Diabetes and Travel
If you have diabetes, be sure to plan ahead when you schedule a vacation. Plan for changes in meal patterns, time zones, and increased or decreased activity.
Before you leave for vacation
- Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your travel plans.
- Get extra prescriptions and a letter from your doctor explaining that you have diabetes.
- If you need immunization shots, plan to get them 3 to 4 weeks before your vacation. Some of these shots can upset your blood sugar levels.
What should I bring with me when I travel?
- Bring your doctor's name and phone number, and keep them with you at all times.
- Bring a list of current medicines, and keep it with you at all times.
- Always carry and wear medical identification that states you have diabetes.
- Keep medicines, syringes, and blood sugar testing supplies in your carry-on luggage. Do not check these supplies with your luggage in case it is lost. Remember, the cargo hold is not heated or well insulated, so medicine and supplies can be damaged.
- Take enough medicines and medical supplies to last an extra week in case you get stranded or stay longer than you planned.
- Have a traveling companion carry some of your medical supplies, if possible.
- Always carry some type of sugar source in case you develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
- Inform the airlines and cruise ships in advance that you have diabetes. Most airlines and cruise ships will provide special meals.
- Test your blood sugar more often than usual. Changes in meal patterns, activity levels, and time zones can affect your blood sugar.
What if I'm taking insulin and traveling?
If you are traveling on an airplane and need to give yourself an insulin injection during the flight, follow your normal procedure, with 1 difference: put only half as much air into the insulin bottle as you normally would. The pressure is different in the airplane than on the ground.
Time zone changes of 2 or more hours may mean that you need to change your injection schedule. Check with your doctor for special instructions.
Keep the temperature of your insulin between 33 degrees F and 80 degrees F. Do not freeze your insulin or keep it in direct sunlight.
How do I take care of my feet while traveling?
- Pack at least 2 pairs of shoes so that you can change shoes often. Changing shoes helps prevent blisters and sore pressure points.
- Pack comfortable shoes, socks, and a first-aid kit to treat minor foot injuries.
- Do not go barefoot. Instead, wear shoes that are specially made for ocean or beach walking. Protect your feet at all times when you are walking by the pool, in the park, and on the beach, or swimming in the ocean.
- Do not wear open-toe shoes, including sandals, flip-flops, or others. You increase your risk for injury and infection when your toes are exposed.
- Follow your daily foot-care regimen.