By: Leslie Josel and Susan Weiner
Fourth of July has come and gone, but there’s still time this summer for vacationing near and far, business travel, or a spur-of-the-moment jaunt across town. Wherever you’re going, your diabetes goes with you, but don’t despair- Susan Weiner and Leslie Josel partnered together to write The Complete Diabetes Organizer, and we’ve borrowed some of their tips for traveling with diabetes.
Here’s a quick list of items to have written and with you at all times:
- Medications (include dosage)
- Vitamins and supplements
- Pharmacy contact information for both home and away
- Doctors’ contact information
- Emergency contact numbers
- Local grocery or convenience stores’ phone numbers and hours of operation.
Technology is Great But…Have a Backup Plan
Send copies of important information and your detailed itinerary to a family member, neighbor, or assistant.
Source: Adapted from An App A Day and An App A Day for Health Professionals, © 2012, Frederico Arts LLC; www.AppyLiving.com.
We know that in this day and age it is easier to keep all your information on one of your many electronic devices, and there are plenty of cool apps that can replace all those paper printouts. However, try not to rely solely on electronics. Lost chargers, dead batteries, or limited cell or web service can leave you stranded. Keep an electronic and hard copy version of all your critical information on hand.
If you plan to travel abroad, have all your medical information converted to the language of the country you are planning to visit. Carry this information with you at all times. Create one sheet with all your important information. Convert it to a PDF and save it in a Dropbox or Evernote folder that you can access from anywhere. Or, snap a photo with your phone for a quick reference.
Always carry at least double the amount of your medications, including insulin and diabetes supplies. What if you wind up staying longer than you had planned? Bad weather or airport delays can extend your trip. So don’t skimp on extra supplies.
Keep your supplies within reach. Don’t store supplies in an overhead airplane bin that you can’t get to during a bumpy flight. Clearly mark all your diabetes supplies and include the pharmacy’s original labeling when possible.
Pack nonperishable snacks. Bring sports bars or a homemade trail mix of nuts and dried fruit. If your travel is delayed, test your blood sugar and eat a snack as necessary. Your snacks can help you prevent or treat a low blood sugar. Glucose tablets or gels or another fast-acting source of carbohydrate are a must when you travel. Bring extra foil, clear wrap, and storage bags. These items may come in handy when you pack snacks for your return trip. Do you usually use measuring spoons or cups? If it will make you feel more confident about your portion control, bring along a few measuring supplies.
Call the hotel ahead of time to request a refrigerator for your room. You can ask the hotel to empty the minibar before you check in so that you have ample room for your refrigerated supplies and snacks.
Use a hanging toiletry bag as a nonperishable snack and supply carrier. Find one that has elastic
bands and zippered compartments. Once you arrive at your destination, just open the bag and hang for easy access. Now your snacks will be contained and easily accessible.
Do you find it difficult to eat out in restaurants when you travel? Portion sizes can be huge and may provide extra carb grams, calories, and a lot of excess sodium and fat. Take control of your food while eating out with these terrific tips:
• Look for key healthy words on menus, such as broiled, roasted, or grilled.
• Ask for food to be prepared with less salt and order all dressings and sauces on the side. To avoid blood sugar spikes, find out what’s in the sauce on your food as well.
• Be vocal. Do you have a specific food allergy or intolerance? Or, do they not have on the menu what you would like? If you don’t see what you want, ask for it anyway. Don’t be afraid to ask for healthy substitutions. Many restaurants will accommodate your requests. You aren’t the first to ask and you won’t be the last.
• If you are visiting a country whose residents speak a foreign language, learn a few important menu phrases in that language. Better to be prepared so you can order stress free.
• Avoid portion distortion. Choose the smallest meal size. For example, order a lunch-sized entrée or appetizer for dinner or, if dining out with a friend, split an entrée. Consider sharing a dessert or ordering a “kiddie-size” portion.
• Eliminate temptation! When you order, ask for half the meal to be placed in a doggie-bag before it reaches your table.
• Stand strong when you order. Try not to let your dining partner sabotage your healthy food choices. You can do it!
• Have a game plan. Try to eat at about the same time as you would if you were home. You will be more likely to manage your blood sugars if you eat your meals and test your blood sugars at the same time at or away from your home.
• If you plan to eat later than usual, make sure that you eat an additional snack prior to your meal. Bring a snack with you in case your meal is delayed. You may also have to adjust your
insulin or medications if you plan to eat much later than usual.
Make sure you plan for slow service and adjust your insulin or medication accordingly.
Staying Healthy While on the Road
Follow these simple rules for optimum health while on the road!
Move. Plan to walk around a bit every hour when you travel by air, bus, train, or car. If you walk, you may help to prevent blood clots from forming. Need another reason to walk? You might be able to prevent blood clots and help to keep your blood sugars within range. Try to keep up with your exercise routine when away from home. Call ahead to find out if there is a gym or a walking path at your hotel. (Check out our chapter on exercise for more great ideas
on how to stay active.)
Drink. Put yourself on a water schedule in order to stay hydrated. Although you might not feel thirsty, it’s important to drink plenty of water. Look at your agenda for the day to plan to “fit your water in.” Keep water handy in your car. Treat yourself to a bottle of water once you pass airport security. Need a reminder to drink plenty of water when you travel? Try one of these terrific apps— 8 Glasses a Day, Water Me, Water Tracker, Water Logged.
Snack. Take portioned snacks with you. If you travel by car, pack a cooler with some fruit, Greek yogurt, and a sandwich of lean turkey on whole grain bread. Keep some unsalted nuts, veggies, and hummus close by for a yummy snack. Take along a sandwich (such as turkey breast with low-fat Swiss cheese on whole grain bread) and some fruit on the plane.
Proximity. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating—keep your must have diabetes travel supplies with you at all times. If you are planning to fly, keep your necessary supplies in your carry-on luggage. Even if your checked luggage is lost by the airline, you’ll have your diabetes supplies with you. If you plan to travel by car, bus, or train, keep your diabetes supplies within reach. That way, your supplies will be kept in a temperature-controlled environment and close by in case you need anything.
Carry. Use a fanny pouch or small knapsack when you take a day trip. If you are away from your hotel or rental home for the day, load your knapsack with snacks, bottled water, your medical information, and daily diabetes supplies. No panic necessary if you decide to extend your day! Freeze water bottles the night before you leave. If you plan to travel by car, train, or bus, a frozen water bottle will help keep perishables cold and give you ample liquids while traveling.
Disclosure. You can wear a fashionable medical ID bracelet or necklace. If you plan to travel with a friend or companion, please let them know that you have diabetes. Discuss the signs of
hypoglycemia and show them where you keep your glucose tablets or fast-acting source of carbohydrate.
Checking Blood Sugar —Remembering to Remember
• Set reminders and alerts on your phone at the beginning of each day to ensure you never forget to check your blood sugar and to eat your meals and snacks.
• Two heads are always better than one. Inform your travel companions or guides about your blood sugar testing schedule. If you lose track of time, someone can remind you.
• Place a rubberband or string around your finger or wrist as a visual cue.
Use a WatchMinder (www.watchminder.com) to remind yourself to monitor your blood sugar levels or take your meds. A WatchMinder is a vibrating watch and reminder system that can be programmed to send you discreet alerts. Choose from over 65 preprogrammed reminder messages and then either set a fixed time or a time interval to cue you with your message. Never miss a blood sugar check again! Or, you can try one of the following time-alert apps—Clock, resolutions, MyLil’Coach, or Goal Getter.