August is one of the more popular months of the year for travel as families squeeze in a few last moments of summer fun before school starts. According to a 2017 AAA survey, more than one third of Americans plan to take a vacation of 50 miles or more away from home involving two or more immediate family members this year.
So, how does a person with type 2 diabetes best prepare? Cheri Ridenour, R.N., a diabetes and wellness nurse at RiverStone Health in Billings, Montana, provided some advice in an email interview.
Q: What is your No. 1 piece of advice for people with diabetes who are getting ready to travel, whether flying, cruising, or camping?
A: Be prepared; plan ahead. Pack enough diabetes supplies and medications to last a week longer than your anticipated trip. Know how to treat low blood glucose levels and have supplies within reach to be able to respond appropriately. In case of emergency, know your itinerary and scope out healthcare facilities in the area. Keep emergency contact numbers in your phone or on a piece of paper you carry in your wallet, purse, or backpack.
Q: How can people with type 2 diabetes relax yet still maintain safe blood-glucose levels? A: It is important to try to stick to your routine as much as you can. Eat and drink in moderation and be active when possible.
Q: Part of the appeal of vacation is eating out, whether that means trying new restaurants or snacking at a theme park. How can someone with type 2 diabetes partake and still be safe?
A: Careful planning makes it easier to opt for healthy food choices when vacationing. Bring along non-perishable snacks such as trail mix, nuts, and some dried fruit. Limit your intake of sugary, caffeinated, or alcoholic drinks. When ordering at a restaurant, pick the healthier food choices on the menu; there are apps to help you, such as CalorieKing, MyPlate Calorie Tracker, and MyFitnessPal. If you can’t resist dessert or junk food, have a small portion. Drink plenty of water.
Q: Do people with type 2 diabetes really have to routinely check their blood sugar while on vacation, or is it OK to take a breather for a week or 10 days?
A: If your provider has you checking your blood sugars routinely then you should continue as directed. Be prepared to monitor blood glucose frequently as changes in activity level, food choices, and time zones can cause abnormalities.
Q: What are the must-haves a person with type 2 diabetes should pack?
A: Some form of medical ID: an identification bracelet or necklace, or an information card in your wallet, purse, or backpack. You can also lock your smartphone screen with a medic alert that says “I have diabetes.” Travel with a list of your medications and your provider’s name and number. Carry a bag of supplies such as a glucometer, test strips, lancets, alcohol pads, medications, glucose tablets, or gel.
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Cindy Uken is a veteran, award-winning health writer living in Palm Springs. She has worked at newspapers in California, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and at USA Today. Cindy received a 2013-2014 Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism, chosen as one of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, inducted into the Yankton (S.D.) High School Fine Arts Hall of Fame, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her work on Montana’s suicide rate, and named one of Gannett’s Top Ten Supervisors of the Year. Follow Cindy on Twitter @CindyUken, on Facebook and at CindyUken.com.