Diabetes and Vacations

Managing diabetes while on vacation

Family vacation with children Family vacation with children

Your child’s diabetes should not discourage you from travelling, even abroad. Unfortunately, you can’t take a vacation from the diabetes. But careful planning will ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday. Meet the diabetes team at least 4 to 6 weeks before a long trip or a journey to a different time zone.

Here are some tips:

  • Take enough insulin and other supplies to last for the entire trip, and some to spare. Keep the extra in a separate location from the main supply, in case one of your bags is lost or stolen.
  • If you’re boarding a plane, make sure all your supplies are in your carry-on baggage. For international travel, it may help to bring a letter of permission from your doctor explaining the equipment your child needs to have.
  • Wherever you go, always carry some food, together with a good supply of fast-acting sugar to treat insulin reactions.
  • Plan to monitor blood sugar at least 4 or more times a day, specifically, before meals and at bedtime. The routine will be different than it is at home, and you’ll need to know how her blood sugar is affected so you can make safe adjustments.
  • For active holidays, you may need to reduce your child's insulin. Speak with members of your diabetes team.
  • Make sure your child wears some form of diabetes identification, such as a MedicAlert bracelet.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Take the glucagon kit with you, so you can respond to severe low blood sugar if necessary. Also, take your sick-day guidelines and your ketone testing strips with you.
  • Don’t forget to take the phone numbers of key members of your diabetes team. They may also be able to provide you with the names of experts in your holiday location.

Dealing with time-zone changes

There is no magic formula to help you figure out how to adjust insulin for a time-zone change. Every situation and individual is different. Know the time action of your insulins inside out. Gather all the information you can about your flight, including time change and available food (you’ll bring along extra, of course). Then sit down with your doctor or nurse to figure out a plan.

Travel insurance

As with life and other forms of insurance, it can be more difficult for people with diabetes to obtain travel insurance. Some diabetes associations offer travel insurance to members. Contact your nearest branch for more information.

Wilderness camping trips

By the time your child is a teenager, he may want to go on longer camping trips in the wilderness where he may be cut off from civilization for a number of days. You and your teen should talk about and make the decision to go together. Before letting him go, you should feel comfortable that he and his friends understand the issues involved in being out in the wilderness. Your teen should have shown good judgement and a high level of responsibility in diabetes care. He should be committed to doing more, rather than less, blood sugar testing on the trip. You should make every effort to ensure that there is some method of communication with “civilization” if at all possible.

Marcia Frank, RN, MHSc, CDE
Denis Daneman, MB, BCh, FRCPC