Having diabetes should never hold you back from doing the things you love or from embarking on new adventures. However, when it comes to traveling, especially to destinations far off the beaten path, managing all the details of your diabetes care in addition to the details of travel — tickets, itineraries, connections, and reservations, to name a few — may seem overwhelming. You may be concerned about simply getting your supplies onto the airplane, not to mention time zone changes, new climates, or counting carbohydrates in the jungle or desert. Even a simple pleasure like sightseeing can feel difficult to manage with diabetes. However, with a little forethought and planning, many obstacles can be overcome. Here are some tips to help make your travels as stress-free as possible.
Getting through the airport
If you’re traveling by plane, you may encounter a few hassles at the airport, where upgraded security measures and baggage restrictions have become the norm, and flight changes or delays are always a possibility. Wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace and showing it to security personnel is a good first step toward explaining why you are carrying medicines and diabetes supplies and is sometimes sufficient since more people are becoming knowledgeable about diabetes. A letter from your doctor that includes the date, your name, your diagnosis of diabetes, and a list of all the supplies (blood glucose meter, strips, lancets, etc.) and medicines you use can also smooth your way through security. If you use insulin, make sure that the type of insulin and dosage or pump, as well as the supplies you need for administering it, are listed as well. (This list might include an insulin pen and needles, syringes, or pump infusion sets.) Personally, I made such a list, had my doctor sign it, then made several copies of it to carry with me when I travel. Whenever I have presented this letter to the security personnel, they have been exceptionally courteous and considerate.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a division of the US Department of Homeland Security, also offers the following guidelines for people with diabetes regarding air travel:
- Make sure that your insulin, in any form or dispenser, is accompanied by a professionally printed pharmaceutical label that identifies it. Since the prescription label is usually on the outside of the box containing the vials of insulin or pens, it is recommended that passengers refrain from discarding their insulin box and come prepared with their insulin in its original, pharmaceutically labeled box.
- For passengers who monitor their blood glucose levels but do not require insulin, boarding with lancets is acceptable as long as the lancets are capped, and as long as the lancets are brought on board with a blood glucose meter that has the manufacturer name embossed on the meter (for example, OneTouch meters that say “OneTouch Ultra”).
- The above protocol applies only to travel within the 50 United States and is subject to change. International passengers should consult their individual air carriers for applicable international regulations.
Further directives from the TSA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) state that syringes and insulin delivery systems (pens, jet injectors, pumps, etc.) can be carried onto a plane only when accompanied by insulin, and that glucagon kits should be kept intact in their original, preprinted pharmaceutically labeled containers.