Traveling with Diabetes: Handy Dandy Tips from an ER


Ten percent of diabetics experience complications while traveling. If you’re feeling a bit hesitant about traveling with diabetes, just know that you can reduce your risks with proper planning and preparation. Here are some travel tips from Hospitality Health ER in Tyler and Longview that can potentially save your life and your vacation.

Hospitality Health ER Tips for Traveling with Diabetes

1) Do your research

  • Write down the hospitals and doctors in the area you will be staying. If you’re staying at a hotel, call the concierge desk and ask them to make a few doctor, ER, and hospital referrals . Ask them what to expect and if the medical facilities in the area are tourist friendly. You can also contact the embassy for a list of physicians who speak English and whose credentials have been evaluated.
  • Learn about the foreign equivalents of the medications you take in case you lose your stash. Make sure you also find an English speaking pharmacy in the area.
  • Visit to learn about safety concerns, medications you might need to take with you, and health tips. Remember that water quality can be a concern when traveling to certain regions, and be sure to get any recommended vaccinations well in advance of your trip.
  • If you’re going on a cruise, find out if the on board medical facility is equipped to provide an IV in the event of complications from diabetes. Ask if they are equipped to airlift patients in case  of a medical emergency.
  • Learn a little bit about the local language. It can make or break you in a time of need. Learn key phrases like: “I need a doctor.” or “I have diabetes.”
  • Call your medical insurance company to see what medical benefits, like emergency evacuation services, are provided while you’re traveling. If you don’t have adequate coverage, you may want to consider purchasing traveler’s insurance.

2) Be Prepared and Pack Accordingly

  • Carry along diabetes-friendly snacks like nuts, fruits, and seeds both for your flight and for the duration of your stay. Remember, airlines don’t have a big selection of healthy foods, so it’s best to bring your own or call the airline in advance and request a special meal.
  • Keep your insulin in pharmacy-labeled pill bottles and insulin vials to minimize questioning at security. This can also help others identify your medications in the event of a diabetic episode. Keep a current list of all of your medications and amounts you take with you. 
  • Keep a cool pack with you to keep your insulin at the ideal temperature. We recommend a crystals pack that you can keep cooling under cold water.
  • Keep your blood glucose meter handy.
  • Bring extra test strips and syringes.
  • Make sure you bring backup infusion sets.
  • Always keep your glucose tablets or gels on hand.
  • Alcohol wipes to clean dirt and food residue off your finger before you prick for a glucose test.  Note: sugar on your finger can enter the blood specimen and give you false results.
  • Bring a doctor’s letter for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to inform them of your diabetes and explain that it is necessary for you to have insulin, syringes, test strips, and other supplies on hand. This will prevent time consuming questioning and potential confiscation of your  insulin and glucose supplies.
  • Bring a carry-on bag so that you can access your supplies while flying or in the event they lose your checked-in luggage.

3) Visit Your Doctor Before You Leave

  • Consult with your doctor about a month before you leave to collect tips on traveling. If you’re traveling across time zones, you may need to create an insulin plan that includes adjustments to your insulin. Your doctor can tell you if you’ll need to increase or decrease your insulin depending on your travel plans.
  • Ask your doctor about the advantages of pumps versus injections. Let your doctor know if you’ll be doing a lot of water activities or lying out in the sun so they can make the best recommendation for you.

4) Watch Out For

  • Drinking Too Much Alcohol: What’s a vacation without a few drinks? Having a good time is important, but remember that most alcoholic drinks are loaded with carbs and sugars. You may want to opt for a light beer or wine, and test your blood sugar frequently. Before you drink, you should always eat something.
  • Exposing medication, testing strips, and glucose meters to the sun for long periods of time can decrease their effectiveness.
  • Under-Medication or over-medication: Ask your doctor how you should manage your pump while on the plane. Disconnecting your pump before you take off may prevent an increased flow of insulin due to pressure. On the other hand, air bubbles in your pump can also cause prevent proper dosage.  This means you may need to reprime your pump.
  • Beach hazards: Watch out for sharp objects such as glass and shells. These things can cut your feet, so be sure to always wear shoes anywhere you go. We even recommend water shoes for the beach. Check your feet often.

→ To read more about diabetes-related topics, Hospitality Health ER invites you to read our blog about Type II Diabetes, Body Mass Index, and Eating Gluten-Free.