About Traveling with Diabetes
Courtesy of the National Diabetes Education Program / Diabetes at Work (pdf)
- For a big trip, see your medical team for a check-up four to six weeks ahead.
- For trips abroad, get the correct immunizations.
- Get a letter from your doctor explaining your diabetes medicines, supplies, and any allergies.
- Get diabetes identification in the languages of the countries you will visit.
- Learn to adjust your diabetes medicine if you will change time zones.
- Always wear visible diabetes identification.
What to Pack
- Double the amount of diabetes medicine and supplies needed in your carry-on luggage.
- Glucagon kit if you use insulin.
- Insulated bag and blue ice to keep insulin cool.
- Snacks, glucose gel, or tablets to treat low blood glucose reactions.
- Medical insurance card and emergency number for your medical insurance company.
- First aid kit including:
1 - Bandages, gauze, and topical antibiotic
2 - Pain reliever
3 - Medicines to treat diarrhea and motion sickness
4 - Sunscreen and insect spray
- Ask for an aisle seat if you will use the restroom for insulin injections.
- Get your ticket and seat early to prevent bumping.
- If traveling alone, tell the flight attendant you have diabetes.
- Keep your diabetes medicines and supplies with you (see supply examples), don't store them in an overhead bin.
- Don't inject air into the insulin bottle before drawing up your dose. The air is pressurized.
On the Train
- Check to see if a meal will be served when you buy your ticket. Order any special meal requests in advance.
- Remember that meals may not be served at times that fit into your usual schedule of meals, so keep snacks that will not spoil in your carry-on bag (to help avoid unhealthy food choices and long waiting lines at train station restaurants)
- Although it is best to travel with a companion who understands your condition and what to do about it, if you are traveling alone it may be a good idea to let the conductor know that you have diabetes, just in case you should have a problem.
- When checking in for a train, request help boarding if needed.
- If traveling with medications that need to be kept cool, ask train personnel to refrigerate medications while onboard.
- If you need special accommodations - wheelchair space, transfer seats (for when you travel in a seat and stow your wheelchair), accessible sleeper accommodations – train reservations may be required, even for unreserved trains. Call ahead to make your accommodations.
- If you have developed complications that impair your abilities, you may be eligible for a rail discount. Call ahead to find out about their discount program.
For Car Travel
- Don't leave medicines in the trunk, glove compartment, or near a window.
- Carry extra food in case you cannot find a restaurant.
- Move around every one to two hours to increase comfort and reduce risk for blood clots.
- Tell at least one person traveling with you about your diabetes.
- Never go barefoot, even in the shower or pool.
- Be careful about food safety when traveling in some countries.
- Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
- Drink bottled water with no ice.
- Eat only cooked vegetables and fresh fruit that can be peeled.
- Only consume pasteurized dairy foods.
- Don't eat food from street vendors.
Reviewed by Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN 01/14.
I had a work dinner last night with some leadership from my office. I always find diabetes etiquette at these things to be kind of tricky. It was a four course meal, with salad, soup, entree' and dessert and coffee. There was also a selection of gluten free and non-gluten free dinner rolls. I felt way too full of questions for waitress... "Could I get my dressing on the side? How much sugar is in it?" A course later...