This advice is based on travelling from the UK, so be aware that there might be different regulations if you live elsewhere. Also, I currently use MDIs and the Dexcom G5. I’ll update this when I get my insulin pump this autumn and have travelled with it.
So, you’re travelling as a newly-diagnosed type one diabetic, and you’re overwhelmed by all the things you now need to consider…
The first thing you need to remember is to stay calm! Travelling with type one does involve a bit more preparation, but once you’ve done it once, you’ll become a pro. If anything, travelling with type one means that you’ll be far more prepared than someone with functioning beta cells should anything go wrong,
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. You will need to pack more stuff than you did before, but you’re also entitled to extra hand baggage because you have type one, so don’t worry about paying to carry of all your extra supplies. This is a by no means exhaustive list of things to pack, but it should be a good starting point.
Essential packing list:
- Blood sugar meter with test strips (and spare)
- Spare batteries for blood sugar meters
- Lancing device and lancing needles (and spare)
YOU MUST NOT PUT INSULIN IN THE HOLD – IT WILL FREEZE!
- Basal insulin (and plenty of spare cartridges or pens)
- Bolus insulin (and plenty of spare cartridges or pens)
- Hypodermic needles for your pens (multiply how many daily injections you do by the number of days you’re away, and then throw in some extras too)
- Frio cooling wallet to store your insulin and spares – I would buy the largest one that you can afford in case you’re ever away for a long time, or, like me, you like to carry lots of spare insulin!
- Hypo treatments – I use Glucotabs and was surprised to discover that you can’t buy them abroad (at least in Amsterdam) so overpack unless you know that you can buy more at your destination. If you use juice, you can carry some through security if your doctor’s letter states this (more on that next).
- A letter from your GP stating that you have type one and that you can carry needles, insulin, juice, Dexcom, etc on board. You will likely have to pay for this – costs vary from surgery to surgery (I paid £20.) I would recommend asking your diabetic specialist nurse to write one for you – it’s worth a try, and you wouldn’t have to pay. If phrased properly, it should last indefinitely – i.e. no mention of a specific destination or dates. I took a photo of mine on my phone just in case I lost it. I told my GP what I wanted her to mention, so don’t be afraid to the do the same (politely, of course) – you are paying for it after all.
- Specialist travel insurance – I bought mine from All Clear but I didn’t have to claim. However, I know someone else who had a crappy experience with them when her flight was cancelled. We both bought it from this company because they are promoted on the Diabetes UK website – not very impressed DUK!
- I did already have travel insurance through my current account but it would have been prohibitively expensive to add my medical conditions to it, so I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time going down that route. Medical travel insurance is sooo worth the peace of mind. Mention absolutely every medical condition you have – most of them probably won’t even add to your premium, but you don’t want to get caught out.
Optional extras packing list:
- Travel scales – I always ask for carbs like bread and pasta to be weighed in restaurants, but this isn’t always a feasible option when you don’t speak the local language, so a set of travel scales is a great way to get around this. I really recommend this set from Joseph Joseph – they’re a little pricey, but super compact, accurate, and durable: my set are still going strong five years later.
- If you’re going on holiday to somewhere where you aren’t comfortable with the local language, I would recommend google translating a few key phrases and keeping them on your phone, or printed out and kept in your wallet. It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to use them, but it’s best to be prepared.
- “I have type one diabetes.”
- “Where is the nearest hospital?”
- “Do you know how much carbohydrate is in this food?”
- “My blood sugar is dangerously low. Do you have any sugar or sweets?”
- In case you attract any unwanted attention:
- “I am testing my blood sugar because I have diabetes.”
- “I am injecting insulin because I have type one diabetes.”
A note on Dexcom: according to Dexcom, the Dexcom G5 is fine to pass through x-ray machines when attached to the body, though you might want to explain what it is before you set the metal detector alarm off. You absolutely do not have to remove your Dexcom to go through security. Additionally, I would recommend asking for a mention of Dexcom on your GP’s letter.