Picture this: it’s February 2018 and I’m sitting in the middle of a rainforest hut in Costa Rica with an Omnipod that is split open and a blood sugar meter that is water logged from humidity.
I have no cgm or back up meter, only slightly expired insulin pens, and it’s only day 2 of my 10 day trip.
This is what I call a diabetes nightmare. Although my mother might also call it being significantly underprepared:) Which, for once, yes mom I agree.
I have no shame in saying that for whatever reason, packing is not my forte and that most of my diabetes struggles pop up when I’m away from home traveling ( Murphy’s law anyone?)
I tell the Costa Rica story and how I got out of trouble in a few of my diabetes conference presentations, so if you want to hear what happened you’ll have to come to one! ( see my speaking schedule here )
What I want to focus on today is sharing some of my top travel tips that I’ve become MUCH better at following since the CR extravaganza.
Having tips up your sleeve can make traveling with diabetes much less stressful. Here my my top 10 travel hacks for next time you’re getting ready for a trip!
1.HACK #1- PACK MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED. This might be the most obvious one, but it’s definitely much better to over prepare vs under prepare. This goes for pens, insulin, pump sites, alcohol swabs…I WANNA SEE YOU AS PREPARED AS AN EMT!
2. HACK #2: GET TSA PRE-CHECK/GLOBAL ENTRY. I just got TSA pre-check earlier this year and it’s seriously life changing. You don’t have to take off your shoes or take your lap top out of the case which makes going through security so seamless. If you are someone who gets anxiety with traveling + notices high/low blood sugars as a result, this may help.
3. HACK #3- FLYING OUT OF THE COUNTRY? GET A BACKUP PUMP + METER. This might take some planning in advance but a month before your trip, let your endo know you’ll be traveling out of the country and get a prescription for a back up loaner pump + second meter if you don’t already have one.
4. HACK #4- KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Normally you’re only allowed 2 carry on’s ( one smaller personal bag and one medium sized one) but if you need extra space to store your medical supplies, most airlines will let you add a third bag free of charge.
5. HACK #5- LOOK OUT FOR LOWS FROM PUMPS ON PLANE. If you wear an insulin pump, you may experience lows on your plane ride from the air pressure pushing out un administered insulin. Last year I flew on a plane 16 times and it only happened 2x. I watch my cgm arrows closely and if I see myself dropping unexpectedly I can assume that’s what its’ from and adjust accordingly.
6. HACK #6: KNOW HOW TO READ YOUR LABELS. This one was something knew I caught onto during my trip to Portugal. Some countries outside the U.S list the serving size on packaged foods as per “100 grams”. Make sure to check + see how many grams the total package is so you don’t under/over shoot it with carbs.
7. HACK #7: ACCOUNT FOR HIGHER FAT/CARB INTAKE. Often times when traveling we’re eating higher fat/ higher carb foods. It increases our chances of having high blood sugars 2-6 hours later. I wrote my top 3 tips for how to combat this HERE
8. HACK #8: CHANGE THE TIME ON YOUR INSULIN PUMP. Another one that might seem obvious is to remember that if you have a significant time change, your sleep and wake cycle + hormone peaks are going to change on the trip. This will influence blood sugar spikes/ drops. Gradually start adjusting the time while you’re on the plane going over and coming home.
9. Hack #9: PACK ENOUGH LOW SNACKS FOR FIRST NIGHT THERE. You might think that once you land you’ll be able to pick up juice in case you have lows, but that’s not always the case. If you don’t know the area well, it can be tricky to find a grocery store right away on the way to where you’re staying, especially if you land at night. I like to pack 3-4 coconut water bottles in my checked luggage + carry honey packets + dates in my carry on.
10. HACK #10: HAVE FUN, BE PRESENT, ENJOY! Don’t miss out on the incredible moments of the trip by being so consumed with diabetes and expecting 100% perfection from yourself. Do the best you can using the tools above and remember that life is to be enjoyed!!
Where are you going on your next trip? Check back in and let me know if these were helpful!