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Common T1D travel challenges and how to tackle them

December 20, 2021

This post is an excerpt taken from Straight to the Point: A guide for living with type 1 diabetes, written and edited by healthcare professionals as part of our 2022: Kick T1D goals campaign. Download the full version for free here.

So you’re off on a whirlwind adventure very soon. Good for you – we bet it’s long overdue!  

Whether you’re off on a short trip or a longer holiday with type 1 diabetes (T1D), planning ahead is the key to avoiding many potential problems, not to mention a lot of stress! Although travelling with T1D requires a little more preparation, you will find you can do virtually any trip you want.  

We’re also sorry to say that no trip is immune to unexpected challenges, no matter how much you prepare. When things go awry, it’s useful to have a guide to help you through these stressful times. So, here’s our run down on 3 top travel challenges for people living with T1D and how to tackle them. 

What to do if… Your luggage is lost or stolen 

If your luggage and diabetes supplies have been lost in transit or stolen, the best solution is to attend a major hospital’s emergency room. They should provide you with sufficient supplies to last until you can access insulin, syringes and other essentials locally.  

Alternatively, you could phone a local diabetes organisation and ask them to help you obtain diabetes supplies in their country. Here’s a helpful list of how to contact international JDRF branches:  

United StatesPhone: 800-533-2873 
United KingdomPhone: 020 7713 2030 
CanadaPhone: 1 877 287 3533   
IsraelPhone: +972 3-516-0171 
The NetherlandsPhone: +31 33 200 31 48 

What to do if… You’re trying different foods 

Trying different foods is all part of the experience of travelling to a different country. Before digging in, try to work out the approximate amount of carbohydrates in your meal and monitor your BGLs regularly. Try to ensure you’re carrying extra food, water, medication and sugar so you’re prepared for the unexpected.  

In some countries, you’ll need to be careful that your food and water aren’t contaminated. Make sure you avoid tap water (including ice cubes made from tap water).  

What to do if… You’re crossing time zones 

Long journeys can be challenging with T1D and often cross several time zones, meaning your regular 24-hour day can be shortened or extended. Either way, keeping your BGLs in range can be a challenge. That said, there are a few steps you can take to make your journey a little easier and avoid T1D jet lag: 

  1. Take two watches (or a phone and watch) to keep track of time zone changes. 
  2. Ask the flight attendant to wake you at meal times. 
  3. If at all possible, consider an insulin pump. It’s an ideal way to deliver your insulin across time zones as you can pump and dose for meal in the normal way with no real change to your insulin regime. 
  4. Remember these two simple rules: 
  • If you’re travelling east, your travel day will be shorter. If you lose more than two hours, you could need fewer units of intermediate or long-acting insulin. 
  • If you’re travelling west, your travel day will be longer. If you gain more than two hours, you could need extra units of short-acting insulin and more food. 

For more practical tips on tackling common travel challenges like dealing with airport security and storing your insulin, download Straight to the Point: A guide for adults living with type 1 diabetes for free.  

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