Vacationing with Diabetes

Dr. Rubin emphasizes the need to continue monitoring your diabetes during vacations

By Richard Rubin, PhD, CDE

It's summer vacation time. Have you had yours yet? Will you be visiting relatives and friends, going places you've come to enjoy or finding new ones, or staying home to relax or to take care of things that need tending?

Enjoying vacations without letting blood sugar or guilt get out of control.

However you spend your vacation, you have to take your diabetes into account. You want to enjoy this special time without paying too high a price in blood sugar control or guilt. Some people do this by sticking as close to as possible to their regular routines for eating, activity, blood glucose monitoring, and other important parts of their tried and true diabetes management plan. They say that this works better for them than worrying about getting off track. I applaud people who are able to do this and still enjoy their vacations.

Unfortunately, most people can't do this. Sometimes vacation schedules are out of our control. And most people want to take a vacation from everything, including – and sometimes especially – their diabetes management routine. They want to sleep in, stay up later, eat differently, and generally be less responsible than they usually are. It can be tricky to do these things and still maintain good control of your diabetes. If you are looking for some practical pointers on how to make good choices and still enjoy yourself on vacation, read on.

Planning for a successful vacation with diabetes
The key to a happy, healthy vacation with diabetes is good planning. You know you have to plan other aspects of your vacation: you have to be sure there's a place to stay, that you have a way to get there, and that you have all your clothes and supplies with you, for example. Planning for a successful vacation with diabetes also means keeping in mind the following words to live by.

Spot the potholes. We all have our vacation weaknesses, situations when we are most likely to make bad choices. What's yours? Is it eating too much or exercising too little? Do your mealtimes and medication taking get whacky? Do you have too much stress or not enough sleep? Whatever your personal vacation pothole, recognize it and keep it in mind, so you will be prepared to manage it well.

Find the easiest way out. It is vacation, so you are looking to relax. You want the easiest way out of – or around – your vacation potholes, so the first question to ask yourself this: "How much of a problem is this?" If your honest answer is, "not much", just forget about it. You don't need to do anything about the situation, and you don't need to feel bad about it either; everything is good.

What if it is a problem you want to do something about? Let's say you want to sleep in and not take your regular early morning walks. Doing this has some benefits: you get extra rest and you get to hang out with everyone in the morning when they wake up. But there's a downside as well: you will feel a little off and your blood sugars and weight may go up a bit. What is the easiest good choice available to you? How about changing your pattern and walking in the afternoon; you might get a family member to join you? Walking every other morning is another option, or you could cut down a bit on what you eat to keep your blood sugars and weight where you want them. Remember, you are looking for the easiest way to avoid getting stuck in your personal vacation pothole.

Check in regularly. Checking your blood sugars more often is especially helpful when you are on vacation and out of your regular routine. Most people are tempted to check less often on vacation, but more frequent checking can help you avoid problems, like worrying about your blood sugar levels when you don't know what they are. A quick check will tell you all is well or give you the information to set things straight. You will have more energy and more fun when your blood sugar levels are closer to normal.

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Last Modified Date: February 15, 2013

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