by Sarah Gaffney, JDRF Northern California Young Leadership Committee (YLC) Member
Traveling with type 1 diabetes can be a wonderful experience and, as with anything diabetes-related, it helps to be prepared! Below are the top three tips and tricks compiled by the JDRF Northern California Young Leadership Committee (JDRF YLC).
Tip 1: Pack Heavy
One of the worst case scenarios for a person with type 1 diabetes during travel is running low on (or out of!) diabetes supplies. So, opposite the popular adage, we recommend that you pack heavy. We suggest bringing double the supplies you typically need and a backup method of both glucose monitoring and insulin delivery. So, if you have a pump and CGM, you should pack double the supplies for each and also bring back up insulin syringes/needles and an extra glucose monitor. You are typically able to bring an additional small carry-on bag for diabetes-related supplies! This Daily Diabetes Care Kit supply list from Beyond Type 1 is a helpful place to start when evaluating what you might need to bring.
Additional suggestions for items to bring with you during travel include: a note from your doctor saying you have type 1 diabetes, a list of your prescriptions, and a written record of your pump ratios. Your doctor and pump/cgm company may offer back-up supplies if you are taking a longer trip; it can be helpful to reach out to them if you want a backup pump or additional/ sample supplies.
Tip 2: Prepare to Fail
Another adage turned on its head: be prepared to fail… and realize it is okay! Anyone with diabetes knows–everything can have an impact on your blood sugar; when we are out of our routines, our blood sugar will reflect it! Travel can often include lots of walking or activity, out-of-the-usual temperatures, and/or activities that cause you to be without easy access to supplies. We suggest packing emergency supplies for low blood sugar at all times during your trip. Fast acting sugar – like gummy bears or glucose tabs – as well as an emergency fast-acting medicine to raise blood sugars (like Glucagon or Baqsimi) are recommended. Also make sure any travel buddies know what to do in case of an emergency low blood sugar.
On the opposite hand, traveling can often cause your blood sugars to be higher than usual. Give yourself time and patience as you carefully adjust basal and long-acting insulin ratios. Time zone changes, new/different foods, stress, a lack of sleep, and warmer temperatures can all often raise blood sugar levels–find adjustments that work for you, and give yourself understanding! Try to enjoy yourself without over-worrying about high blood sugar levels during your trip.
Tip 3: Device Management Tips
If you have wearable devices, we have a few device-specific recommendations:
- In airports: many members of the JDRF YLC said they did not notice device issues going through TSA or the magnetized scanners, even though these are not approved for many CGMs and pumps. We suggest you check with your provider and proceed cautiously when letting your medical device through the scanner – you can always opt for a physical pat-down!
- Do a temperature check: devices can function differently in extreme weather conditions. If you are traveling somewhere colder, we suggest wearing your device against your body to keep it warm. If you are traveling somewhere warm, consider bringing a small cooler or cooling packs to keep your insulin safe. Try to wear devices in areas that will not be directly in the sun for long periods.
- Consider time changes: Make sure your basal rates are accurate for any new time zones and that you change the time on your pump for corrections. You may be able to keep your pump in exercise or sleep mode while you spend time re-evaluating ratios.
Individuals with type 1 diabetes are adventurous, creative, and spontaneous! Traveling with type 1 diabetes is manageable with a little pre-planning; consider both the location to which you are traveling and the length of time you will be there when planning out what you will need for your trip. And, remember to have fun and be kind to yourself! Check out some photos of our community on various adventures throughout the world – from Moab to London, to Southeast Asia!
The Young Leadership Committee (YLC) NorCal is comprised of young local professionals dedicated to raising awareness and funds for JDRF. The group hosts various fundraising, networking, and social events that attract hundreds of young professionals committed to JDRF’s mission. For more information, please contact: Qiana Wylie at email@example.com.