Travelling with diabetes

Having diabetes should not prevent you from travelling and enjoying your holidays.

Planning ahead is key to having a great time away and dealing with any potential problems with your diabetes.

Health experts advise preparing for a trip four to six weeks before you travel.

What will I need if I travel with diabetes?

Carry a diabetes ID (either a card or jewellery) so that if you become unwell, people are aware that you have diabetes.

Bring twice the quantity of medical supplies you would normally use for your diabetes.

Things to consider as part of your preparation include:

Food and diabetes

Whether you're at home or abroad, make sure you still eat healthily.

You should be able to choose foods from local menus and still eat a balanced diet. Overseas travel is also an ideal time to try different foods.

If you’re flying to your destination, don't order a special diabetic meal on board. These are often low in carbohydrate so they're generally unsuitable.

On long-haul flights, take some healthy snacks with you as airline meals tend to be smaller than average meals.

In some countries, blood glucose is measured differently from the UK. See Diabetes UK's blood glucose conversion chart.

Travel vaccines and your blood glucose

See your GP or diabetes specialist for information on travel jabs and how the local weather and changing time zones can affect your condition.

Vaccines may disrupt your blood glucose control as your body makes antibodies to fight the disease that you've been inoculated against.

Travelling to a hot or cold climate may affect how your insulin and blood glucose monitor work.

Travel insurance for diabetes

Most travel insurance policies exclude pre-existing medical conditions, including diabetes.

Make sure you declare all your medical conditions, including your diabetes. Making a mistake or omission could result in a claim being refused.

Diabetes UK recommends that everyone you're travelling with is insured on a policy that covers pre-existing medical conditions.

For travel in Europe, make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to reduced-cost and, sometimes, free medical treatment.

Also take out travel insurance because an EHIC may not cover all the costs of your treatment. An EHIC doesn't cover the cost of being flown back to the UK.

See the Diabetes UK website for more information on finding travel insurance if you have diabetes.

Air travel with diabetes

Bring a letter from your GP explaining your need to carry syringes or injection devices and insulin.

Some GPs charge for writing a letter. If you travel frequently, ask them to write it in such a way that it can be used more than once.

Carry all your diabetes medicines as hand luggage, in case your checked-in bags go missing or your medicines are damaged in the baggage hold.

Diabetes UK advises against storing insulin in checked-in luggage as the freezing temperatures in the hold may damage it.

If you have to take insulin in your checked-in luggage, place it in an airtight container or in bubble wrap, then a towel, and pack it in the middle of your suitcase.

When you arrive, check that the insulin hasn't been damaged in the hold. Look out for crystals and test your blood glucose levels more frequently.

Page last reviewed: 26/05/2014

Next review due: 26/05/2016

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