Top 5 Tips
1: Start Early
Talk to your diabetes team 4-6 weeks prior to departure. They will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information regarding travel and diabetes.
2: Travel Insurance
Choose a travel insurance policy that makes sense for you. Be sure to have everything in writing and to read the fine print!
Travel Agents: Don’t rely on what someone tells you, always get it in writing!
Policy Cover: Some policies may “cover diabetes as a preexisting condition.” This does not necessarily mean a policy will cover all costs (i.e. Loss of supplies, hospital admission, flights home, etc.). Do your homework and understand the details of your policy.
Adventure Holidays: Premiums are generally higher, but adventure specific policies may be a good decision if you are planning to explore via scuba diving, hang gliding, mountain climbing, or in a different adventurous manner. Compare policies to find the one that is the best for you and your trip!
Purchasing annual diabetes travel insurance can be a very cost effective method if you are a high frequency traveler. Further, if you are a resident of the European Economic Area, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) could be very helpful. It entitles the holder to treatment that may be necessary during their trip, and grants them the same access as a resident of that country. It is free to apply for and last up to five years. This card is NOT an alternative to travel insurance, but may be of benefit if you are traveling in Europe and think you are eligible.
3: Research Your Destination
- Find out if vaccinations are recommended for the area you are traveling to! Vaccinations have the potential to affect your diabetes and you should consult with your diabetes team throughout the vaccination process.
- Look up your insulin manufacturer to see if your insulin is supplied in the country you are traveling to (and confirm that it is under the same name!). Make sure you have enough strips, lancets, and batteries before setting off. And that they will not expire while you are gone!
The web addresses for the main insulin manufacturers are as follows:
- It is also a good idea to look up medical specific phrases and a few emergency contacts for the area you will be traveling to, especially if you do not speak the language. Keep this information in your carry-on baggage, and accessible throughout your trip.
4: Packing Your Carry-On
Putting items in checked luggage can be risky if your bag is lost, the flight is delayed, or there is a different unforeseen situation. Make sure to keep the following items with you in your hand luggage:
- Doctor’s Letter. The letter should include that you have diabetes and which type, list the supplies you need to carry, and state your doctor’s name and contact information. Carry the letter in English, as well a copy in the native language of the country you will be traveling to.
- Contact information for family and friends at home
- Contact information for emergency medical needs in country you are traveling to, as well as your list of translated emergency phrases.
- Identification/medical alert bracelet. Always carry identification that states you have diabetes and lists any other medical conditions.
- Health insurance information
- Immunization information
- A formal prescription for the medications you are carrying
- Glucose tablets or gel, extra carbohydrate-containing snacks, and a glucagon pen
- Two glucose meters and batteries
- Supplies including insulin and blood glucose monitoring equipment
- Extra infusion sets and cannulas (for insulin pump users)
- A first aid kit (may come in handy!)
5: Medicines and Monitoring During Travel
Insulin pumps and CGMs can be taken through metal detectors in airport security, but they should NOT be passed through X-ray machines or full body scanners.
Insulin dosing during travel and upon arrival at a new destination is a matter that should be discussed in advance with your diabetes team. Don’t be dependent on a wireless signal for your diabetes treatment because the signal may not be strong or consistent on a given flight. If your pump or CGM cannot function without a wireless signal, then be prepared to remove your CGM and pump for the duration of the flight, and utilize an insulin pen instead.