Diabetes and Travel

Written by Fiona Scott.

Travelling to far away places, learning about new cultures, or relaxing in an exotic location are things many of us dream about, and for those of us who are lucky enough to do it, the key to a great vacation is planning. Travelling with type 1 diabetes involves a little more preparation, including preparing for the “what if” scenarios.

It’s important to to look at the bigger picture: this ensures that on the off chance your luggage goes missing or you become unwell, you have a plan and there will be minimal disruption to your trip.

Some scenarios to consider:

  • What will I do if I lose my hand luggage with all my diabetes supplies?
  • What’s my backup plan if my pump stops working?
  • What will I do if I get food poisoning and start vomiting?
  • What happens if lose my travel letter?

Once you’ve gone through all of your “what if” scenarios, plan a backup that can be tailored to any emergency situation you may face. Below, we created a quick checklist as a guide to use during packing that includes a packing list breakdown!

Beta Change Travel Checklist

  • Bring a doctor’s letter stating you have diabetes (and which type) and that you need to carry diabetes supplies with you at all times.
    • *Beta Change handy hint: Give a copy of your medical letter to each of your travel companion(s) as a backup and take a photo of the letter with your phone for easy reference.
  • Make a document that lists your emergency contacts, medical team, medical conditions, current medications, sick day plan, and any allergies. 
    • *Beta Change handy hint: Take a photo of this list and share with someone you trust back home and with your travel companion(s). A great way to do this is through email or a messaging app.
  • Create a sick day plan and medical team contacts that includes a management plan for hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia in relation to fever, gastrointestinal issue, or vomiting.
  • Sign up for your country’s equivalent of Australia’s Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade (smartraveller.gov.au) in case of a natural disaster or emergency.
  • Keep travel insurance details in a secure place.
    • *Beta Change handy hint: Check that your travel insurance covers pre-existing conditions such as type 1 diabetes, and that insulin pumps are fully insured under your plan (if you are using one).
  • Pack double the amount of diabetes supplies you think you may need. If you’re going away for three weeks, pack enough for six weeks and divide them among hand luggage. If you have a travel companion, they can help you divide up the supplies to reduce the chance of losing anything. If travelling solo, divide supplies into two bags.
    • *Beta Change handy hint: remove any boxes or excess packaging.
  • Keep diabetes supplies on you at all times. Never put your diabetes supplies with your checked luggage as temperatures in the cargo area can be unstable, which may affect your insulin or other temperature-sensitive medication.

 Diabetes Supplies

  • Short-acting insulin
  • Long-acting insulin 
  • Insulin pens (and pen needles) and/or syringes
  • Insulin pump equipment: infusion sets and inserters, cartridges/reservoirs, a list of pump settings, loan or backup pump, backup plan for multiple daily injections if pump fails
  • BG meter
  • BG test strips
  • Finger pricker and lancets
  • Urine or blood ketone strips
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Hypo food
  • Emergency simple carbohydrate snacks
  • Glucagon
  • Spare batteries for blood glucose meter/insulin pump
  • Medical ID 

 Other Items

  • Continuous Glucose Monitoring equipment: transmitter, receiver and charger, sensors, insertion device, adhesive and tape
  • FRIO packs or other storage to help keep insulin cool 
  • MedAngel or other device to track temperature of insulin storage container
  • Paperwork confirming vaccinations are up to date for your destination
  • At least two universal power plugs (in case one fails)
  • USB charging cables

Although we are all more than capable of managing our diabetes, there may be times when we need support, especially if we become unwell. If we’re travelling with someone, it’s important that they know when to step in and help. Be sure to brief them on your hypo symptoms, hypo management plan, and when and how to use glucagon.

We’ll leave you with one last Beta Change handy hint: have a bag on you during the flight, not in the overhead luggage hold. This can be a small backpack or bum bag. In this bag, have everything you need for the flight plus two days so you have everything in easy access and are prepared for any flight delays or holdups on the tarmac. 

Bottom line: Exploring the world is exciting! When you take some time to research, plan, and prepare for your travels, diabetes won’t stop you from enjoying your adventures.

Additional Resources 

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