We’re calling this 15 Summer Travel Tips for “Families” because type 1 diabetes affects the whole family! And while you might have put several things in your life on hold after your child’s diagnosis, you should not let T1D discourage you from traveling and enjoying the bonding experience of a family vacation.
The decision to forego a trip because of diabetes can negatively impact everyone. Remember your child is a child first…they just happen to have diabetes, and that shouldn’t deter them or the family from what could be a great time.
There are two things you need to know: plan ahead and prepare for everything! When your bases are covered, you’ll be all set to have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Most “seasoned parents” have this routine down pat, judging from comments on the DRI Foundation’s PEP Squad Facebook page. But “newbies” are often concerned…especially for the first trip…and reminders are good for everyone!
1. Always pack enough insulin and monitoring supplies to last twice the traveling time.
2. Keep insulin and monitoring supplies with you. Do not put insulin in the baggage compartment of a plane, due to pressure and temperature changes.
3. For pumpers, consider packing the required sites change supplies in individual Ziploc bags. That way, you can easily grab one Ziploc bag and have all the required pump site change equipment enclosed.
4. For pumpers, some of the pump companies will provide you a back-up/loaner travel pump in case of malfunction (especially if traveling in remote areas). Remember to have pump settings written down and with you – if the pump dies, so do the settings! It is also wise to take an insulin pen or syringe with you too – you at least need rapid-acting insulin (Novolog / Humalog or Apidra).
5. For pumpers, do not take the pump off and put it through the security x-ray machine. Wear it through the walk-through security check. It is unlikely to set off the alarm. If the security officer gives you a hard time ask in a polite but confident voice, “Please get me your supervisor.”
6. For pumpers, update the time in the pump as you get to a new time zone. Consider this also for those people taking Lantus or Levemir – 10 p.m. in one place might be 3 a.m. in another destination, and who wants to be injecting at 3 a.m. during vacation!
7. An ID bracelet or necklace is essential. There are really cool ones these days!
8. If traveling to a foreign country, do a little homework on the types of foods you are likely to be eating – especially if needing to carb count.
9. If traveling to a foreign destination, know the equivalent emergency number for 911. Know how to say that your child has diabetes and a low blood glucose level in that language.
10. Travel coolers are a great way to keep insulin cool at the beach, but don’t place it directly near ice – wrap it in a towel, for instance. Be mindful about hotel refrigerators in terms of temperature regulation – keep supplies away from the freezer section and perhaps wrapped in a towel.
11. You can buy padded/rubber insulin vial holders – for sure you will drop your only full bottle of insulin on the hotel floor! If it is padded, it may just bounce right back at you!
12. Carry low blood glucose supplies and ketone strips with you!
13. Check blood sugar levels frequently if increasing activity or in places of high altitude. Insulin amounts might need changing.
14. Consult with your diabetes team before you leave and review travel plans. Bring a letter from him or her indicating that your child has diabetes and needs to keep their supplies with them at all times.
15. If traveling by air, know that the TSA specifically states that diabetes-related supplies, equipment and medications, including liquids, are allowed through the checkpoint once they have been properly screened by X-ray or hand inspection. Passengers should declare these items and separate them from other belongings before screening begins.
We hope this helps as you plan out your summer vacation. And remember…Have Diabetes – Will Travel!
SOURCES: Diabetes Research Institute Education Team; (2014)