Travel Plans

Web Resource Last Updated: 05-10-2020

If you are going on holiday or making any other kind of journey you should work out a travel plan in advance. Think about the following things:

  • When you will need to inject insulin, if you manage your diabetes this way
  • Where you will be when you inject, e.g. in an airport or station, on the plane or train
  • Where and when you will have snacks or meals
  • How much food you will need to carry with you

How to transport your insulin (see Travelling with Insulin and Other Diabetes Equipment)

Time zones 

If you are travelling east-west or west-east across time zones, plan in advance what to do about your insulin injections. You will need to think about what type of insulin you will need, what dose and approximately when you will need to inject.

You may need to see your diabetes care team for advice, particularly if you take a mixed insulin. If so take a note of your flight times, the time differences, if any, and your usual insulin doses so that you can discuss any issues in detail (see Time Zones and Insulin). 

Border controls and customs 

You should get a letter from your doctor and keep it in your hand luggage when you travel so that you can show it to any security official at the airport.

X-ray machines should not affect your diabetes equipment.

Food and travel

  • If you are taking insulin or sulphoylurea (SU) tablets (gliclazide, glimepiride, glipizide), you should take a supply of carbohydrate foods with you when you travel to cover any unexpected delays en route.
  • Airlines can tell you about the timing of meals on long-haul flights. They will provide a special ‘diabetic’ meal if you request it in advance but this may not contain much carbohydrate, so you may need to add a bread roll or some fruit if you are on insulin or an SU. The standard meals are usually just as good.
  • Depending on when your in-flight meals are served, you may need to use the food provided as a snack instead of a full meal. You may also have to adjust your injection times slightly to suit.
  • To be on the safe side, wait until you see the cabin crew with the food trolley before you inject. If you usually wait 15–30 minutes before eating, don't worry. It may cause a slight increase in your blood glucose, but you will lessen the risk of a hypoglycaemic episode (a ‘hypo’).
  • Check your blood glucose regularly when you travel. You may find your level is higher than usual, which can happen if you sit for long periods. If you travel regularly you can learn how to adjust your insulin doses depending on the time and length of your journey.
  • Take plenty of sugary foods in your hand luggage in case your blood glucose levels drop enough that you risk having a hypo. Some airlines carry a GlucaGen HypoKit, but cabin staff are not usually trained in how to use it. If you are travelling with someone else, educate them in advance on how to use a GlucaGen HypoKit as well as on how to use your blood glucose and ketone monitoring equipment.
  • If you have any alcoholic drinks before or during your flight, remember that alcohol lowers blood glucose levels unless the drink also contains enough carbohydrate to compensate.
  • If you suffer from travel sickness take a bottle of a sugary drink (such as Lucozade or Coke) with you in case you cannot eat. Remember that if you are flying, you will have to buy it after you go through security at the airport. Consider taking anti-travel sickness medication if it affects you badly.

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