Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
During the busy holiday season, travel can be especially hectic, so it’s even more important to think ahead. The Boy Scout motto of “always be prepared” is the perfect mantra for people with diabetes on the road.
Below are four things I’ve found essential in that regard. Some of them may sound like overkill, but take it from me, nothing can spoil your vacation faster than having to chase down missing meds at some unfamiliar pharmacy or having your blood sugar levels spiral out of control.
• Bring along two of everything essential for your diabetes. Seriously. Bring along an extra glucose meter, if you have one, including an extra lancing device in case the first one gets lost or broken (what would you use to prick your finger otherwise, a safety pin? Ouch!) And bring twice as many test strips as you think you’ll need—otherwise you may end up paying outrageous sums at some local store. If you take insulin, pack extra vials. Those things are fragile and break easily, I tell you!
• Bring along plenty of your own food. Healthy snacks and easy breakfast items, like granola bars, cheese sticks, apples, or small packs of nuts. This is the one I always mess up on, and I always regret it. If you’re stuck in an airport or on a flight with food for purchase, you’ll end up spending way too much money for low-quality, high-carbohydrate items (those $6 bags of potato chips or pretzels) you don’t want to be eating anyway. Never assume that a great store will be nearby. They never seem to be close by when you need them most.
• Bring along a detailed list of your medications! Ideally, bring copies of the prescriptions themselves, so you can have them filled if necessary. Make sure you have this list with you in your carry-on luggage. Do not assume that you’re all set just because you carefully packed your meds. Luggage gets lost, bottles fall and break; Murphy’s Law says that on some trip, sometime soon, you won’t have the medications you need. So be prepared to replace them. (Note: I never thought it would happen to me, until one day my luggage went to a different city than I did.)
• Wear a medical alert ID. Even if you never do this at home, it can literally be a life-saver when you’re traveling. Do people around you know about your diabetes? Do they know what to do if you experience hypoglycemia or get injured? Especially if you’re traveling alone, it really is dangerous not to have some obvious indication of your medical condition in case of emergency.