Travelling with diabetes
Travelling abroad with diabetes may seem difficult with the different time zones, transportation of medication and different foods to contend with, however being prepared before you go will make it easier for you to enjoy your holiday. It's all in the planning!
Step 1: Talk to a Health professional
So, you've booked your tickets. Now what?
The first step is to make an appointment with your specialist or diabetes educator, ideally at least two months in advance. This will allow you and your healthcare team to come up with a solid plan for tackling time zones, meals and sleep with medication timing, as well as what to do if your diabetes equipment fails while away.
Your doctor will also be able to provide all the necessary paperwork required for customs and security. This paperwork should be a doctors letter (with their contact details and your name) outlining your medical conditions and any medications you take, especially if you are taking insulin. It should list the exact quantity of each medication and the daily dose required.
If you require a blood glucose monitor, insulin pens, syringes and/or pump while travelling, the letter must include this is information.
Other Health advice you should enquire about includes vaccinations, deep vein thrombosis, glucagon kits, ketone testing (for type l diabetes) and general illness prevention.
Step 2: Arrange travel insurance
Travel Insurance is a must - for yourself and your belongings.
Ensure that your travel insurance policy covers pre-existing medical conditions and is valid for the countries you plan to visit. If you are planning on taking advantage of your Credit card insurance make sure to check with the underwriter as many card insurances don't cover pre-existing conditions.
Diabetes Australia – Victoria member benefit supporter Donna Barlow Travel offers diabetes-specific travel with a 20% discount to DA– Vic members and anyone else travelling with them. You will automatically be covered for diabetes at no additional cost (conditions apply) and specific coverage for insulin pumps is available.
Step 3: Contact your Agent or Airline
Advising your airline of your condition is entirely optional. But it may make your flight a whole lot easier. It allows information to be passed onto the cabin crew who are trained to meet your needs. You may wish to bypass the "diabetic meals" option though, as they are often bland, lack quality carbohydrate, higher in fat and are no longer considered necessary.
Contact your travel agent, who can communicate with the airline ensuring they are aware of your need for in-flight access to medications, supplies (including liquid hypo treatments, if preferred) and they will be able to provide you with up-to-date information on security requirements.
Step 4: Register your trip with Smart Traveller
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade encourages all travellers to register plans with them before leaving Australia. The registration information provided will help them to find Australian travellers in an emergency such as a natural disaster, civil disturbance or family emergency.
Your registration will also mean relevant information can be passed onto you like important travel advice updates or notice of elections. Visit www.smarttraveller.gov.au to register.
Step 5: What to pack
What you pack in your bags is extremely important and doing it well will minimise the risk of hassles along the way.
In your hand luggage pack:
- Half of your diabetes supplies, including medications (insulin), needles/syringes, pump consumables and strips. It is recommended you carry one blood glucose meter kit, insulin pen and glucagon kit. Keep medications and strips in their original packaging and carry only in the bag of the person with diabetes.
- Clearly labelled prescriptions for all medications with your name, the name and type of medication and doctor's contact details.
- If you use a pump, carry back-up insulin pens/syringes in case of pump failure. You could also talk to your insulin pump company for the possibility of a loan insulin pump as back-up.
- Your National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) card. It is an accepted form of identification of having diabetes (valid with in Australia only).
- Your Medicare card.
- Several copies of your doctor's letter in case required at customs or security.
- Hypo-kit with glucose tablets or jelly beans and emergency food rations such as biscuits and muesli bars. You can carry apple juice but no more than 100ml.
- Manuals for your blood glucose monitor and insulin pump.
- Travel insurance companies should have 24-hour assistance centres which you can contact from anywhere in the world. Be sure you have this number handy at all times. They can help you access medical care in an emergency.
- Contact details of the Australian Embassy/Consulate in the countries you are visiting as they'll have a doctor attached to them. The 24- hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra can also be contacted for assistance from anywhere in the world on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 (local call cost within Australia).
In your suitcase pack:
- The other half of your diabetes supplies, including insulin. Always pack more than you need, just in case. A good rule of thumb is take one and a half of the supplies you need, so if you're travelling for two weeks, take three weeks' worth of supplies. You can purchase some great cold bags to transport your insulin.
- A spare blood glucose monitor and spare insulin pen is also advisable.
- Appropriately fitting shoes – remember to 'wear in' any new shoes before you go.
- A small first aid kit.
- A small sharps container, available from your pharmacy or DA – Vic .
When you get home
Hopefully your trip will have been smooth sailing, but it's always useful to check back in with your health care team to discuss how things went. You can learn from any challenges you faced and the successes you had.
Wherever you choose to be this holiday season, keep safe, be prepared and Bon Voyage!
To enquire about Travel and Insurance, contact the team at Donna Barlow Travel (DBT) Toll Free Phone 1800 678 555
*DBT donate 5% of all sales back to Diabetes Australia – Victoria.
Diabetes Australia - Victoria member area