I love to travel and see the world through new eyes, and there is nothing quite as exhilarating as stepping off a plane–bleary-eyed from jet lag, a rush of unfamiliar languages, and the click of a new passport stamp.
Even though I’ve been to more than 15 countries over the last five years, the truth is that travel with T1D is more work–but totally possible and completely worthwhile.
I’m thankful to have never encountered a bad situation while traveling abroad, but before every trip I take precautions to make sure my trip will be as safe as it is fun.
Checkout my top 5 tips for international travel below.
1. Using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
In every-day life, I often forego my CGM in exchange for regular finger pricks. But if I’m exploring a new place, I hate to stop on the side of a mountain to check in on my blood sugar. When traveling and in a new environment, I also like to increase my frequency of blood sugar check-ins, also making the CGM a great option.
In the past I’ve used the Libre very successfully and loved having the peace of mind that comes with a quick check of my phone to see what direction my blood sugar is trending.
2. Keeping it Cold
One way or another, I’ve managed to do most of my traveling in the middle of summer, making the need to keep my insulin temperature-controlled especially important.
Years ago I discovered Frio Insulin cooling bags, which are the perfect solution for keeping insulin cool on the go. My favorite part about these bags are no refrigeration required–just submerge in water and you’re good to go for several days at a time. I’ve used these bags on every trip I’ve taken and love the flexibility and peace of mind they provide.
3. Yes, a Medical ID
Maybe like most girls… I’ve always hated the look of medical ID bracelets. Really, who wants to wear a snake symbol on their wrist? Jokes aside, I knew some sort of Medical ID would be a smart option on my first solo trip.
As it turns out, iPhones now come with an Emergency Medical ID, available on the lock screen of your phone. On that screen, you can list health conditions and emergency contact information.
4. Packing Separately
In all the countries I’ve visited, I’ve never had an issue with lost or stolen belongings, but it is something I think about before every trip.
When I travel with friends, I always ask someone to keep a backup supply of insulin in their bags for me, just in case.
For solo travel, I just separate my insulin into different bags, some for my suitcase, some in my purse, and some in my wallet.
5. Expect the Unexpected
While “expecting the unexpected” is perhaps the most cliche thing to say about travel, it’s especially true with diabetes. Time zone changes, flying, and elevation changes can all result in some unexpected developments when it comes to blood sugar. For me, I’ve found I can usually count on lower elevations to result in lower blood sugar and higher elevations to trigger higher blood sugar (but this is different for everyone).
While I normally need a few days to adapt to a new-normal in country, I usually reduce my basal insulin anywhere from 25-50% when traveling as I get adjusted.
I hope these tips help as you plan your next adventure around this beautiful world!