definitive Guide to Traveling with Diabetes

The Definitive Guide to Traveling with Diabetes

If you are one of the many people who live with diabetes, you know just how important it is to take excellent care of your health. To stay well, your daily activities probably include everything from checking your blood sugar to carefully watching your diet. Even though you may have more wellness considerations than others, you can still live your life to the fullest. As long as you follow your doctor’s instructions and take your medications, you’re free to work, enjoy your favorite hobbies and, best of all—travel. 

Whether you’re interested in taking a tropical vacation or are planning on visiting family, know that traveling with diabetes doesn’t have to be difficult. In this guide, we’ll tell you whom you need to call, which tasks you need to complete and exactly what you need to pack before your trip. Once you complete each of the items on this handy travel checklist, you’ll help yourself avoid diabetic emergencies. Best of all, you’ll feel free to focus on a fun and relaxing experience with your loved ones.

Senior man looking at airplane window

How to Prepare 

Anyone who is diagnosed with diabetes knows they must become a master of preparation. For one, your medical supplies need to go wherever you do. You must also think twice before eating or drinking something new. Thankfully, you can use knowledge of your condition as well as your organizational skills to make the most of your travel experience. The most important things you’ll need to do at this point include visiting your physician and researching more about your travel plans. 

In the days and weeks before your trip

In the days and weeks before your trip, make sure you: 

  • Visit Your Doctor: As soon as you book your travel dates, make an appointment with your general practitioner or diabetes specialist—whomever you see for your diabetic symptoms. Tell your doctor where you’re going, how you plan on getting there and how long you’ll be staying. They may have recommendations for your mode of travel. They could also have suggestions for where to receive a physician’s care if you need it. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll check your prescriptions to be sure you’ll have refills for your trip. 
  • Get a Doctor’s Note: If you’re going on a cruise, traveling internationally or flying on an airplane, ask for a doctor’s note. The letter will include information about your diabetes diagnosis, the medicines you take and the type of medical equipment you need to stay well. It may also list their contact information, like their address and phone number. This note is very important if you need emergency care or lose your bag of medications while you’re away. You can also have them print out a copy of your medicine list or give you a copy of your prescriptions so you have it handy in your travel bag. 
  • Have an Emergency Plan: Before you leave the doctor’s office, review your diabetic emergency action plan. Make sure you have your emergency contacts listed in your phone. Some smartphones will allow you to apply a red asterisk to specific names. You can also write (ICE) after the person’s last name so first responders will know whom they should call in an emergency. While you’re checking your contacts, make sure you set a reminder to wear your ID necklace or bracelet on the day of your trip. 
  • Check in with Your Travel Provider: Visit your airline or cruise line’s website for special instructions on carrying a glucose monitor or insulin. In some cases, you will be asked to keep your medicine in your carry-on bag, but it still must be checked through security. The travel provider may also prohibit equipment like insulin needles, which is why a doctor’s letter will be important. If you’re worried about what you can and can’t take on your ship, train or plane, call the company or your travel agent directly. It’s better to know about your limitations ahead of time so you can plan accordingly. Sometimes, all that is needed is a special waiver from the airline or cruise ship. 
  • Make a List of Pharmacies: Check the addresses of pharmacies or drug stores near your destination. If you know what’s located nearby, you’ll be able to get a prescription quickly. This is helpful in case you don’t feel well. It’s also good to know where to get everyday supplies like testing strips or a sugary snack. 

Compression Socks

What to Pack 

After you pack your clothing and toiletries, it’s time to make a special list for your diabetes supplies. Cross each item off the list as you place them in your checked luggage or carry-on bag. On the morning of your trip, give yourself a few moments to check the list again. This double-dip strategy will help you remember if you still need to pack your daily essentials or if you are forgetting something important. 

At a minimum, you’ll need to pack the following items for your trip: 

  • Doctor and Medical Essentials: Keep your doctor’s contact details, official letter and medical ID on your person. Place everything in a purse or small carry-on bag. You’ll also need your blood glucose meter, an extra supply of test strips and your carrying case so it’s easy to keep everything together. Don’t forget a full supply of your daily medications. 
  • Drinks and Snacks: Pack a couple of snacks in case you don’t feel well. If you’re flying on a plane, you’ll need to buy them once you get past security. Curious about which foods are available? Try checking your airport’s website to see which restaurants and shops are near your gate. Healthy food options in airports include mixed nuts, dried fruit and popcorn. Don’t forget glucose tablets or a sugary drink, like lemonade or apple juice. 
Woman checking blood sugar level
  • Insulin and Related Supplies: If you take insulin, you’ll also need your medicine. Don’t forget your delivery device and a spare pen. Extra needles and your insulated storage bag are also necessary. 
  • Emergency Care Kit: Some travelers with diabetes also like to pack special items to help them recover if they don’t feel well. These may include an ice pack or gel pack for cooling down, anti-diarrhea pills for gastrointestinal symptoms or a thermometer. A mini first aid kit may also be helpful, since it often contains travel size pill packs and antibacterial cream. 
  • Extra Batteries: Even if your meter or pump is in good working order, there is a chance the batteries will die on your trip. Bring extra batteries with you in your carry-on or checked luggage so you can fix an issue immediately. 
  • Comfort and Wellness Items: Now that you have all of your essential healthcare items, it’s time to consider what you’ll need to stay the most comfortable. Pack supportive shoes and your diabetic compression socks. You can also bring a reusable water bottle—but make sure you pour it out and put it in your bag before you go through security. Other popular items for travelers include a neck pillow, travel size bottle of lotion and set of earbuds or headphones. 

Tips for Travel Day  

Your hard work and preparation have paid off—it’s finally time to go on your vacation. There are just a few more steps you need to take before you are relaxing in paradise or catching up with your loved ones. Make your day as easy and stress-free as possible by taking advantage of your travel provider’s digital tools. Having a conversation with airline staff or travel companions can also make a big difference in the comfort of your experience. 

don’t forget to do the following

When it’s time to go on vacation, don’t forget to do the following: 

  • Talk to Your Travel Mates: Whether you’re traveling with a spouse, adult child or your best friend, it’s important that you let them know about your situation. Explain the signs of a diabetic emergency and what they can do if you need help. You should also tell them where to find essential items like your snacks, glucose monitor and medical ID. If you’re traveling alone, notify your flight attendant about your medical history. Tell your emergency contacts where you’re going so they can keep their phones handy. 
  • Take Your Time: Give yourself plenty of time to grab a ride-sharing service, check into your airline or get to the train station. If you are in a rush, you may forget your supplies or deplete your energy. Leave early, especially if you anticipate getting caught in traffic. When flying, check into your airline as early as possible so you already have a seat number when you arrive. 
  • Check Your Glucose More Often: Your schedule will be interrupted, so you need to keep a closer eye on your glucose. Use your meter before you leave your home. A baseline reading will help you to know where you stand throughout the day. Since you may be exercising more than normal or eating differently than usual, your blood sugar may be a little off-kilter. It may also be a good idea to take your blood sugar before you get on your plane, start driving in the car or board your ship. Don’t forget to monitor yourself before and after meals, especially if you’re enjoying a new snack or cuisine. 
  • Prepare for Airport Security: If you are wearing an insulin pump through your airport’s security checkpoint, understand the manufacturer’s instructions before you get in line. Some models are unable to go through a body scanner, so you’ll have to tell the TSA staff that you’ll need a metal detector instead. Some agents will ask you if you’d like a pat-down instead of going through the scanners. If you have a few extra moments and are comfortable with the experience, this may be the best way to head through security. 
  • Take Shortcuts: Find out how you can make your travel experience easier. Consider applying for the CLEAR program before you go on a plane so you can make the security check-in process faster. If you’re able to pick your seat on your flight, visit your airline’s app or website 24 hours before you disembark. In many cases, you’ll be able to choose a seat in an ideal location, such as an aisle seat near the front of the aircraft or next to the restroom. 
  • Spend time to plan for your trip

    Enjoy Your Vacation 

    It’s true that you may need to plan more than others for your next trip. However, the time you take to organize and pack your diabetes supplies will be well worth it. There’s nothing that can end a blissful vacation more quickly than dealing with medical challenges. Now that you’ve followed each step in this guide, you can travel with confidence knowing you’ve considered everything you need to have a good trip. 

    If you’re starting to pack, you may discover you don’t have the right compression supplies. There are many benefits of compression therapy for those with diabetes, especially while traveling. Both men’s and women’s travel compression socks work to improve circulation in your legs, which is helpful for avoiding discomfort and even blood clots when you’re sitting for hours in a car or on an airplane. They also decrease your chances of swelling in your legs and help to prevent symptoms of neuropathy. 

    We have a wide selection of women’s and men’s travel compression socks in various styles and compression strengths to meet your travel needs. Browse our brands online and contact us with your questions. We’re happy to help you choose the right compression socks or hosiery for your unique vacation and lifestyle. As you continue to prepare for your journey, we wish you happy, healthy and safe travels! 

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