Editor’s Note: Remember to consult with your health care team before beginning a new fitness routine to make sure it fits with your goals for type 2 diabetes management.
Travel is filled with unknowns—that’s part of the beauty of it. But for someone with type 2 diabetes, those unknowns may place additional stress on a trip or vacation. Your schedule may be impacted by a new time zone. You might have to spend long hours on a plane or in a car. You may be eating unfamiliar foods and sleeping in different beds.
It’s a lot to consider, but with a little planning, you may be able to avoid some bumps in the road and ease your mind in the process. Read on for some general tips on traveling with type 2 diabetes.
Before the trip
Talk to your health care provider.
Let him or her know where you’re going and what you plan on doing. Find out if you need any vaccines in advance of the trip. If you’ll be traveling with any medical supplies or medications, ask for a letter that explains what they are and why you need them. If you are traveling to a different time zone, ask for instructions on how to adjust the timing of your medications. It is also a good idea to get written copies of your prescriptions to take along just in case you run out of medication.
Take a medical identification card.
In case of a medical emergency, a medical ID card may help provide vital information. In addition, carry the contact information for your health care provider so that he or she can be reached, if needed.
Pack any health-related supplies in a carry-on.
It’s a fact of life: luggage gets lost or misplaced. While it’s one thing to have to replace clothing or shoes, it’s another issue entirely when the lost items are important to your health. Carry any health-related items in your carry-on bag and keep them close to you at all times. If you’re told that your bags will be gate-checked, don’t forget to remove whatever you need before boarding.
Consider purchasing a travel insurance that covers medical emergencies.
A travel insurance policy can protect you from unexpected costs—like, if you need to be evacuated for medical reasons. Be sure and read the fine print to make sure diabetes is covered. It might be a good idea to call the insurance company before you purchase anything, just to be certain.
While you’re traveling
Sitting for long periods of time may increase the risk of blood clots, so it’s important to stretch your legs often while traveling. Whether you’re traveling by car or by plane, make sure to stand up every hour to stretch your legs and walk around.
But don’t stop at just stretching your legs. Try and be active throughout your trip, starting as early as the airport. Rather than hopping on the escalator or conveyor belt, opt for the stairs. If you arrive early for your flight, take a walk. And when you get to your destination, keep it up! Exploring new cities offers all kinds of active opportunities, whether it’s hiking, biking, or just walking around town. Pack some workout clothes and a swimsuit. That way, if your hotel has a gym or pool, you’ll be ready.
Stock up on snacks.
Flights get cancelled. Trains run late. Traffic jams happen. Weather can be unpredictable. All of those scenarios are much more tolerable when you have snacks at your fingertips. Grab some healthy, easy-to-eat foods like raw vegetables, fresh fruit, and nuts. If traveling internationally, especially to island nations, make sure to check the country’s guidelines about fruits and vegetables first. You don’t want to pack and transport fresh produce all that way only to have it confiscated before clearing customs.
Have a go-to list for restaurant meals.
It’s not always possible to look at menus in advance and plan ahead. That’s why it can be helpful to memorize a list of items that are generally low in carbohydrates and common on restaurant menus. Some items to consider include salads with chicken or fish (try and avoid any dried fruit or bread products, such as croutons); egg dishes and omelets; fajitas (without the tortillas or rice); and burgers (ask for lettuce instead of a bun).
For more ideas when eating out, check out our article on dining out with diabetes.
When you arrive
Get the lay of the land.
Make note of where nearby medical facilities are located, including pharmacies and clinics. If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, write down or memorize phrases that might be useful if a medical incident arises, such as “I need a doctor,” “I have diabetes,” or “where is the hospital?”
Keep your shoes on.
If you’re in a warm, tropical location, it can be tempting to kick off your shoes and walk around on the beach, by the lake, or on the grass. Resist the urge to go barefoot. You never know what you could step on. A wound could put a damper on your trip and may even lead to serious consequences.
Don’t forget to relax and enjoy your time away!
Remember, stress may impact your blood sugar levels. While on vacation, it’s your chance to get away from workaday worries, so take a deep breath and make the most of your getaway. Do things you enjoy and make choices that you know will help you to feel good, whether that’s practicing yoga, making healthy food choices, getting a good night’s sleep, or just stopping to smell the roses. This is your chance to relax.