Taking Diabetes on Vacation

Summer’s in full swing now, which means so is vacation season. Beaches, road trips, spending time with family—it’s a time to kick back and leave all your cares behind. The last thing you want to worry about is your diabetes. …

Diabetes can be a pest while vacationing, but there’s no stopping it from sailing on the journey with you. This doesn’t mean you still can’t have the time of your life! Camping or cruising, flying or floating, you can travel wherever you want—it just takes a little planning ahead to handle your diabetes without cutting into your fun.

To help you, we’ve assembled a quick guide to traveling to make your summer trip stress-free.

Before You Leave

Visit your doctor to make sure your diabetes is in good control and get two papers: a letter and a prescription. The letter should explain your diabetes and your medications—syringes, pens, pills or an insulin pump—and if you use a continuous glucose monitor. The prescription should be for insulin or diabetes pills. You should already have more than enough insulin and syringes or pills to last through the trip, but plan for unexpected emergencies.

If you don’t speak the language of your destination, learn to say, “I have diabetes,” “sugar or orange juice, please” and “where is the hospital?” in the countries’ languages.

To smooth your way through airport security, anticipate screenings and know your rights. For answers to specific questions, call the TSA’s toll-free help line for people with medical conditions at 1-855-787-2227.

Packing Tips

Make sure you’re stocked up on medications—at least twice as much as you think you need (better safe than sorry!). If you use a pump, bring syringes and vials of long- and short-acting insulin as backup.

Pack all of your medications, supplies and prescriptions in your carry-on bag so that they are always with you (checked luggage can get lost). All diabetes supplies are fair game for carry-ons, including insulin. Keep these supplies together and separate from nonmedical supplies to make it easier to explain your rights to a TSA officer if necessary.

Bring glucose tablets, candy or gel to treat lows. Don’t forget about snacks either! If you use insulin, make sure you pack a glucagon emergency kit. Have your medical insurance card and emergency phone numbers handy. People with diabetes should also have a medical ID with them at all times in case of severe events.

Travel Tips

Carry your doctor’s letter through the airport. This isn’t required by the TSA for a person with diabetes to pass through security, but having one makes the process go smoother if an officer questions your meds and supplies.

Keep backup insulin cool during travel with cold packs. Be careful, though, as too-cold temperatures are equally as damaging as heat and sunlight.

Don’t forget to set your watch to your home time zone. If you’re traveling to another time zone, you may need to adjust your long-acting insulin schedule.

Safety Abroad

When it comes to pharmacies in some foreign countries, you may not know where the medication came from. If you’re not in Western Europe or a highly developed country, you may want to go to a hospital, not a pharmacy. Also, be aware that some countries use insulin that’s a different concentration than U.S. U-100 strength.

You’ll probably be doing plenty of walking while checking out all the amazing sights. This may put you at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), so carry a source of glucose at all times. If you use insulin, a lower dose may be necessary.

To avoid pickpocketers, load your supplies into a bag that you wear across the front of your body, not in a backpack. Backup meds and supplies left in your room are generally safe at trustworthy hotels, but not when left at hostels or campsites.


Though your diabetes goes with you, it doesn’t have to limit your chance for adventure and excitement. Preplanning and packing wisely might just make the difference between relaxing a relaxing vacation and a hectic one. For more travel tips, check out this recent article from Diabetes Forecast magazine.

So be proactive, prepared and protected…oh, and have an amazing trip! Bon voyage!

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2 Responses to Taking Diabetes on Vacation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ive travelled extensively through Europe and agree its good advice.

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