Traveling with Type 2 Diabetes

For me, taking care of my health while traveling is something I don’t have to think about too often, but for others it takes careful planning and consideration.  Please welcome Sharon who is here to share her experiences traveling with Type 2 Diabetes.

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Around this time last year, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes.  Adjusting to a new lifestyle is a challenge in itself, but I was worried that I would not be able to travel as I always had.  Despite my worries, I left for a two-week roadtrip shortly after my diagnosis and over the course of the year also traveled internationally to Turkey, took several shorter trips within the USA, and then drove from my home in Michigan to New Mexico where I lived in a hotel for 54 nights while waiting for my new house to close!

What have I learned about managing a chronic disease while on the road?  These 8 tips for traveling with Type 2 Diabetes will help you enjoy your trip!

Be prepared and plan ahead!

Sounds simple enough, but I had my share of difficulties along the way.  With diabetes being so prevalent now, perhaps a number of readers also have this disease or travel with someone who does and have similar concerns.  As a caveat, let me state that I am not a medical professional and everyone’s body reacts differently, but here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

U.S. Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL)
U.S. Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL)

Keep a snack within reach.  

My first trip after being diagnosed with diabetes was a roadtrip with stops in New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Illinois.  I packed a cooler full of food for the drive so I would be prepared to eat a healthy meal or snack when I needed to.  Only problem was that we got stuck in traffic on the interstate far from any exit due to a bad accident, and the cooler was in the trunk and not accessible.  Oops!  By the time we managed to exit off the highway my sugar level was low and I felt ill.  Luckily my husband was driving.

Make sure whatever medications and supplies you need are with you ALL the time!  

Only a day after my first incident, I once again had great intentions, but poor practice.  On a beautiful afternoon, we set out to take a walk in the park.  Now one of the rules of diabetes is to always carry your test equipment and a source of carbs to raise your sugar level if needed.  I was prepared all right; the only problem is I left it in the car.   We walked longer than I had anticipated, and I was pretty shaky by the time we got back.    Again, having something on your person is very different from having it nearby.  Also, carry a list of your medications, along with your doctor’s name and phone number.   It is a good idea to carry your medications in their original containers, as you can generally get a refill if your trip is extended and you run short of your meds.

Realize that a difference in your routine will throw your body off too.  

My roadtrip was a good practice run before leaving for Turkey with my younger daughter.   This trip was more difficult for a number of reasons, including a 7 hour time difference (tools like this one will help you convert times).  It took some juggling to figure out when to take the medicine and when to eat.  If you are traveling with a companion, be sure they know how to recognize if you need help.

traveling with type 2 diabetes to the blue mosque istanbul turkey
Blue Mosque (Istanbul, Turkey)

Pack (or have access to) duplicate equipment!

On my overnight flight to Frankfurt, I had to test my sugar as I was afraid my level was low.  Since I was in a middle seat, I decided to test in my seat.  Although I got my reading, with the dim cabin lights, I did not get my lancing device secured in the carry case and it rolled under my seat without me noticing.  It wasn’t until we were in the Istanbul airport that I realized I didn’t have it.  Not good news at the beginning of a two week trip.  The first thing I had to do after arriving at our hotel was to go out to a pharmacy and try to buy another one.  Imagine trying to ask for one without knowing the Turkish word.  I went to several pharmacies but could not find one.  I’ll spare you the details, but it would have been smart to write down some translations of words or phrases pertaining to the disease.

Travel with plenty of alcohol wipes for your testing.

At home I generally wash my hands first, but in traveling to another country where the water was not always safe to drink, I was nervous about the necessary hygiene.  Better safe than sorry.

Especially when traveling to another country, carry a good supply of food that you know you can eat. 

Protein bars are an easy choice to bring along; I like the Atkins low carb protein bars.  I did carry an exchange book with sample dishes to try to figure out carb counts, and that helped some.  Also, carry your own sugar substitutes if you use them; I only saw them once or twice in Turkey.  When traveling here in the US, I printed up menu nutrition info for the restaurant chains I knew we might be visiting along the way.  The online info wasn’t always up to date on new items, but it definitely helped in making healthy choices.  I keep the folder with the printouts in my car all the time so I am prepared.

Try to stick to your schedule and meal allowances as much as you can. 

Living in a hotel for 54 days that only offered a continental breakfast was a challenge to my willpower.  Looking at those cinnamon rolls, muffins, bagels, and pastries every morning (not to mention the aroma of fresh cooked waffles) was tough.  Somehow my cold cereal was not as exciting.  And in Turkey, I certainly was not about to leave without having a few pieces of baklava!  Just plan ahead and try a few bites of the local favorites.  Remember too, that when traveling, most people are more active than they are at home and that allows a little more leeway in the allowed carb allowances.  You should also test much more frequently than normal. 

traveling with type 2 diabetes turkish temptations
Traveling with type 2 diabetes means saying “no” to local temptations, like these Turkish sweets

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The bottom line for traveling with type 2 diabetes:

Listen to your body, allow more rest time if needed, make sure you take time to eat a real meal, and you can still enjoy traveling! 

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About the Guest Author: Becky’s mom Sharon travels often, especially on US roadtrips and cruises.

3 thoughts on “Traveling with Type 2 Diabetes”

  1. Our now-13 year old was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was 11 1/2. At the time she was diagnosed, we’d already planned two international trips – Costa Rica and Peru.

    No doubt they were more challenging due to the diabetes management issues, but both trips went well. The most challenging thing is being able to determine the amount of carbs in her meals when we’re traveling!

    One thing we have noticed that is quite interesting is that security agents at foreign airports (Costa Rica, Peru and Aruba) all allowed her to have her insulin pump hand-checked without argument, but several times at US airports we’ve had to be quite persistent to get it done. We carry letters from her doctor explaining why the equipment needs to be hand checked. No one has actually read the letters but I’ve had to get them out and very firmly explain our needs several times 🙂

    Anita

    1. @Type 2 Diabetic Blogger, Unfortunately you cannot re-post the full text of the article on your own website, but you are welcome to quote a short piece of the article and/or write a summary on your page with a link back to the full text at this address. Thanks!

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