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Travel Smart

Due for a holiday? San Francisco, Moncton, Milan or Kelowna: wherever you choose to go, the golden rule is to plan your trip carefully—and this is especially true when you’re living with diabetes.

Before leaving

  • Do your research. Does the destination have good access to medical care? What should you pay special mind to at mealtimes? And what type of trip do you want to go on? Naturally, you won’t plan a week at the beach the same way as a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. 
  •  Talk to your doctor, especially if you’re looking at an exotic destination or a very active vacation. He’ll be able to advise you on your itinerary, meals and medication, on any changes to expect and on necessary precautions. If you’re travelling by plane, you’ll need a letter from your doctor to justify the equipment and diabetes medicine you’re bringing on board.
  •  Ask your pharmacist for a complete list of your medications (original and generic names and dosage): keep a copy for the trip and give one to a relative or close friend. Bring double medication and testing supplies you think you need.
  •  Going abroad? In addition to the always-appreciated basic greetings, make sure to learn a few key sentences in the local language, such as “I am diabetic” or “Could I please have a glass of orange juice.”
  •  Make sure you are well covered by your travel insurance to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • Consider wearing a medical identification bracelet or pendant such as those by the Canadian MedicAlert Foundation.

What to bring
Here are some holiday essentials for anyone living with diabetes (all of which you should keep with you at all times):

  • Blood glucose meter (with several batteries)
  • Test strips
  • Lancing device and lancets
  • Control solutions
  • Glucagon, sugar-filled drinks and snacks
  • Disinfectant, cotton
  • Insulated bag
  • Urine test strips (if necessary)
  • All insulin, as needed (with pens, cartridges and needles)
  • Insulin pump with batteries and spare catheters (if used)
  • Oral antidiabetics (if necessary)
  • Dressings for blisters

As you can imagine, this list should be adapted for each individual case, hence the importance of discussing it with your doctor and pharmacist.

References:

Canadian Diabetes Care Guide, “Travelling with diabetes”: http://www.diabetescareguide.com/travelling-with-diabetes/. Accessed April 9, 2014.
Diabetes Québec, “Le voyageur diabétique”: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/html/vivre_avec_diabete/voyageur.html. Accessed April 9, 2014.
American Diabetes Association, “When you travel”: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/when-you-travel.html. Accessed April 9, 2014.

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