The Trouble with Travel

Tips and advice for making your vacation diabetes-friendly.

with Amy Tenderich


Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

August 2008 —This summer, I'm going to be on the road for nearly five weeks running, first in Mexico and then Holland and Germany. This is a step up from our usual fly-to-Germany and then stay-put-for-three-weeks routine. And it's going to be a major diabetes challenge.

My core dilemma: Where and how the heck to pack all the back-up supplies I'll need?

Generously speaking, my packing list will include: about 25 pods for my OmniPod pump, an extra PDM (pump controller unit), one to two extra glucose monitors with lancing devices, at least 75 thyroid medication pills, 5 vials of short-acting insulin and one to two vials of long-acting (Lantus, just in case the pump fails), and about 10 vials of test strips – if I can get my hands on that many. And don't forget the glucose tablets, alcohol wipes, extra syringes and insulin pens and needles. In preparation, I've got to figure out how to keep all that insulin cool while spreading the other supplies around between bags just in case anything gets lost underway. Yipes!

Clearly, I've discovered that the biggest trouble with travel is the pre-travel stress: trying to convince my health insurance why I need to pre-order so many glucose test strips and so much medication, and then worrying about where to stash it all. I'll just kick myself if I forget something crucial, because who wants to drag their vacation down by having to chase around meds at unfamiliar foreign pharmacies? This has happened to me in Mexico before, and even though you can buy a lot of stuff over the counter there, no one recognized the medication names I had with me, so I wasn't at all sure what I was buying.

Of course I know all the official recommendations on travel with diabetes. Heck, I've written about some of them myself, in our book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. Our chapter on travel encourages PWDs above all not to sweat the details:

"Please don't stress over anything. Try to relax. Even if your blood glucose level is not where you want it to be while you're traveling—especially if you don't travel often—try to loosen up a little. Fretting will only make matters worse, and spoil your travel experience."

We advise everyone to bring along a detailed list of medications—in case you need replacements or refills: "Ask your doctor to help you prepare the list with exact medication names (not just the brand names) and your dosages. Your doctor can sometimes look up overseas equivalents for you in advance."

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Last Modified Date: May 30, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...
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