Summer is in full swing and whether you opted for a staycation or decided to fly across the world, packing – especially when living with diabetes – might require extra preparation. So our resident Quinners decided to share their ultimate diabetes travel checklist if you’re a pumper, on injections, staying in the country or going far and for a while.
Before getting to the packing there are a few strategies you can adopt to avoid last-minute panics.
List everything you’ll need, including insulin, test strips, needles and hypo treatments. The list will help you organise. Also, try to get a sense of how fast you go through supplies to decide how much to pack.
Depending on the length of your trip, the rule of thumb is to provide yourself with a ‘buffer’ of extra supplies. Your kit can be damaged or lost in transit or, while staying abroad, you never know when you might get stuck at an airport. “Your insulin needs may vary with changed routines.” One of our team simply takes double what she usually needs which means if their flight is delayed (or cancelled) by a volcanic eruption or similar acts of God she’s covered. Most doctors in the UK will provide an advance supply of insulin if you need it. If you live outside the UK, check whether you can get the amount of insulin you require ahead of your departure date.
Extra blood glucose test strips are an important addition to your luggage. Keeping extra test strips allows you to keep a close eye on your blood glucose levels. This can be extremely useful if your CGM stops working or you’re under greater pressure than during your normal home-testing routine.
Once you’ve packed, try to ensure your diabetes kit is never too far and kept safe.
Ensure you have a way to keep your insulin cool while travelling. One of our team wouldn’t travel without her Frio pack.
If flying, bring as much as you can in a carry-on bag. It may feel inconvenient, but it’s best not to trust too many of your critical, life-saving supplies to the mercy of checked baggage. “Your carefully prepared supplies are no good if your bag gets lost.” One of our resident Quinners had a few negative experiences with their bag lost and delayed. On her last trip, she placed a GPS tracker in her suitcase and luckily was able to liaise with the airline knowing exactly where it was. It was still difficult to retrieve the bag but at least she knew the whereabouts of her belongings and was able to plan accordingly.
If you’re travelling abroad, you might want to take extra precautions.
Get a doctor’s note.
In case you run into questions or trouble with needles or medication, the note should cover your needs. In situations such as the above, some people may have incorrect or outdated information about best practices. Have it in writing and try to get it none dated in case you get questioned.
It’s important to understand basic information about where you’re going, including what the availability of insulin or diabetes tech might be, the climate, and whether there will be issues with intermittent electricity. Don’t forget to check your accommodation’s amenities. Many hotels will accommodate people with type 1 diabetes by providing special amenities, like mini-fridges for insulin, for example.
Carry information about your diabetes and those to contact in an emergency – in a local language, if necessary.
Many pump companies will provide a loaner pump for international travel. Ask the manufacturer because having a backup is always important. Even if you don’t use them, bring syringes. The last thing you want on vacation is to be stuck with a non-functioning pump and no way to bolus.
Use alcohol swabs to clean your pump connection sites and then use the wrapper to keep the ends sterile when taking your pump off at airports – or at the beach. This is to avoid infections while on holiday.
People have a different approach to packing and so do people with diabetes. So whether you’re a precise organiser or a go-with-the-flow last-minute packer, this is what we recommend appears on your diabetes packing list. You can add obviously or ignore items on the list depending on your personal circumstances.
JDRF has put together a very thorough list of things to remember when travelling. It’s US-centric but super detailed and helpful. Pete and Esme – two members of the Quin team – also discuss travelling with diabetes and offer tips like diabetes travel insurance. Check them out below.
If you’d like to join our research programme, don’t hesitate to apply and check if you qualify.