Having diabetes doesn't mean you can't travel. Here are tips to help you enjoy your upcoming vacation to the max:
The Gist of It:
- Tips on what to do before booking and leaving for your holiday
- What to pack and a diabetic kit checklist
- What to do during a travel emergency
Everyone loves a holiday! The excitement, the joy of experiencing new things, trying out new food and even shopping! Some people might assume that traveling with diabetes can be a drag. Well think of diabetes as a pesky little kid that is a picky eater, has mood swings when they’re tired, occasionally requires some form of candy, you may have to pack extra essential items for this ‘kid’, and you need a written “permission” from your doctor to that the lil’ brat out.
But fret not weary wanderlust-ers, we’ve got some tips and hacks to ensure your trip is a smooth as that non-alcoholic-non-sweetened cocktail you’ll be sipping by the pool. You may want to bookmark this article for future travel plans.
Before You Confirm Your Bookings/Destination
It’s best to discuss your travel plans and destinations with your doctor(s) or dietitians. Especially if you are heading to third world countries where food choices are scarce and medical supplies are difficult to come by. Double-especially if you’re roughing it out backpacking style.
- Inform your travel agent/accommodations of your condition and discuss meal options. Some travel insurance may cover loss or replacement of insulin.
- Check with your insurance company on travel coverage and diabetic policies.
- Be sure to list down the facilities, amenities, medical centres, and pharmacies available within the region that you will be traveling. You can email your hotel/tour agent for such information or just ask Uncle Google.
- If you need immunisation shots, get them at least three to four weeks before you depart. Some of these shots can upset your blood sugar levels.
Before You Leave
Please set aside some time to complete the following:
- Stock up on as much medical supplies as you can carry. If you rely on a diabetic kit, be sure to carry at least two kits for safety measures.
- A diabetic kit will depend if the user is an injector or pumper and each kit will contain different parts and dosages. Our friends at the Global Diabetes Community have created a complete travel checklist for kits; so click here.
- Be sure to have printed and laminated letter/prescriptions from your doctor(s) explaining that you have diabetes and require specific medication. A letter stating that you are fit to fly/travel will be a plus as some airlines and immigration policies can be a bit rigid.
- It’s best to inform your traveling companions of your condition and to teach at least one of them how to use your kit.
What to Bring?
Let’s begin with everyone’s least favourite part of traveling — the packing.
- Always carry your doctor’s calling card (laminate it if you’re expecting poor weather) and keep it with you at all times along with your medical letter/prescriptions.
- Bring a list of current medicines and keep it with you at all times. Laminate it and you can pass a copy to a friend just in case.
- Always carry or wear medical identification that states you have diabetes. Either a cool bracelet like this or even a simple wallet-size card should suffice.
- Always carry some type of sugar source in case you develop hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
- Inform the airlines, bus, or tour guides in advance that you have diabetes.
And by that we don’t mean hunting for a clean public toilet. Dealing with diabetes abroad can be tricky so let’s cover our bases in the event of an emergency.
- If you have travel insurance, be sure to remember what you are entitled to. Saving the hotline on speed dial is not a bad idea.
- Know your medication well, knowledge of generic names and local brands can make a lot of difference in this situation.
- Keep names and contact details of your healthcare providers and reliable friends/family.
- If you need an emergency deportation, contact your embassy (and have their numbers at hand).
- Learn vital phrases in the local language such as:
– “Help me”
– “I have diabetes”
– “Where is the hospital?”
– “I need sugar.”
– “May I borrow your phone”
Last but not least…
Try to enjoy yourself! All these may seem a little extreme to some, particularly for those who prefer to travel light but your safety and wellbeing is our top priority!
This article can also help to reduce some of the doubts and worries that your loved ones might have about you traveling. Always remember to keep them updated on your whereabouts, a simple text or even a selfie should do.
Be sure to read part 2 of this article, where we cover air travel and adventures on foot.
HealthWorks is currently running a series on diabetes, click here to read more on this silent killer.