Tips For the Diabetic Traveller

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Diabetes is a life-long condition. Often when people first develop it, they become depressed, believing that the condition will restrict them in all spheres of life. However, doctors and long-standing patients of diabetes aver that there is no reason to stop enjoying life just because one's body has stopped processing sugar! With a little extra planning, there is no reason why a diabetic can not do whatever a non-diabetic can.

One of the biggest obstacles Diabetes does pose, however, is to travel, especially foreign travel across time zones. Exotic food, jet lag and travel exhaustion can all lead to a sugar surge that may prove dangerous. People who are insulin-dependent have added issues of not being able to figure when to take their insulin, especially in a different time zone.

Here are some tips and tricks which may enable the diabetic traveller to travel well, and travel safe.


Planning a Holiday

  • Crossing time zones can be a bit of a trial for diabetics. As a rule of thumb,remember that when travelling westward, the day is longer (by about 5-8 hours on a transatlantic flight) and when travelling eastward, the day is shorter. Consult a doctor and set an alarm reminder so as to remember the right time for taking insulin.
  • Inform the airlinewell in advance so that they can make arrangements to welcome a diabetic passenger on board. It helps to let them know meal [preferences, diet restrictions and medication details in advance.
  • Arrange health insurance individually even if travelling with a group. Some travel companies do not provide health covers for diabetics as part of the regular insurance cover for travellers.
  • Carry latest prescriptions and doctor's cards whoch could be very useful in case of any medical emergency.
  • Obtain medical supplies of insulin, syringes, needles, urine/blood test strips and glucose tablets. It is better to err on the plus side here!
  • It is important to remind the cabin staff of one's diet at the check in counter itself.
  • Diabetics travelling alone must tell one of the cabin staff about their condition and the medication they are on.
  • Altitude enhances the effect of alcohol. It is best to either abstain on long flights, or go slow.

Packing For a Diabetic Traveller

  • While travelling, carry a sandwich, packets of biscuits and glucose sweets at all times. This helps during long delays at airport, or for when one's sugar plummets.
  • Carry all essential items in hand baggage to be on the safe side, in case of baggage loss.
  • Do not put insulin in the check in baggage on long flights as it may get frozen in the hold of the aeroplane

What To Do While on Vacation

  • Find out the nearest hospital to the hotel, and identify a doctor who can be called in case of emergency.
  • Be prepared for different types of food. Carrying one's own, in case one is not an adenturous eater, is a good idea.
  • Test urine and/or blood more frequently, allowing for fatigue, new food and jet lag to affect one's blood sugar levels.
  • Remember exercise can cause hypoglycaemia. Travellers who like to be very active when they are on vacation, might need to eat sensibly or reduce their insulin.
  • Sightseeing can put extra strain on the feet. Diabetics feet are particularly prone to swellings. Wear good quality shoes. Putting up one's feet now and then is also a good idea.
  • Keep insulin out of direct sunlight and in the coolest place available. Cover it with a flannel or keep it in a polystyrene box.

See Also


  • Diabetes Travel Information
  • Diabetes UK