Managing Diabetes on Vacation
Are you worried about trying to manage your diabetes while traveling? We’re here to help ease your worries! Plan ahead with our traveling with diabetes checklist and you’ll be able to live confidently with diabetes, even when you are on vacation or traveling for work. This traveling with diabetes checklist will help you prepare so you can have more fun and less worry on your next adventure. Are you interested in the 5 Steps to Lowering Your Blood Sugar resource our dietitians put together? Stick to the end to get this FREE gift!
Spring and summer are popular times of year to get away! Whether you’re going away for a weekend or for a week, managing blood sugars can definitely be a challenge. Let’s face it—you’re off of your normal routine and the food available may be different than what you’re used to at home. Not to mention, there are probably a ton of yummy foods and restaurants to try where you are visiting.
So, we’ve gathered our top 7 tips to help you keep blood sugars in balance while enjoying your time off! Here is our traveling with diabetes checklist:
Traveling with Diabetes Checklist:
Here are some tips to consider that will help you manage diabetes on vacation. Remember: Traveling with diabetes does not have to be super complicated – especially if you take a little time to do some planning!
1. Pack snacks to manage diabetes on vacation
One of the most important guidelines to managing diabetes on vacation is to eat consistently throughout the day—this still applies on vacation. Some non-perishable snacks you may be able to bring are protein bars, homemade trail mix, popcorn, peanuts, roasted edamame, or Jiff’s To Go peanut butter with pretzels. Keep reading here for more snack ideas that are shelf-stable and can be packed in a carry-on.
- Remember to pack snacks that include both a protein and a carb to balance out your blood sugar. Be sure sure to have plenty of these available because you never know if planes will be delayed or of unexpected traffic jams that may interfere with your snack and mealtimes.
- For healthy snack inspiration, take a look at these blogs
2. Follow the “one carb tip” when going out to dinner (or lunch)
For many of my clients, I recommend choosing just 1 carb to have while eating at a restaurant. For example, if you are going to a burger place, you have 2 options. Option one: order the burger with the bun (carb 1) and then get a side salad instead of fries. Option two: Order the fries with your meal (carb 1), but then get the burger on a lettuce wrap.
Even though you have less control over what you receive in a restaurant and your blood sugar may be more difficult to manage, this rule of thumb will help simplify what you are eating and help you stay mindful.
3. Keep your diabetes supplies close by
It is important to have your medications and your glucometer close to you no matter what mode of transportation you’re using. Keep back up insulin in a carry-on if traveling by plane and keep insulin cold using a cold pack, not a freezer pack. A freezer pack will destroy the insulin. Having your normal tools handy will be essential to manage your diabetes on vacation.
To be extra cautious, it is a good idea to have duplicates of your insulin/medications and monitoring supplies in case you are separated from your luggage for any reason. Consider also traveling with the prescriptions for your medications in case you run out. In addition, having a letter stating you have diabetes and why you need your medical supplies would be good to have on hand.
Have you considered a medical bracelet? This might also be helpful during travel.
4. Traveling by plane?
Let airport security know you have diabetes. Keep your insulin in a separate quart-sized bag from your other liquids. Stay up to date on current airline regulations prior to traveling since these are often subject to change.
Consider getting a TSA Disabilities and Medical Conditions Notification card to make going through security easier. People with diabetes are usually exempt from the liquid restrictions for medications, fast-acting liquid carbs, and gel packs. Ask for a hand inspection instead of going through the x-ray machine if you have a Dexcom (continuous blood glucose monitor) or insulin pump.
It may be wise to talk with your physician prior to traveling (especially if you are traveling abroad or flying) to make sure that you are aware of the best ways to manage your blood sugar while crossing time zones, traveling in foreign countries, etc.
Purchasing travel insurance is also recommended in case you miss your flight or need medical care.
5. Read nutrition labels, even on vacation
Many restaurants these days have their nutrition information posted either online or in their store. Take a look at the carb content of your possible meal selection before ordering. Ask your Registered Dietitian how many grams of carbohydrate you should aim for at each meal to help manage diabetes on vacation.
We want to make sure that you are able to enjoy your vacation to its fullest. The best way to do this is to educate yourself about regional foods before you arrive in the county. Doing some homework ahead of time will help you enjoy mealtimes without unnecessary stress.
6. Be prepared to treat low glucose
In case of an emergency, it is important to have some quick-acting sugar on hand like lifesavers, starbursts, or a glucagon kit. To be extra cautious, it is also a good idea for your traveling partner to also carry snacks or a glucagon kit for you.
You can also keep something like 4oz juice boxes or glucose tabs while traveling. The glucose tabs work best for some people because they won’t take up too much space in your bag. You can find them at any drug store. As mentioned above, you may want to also pick up a glucagon kit to carry with you while traveling.
7. Talk to your Registered Dietitian before your vacation with diabetes
A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a great resource to use before traveling! You can talk with her (or him) about a specific traveling plan that will fit your needs. Your dietitian can help you navigate packing food, snacks, eating on the go, and even how to navigate a buffet while managing your blood sugar. Part of the joy of traveling is trying new foods. With a bit of preparation, you don’t need to stop enjoying new foods while traveling far and wide. If you are traveling out of the country, you may need some extra guidance on how to eat in places like Thailand, Greece, India, Japan, Spain, or China. If you are staying in America, you may enjoy trying popular regional foods that you may not have heard of like pasties, goetta, chow chow, provel, coddies, and so much more!
Make sure to talk to your dietitian in detail about which foods you would like to experience while traveling and your dietitian can help you fit them into your day.
Most dietitians are food experts and can help you plan out meals that are diabetes-friendly across a wide variety of cultures. They can help you know in advance a good idea of what the carbohydrate count may be of the many, many foods you will encounter while traveling.
Remember: diabetes can make everyday life and travel more challenging but planning is key to a successful trip. The more you plan ahead, the more you will be able to relax and enjoy your travel adventures!
Traveling with Diabetes Checklist Questions:
Here are a few questions you should be able to answer before heading out the door!
- How are you going to keep your diabetes medication and equipment cool while traveling in a warm climate or the beach?
- What is plan B for your food if your plane is delayed or you are stuck in traffic and cannot get food “on the road”?
- How will you stay on track of food and medication while you are crossing time zones? Consider setting alarms to help you!
For more traveling with diabetes checklist, tips, and diabetes blogs, check these out!
- Traveling with Diabetes Just Got Easier with these Nutrition Tips
- 5 Diabetic Friendly Options to Order At Chick-fil-A
- 3 Diabetes Friendly Options to Get at Chipotle
- 3 Tips for Picking A Diabetic Friendly Breakfast Cereal for Diabetes Management
For added support during your travels, consider joining our Facebook group:
Looking to build community with others who are also managing their blood sugars? We recently created a Facebook group where we hope to foster this community! Join our Living Confidently with Diabetes Facebook Group and stay tuned!
Looking for that FREE gift? Here you go!
Blog reviewed and updated March 2021
Contributions by Rebecca Bitzer and Amaris Galik
Whether you are a novice in the kitchen, or a seasoned chef, Dietitian Klara will work with you to help you reach your nutrition goals. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating, Cooking with Diabetes and Cooking with Food Sensitivities Guide.