It’s Friday, 5pm. I’m locking my desk, donning my coat, and stepping outside. And I’m sporting a smile wider than the Grand Canyon, because it’s vacation time! A week or two to unwind, forget the office politics, and read all of those books I’ve told people I’ve already read. I’ve packed and planned, and now I’m primed to go. But is my insulin pump?
Of course it is! But there are many aspects to travel that may be affected by your diabetes or your pump. You can minimise the impact of travel by planning ahead.
I’m a big fan of lists (‘Fan’ might be an understatement, I make lists about everything, it drives my partner crazy), so here are some things to consider before travelling:
- letter from doctor - confirming your diabetes, the medications you’re on, and a list of supplies you may be carrying. (See a sample here)
- review your pump settings - if you haven’t already, note down the settings you’re currently using, stick them in a notebook. Or, better yet, put them on your phone, and forget about them until you need them. If anything should go wrong while you’re on holiday and you need to switch to a new pump, you’ll be thankful you have all of your settings recorded.
- review pump manufacturer’s comments on airport x-ray machines (if needed) - these guidelines are constantly changing
- spare pump, yes or no? It really depends. Medtronic offer both the chance to order a loaner pump ($50 per 90 day period, $50 per month longer than 90 days; less than 90 days = no charge for loaner) or to have a new one delivered to you no matter where you are. Omnipod PDM does not offer a loaner for the PDM unit however, they DO offer one free replacement unit should yours be lost or stolen. What many do is report their PDM lost, get the replacement unit and keep it safe until needed.
(You may decide, like I did, to come off your pump for the period of your holiday. I travelled to England last year and went back to using my pens, thinking it would be more convenient for the hectic schedule I had. My sugars REALLY suffered, and it took more than a week to get things settled again.)
- a conversation with your diabetic nurse, endo, or pharmacist for advice.
Questions to consider:
- how long will you by flying? you may need to adjust your settings for the flight
- how active will you be? will you be hiking? swimming? laying on the beach reading while being served exotic fruit punches?
- how much will your usual eating (and drinking, it IS a holiday after all!) habits change?
- time zones – how to adjust your pump’s clock as well as your insulin dosages
- can you use the same basel settings you currently use?
- for your pharmacist – obtain copies of your prescriptions to keep with your travel documents, should they be needed
My own nurse introduced me to joy of a temporary basel setting. Going for a long hike through some ancient ruins? Set your pump so it delivers less for the duration of your trek. Decided to relax and enjoy a seat by the pool all day? Up the amount you need for a few hours. If I’m going to have a regular schedule for my entire holiday, my nurse suggested tweaking a few of the settings i.e. amount of insulin per carb, basel settings lowered or raised throughout the day. (please remember to consult with your diabetes team before making any changes).
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to travel extensively, and I’ve got my packing down to an art so sharp it should be hanging on the walls of a New York gallery. Sadly, I’m still diabetic. This means packing supplies.
Pack all of your diabetic supplies in your carry-on baggage. Sure, you can live dangerously and put all of your supplies in your checked-in luggage, but do you really want to put yourself, and your family, through the stress of losing your bags and all of your supplies? No, you really don’t.
I’ve tried everything to maximise my packing efforts, including consulting otherworldly journals and mystic texts from long-dead civilisations (man, those Aztecs knew a thing or two), but I just have to reconcile myself to the fact that I may need to take one less pair of shoes or leave that fantastic jacket I found at a second-hand shop at home. I console myself with the fact that, once the infusion sets have been used, I’ll have more space in my suitcase coming home for souvenir keychains. And socks. I do like a nice pair of socks.
Are you a list person too? Download Kelly's complete travel checklist below!
Have you enjoyed Kelly's tips so far? Don't worry, there are more to come!