As many of you know, I am in Europe this month. My family and I travel to Germany every summer, with a varying number of side trips to other regions and countries. Diabetes always puts up a fuss in some form or another — like when I woke up last week with a scary low (39) in a dark, unfamiliar house in Holland. Story for another day. But on this note, I am pleased to host fellow patient advocate Dana Lewis today, who is certainly more of an expert on diabetes and world travel than I am.
A Guest Post by Dana Lewis
I’m not a professional packer. Or an expert mover. But I managed to survive 32 days in 12 countries overseas with 1 backpack. When I returned, I moved from Alabama to Seattle and have been living out of two suitcases for the past few weeks as I wait for the rest of my things to arrive. Diabetes hasn’t been an issue.
I’ve always believed that diabetes wouldn’t stop me from living my life. However, I finally was able to walk the walk and have an incredible adventure abroad without many mishaps. (Any mishaps weren’t diabetes-related, but rather had to do with getting in the way of a herd of cows heading home for the evening while in Switzerland.)
As I said, I’m not an expert, but here are my tips on packing and surviving an international trip (or a move cross-country):
Step 1: Plan ahead
⁃ Make a list of everything you need and stock up on supplies in advance
⁃ Ask your doctor for a letter stating the medical necessity of having your pump, CGM, meter, syringes, insulin, food, etc. by your side at all times
⁃ Check to see if the countries you are visiting require any vaccinations or extra paperwork to get in
⁃ If you have celiac or other dietary needs, call your airline and request the necessary meal accommodations. Also, put Google to good use and find some good restaurants ahead of time in each city to check out. After wandering around in a new city for 12 hours, you’ll appreciate the effort of planning ahead!
Step 2: Actually pack
⁃ Start with diabetes supplies first. Everything else you can get by without, but 2-3x the amount of supplies you think you’ll need for a trip are non-negotiable
⁃ Don’t forget the batteries for all of your gadgets
⁃ There’s no such thing as too many glucose tabs
⁃ …or too many syringes…or bottles of insulin…or strips…etc
⁃ Keep a couple days’ worth of supplies in a big baggie or somewhere separate to take on the plane with you, in case of lost luggage. (Throw in an extra change of clothes if you have the space)
⁃ Pack snacks for the plane and your trip if you think you’ll be a picky eater abroad (guilty!)
Step 3: Double check
⁃ Make sure you grab everything that you planned to grab to carry with you on the plane
⁃ Don’t count on being able to get a soda on the plane in case of a low; if you’re on an overcrowded plane, definitely have glucose tabs or juice and your meter at the top of your bag or in a pocket.
⁃ Really make sure you have backup batteries for your pump, CGM, meter…and chargers for your camera, phone, laptop, etc!
Step 4: Have fun!
Oh, and don’t forget the Safety Check:
⁃ Wear a medical alert bracelet & have a card with emergency contact information near the top of your wallet
⁃ Let your doctor/health care team know that you’ll be traveling and take a printed copy of emergency contact numbers with you. They may also have some helpful travel suggestions
⁃ Put all of your itinerary information in one place. (I used TripIt, and printed copies out to leave with my family as well as sending links and e-copies by email as a backup)
⁃ Don’t underestimate the extra activity you’ll be doing. Keep an eye out and test more often; consider using temporary basal programs as a precaution.
You can connect with Dana on the ubiquitous social network, Twitter, where she talks about everything from gluten-free cupcakes to health care social media (#hcsm).