It's no secret that traveling with Type 1 Diabetes can be a pain, but if you come prepared it can truly make all the difference. When I got diagnosed, I was living abroad in Tokyo, Japan, so it was really important that I not only knew how to travel domestically, but internationally. Over the past 9 years, I've figured out a few tips and tricks that have made traveling much easier.
The first step to preparing for any trip is packing. Unfortunately, people with Type 1 Diabetes can't pack at the very last minute, but it doesn't mean packing has to be a drag! The biggest rule to follow is to never put your diabetes supplies in your checked bag. Why? There's quite a few reasons, but the most important is that it's possible for an airline to lose your luggage. If that happens, we're left in distraught.
Count Your Supplies
When I was first diagnosed, I was living in Tokyo, Japan. When I'd travel back to the U.S. for the summer, I was worried that I'd run out of supplies. This caused me to actually overpack, leaving less room for clothes, etc. Traveling with too many supplies is also risky, because you never want to worry about accidentally damaging or losing supplies.
Now, I count out the weeks or days I will be away from home and add about 2-5 extra days worth of supplies (depending on where I'm traveling). This has allowed me to reduce the amount of supplies I need without having to worry about running out. I can now actually fit my laptop and a book in my carry on bag without having to worry about my supplies getting smushed.
Getting Through TSA
This is by far the worst part about flying with T1D. In my experience, every airport handles T1D a little differently, but these are a few tips I'd recommend in general.
- Give yourself enough time to go through security (more than the average person).
- When packing juice, pack juice boxes that are transparent, like these from Mott's. If you pack opaque juice boxes, TSA sometimes opens each juice box to test it. This definitely defeats the purpose of bringing them in the first place.
- Before you put anything through the belt, notify the TSA staff that you are Type 1 Diabetic and carry medical supplies in your bag. This gives them the heads up before seeing insulin and needles in your bag.
- If you wear an insulin pump or CGM, do not go through the metal detector. Instead, go through the body scanner and show the TSA personnel where you wear your device.
- Be prepared to have your pump and your hands swabbed by TSA. No need to worry, as this is totally normal.
Great! You've made it through packing and security and you can now enjoy your flight. Something most people don't know is that Type 1 Diabetics are eligible for pre-board. Pre-board is the first group of people allowed on the plane (even before very frequent flyers!). This group is meant for people with disabilities, have small children with them, or simply need extra time to board. I never turn down this opportunity because I always want to make sure my carry on bag fits in the overhead space--or else....you have to check it at the gate which, per step #1, you want to avoid.
Last but not least, airplane mode! While you might think airplane mode is just for your smart phones or iPads, insulin pumps now have airplane mode! For those of you like me with the Dexcom G5, make sure you turn on your bluetooth after turning on airplane mode. If you don't, your numbers won't read during the flight!
These are my top tips and tricks for an easy travel routine. Did I miss any? Comment below with your travel routine!
Stamped on 9/16/2017 by The Letter Bea