Off Road Vacation with a Child with Type 1 Diabetes: Is it okay?


So here’s a dilemma that I’d love some input on from other diabetes parents – going on an “off road” vacation with a young child with type 1 diabetes. 

Background: Winter looms

As the Minneapolis winter closes in, my wife and I naturally begin thinking of getting away to warmer climes, if only for a few days. After a decade of living in Canada, we know that an uninterrupted winter of short days, grey skies, and bitter cold are bad for family dynamics. Getting away somewhere sunny and warm is really nice, if possible.

Any parents with young children – ours are nine and five – knows that travel with kids can be both wonderful and challenging. Although there are exceptions, most young kids really like vacations that involve warm weather, a beach, and a heated swimming pool. We spent an entire year living in Mexico, home to some of the world’s most fantastic history, colonial architecture, and pre-Hispanic ruins, and all my kids remember are the crassly touristic beach resorts. My wife and I hated the commercialness of those places; the kids thought they were in paradise.

This year, we thought briefly of driving to a remote ranch in the Southwest, where there are no phones or internet connections. The idea would be to “get away from it all,” hike in the mountains, and ride horses. 

The Question

Should we take the risk? When is it OK to do this kind of vacation with a young T1D child?More specifically, is it irresponsible to be out of phone contact, when we have a five year old with diabetes,  on an insulin pump? To be sure, we know how to handle most diabetes emergencies, and carry syringes, Glucagon, extra insulin, and so forth with us. Until now, however, it’s always been a huge comfort while traveling to know that we can phone the doctor if necessary, quickly find a pharmacy with insulin, or even, should all else fail, reach an appropriate emergency facility. 

I’d really like some input on this from diabetes parents with more experience. When, if ever, can a diabetes parent go off the beaten track?    

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11 Comments on "Off Road Vacation with a Child with Type 1 Diabetes: Is it okay?"

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Our daughter was diagnosed at age 7, just about the time my husband decided we should take up multi day white water raft trips as a family.  Very remote wilderness with no phones, no services.  We use the SPOT GPS Messengery system You purchase the remote and buy a subscription which allows you to request medical evacuation, pinpoints your location or allows you to relay other preprogrammed messages.     Remote ranch in the Southwest should be no prob and not even require the SPOT.  Confirm they have a landline phone and you know you can get a helicopter flight… Read more »
Do it. My daughter dx at 9 is now almost 18. She has traveled internationally alone as well as spent over a week on two seperate occasions backpacking in Colorado and Montana including summiting a 14,000 foot peak in Colorado. Insulindependence is the group that she has done the back country adventures with. When your child gets a little older, I would reccomend them to you. They have a wonderful mentoring program with adults and youth with Type One where they participate in events locally for a year and then do a final event together somewhere in the country. There… Read more »
Go for it! It is great to teach you child that there are no limits and restrictions for them even with Type I diabetes.It’s the best gift to teach them. Also teach them to always be prepared for the worst and have supplies to cover any issues.  You also must be prepared for the pump no working. You can travel with a backup pump ( I have done it for my daughter many times. Never had to use it, but always happy to have it if I needed it). Most companies provided one for free. Also have all your backup… Read more »
I would say live your life the way you would if your child did not have diabetes.  My son (age 5 1/2) has had diabetes for 2 years.  We want him to know that there are no limitations and that he can do whatever any other child can do.  Of course you have to be prepared and have supplies, extra supplies, and more extra supplies – and of course check their BG often.  ;-)  In my opinion you are not “risking their life” but rather showing them how they can live it.  I feel that avoiding trips because of the… Read more »

One last comment.  Take immodium and zofran.  They will allow you to maintain bg levels in the case of diarrhea or vomiting. 

Go for it!  My son was diagnosed at 20 months of age and is now 16.  When have taken several short backpacking trips, and  he was 14 we went on a 10-day canoe trek into Quetico Park in Canada.  We were not only out of phone contact, but we were several days away from emergency evacuation.  I took extra supplies, and I made sure that I woke up a couple of times each night to check his blood sugar, and I intentionally ran his bg levels a bit higher just to be on the safe side, but it was a… Read more »
Melisa Dailey
My 5 year old has had diabetes since she was 2 yrs old. We lived in New Mexico until recently and we have struggled with these issues. Yet, at the end of the day, we want her to live her life fully – not in fear. Unless your child is showing signs of being sick before you go then there is really no reason not to go. In our experience, there is never a dire situation that all of a sudden happens. Instead, there is layer upon layer on decisions and circumstances that end up causing hospitalization or the need… Read more »
Well, until I read this, I hadn’t thought that it would be a problem. I say go for it. Just bring what you can to be prepared. I have a 7 year old with type 1, and we’ve spent many days backcountry camping in the Adirondack mountains every summer. We could get back to civilization within several or more hours by canoe in case of emergency… but there is no cell phone service there, so it might be hard to contact anyone for an emergency evacuation. So I guess there is a potential problem, but we haven’t had any issues.… Read more »

You are going to risk your child’s life over a vacation? No phones? My son has had Type 1 and on a pump since he was 7. He is now 21. We NEVER go anywhere there is not a decent hospital very close and we have been out of the country every year since they were very young. You cannot bring them out of ketoacidosis or a coma sometimes no matter how well prepared you may be. Glucagon is NOT glucose, it only stimulates the liver to produce. Not worth risking a life…

2 months after our 10 year old was diagnosed we set off on a 3 month road trip across Australia into some desolate and isolated areas.  We had a great time and managed his diabetes well (HBA1C is 6.5). This year our eldest boy was also diagnosed at 14 again just prior to a planned vacation traveling across the desert.  The most important thing is to plan for an emergency, consult with your pediatrician and if necessary contact the local authorities to let them know. See if their is a helicopter rescue service available if something should go wrong.  In… Read more »
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