I love going to amusement parks in the summer. As a kid, I would ride the coasters over and over again. We have introduced our kids to the thrill of the amusement park, and they can’t wait to go again. If you do a little planning ahead, you will have an enjoyable day. Visit the park’s website and e-mail or call their guest services office to ask about specifics regarding accommodations that can be made for people with diabetes. I think you will find they want to be helpful, so you have a great experience. You may or may not need a letter from the doctor stating that the child has a medical condition and needs special accommodations. Ask about passes for people with disabilities that allow you to jump to the front of lines or provide you with a time to return so that you aren’t standing in lines. Sometimes these passes only work for the larger rides and coasters.
I suggest stopping by guest services after entering the park. They can give you a map with medical stations circled. You can obtain the medical accommodation pass for your family, and they can place a sticker on your supply bag that identifies it as containing medical supplies. Also, while many parks allow no outside food or drinks, a person with diabetes should be able to bring in snacks and drinks.
I like to pack a couple of water bottles that we can refill throughout the day to stay hydrated. Remember, there is a lot of blacktop at amusement parks, which turns up the heat! Pack enough food to cover regular snack times, plus a few extras in case you need them to recover from lows. I also pack a few extras for other family members. Applesauce pouches and organic fruit strips hold up well in a backpack or cooler. Food and drinks can be expensive at amusement parks, and you don’t want to pay $3 or $4 for a snack to treat a blood sugar low. When you dine at parks, they probably won’t have carb counts available. If you pull up The CalorieKing app on your phone (or toss the paperback in your backpack), you can make a good guess.
You may be wondering what to do with your diabetes supply bag when you are on the rides. On some rides, you can keep your bag with you, but for others it’s not safe because it will obstruct seatbelts or could fly out of the car. There is usually a set of cubbies or a basket where you can put your supply bag while you’re on a ride. We also had guest services put a sticker on our supply bag saying that it contained medical supplies. In case it was lost, it would be more likely to be returned to the office and reunited with us. Blood sugar might also be on a rollercoaster while you are at amusement parks. Adrenaline can cause high blood sugar, but all that walking can cause lows! I suggest checking blood sugar regularly and being proactive. Staying hydrated and sticking somewhat closely to regular meal and snack times will also help. During our last amusement park trip, Quinn had a perfect 100 come up on the meter!
Considerations for water parks are similar to amusement parks, but I’m sure your first thought is how to keep everything dry. During our last visit to the water park, we chose to stop at the first aid office and leave our d-supply bag with them, including a few snacks and juice boxes. We stopped by the office a couple of times during the day to check Quinn’s blood sugar.
Since the office was air-conditioned, we didn’t have to worry about keeping insulin cool. Since we left the supply bag, including our insulin, glucagon, and the remote for the insulin pump in the first aid office, I didn’t want to feel completely helpless if Quinn’s blood sugar plummeted.
So, I purchased a waterproof pouch with a lanyard at our local camping store and used it to carry an extra meter, a few test strips, lancets, Smarties, and cake icing gel. I also gave my husband a small waterproof box to keep in the pocket of his swim trunks that had cake icing gel and Smarties. While they do sell waterproof pouches that are touted as able to keep expensive electronics dry, I didn’t want to risk getting the insulin pump remote wet.
On extremely hot days, keep your insulin in your soft-sided cooler with your drinks and snacks. You could also use a Frio cooling pack if you aren’t carrying a cooler. Medical IDs are even more important when at amusement parks. If your child should become separated from you, staff will be able to call your cell phone if the number is engraved on the bracelet.
No food allowed? Even though there may be a rule at pools, water parks, and other venues such as sports arenas, against bringing anything in, they will allow you to bring in food and drinks for people with diabetes. Most water parks have a centrally located first aid office. Ask to leave your d-supply bag there; not only will it be nice and dry, but the building is usually air conditioned.
Just because you are in the water doesn’t mean your child doesn’t need ID. Place a silicone bracelet that says “diabetic” on your child’s wrist. There are also temporary tattoos that can be ordered online that say “diabetic” or “medical condition” and can be printed with information.
Our family enjoys camping, and diabetes isn’t going to stop us from getting outdoors and enjoying nature. We have a pop-up camper and tend to stay at state parks with electric hook-ups and shower houses. The things that make me the most uneasy about camping are having poor cell phone reception in case we need emergency assistance and being at least a half hour from the closest hospital. The reality is that we rarely have to make a call for medical assistance or need a hospital for diabetes-related care.
If you are concerned with being able to get medical assistance, there are two things you can do. Locate the accommodations for the camp “host.” The host is a person or family who stays onsite throughout the camping season and can answer questions about the campgrounds. They often have a camper and a phone. You should also familiarize yourself with the ranger station. The rangers generally patrol campgrounds often and can be flagged down to ask questions or assist you.
The biggest issue while camping is keeping insulin cool. Our pop-up camper has a refrigerator, but if you are camping in a tent you need to keep it cool either by using a Frio cooling pouch or storing it in the cooler. If you use an ice-filled cooler, take care not to put the insulin directly on the ice. Instead, place the insulin in a plastic container and place that inside a plastic zipper storage bag. The air should keep it from freezing.
As with any type of travel, you need to pack enough supplies for the length of the trip. I usually take double what we need. The campsite we normally go to is an hour from our house and 30 minutes from the nearest hospital and pharmacy. If we forget something, it wouldn’t be too hard to get what we need. If you are camping or hiking in a remote area, pack more than you need; perhaps three times the normal supplies for that length of time.
Because our preparedness kit contains every diabetes supply item we might need, I use that as our camping supply kit, making sure to refill it when we get back home. We also have a first aid kit in our camper. Since we camp frequently, I have a master packing list of all the things our family needs, including diabetes supplies. I keep a small food scale and a set of measuring cups in our camping gear to make carb counting easier.
We don’t make any big changes in the food we take camping because of diabetes. To make carb counting easier, some foods can be portioned out ahead of time. I include plenty of fruit such as bananas, grapes, and cantaloupe, which I cut up ahead of time. We also eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with natural cheese puffs or chips as a side. I pack applesauce pouches and organic fruit strips to take while bike riding or hiking. I have a memory of my grandfather letting me get a box of Apple Jacks when he took me to the lake as a child. To carry on this tradition, I let my kids pick out a box of cereal— any kind they want—when we camp. We never buy sugary cereals at home, and this is a special tradition just for camping.
Plan ahead for the types of activities you might do while camping. We like to take our bikes with us, but biking around the state park usually sends Quinn’s blood sugar low. I make sure to take a couple of juices and her supply bag with me when we ride. If you will be hiking for a long period of time, take not only your supply bag but extra snacks, lots of water, and low blood sugar treatments.
You will be thankful if the trail is longer than you thought it would be or you get lost. Always tell someone where you are going and take a buddy if possible. You can also carry walkie-talkies in case you need to communicate across the park. When canoeing or boating, don’t forget your supplies. I purchased a waterproof box which is big enough to hold an extra meter, glucagon, glucose tabs, a juice box, and snacks. But I don’t put anything in it that I would be too upset about if it somehow ended up on the bottom of the lake! In other words, I don’t put Quinn’s insulin pump remote in the box. If she needs insulin, then we come ashore. I also have a rule that my kids always wear life jackets when they are near water. It doesn’t matter if they are fishing off a dock or in a canoe, they must have one on.