Any type of travel is challenging, no matter who you are or where you go. It is even more stressful for the millions of Americans who travel with diabetes. Because of the need to continuously monitor and manage their blood sugar, most diabetics know they must take their medical supplies with them; however, those who are unaware of the requirements of the condition often don’t understand the sufferer's specific needs.
In addition, the use of needles has a negative stigma associated with it. People often react fearfully to something they don’t understand, which can impact a diabetic’s experience while traveling, and especially while on public transportation or when going through airport security. However, with the proper preparation, traveling with diabetes can be far less stressful for everyone.
Planning and Packing
Most people who deal with diabetes are used to planning and packing for just about any type of trip. But aside from the more obvious, like obtaining a medical alert bracelet and keeping supplies at the ready, there are many things you can do to make getting out and about less stressful, faster and easier, such as:
The tips and resources in this guide will help you with planning and preparation, so your trips will go more smoothly, and without any unnecessary worries.
Daily Commuting: On the Bus, Train or Taxi
Even if you are taking public transportation to work or for a day trip, you will still need to prepare. Public transportation may be more reliable than ever, but there can still be unexpected delays and cancellations. In addition, security and public transportation personnel are hyper-aware of bags and equipment.
Here’s what you can do:
Extended Road Trips and Vacations
Even on an extended road trip, when traveling overseas or on a vacation, you still need to continue your healthy lifestyle practices, such as eating right, exercising, taking all your meds and managing your blood sugar.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, here are some things to do before you leave on a long trip or vacation:
If you are traveling to another state or internationally:
Air Travel Preparations
If you are traveling by plane, you will need to make note of the extended trip instructions, above, as well as:
More Long Trip Tips
Sitting for long periods of time can be hazardous for anyone, due to the restricted blood flow and the pooling of blood in the feet and ankles. However, it is especially dangerous for diabetics, so here are six simple moves to try while you are sitting in that car, plane, train or bus:
Traveling and Life Insurance Concerns
Life insurance is important, especially for a person with diabetes. As a person living with diabetes, you probably know how hard it is to obtain affordable life insurance, an increasing number of life insurance companies are treating people with diabetes more favorably, including both exam and no-exam companies. Rootfin recommends that diabetics to do their homework, because they can qualify for affordable life insurance, even without an exam, as long as their diabetes is under control. You will want to avoid policies from Primerica Life Insurance because they do not work well with diabetics and have no options with no examination. We offer company reviews for your reference to learn more of the pros and cons of each one, such as AIG Direct.
Individual life insurance companies vary in their policies regarding foreign travel for those with health conditions; however, they often use the following general factors for determining travel risks:
If you plan to purchase travel insurance:
Sailing Through Airport Security
Although the TSA continues to improve its policies and procedures for those with diabetes and other health conditions, there are still many things diabetics need to know in order to make their trip go smoothly, and without any unexpected problems or delays. Even if there are no complications, you will still want to arrive at the airport at least two to three hours before your flight departure.
The TSA will allow any diabetes-related supplies, medications and equipment, including liquids, through the checkpoint once they have properly screened those items using X-rays or a hand inspection. If you encounter any problems when you try to go through airport security, you should ask to talk to the TSA Ground Security Commissioner or an international equivalent.
Important things to remember for making the process easier:
Although not required by the TSA, bringing your prescriptions and prescription labels will help you immensely should any complications occur or questions arise.
Label and separate all medical items from your other belongings before the screening starts. Keep in original containers, but you can separate them using clear plastic bags.
Declare all diabetes and medical items, including liquids, meds, freezer packs, pumps, IV bags, lancets and syringes by letting the officer who is conducting the screening know about any supplies on yourself, or in your carry-on bag.
If you don’t want the TSA officer to open or x-ray your gels, liquids or aerosols for screening, inform them before your screening begins. The security officer may ask you to open your gel or liquid for an additional screening, but TSA doesn’t touch the gel or liquid during the security check process.
If you get approved to use the TSA Pre✓® lane at any participating airport, you don’t have to take off any light jackets, belts or shoes, and laptops or 3-1-1 liquids are okay during the screening process.
TSA officers may swab your hands, equipment, mobility aids and other external medical devices to check for explosives with explosives trace detection technology.
Here’s are the specifics on diabetic needs according to the TSA:
Insulin Pumps, Lancets and Monitors – It is common for people to bring an insulin pump through airport security, but you should carry your TSA Disability Notification Card when you travel. Although most pumps and monitors can withstand everyday electromagnetic interference, in order to be safe, request a pat-down screening instead, and ask TSA to inspect your equipment visually.
If you can’t remove your insulin pump, explain that it includes a needle that sits under your skin, so they will need to do a pat-down instead. Lancets are fine as long as you cap them and carry them along with your glucose meter in their original packaging.
Insulin Delivery Devices – You will need to prove a doctor has prescribed any insulin and needles, so carry a pre-printed pharmaceutical label to identify your medication. Always carry the original glucose meter and insulin box with the original pharmaceutical label, too. These items are necessary in order for you to be able to board your airplane carrying insulin, syringes and other insulin delivery devices.
Insulin and Glucagon – Never store insulin or glucagon in your checked luggage. Severe changes in pressure and temperature can alter them. Inspect your insulin or glucagon carefully before you use it, and if you notice anything unusual about its appearance, call your doctor. Carry them in their original, pharmacy labeled containers.
Although there is a general rule that prohibits airline passengers from bringing liquids over 3.4 ounces through security, people with diabetes can bring glucagon or insulin, and any other necessary gels and liquids, including cake and juice gels through TSA checkpoints, even if they’re in containers larger than 3.4 ounces. The TSA also allows any accessories necessary to keep insulin cool, such as frozen gel or freezer packs through screening checkpoints.
Additional Resources for Traveling with Diabetes
If you plan to travel, here are some additional sources of help available to you: