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Tips for traveling with diabetes

Sep 15, 2015
I recently traveled from South Carolina to California. From my starting point to my destination, there were four locations and three flights to travel 2565 miles. I had not traveled or flown in a while, so I had to ask myself, “If I had diabetes, what tips should I follow to have a safe trip?” While summer vacations are over, patients with diabetes may travel over the fall and winter months. I recall one of my patients from a Veterans Affairs Medical Center reserving a cruise for December in order to escape the winter weather. During my recent trip, I wanted to reflect and write a blog about some general travel tips for patients with diabetes that you could share with your patients.

1. Pack in advance. Organizing clothes and other travel items is key when preparing for a trip. Packing in advance can be very beneficial, as one can feel less anxious about traveling. A person may be more likely to forget an item when scrambling the day or night before a trip. Check the weather of your destination. You will be able to pack appropriate clothing and shoes for the vacation. If you are going for an extended vacation, see if the hotel has an on-site laundry room and if so, you can think about packing fewer clothes.

2. Take a first aid kit. Travel kits are available at local pharmacies and can be very handy when you least expect it, especially if you are exercising or walking around your destination. Make sure the travel kit has a small bottle of hand sanitizer, a few band-aids, and hydrocortisone.

3. Bring a reusable water bottle. When traveling through the airports, there are several water fountains in the terminals. A person can save a lot of money when using and refilling any type of bottle at these fountains. An average 16 oz bottle of water can cost $2.50 in the airport, which can add up over time and may be an unnecessary cost in the budget. Have an empty bottle when going through security, but definitely fill up once you have arrived in the terminal.

4. Pack healthy snacks. Purchase healthy snacks and organize in your carry-on bag or suitcase. Snacks are very expensive at the airport and hotel; snacks also range from cookies to large bags of chips or trail mix. Preparation can help you choose a healthy option and save money. During the flight, you can save the snack for a later time if you are not hungry.

5. Plan your days in advance. While you want to enjoy the time off and catch up on rest and relaxation, you can plan your days in advance for exercise, activity and meals. If you are on a budget, you could view dining books to see which places have healthy options and fit your travel budget. Your hotel may have an on-site fitness center, in which you can get 30 minutes of activity. If the hotel is located in the center of your destination, see if there is a walking trail or walk the city to get your daily steps. Be flexible in your plans, as it is a vacation.

6. Do not forget your medications. You can pack medications in checked luggage, but carry a 7-day supply in the carry-on luggage. If you have insulin or other refrigerated medications, it would be advisable to get a doctor’s note prior to the trip. If you have syringes or other sharp supply items, a doctor’s note should be obtained and kept with the medications. Based on your airline’s website, cabin crew should be able to help you dispose a sharp item, such as a syringe or lancet, during the flight.

While I have listed a few travel trips, there are websites with additional information, specifically for patients with diabetes. Novo Nordisk has an extensive list of travel tips: http://articles.cornerstones4care.com/?articlename=2015_07. Use this blog and the link to adapt your own list of travel tips – or add additional tips to the list and share with your patients.
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