Tips for travelling with diabetes
Monday, 6 May 2019
Those of us who are lucky enough to travel the world find many benefits of getting out and about, experiencing new places and cultures, meeting new people and making new friends.
Studies show travelling can improve your overall health and creativity.
There are few things in life more exciting than planning and going on a trip somewhere new, or back to a city you love.
When you live with diabetes, doing pleasurable things, like travelling becomes even more important. Not only does travelling enhance your tolerance for uncertainty, of which there can be plenty when we’re talking blood glucose levels, it’s also fun, boosts your confidence, gives you peace of mind, improves your communication skills, and helps you to get to know yourself.
With careful planning, you can travel as far, and wide, as you like. And as often as you like, provided you make sure that you have everything ready before you leave.
Ask your doctor for a letter outlining the following – if you will be visiting countries where English is not the official language, consider having the letter translated.
- your medical condition/s
- your diabetes medications (including dosage and how often you take them)
- devices you use for diabetes (such as a blood glucose meter, lancet, insulin pens/syringes or insulin pump)
- the importance of you carrying your medications with you at all times, especially if you are at risk of low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia or hypo), you need to carry hypo treatment with you at all times
- your insulin pump/continuous blood monitor (if you use one) must not be removed – even when going through airport security
- other medications
- your sick day management
Take several copies of this letter or have it available on an electronic device (such as a smartphone or tablet). Present it at security checkpoints or medical services if necessary.
Talk through your travel plans with your diabetes educator. Put together a sick day management kit before travelling, and make sure you pack it in your carry-on luggage.
If you are travelling overseas, think about whether the letter needs to be translated into the languages of your destinations, and consider the following:
- ask your doctor about any vaccinations you may require well in advance of your trip
- take out travel insurance for both your health and your belongings.
- make sure your travel insurance (accident and health cover) is valid for both pre-existing conditions and the places you will visit
- if you use an insulin pump, consider insuring it beforehand
- have clearly written details of your next-of-kin or family member
- take the phone and email details of your doctor and diabetes educator (and those of your insulin pump company, if relevant)
- always carry identification and consider wearing a Medic Alert ID or similar
- when travelling by air, put all your diabetes supplies in your carry-on luggage, preferably split between two carry-on bags
- if you are travelling in different time zones, ask your doctor, or diabetes educator, to prepare a plan for how to adjust the times and doses of your medications
- have the contact details of relevant manufacturers and local diabetes associations in the countries you plan to visit, in case you need advice on local products or services
- if you use an insulin pump, some companies may lend you a spare pump
- make sure you have a backup plan in case of pump failure. Take a copy of your pump settings for easy reference
What to pack:
- A letter from your doctor
- Prescriptions of all your medications
- Sick day action plan
- Your NDSS card
- Insulin in a cool pack
- Insulin pens/syringes and needles
- Insulin pump, plus spare batteries and consumables
- Spare glucose meter and batteries
- Extra lancets and lancet device
- Basic first aid kit
- Travel size sharps container
- Hypo treatment, including carbohydrate snacks
For more information on travelling with diabetes, speak with your doctor or diabetes educator, or call the Diabetes NSW & ACT Helpline on 1300 136 588 or visit our website for more resources on travel.