How to Travel Well with Diabetes

Travelling with diabetes (both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes) requires a few weeks to prepare and a system that can help you if you get into a diabetes-related crisis. Throughout your vacation or work trip, you need to make sure you can manage your blood glucose levels effectively—with insulin or other medications.

Diabetes Travel Tips
Before a trip, schedule an appointment with your doctor to check on your overall diabetes health—this is especially important before a long trip.

It is a good idea to get any necessary immunizations at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to departure. If you become ill from the immunization, your blood glucose will likely go up, and you will probably feel worse. The time 4 to 6 week lag will assure you are well for travel.

The American Diabetes Association recommends obtaining a letter from your clinician (doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner) stating the medications you take, the number of syringes, needles, or pens you are taking with you, as well as allergies/sensitivities you may have, and devices such as a glucose meter and insulin pump.

You should also have a prescription for the medication you take in case of damage, loss, etc. Always bring more medication than you anticipate needing; to be safe, bring twice the amount of medications or insulin for your trip.

If You're Going on an International Trip…
If you are traveling outside the United States, you can obtain a list of English-speaking physicians in other countries from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers.

Other sources who may be able to provide English-speaking physicians are the American Express Travel Office, the American Consulate, and medical schools in the countries where you travel.

Be sure your medical coverage extends to treatment abroad. If not, then obtain short-term foreign travel insurance.

Domestic travel is generally covered by most health insurance but check your policy anyway. You may need to purchase short term travel insurance as well.

Prepare for your travel abroad by learning 2 key phrases in the language of the country you're going to: learn how to say "I am diabetic" and "I need some orange juice" or "I need something sweet."

No Matter Where You Go with Diabetes
Always wear a bracelet or emblem indicating you live with diabetes.

Always be prepared for a diabetes-related emergency. You'll be working hard to prevent those, but hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic events are, of course, always possible. You can avoid a hypoglycemic if you keep a small container or plastic bag with glucose tablets, available over-the-counter at any pharmacy, in your pocket.

Talk to your diabetes treatment team about any other travel tips or suggestions they have for enjoying your trip safely when you have diabetes.