Do you dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower, cruising the Atlantic or driving cross-country to spend time with your kids and grandkids—but wouldn’t dare because it’s just too hard to handle your diabetes on the road?
You may be shortchanging yourself. Fact is, with a little planning and preparation, you can travel virtually anywhere. Follow these tips to manage your health, wherever life leads you:
- Bring extras. Get any refills before your trip, aiming to keep an additional week’s worth of medications and supplies on hand in case your trip is unexpectedly extended or you lose a dose. If it’s too early for a refill, ask your endocrinologist for samples. Or see whether your pharmacist can replenish the medication on a one-time basis (you may need to reach out to your health insurance company, too). Another alternative? Find out whether your pharmacy will let you refill medication at your destination.
- Stash supplies in your carry-on. Keep all your medication and supplies (pumps, syringes, etc.) with you, on the off-chance that your luggage is lost. Plus, you’ll have your medication if your travel is delayed or you need it unexpectedly.
- Pack properly. It’s best to pack medications in their original containers to ensure they’re stored correctly. Although medication labels aren’t required when flying, it’s helpful to have the labels on hand if airport security has questions.
- Heat-proof your meds. Insulin doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but it shouldn’t be exposed to heat, so keep it out of a car glove compartment, beach bag or anywhere else it might be hot and humid. If you take medication that requires refrigeration, store your medication in a cooler or insulated bag with ice or ice packs.
- Carry a list. It should include all of your medications and the name, address and phone number of your pharmacy at home. Also have on hand the phone numbers of your diabetes healthcare provider and primary physician, in case you need to contact them during your trip or if you need to be seen by another physician.
- Stash snacks. Make sure you carry some food, such as meal replacement bars, nuts or peanut butter crackers, whenever you board any mode of transportation. In case of a blood sugar low, you’ll be prepared. It’s a good idea to have water on hand, too.
- Tune in to time changes. If you’re traveling to a different time zone, talk with your healthcare provider about how to adjust your medication schedule. They can tell you when you should take your medication so that you don’t skip or take too many doses. Consider writing out your medication schedule and keeping it in your carry-on bag, or set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you when to take your doses.
- Know how to deal with security. Notify the security agent if you have your diabetes supplies with you, such as insulin, syringes, blood glucose meters and insulin pumps. You can take these items onboard, but they’ll be screened at security. If possible, put everything in one carrying case to make the screening process easier. Consider also having your endocrinologist write a letter prior to your departure listing the medications and supplies you’ll be taking onboard. For questions about air travel with diabetes medications, visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website.
- Wear some bling. Diabetes jewelry, that is. Consider wearing a medical ID necklace or bracelet that notes you have diabetes. That way, if an emergency arises (such as an accident that leaves you unable to speak on your behalf), medical people on the scene will know that you have diabetes.