Whether you are gearing up for a hot summer getaway or a winter wonderland adventure, it is important to be prepared for travel if you have diabetes. It may not be the travel buddy you imagined roaming the world with, but if you are on a voyage with diabetes it can be made easier with the right planning. So check out our travel tips and interview with travel blogger Carolina Peñalver to get, ready, set, and go!
Before organizing any major trip, it is best to have a chat with your doctor about how well your diabetes is being managed. Having this conversation will give you some time to try and get your blood sugars more in balance if they need some improvement before departing on your great adventure. Make sure to get a letter from your health care provider along with prescriptions for your diabetes meds or insulin. This is a must have if you plan on flying to your destination. Keep your supplies well organized in a pouch or bag, with the prescription labels and your name on everything for inspection. Or else they may not make it past security. Having a medical ID bracelet and learning how to say “I have diabetes” in your destination’s language is also a good step.
Do a little homework and find out how to access health care services in the country that you are traveling to before you set foot outside the door. You can find doctors who speak your language by visiting the website for International Association for medical Assistance to Travelers (www.iamat.org). Check that you have travel insurance that will cover you for diabetes related expenses. Find out the local diabetes organization of the country you are going to and connect on social media to local Facebook groups and Twitter pages for people with diabetes. These online communities can really help you out in a pinch. Plus they may give you good tips on local dining spots and places of interest.
You don’t want to waste your precious beach time searching for diabetes supplies while abroad if you don’t have to. Make sure to bring more than you need and don’t dare think about putting your supplies in your checked luggage. Keep it with you at all times. Since you may be more active than normal, adjusting to time differences, and have a change in climate, it is a good idea to test your blood sugar more often. Keep snacks available if you can’t find foods you are familiar with as well as glucose tabs in case you need to treat a hypo on the road. It’s a good idea to discuss with your doctor how to adjust your insulin schedule if you are flying across time zones or if you need to inject while in the air (the pressure in the cabin can affect the amount you need to inject).
If you are headed to the heat, make sure that you keep your insulin cool and your strips at the right storage temperature. You can purchase cooling packs especially for your diabetes kit. And while you are on the beach, don’t forget to protect those precious tootsies with proper footwear and diabetes foot care measures.
To get some firsthand guidance from an experience traveler with diabetes, we spoke with Carolina Peñalver of Barcelona, Spain. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2012 and is the blogger of “Diabetic World Traveler.”
Sara Dario: What inspired you to start traveling and write your blog “Diabetic World Traveler”?
Carolina: I have always loved being a traveler and the idea to explain my experiences in a blog was something that I always wanted to do. One day I decided to put my idea into practice and create a blog to explain my experiences as a traveler with diabetes.
Sara Dario: How do you prepare to travel? What is in your diabetes travel kit?
Carolina: In my diabetes travel kit, I always have my medical certificate written in English and Spanish and all of the things I need to manage my diabetes I bring with me in duplicate. I always prefer to make sure I have everything that I need. My kit consists of: glucometers, needles, test strips, insulin, cold thermal bags, glucagon, sugar packets in case of hypos, and lancets.
Sara Dario: How do you plan with your doctor? Do you change your treatment plan for other time zones?
Carolina: For now my travels have been short so I have not needed to prepare with my doctor, the only preparation I have are routine visits for diabetes. But now I’m going to prepare a trip around the world with diabetes, and for this I am going prepare with my doctors.
Sara Dario: Have you ever run into any medical issues with traveling? How did you handle it?
Carolina: In Amsterdam I was robbed of my purse with my diabetes kit inside, but luckily in the hostel where I was staying I had another diabetes kit. For this reason, I always bring everything in duplicate in case I lose my bag or it is stolen so I always have a back-up.
Sara Dario: While traveling, have you met other people with diabetes?
Carolina: So far, I have only met one other diabetic traveler while I was in Egypt, an older man with type 2 Diabetes. But during my travels, When I am taking glucose readings or injecting in front of other people as I do naturally, if the person doesn’t know me I advise them before and let them know that I am a person with diabetes.
Sara Dario: Where is the next place that you want to travel?
Carolina: I want to fly around the world with diabetes. Now I am preparing to travel the same route as Willy Fogg (an anime character based on the Julies Vernes novel “Around the World in 80 Days”).
The pocket sized Dario Smart Meter that connects to your smart phone and fits in your purse or pants makes a great travel companion. Don’t worry about not having a data or WiFi connection while abroad. You can check your blood glucose while on the airplane (with your phone in airplane mode) and sync your data to the cloud when you are reconnected to the wifi service at that cute internet café you found in Paris or Rome or Thailand. If you are noticing that you feel your blood levels are off you can quickly dispatch your latest test results via email to your doctor for advice while overseas. You won’t travel alone with Dario. With Dario, the world and your glucometer are always at your fingertips.