Tops Tips for Travelling with Diabetes
Guest post from Cazzy Magennis Travel Big, Travel Far, tell us her top tips for travelling with diabetes.
Being a type 1 diabetic for 10 years, and having travelled to over 50 countries, I have a lot of experience when it comes to dealing with all the elements that present themselves when travelling with diabetes.
Below I present to you some top tips to help you travel better with diabetes.
Planning is key
As with everything in life, you need to plan in order to succeed. It’s the same when travelling with diabetes. Planning will help ensure you’ve got all the supplies you need, all the backup supplies you need and ensure you don’t forget anything before you head off on your adventure.
● You should aim to speak with your doctor or diabetes specialist at least 4 weeks before your trip to order up double the supplies you usually take.
● It’s important to take double the supplies in case of emergency. This means you’re covered in case you lose some supplies, something is stolen, or items get damaged.
● Ask your doctor for a doctors letter that explains what your condition is, and what supplies you are carrying with you. This will avoid any fuss at airport security or border crossings.
● Another tip is to translate your letter into the language of the country you are visiting, especially if English isn’t commonly spoken!
Prepare for the worst
In order to actually feel confident to deal with an emergency, it’s good to pre-empt them before you go. For example, when I was travelling in Thailand a few years ago, I had my diabetes blood sugar monitor stolen.
My initial reaction was to panic but I had brought an extra monitor with me which was back at my hotel. So, I was able to deal with that problem quickly and effectively!
Another good tip is to split your supplies between two bags in case a bag is stolen, or you simply misplace a bag. If you’re travelling with a friend, split your supplies with them, or if you’re travelling solo, then just split between your day bag and your suitcase/backpack.
Remember to always wear diabetic ID so as you can be identified in an emergency. It’s important to tell people about your diabetes and tell them what to do in an emergency.
You could also put your lock screen on your phone to a message indicating what to do (in the language of the country you are visiting).
Keep your insulin cold
One of the most common queries or questions associated with travelling with diabetes is how to keep insulin cold when it’s not in a fridge. Insulin needs to be kept at a certain temperature in order for it to work. Without insulin, we can’t live, so it’s super important to know how to keep your insulin cold.
You’ll need to invest in a Frio bag, or another form of an insulin cooling case that can keep your insulin cool in your transition journeys (such as travelling via plane, train, boat or bus). When you reach your final destination, you can transfer your insulin to a fridge to ensure it stays safe.
Practice makes perfect
When we travel with diabetes, we are faced with lots of new elements that can make our lives a little more challenging.
This includes the heat and the cold. Increased heat can drop our blood sugar quicker, resulting in hypoglycemia episodes, (it can also kill our insulin), and extreme cold weather can freeze your insulin and actually make it harder for your body to absorb.
You will find that you’ll need to adjust your fast-acting and short-acting insulin and this will usually take a couple of days to work out what to do. But it’s just a case of practice makes perfect. I often find that what works in one country in the heat, may not be the same in the next country I visit. So it’s all about monitoring more frequently and adjusting as necessary.
I like to keep notes on my phone of what worked and what didn’t work for future reference!
Remember there is nothing you can’t do
Diabetes should never hold you back when travelling. You can try all the new foods and drinks on offer (practice your carbohydrate counting at home), you can snorkel, scuba dive, cliff jump, hike mountains, and anything else you wish to do. It’s just important to plan before you go and monitor your blood sugar frequently.
Always carry hypo treatment with you to avoid any hospital emergencies and if you feel like your body can’t handle something, then avoid it for now.
My last few tips
Below are some last few tips to help you have a fuss-free trip with diabetes
● When flying, 99% of airlines allow you an extra bag for free to carry your diabetes supplies so you don’t have to compromise between supplies, clothes, makeup and souvenirs.
● Research diabetes care in the country you’re visiting. Some places are more advanced than others, but remember you can usually find some form of insulin in any big city. It may not be the one you usually use, so ask your diabetes specialist what the best alternative is if you’re chosen insulin isn’t available.
● If you’re a European citizen and travelling within the EU, then your EHIC card will grant you quick access to insulin, free of charge (in most cases!)
● Get your checkups before you go. It’s really important to ensure you’re in the best health before you head off. This includes your routine eyes and feet check alongside your HBA1C. If you don’t feel great, then hold off your trip for a little bit.
● Make sure you have travel insurance when travelling with diabetes. Ensure that your chosen company covers your supplies and insulin in an emergency.
I hope you find these tips useful when it comes to travelling with diabetes. On every trip you learn something new, even I do, after 3 years travelling. Just take notes, and practice until you find a balance that suits you.
Bio: Hi there, I’m Cazzy Magennis, a type 1 diabetic with an ambition to be the first female diabetic to visit every country in the world. My website Dream Big, Travel Far is a travel blog to help inspire anyone with a chronic illness to never give up on their dreams.
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