Welcome to Miami (Bienvenidos a Miami)

Last week I mentioned that I’d be traveling to Miami Beach for a work conference. Well, here I am. It’s Wednesday night and I’m sitting in a hotel room after two days of conferencing with one more to go. (Actually it’s only been one-and-a-half days of conferencing thus far. Tuesday’s convention was cut short by the large power outage that hit Florida in the afternoon).


For better or worse, I’m not in as much of a narrative mode about traveling with my diabetes as I thought I would be. Travel fatigue, I suppose. Here I was all set to provide you with some grand insight into what it was like for me as a first-time diabetic on an airline with my insulin pump and other diabetes accoutrement. But quite honestly, the first three days and nights here have been, thus far, rather boring.

So instead, how about a few musings in a nonnarrative fashion:

  • One of the things that traveling on an airline with an insulin pump has shown me is the difficulty in keeping yet one more thing straight when going to—and of course going through—the airport. My concern for getting through the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) checkpoint with my insulin pump—and with the vial of insulin in its requisite baggy—was directly responsible for my misplacing my ticket somewhere in my carry-on. This happened in a space of 25 feet. It wasn’t in my messenger bag or in the tray. After searching my shirt pocket and my front pocket and jacket, I finally found it in my back pocket.
  • The woman with the TSA who waved me through the metal detector gave me no grief whatsoever. At first she thought I’d been lazy about putting my cell phone in the doggy dish. “What’s that in your pocket?” she asked, motioning the wand toward the insulin pump lumping through my jeans pocket. “It’s an insulin pump,” I said. “Diabetes.” I took it out and showed it to her and not a second elapsed before she smiled and said “Oh, OK” and that some people try to sneak their cell phones through in their pockets.
  • Am I a being a bit hypochondriacal to worry so much about having to remove my shoes when going through the metal detector? I don’t exhibit any signs of neuropathy—not yet, and I hope not for a long time—but really, what nastiness must lurk on those carpets trod by thousands of others with unshod feet? Do I want to take that risk? Do I have a choice? Does it matter? Fungus. Infection. Stepping on something? Kinda eww, diabetes or no. But do we with diabetes have a legitimate gripe?
  • I do not have a large waist, yet still the airline seat didn’t want to accommodate both me and my pump comfortably. I wear the pump on my belt. It kept jackknifing into my hip because the armrest got in the way.
  • What happens to my blood glucose at 39,000 feet? Is insulin’s effectiveness altered? Does the absorption of carbohydrate change? Is it too small to notice? Have studies been done?
  • Although I’m attending the conference with a colleague who’s staying two floors above me, it’s odd being in a hotel room, alone, without my wife, and without the normal daily routine that precedes a night’s sleep. My life’s pretty low-key and quite measured in terms of what and when I eat and what my activities are and when I exercise. Traveling here on this trip, not only have I seen a difference in temperature of 50 to 60 degrees, but I’m also eating my meals at restaurants (a carbohydrate crapshoot if ever there was one) and then going to bed alone in a hotel room. So I’m erring on the higher side of a pre-bedtime blood glucose.

I’ve yet to have a severe hypoglycemic episode, so I can’t help but fixate (just a little) on what my reaction to such an episode would be: Would I wake up on the way down? Sure, I have a colleague two floors up on the other side of the hotel, but would I be coherent enough to call her if I woke up? Would I be coherent enough to dial the front desk? Would I even know where I was?

Next Monday when I’m back in Michigan I’m going to meet a DexCom representative and have a trial of their continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for a week. Yep, it’s time for me to try one out. I’ll share the details of that meeting and what I’ve experienced thus far.

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  • Jenn

    In reference to “waking up on the way down” with a severe episode. I have ALWAYS woken up. I’m sure that depending on how low it ended up being before I woke up had to do with how tired I was in the first place. I have been woken up with lows in the 50’s to as low as 32.

  • jeffew

    So, did you check your blood sugar while at 39,000 feet? We will be flying this summer with our 8 year old, who is type 1, and are very curious as to how flying affects blood sugar.

  • chuck

    I really need input on how road runners handle BS while on a 10K or longer race.


  • Joe Town

    Hi, I have had Type I for 46 years. During that time I have traveled to 44 countries and all 50 states. A lot of the travel was done before glucometers and the pump. I have never had a problem with airport security of traveling in general.
    The glucometer helped me with guessing the amount of carbs I was eating when I did not know what I was eating. I always tried to guess on the low side and take more insulin later if necessary.
    The pump solved the problem of what do you do with your long acting insulin when you travel through multiple time zones. From experience I know what my blood sugar has to be when I go to bed to get me through the night and I use the same level when traveling. If you are worried about a night time low, set your alarm and get up and check.

    I always carry enough carbs in my carry on to last me for a day. This has saved my bacon several times.


  • Joe Town


    I am not a runner, but I am a long distance bicycle rider/used to be racer. A lot of how to handle competition has to do with experience. A 10K lasts less than an hour and should not be a problem.

    For a 100 mile bike race, I would make sure the night before I ate pasta and in the moring, oatmeal or something with long acting carbs. I normally started the race with a BS around 200. I used an energy drink called “Cytomax” and by experience knew how many ounces to drink per hour. On the bike I could test while riding, its a lot harder when running. Based on the BS test, I would either increase or decrease my amout of Cytomax.

    If you wear a pump, experiment with temporarity reducing or cancelling your basal. If you take long acting insulin, it will be more difficult.


  • Dave

    I have been type 1 for three years (a relative new comer)I travel for work quite a bit. I just returned from a two week trip to Asia, one 20 hour flight, one 16 hour flight, and a 12 hour time change. I take my short acting novolog with meals. I take half a dose of the long acting every 12 hours until I arrive and then work back to my normal before bed schedule. I always travel with exra carbs to get me through food that doesn’t arrive on time. I always travel with back up insulin so that I could last an extra week or two or in case some insulin gets tainted by temp changes (the tropics can be tough) The best thing for hot weather travel are “Frio” cool pouches. They keep insulin pens cool by evaporation (no refridgeration needed) You can find them on the Medicool site. They are life savers and lifestyle savers, big time. Don’t worry about travel. It just takes a little more planning than before.