Traveling with diabetes? You don’t have to miss out on any vacation fun, but you do need to make time for extra planning and preparation. For a safe trip, the first step is to schedule an exam with your health care provider to ensure your diabetes is well-controlled.
What to Pack
Ask your provider for a written prescription for insulin or diabetes pills you can bring with you. You should bring more than enough medicine to last through the trip, but in case of emergency, the prescription may help.
Be sure to pack the following:
- Adhesive tape
- Backpack (large enough for all your supplies)
- Backup infusion sets and batteries (for pump)
- BG monitor (and batteries)
- CGM + backup sensor
- Glucagon kit
- Insulin and syringes, plus extras; use only U-100 syringes for dosing accuracy
- Medical alert ID/bracelet
- Nuts/nut butter pouches
- Nutrition bars
- Pump and CGM clips or pockets
- Quick sugar (candy, glucose tabs/gels, juice)
- Test strips
If you’re flying, store at least half of your medicines and blood-testing supplies in your carry-on bag. That way you’ll have them if your checked luggage gets lost. Keep labels on all medicines and supplies.
Insulin Storage and Use
Insulin doesn’t require refrigeration, but it shouldn’t be kept at extremely hot or cold temperatures. Travel packs are available at your local drugstore to keep insulin cool and protected.
If you take insulin shots and will be crossing time zones, ask your provider about the timing of your injections while you travel. To help keep track of shots and meals, keep your watch on your home time zone until the morning after you arrive.
If you’re traveling by plane, check your blood sugar soon after landing. Jet lag may make it difficult to tell if your blood sugar is very low or very high.
When flying, alert the airline about special meal requests at least 48 hours in advance. Feel free to identify your needs to the TSA agent in charge at the security checkpoint. You are allowed to carry your medical supplies, including emergency juice and liquids, even if greater than 3 ounces. Manufactures typically recommend removing your pump or CGM before going through the full-body scanner and also recommend not sending devices through the X-ray machine. You can request a hand inspection and pat down if preferred.
Request a Passenger Support specialist ahead of time by calling the TSA Cares USA hotline at Call1-855-787-2227 approximately 72 hours prior to flight.
More Travel Tips
Follow these additional tips for a safe trip:
- Check with your health insurance to understand if you have coverage at your destination; purchase additional travel insurance if needed with coverage for pre-existing conditions
- Schedule vacation activities so there’s time for your insulin and meals
- Make sure drinking water and ice are clean, and avoid foods that upset your stomach
- Wear comfortable shoes, and never walk with bare feet; check your feet daily for signs of blisters, cuts, redness, swelling and scratches.
- Get medical care at the first sign of any infection or inflammation
Theme Park Considerations
Time on Your Feet
You will likely be standing up for long periods (when you aren’t walking) so be mindful of your blood sugar levels and take breaks, have a snack or get out of line if necessary.
Grab a map of the park before heading in. If splitting up, let your friends or family know where you are going and have a time and place to meet back with them. Know everyone in your party’s cell numbers.
Be prepared to show your medication, doctor's notes (not required, but could help expedite screening), and medical alert IDs. It’s a good idea to tell Disney Cast Members before they search your bag that you have Type 1 diabetes and are carrying supplies.
First Aid Facility
One of the first things to do when entering the park is to locate the First Aid locations, which are located in each of the four theme parks and water parks. Ask a cast member or locate it on the Guide Map once you enter the park. If needed, First Aid will be able to store your insulin in the fridge for you.
If you’re visiting a theme park in the summer months, keep in mind that the effects of heat have been known to drop blood sugar levels when there is insulin working in the system. Heat causes the body’s blood vessels to expand, which speeds up the insulin absorption rate. This can be made worse with vigorous walking or running due to the increased blood flow to certain areas, so avoid injecting insulin into the legs.
Insulin and other supplies must be kept cool to maintain their effectiveness. When you sweat, Pump and CGM sensor site adhesive can also become less effective. Bring extra supplies, and/or adhesive tape.
Always stay hydrated! Dehydration can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Water should always be your #1 beverage of choice in the heat, but drinks such as non-caffeinated iced herbal teas and “sport” waters are effective as well. Drinks that act as diuretics or that contain high caffeine or sodium content (coffee, alcohol, carbonated sodas/energy drinks, milk) can dehydrate you.
Some T1Ds experience high blood sugar levels when visiting the theme parks due to adrenaline. Adrenaline is often released on the thrilling attractions, and as a result, so is cortisol. Both hormones can make the body more resistant to insulin, so be sure to check your BG as needed and adjust your dosages as advised by your doctor.
Certain park attractions can tamper with pump and CGM function, although not all T1Ds experience this while using their devices at the parks. Due to high gravity forces and powerful electromagnets, it’s recommended that you completely disconnect from your pump while on attractions, or opt to use insulin pens for your time at the park. Be prepared for CGM readings to be slightly less accurate after being exposed to strong electromagnetics. As always, consult with your health care provider before your visit.
With a little extra preparation, you can have the safe and unforgettable vacation you deserve. If you have questions or concerns while you’re visiting Walt Disney World, please give us a call at Call855-303-DOCS.