As the holiday season approaches, you may be preparing to set sail on a well-deserved vacation. Whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, you might be concerned about managing your condition while you’re away from home.
Most people with diabetes who have their condition under control can travel safely via plane, car, bus, or train. With some upfront planning, you should be able to enjoy a safe and productive trip, whether you’re traveling for business or for pleasure.
However, if your diabetes is not well controlled, your travel plans may create challenging situations that make it difficult for you to monitor and manage your health. What happens if you lose your medications? How can you keep your blood glucose under control during an 8-hour flight?
To better prepare yourself, schedule an early visit with your healthcare professional, especially if you are traveling overseas. Your doctor can help you assess your health and supply you with tips to take care of yourself during your trip.
The following questions can help you and your doctor plan a trip that’s both safe and enjoyable:
(For Insulin Users) When should I take my insulin?
Your insulin schedule may be thrown off during travel, especially if you are crossing time zones. For example, traveling east results in a shorter day, while traveling west lengthens your day—both of which can alter the amount of insulin your body needs.
Ask your healthcare professional to help you create a schedule based on where and when you are traveling. If you have already booked your trip, take your flight and activity schedules with you to your doctor’s visit.
(For Insulin Users) Can I substitute my insulin for another brand on the road in an emergency?
Generally, you should make sure to use the exact insulin formula and dosage of diabetes medications that your doctor has prescribed. Make sure you pack enough for the entire trip (plus some extra; see our Essential Diabetes Travel Bag article).
However, when traveling, it’s best to expect the unexpected. Talk to your healthcare professional about what you can do in the case of an emergency. For example, if you lose your bags or run out of insulin while you are away and you do not have access to your prescribed formulas, your doctor can let you know whether you can substitute an equivalent brand.
When should I get my immunizations?
If you need immunizations for your trip, it is advised that you get them about a month before you leave.1 However, the exact timing depends on the kind of immunizations you need and where you are going.
Have an early conversation with your healthcare professional about immunizations. Some shots can result in a brief illness, so work in extra time to allow yourself to get over any immunization-related sickness before your trip.
Can you write me a travel letter/prescription?
Before you leave, ask for a note explaining everything you need to manage your health while you are away—including your insulin, syringes, medications, food allergies, and medication allergies. This letter will be helpful for you while you’re away, and it may be useful if you find yourself in an emergency situation (give the letter to someone who can help you).
Talk to your healthcare professional well before your trip about how to travel safely with diabetes. Asking a few key questions can help prepare you to manage your diabetes and ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip.