Living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes requires constant monitoring of your health. It involves taking your medication at the right time and measuring your blood sugar levels, wherever you are.

But that doesn’t mean you need to miss out on travel. Here are some tips to help you travel with fewer risks – and greater peace of mind.

1. Plan and prepare before you go

People with diabetes are used to planning. Even so, it’s important to think even more ahead when you’re travelling. 

A little research before you leave can help you better manage any unusual and unexpected situations.

Here are a few examples of what to think about:

  • Find out as much as you can about your destination. Check where the closest restaurants and hospitals are. Are vaccinations required before leaving? Will there be health professionals on site or nearby?
  • Do a general health check before you go. Consult your doctor. If you’re flying, you can ask for a letter explaining your illness. This letter should mention any medications and medical equipment you’re taking with you.
  • Do not put your syringes in checked luggage. Syringes for medical use are allowed in the cabin if you have a prescription. You will also need to have your prescription on hand when you go through airport security checks.
  • Wear a medical bracelet. Also, if you’re visiting a non-English-speaking country, learn a few key phrases in the local language: “I’m a diabetic” or “I need sugar.”
  • Keep an ID card with you. It should indicate your illness and type of treatment. It’s also a good idea to share this information with your travel companions. In case of an emergency, it’s important to have appropriate travel insurance coverage.

2. Figure out what you need to bring – and how much

The rule is simple. Pack enough diabetes supplies for twice the length of your planned trip. 

Need a lot of insulin? Bring a supply in a cooler you can carry on the plane, along with any medication.

  • Medication: If you’re taking oral medication for diabetes, bring twice as much as you plan to use. Don’t ever pack your medication in checked luggage. Medication and diabetic items are allowed in carry-ons.
  • The right equipment: In addition to extra insulin, it’s important to remember the essentials: your blood glucose monitor, strips, needles and, if necessary, insulin pump supplies (and spare batteries). If you have a pump, bring insulin and syringes anyway in case the pump breaks.
  • The right footwear: Exploring new places often involves a lot of walking. You’ll need the right footwear, as diabetes can make it harder to detect foot injuries. And untreated injuries can lead to complications. To avoid trouble, bring comfortable shoes and socks.

3. Follow a routine

Living with diabetes means getting into routines. Short or long trips can disrupt your regular schedule and make it harder to manage your condition.

  • Stay on top of what you eat. You may eat late, skip a meal or change your level of physical activity. These common travel situations can greatly increase the risk of unusual changes in blood sugar levels.
  • Eat healthy snacks. Berries, almonds and other nuts are nutritious, high in fibre – and you can carry them with you for easy access.
  • Listen to your body. It’s a good idea to check your blood sugar levels more frequently. This could be as often as every three to four hours, and even more often if you’re driving. Keep snacks such as dried fruit, nuts and crackers with you, and stay hydrated. Glucose tablets are also helpful for quickly managing hypoglycemic reactions (low blood glucose levels).
  • Get moving – and take breaks. During your trip, get moving – but also take frequent breaks to recharge your batteries. Get out of the car; walk around the terminal before boarding. During a flight or train trip, stroll along the aisle to stretch your legs.

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical advice, or a substitute for healthcare professional advice.

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