4 Health Tips for Traveling with Type 2 Diabetes

by Laura Want, RN, CDE, CCRC, BC-ADM, research nurse coordinator, MedStar Health Research Institute
July 16, 2018

Traveling can be a nice way to unwind and explore new places. It also can present challenges–such as, maintaining your healthy diet or making sure to bring with you everything you need. This can be especially true if you have type 2 diabetes.

If you’re one of the almost 30 million people in the United States who have type 2 diabetes, accounting for about nine percent of the population, you know following a moderated diet and taking proper medication are part of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Here are four tips to help keep your blood sugar in check while on the go.

1. Properly Manage Medications

Taking your medications properly while traveling is as important as making healthy food choices. People with type 2 diabetes often carry insulin and glucose monitoring supplies with them. Taking medication and monitoring on the go can quickly become overwhelming without a little planning. Here are a few tips to make it easier:

  • Pack all supplies in your carry-on, not in your checked luggage. This provides easy access and prevents diabetes emergencies if your luggage gets lost in transit.
  • Take medications in the original prescription containers and bring your prescription with you in case you get delayed or lose your supplies.
  • Bring more medications and supplies than you need in case there’s no pharmacy nearby or your return is delayed.\
  • Keep pills and monitoring supplies at room temperature, and keep insulin and injectable medications cool. Be careful using hotel refrigerators that might freeze and damage your supplies.

If you’ll be traveling across time zones, schedule your meals for destination time to help you adjust. For advice on adjusting medication times, consult with your provider.

2. Plan Snacks and Meals Ahead of Time

You never want to take a vacation from healthy eating—especially if you have diabetes. One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy diet is to make healthy snacks ahead of time. Prepping snacks makes it easier to avoid impulse purchases of less nutritious foods at gas stations or at the airport. It’s also wise to keep food handy in case your blood sugar becomes too low.

I suggest prepping healthy snacks in zip-bags, such as:

  • Protein: Cheese, nuts, and meal bars.
  • Carbohydrates: Pretzels and crackers. These are lower in fat than most other carb choices.
  • Simple sugar (for hypoglycemia or low blood sugar): Medications can put you at risk for low blood sugar. Try lifesavers, glucose gel, or tablets to maintain your blood sugar.
It’s never good to vacation from healthy eating—especially for those with type 2 diabetes. Planning healthy meals in advance is one way to avoid bad eating habits, via @MedStarHealth.

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3. Drink Enough Liquids

Staying hydrated is an important step in maintaining your blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes means you’re more prone to suffering from dehydration. Drinking water is important because it helps the kidneys flush excess sugar out of the body when glucose levels are high.

Here are some suggestions to stay hydrated:

  • Keep a bottle of water with you when traveling. Drinking water may be hard to find on planes, trains, ships, and at your destination.
  • Drink more water when in the sun, active, or flying.
  • Find out if the local water is safe to drink. If not, use bottled water to drink and brush your teeth.
  • Drink more water in dry climates, even if it’s not hot.
  • Drink sugar free sport drink mixes to replenish electrolytes.
  • Avoid mixed drinks containing lots of sugar and calories.
  • Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach; always have it with a snack to avoid hypoglycemia.

It’s important to keep in mind how critical hydration is to your health.

4. Balance Calories In and Calories Out

To keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range, it’s important people with type 2 diabetes balance the amount of calories they are eating with the amount they are burning. For example, if you’re burning more calories by sightseeing, shopping, walking, swimming, cycling, or climbing, you might need to eat more. If you are less active than usual, you might need less food than usual. Monitoring blood glucose levels daily through home monitors will help determine how you’re doing. You can use the American Heart Association’s glucose tracker to keep track.

Planning trips can be overwhelming, especially when it’s last minute. Make sure to take time before your next trip to keep your stress low and your blood sugar in check.

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Category: Eating Healthy     Tags: Adult NutritionElderly NutritionMen's HealthWomen's Health