When I hear the words “vacation” and “diabetes” in the same sentence, I usually groan – because what I want is a vacation FROM diabetes, not a vacation WITH diabetes, but that’s not realistic. Or is it? I’ve discovered that you actually can have both, briefly, but not at the same time, because they simply don’t mix well.
Allow me to elaborate:
When making your summer travel plans – or any travel plans – you need to be very organized about your diabetes needs. If you don’t take careful care of yourself on the road, your trip will certainly be spoiled, either because you don’t feel well, or because you’ll spend half your time chasing down forgotten supplies at some unfamiliar pharmacy. A complete hassle!
If, on the other hand, you need a “vacation” from dealing with your diabetes every once in a while, you can do that close to home, on familiar turf, where you’ll be set up to easily deal with any snafus that might arise.
ON THE ROAD
On a “real” vacation, travel inevitably messes with your blood glucose control regime. What you need to do is pack carefully, thinking ahead so you’re prepared for anything that possibly could go wrong.
Based on a community input project on my blog last Fall, here are some of the top tips for traveling with diabetes:
1) pack plenty of backups of all your supplies (i.e. at least one extra glucose meter, lancing device, set of test strips, etc);
2) always wear medical alert jewelry or have medical ID on your person;
3) always pack your own snacks – never depend solely on the airline or local stores;
4) be sure to have a standing order at a large chain pharmacy – or copies of your prescriptions if you’re out-of-country – so you can easily replace supplies if necessary;
5) stay hydrated, and take other steps to avoid getting sick;
6) change your shoes often to avoid blisters and irritations, as you’ll likely be walking more than usual;
7) and check your blood glucose often
On the first point, there are lots of versatile diabetic carry cases to choose from these days, or you could try something as simple as one of those tri-fold cosmetics bags with a transparent plastic interior.
Illustrating the second point, one of my readers writes: “I am single and travel alone a majority of the time. You never know when something might happen that you would need that ID jewelry to speak for you.”
Clearly, vacation forces you to be MORE diligent with your diabetes rather than less. Yet as another reader notes: “You don’t want to go to extremes — being either obsessive and self-flagellating, or negligent, as if you’re also on vacation from diabetes. Finding a balance is really important.”
A BREAK AT HOME
Meanwhile, there are a couple of ways to ease up the pressure and give yourself a little “diabetes vacation” now and then. Not every day, of course, but it’s OK once in a while when you need it, as long as it’s done in a safe way.
“Unsafe” means ignoring your diabetes for months or years. “Safe” means planning ahead. It’s OK to take a day off, to eat a few “taboo” foods or check your glucose less often one day—as long as you’re prepared for the consequences. You will need to recover from that day. And this needs to be a one-time, conscious break; you don’t want to create an “on-diet / off-diet” mentality.
One idea is to find a confidante, someone who understands diabetes and can discuss what tasks you might want a break from, and then plan your break carefully with their assistance. For example, your closest allies (family members or friends) might be willing to take over checking your blood glucose or administering your medications for a day. (I’ve heard about several brides whose sisters took over their insulin injections on the big wedding day.) Ideally, your helpers would be people who can even make decisions about adjusting your doses if necessary. Or maybe it’s something as simple as having them pick up your prescriptions at the pharmacy, to relieve you of that hassle once in a while.
Make sure you let other people who might be affected by your day off know what you’re doing. And ideally, set the day up to be one of complete relaxation, a break from other stresses in addition to diabetes: a shopping day or a day at the pool or spa?
Whether on the road or at home, a slight “change of scenery” often does a body good.