Diabetic traveler

Taking a trip is exciting right?   You get to go to a fun place(hopefully) with great weather and relax and enjoy yourself.   For me, I get to do those things with the person I love most, but only after planning a bit. You see for me, or I should say us, we need to plan things out. My husband Mike, is a Type I diabetic. What I have found over the past 20 years is that travel is not as easy for a diabetic as a non-diabetic.


Before we leave the kitchen island is a flurry of activity. How long are you going? Do you have enough syringes, pen needles, test strips? In fact, you better take extra in case there is a delay of any sort.   Do you have both types of insulin? Do you have the nipper than snips the needle off the syringe? Do you have the meter? Is it charged? Do you need a power converter if going to another country? The worst is when you realize you are going away for 7 days and only have enough for 5. Then there is a mad rush to the Pharmacy.

In addition to all of paraphernalia, we pack snacks….lots of snacks. Why? Because Mike’s blood sugar may unexpectedly drop and we need to have something on hand to bring it up. Nothing is worse than when you are in an unfamiliar area, or worse yet in another country and have no idea what the food labels are.  I prefer to pack fruit leathers personally. They are natural, include a quick boost of sugar, are tasty and most importantly highly packable and fit in your carry on perfectly.

The airport

We have all been there, that dreadful TSA security line. First your shoes, you feel so vulnerable standing there with no shoes on. Then your laptop is put on display. If you are diabetic it is also pulling out your case with insulin.   Rest assured if they are checking out your 2 oz bottle of shampoo they are checking your vial of insulin with care.  We now know and remember to travel with the prescription. Admittedly it has gotten better, but it just stinks.  Unlike the shampoo, we can’t place the insulin in the suitcase for fear of temperature fluctuations.

Also, after years of traveling and struggling to keep ice packs cool, finding hotels with refrigerators etc, we now have this great gizmo called a FRIO. It is this bag that is  lined with beads that absorb water (perfect to soak in the hotel room sink). You put your insulin in the case and it works via convection with the water evaporating and cooling the insulin. Next to insulin may be the best invention ever.  When it begins to dry up, 3-4 days, you just soak it again for 10 minutes and off you go. But I will say it does garner raised eyebrows from the TSA agents.

The Airplane

So once you are through the security line you wait to get on your flight. Once onboard, it may be a bit until you are served your food, if at all. That is where these snacks come in handy. Anyone who has experienced or supported someone with low blood sugar knows it is not something to take lightly. You get sugar and you get it fast.   I always keep those fruit leathers in my bag under my feet, not in the overhead. If the flight has just gone air born I may not be able to access it there.

Going to the bathroom on a flight is not fun for anyone. It is small, dark and I live in eternal fear that I will get that disgusting blue water on myself. How about if you had to take an insulin shot? The bathroom isn’t really conducive to that is it? Also, whipping out your insulin and giving yourself a shot in your stomach in your seat doesn’t give Mike a lot of the privacy I know he would like.

We then get the main meal served on the flight, did I mention we pre-ordered the diabetic meal (Kudos to the airlines for supporting these options). It usually goes well, but have run into issues where his diabetic meal is not onboard and in that case we make do.


Once we get there, we have to figure out the time change and how this impacts Mike’s blood sugar, his insulin injections and meal eating. When flying from the US to Europe, you gain 6 hours.   There is always a 2-3 day adjustment in adjusting your meds, food in addition to ordinary jetlag to stabilize your blood sugars.

From here on out, it is resting, relaxing and enjoying our vacation. Sure it is how we live our ordinary life including, insulin and testing blood sugars. Mike is extraordinary is how he manages his diabetes but more importantly life. He doesn’t complain, it is just is. My hope is that airlines, security and hotels will think of the 20 million people in the US like Mike with diabetes and add options to make things a little easier for them. Sharps containers in public bathrooms, nutritional information on all food/menus, refined TSA rules, refrigerators in all hotel rooms etc.

More importantly, I hope that a cure is found. This is why I walk annually in the American Diabetes Association Walk to find a cure for diabetes and I hope you will too!

Prague_optPhoto of Mike during one of our adventures in Prague

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