Bolus Voyage: How to Travel with Type 1 Diabetes

Bolus Voyage!

Adam thought of that one and he is really proud of it.

Okay, so since I just got back from vacation and it is still fresh in my mind, I want to talk about traveling with Type 1 Diabetes. I think this can be a very scary subject for some people. Lugging lifesaving medication and supplies around with you can be stressful on an everyday basis, but mix in the fact that you are going from place to place in an unknown city, and that is a whole different ballgame.

Although traveling can be stressful with diabetes (and honestly still is after taking all the proper precautions) I wanted to list out some tidbits of information I’ve learned to help get your diabetic ducks in a row before your next trip.

 

Packing

Packing diabetes supplies for an upcoming trip takes a lot of planning. I’ve learned to always pack more supplies than I realistically need, just in case.

That means:

  • Extra insulin pens (just in case you need to lend some to an old man in Italy, I’ll explain later) extra CGM sensors, extra needles, extra boxes of test strips for my glucose meter just in case my Dexcom is ripped out by a completely unlikely situation, extra back up tape for Dexcom (more than one, especially if I’m going to be swimming), and extra CGM adhesive wipes. Sometimes I’ll even throw in a backup battery for my meter if I won’t have access to a drug store for whatever reason.
  • I also make sure to pack a TON of snacks. I pack snacks for low blood sugar and snacks for general hunger purposes.
    • I like to pack snacks that have a lot of little pieces so that I can correct according to my blood sugar. For instance, I like a bag of dried fruit because if I am slightly dropping I can have one or two pieces, and if I am very low I can have a handful.
    • I also throw in some regular snacks like protein bars or a bag of trail mix in case I find myself in a situation where I can’t enjoy an actual meal.

Flying

  • It’s always a good idea to bring a note from your Endocrinologist when flying with a bunch of food and diabetes supplies. I generally only do this if I’m going out of the country and have never been asked for one while in the US, but if you’re nervous about traveling it provides additional peace of mind.
  • TSA generally doesn’t allow juice boxes to go through security, so bring a backup option that can bring your blood sugar up quickly, or buy some once you are past security.
  • Don’t check the bag carrying all of your diabetes supplies in the unfortunate case that you lose your luggage. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Pre-boarding with diabetes, as told by the always lovely Emily from Pancreas Pals:
    • If you’re carrying a lot of extra supplies (think: around $1-5k worth) I always preboard. Depending on the airline, you can submit that you’ll need more time boarding for medical reasons when you purchase your ticket, or just give the gate attendants a heads up. Some airlines announce preboarding for those that need more time, and for people with disabilities. This is an ideal time to board, as technically (according to job applications and the government) diabetes is considered a disability. Take that as you will, but boarding with disabilities is a lot better than being forced to check a two months supply of insulin or around $10k worth of pump supplies.
    • The pros of preboarding far outweigh the cons (con being airline staff not understanding why having diabetes allows us to preboard, but we can’t let them get us down). So at the end of the day, always be prepared and take a deep breath, traveling can be rough, but it’s what we make of it!

At Your Destination

  1. When booking a hotel room, ask for a room with a mini-fridge to hold extra OJ for lows during your trip.
  2. If you’re going to the beach or anywhere with water activities, bring a water-resistant bag for your supplies and maybe a floaty bag in case you tip over in the water.
  3. If you’re going somewhere hot, make sure your insulin is staying cold. Keeping your insulin cold just helps to keep it from spoiling. I’ve heard great things about Frio Cooling Cases for all types of insulin.
  4. Take into consideration the climate, change your ratios or be prepared for number changes when you move from hot to cold weather, or low to high altitude destinations.

Don’t over stress! Most supplies can be found at a local drug store, prescriptions can be transferred, meters can be bought, and maybe just travel to Canada or Mexico a little more often because insulin is cheaper and easy to obtain there. Eyeroll at the US!!!!

I hope this list helps you prepare for your next destination while traveling with type 1 diabetes and I would love to hear how you pack, fly and travel with your broken pancreas.

– Ariana

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