What Went Wrong (and Right) with Diabetes on Vacation

Ahh, vacation…what’s that, again?

After the insanity of the entire month of August (I’ve had LOTS going on professionally and personal), I can’t believe that I actually escape for a full week earlier in the month. But I did, and I’m so very thankful that I had the opportunity to soak up some sun with my boyfriend and dog at the vacation spot I’ve visited annually most of my life.

Of course, they weren’t my only travel companions – my diabetes tagged along too, just as it always does (oh, if only I could do something about that). And my diabetes proved to me, once again, that it dislikes disruptions to my daily routine.

Me with one of my travel companions after a beachside stroll…peep the Dexcom!

In fact, that dislike manifested itself into several things that just straight-up went wrong with my diabetes on vacation:

  • Rollercoaster blood sugars: My blood sugar crashed 3x on the morning of our road trip to our vacation destination – THREE TIMES before we even got there! It got me worried that consistent lows would be a theme throughout the week, but naturally, it was actually highs that turned out to be more of a problem. My diet and exercise routine were wayyy out of whack from my norm, and I had trouble getting accurate carb counts for some of my meals (particularly dinners that we ate out at restaurants). I did my best to combat highs by walking EVERYWHERE – thank goodness that was an option for our plans most days – but I was still frustrated that I wasn’t experiencing as many flat lines as I would’ve liked on my CGM graph.
  • A pod failure: Our first full beach day was marred by a pod that failed, seemingly the instant that I dipped my toes into the Atlantic ocean. The roar of the waves almost drowned out the shrill beep emitting from my pod, but once I was back ashore there was no mistaking that something (a bent cannula? The freezing cold water? Some other mysterious variable?) had triggered the pod to fail. And as my luck would have it, I didn’t bring a new pod or insulin to the beach with me, so I decided to wait until we walked back to our house to actually do something about it. Under normal circumstances, I’d never delay replacing my pod, but since I knew we’d be walking back home soon I figured it’d be okay to wait.
  • A sensor failure: Our second and sadly last full beach day couldn’t be enjoyed without another diabetes disruption – this time, it was my sensor that failed, and only after we’d been on the beach for about an hour! While this matter wasn’t as urgent, it was still annoying, because I didn’t have my meter with me (ugh, I know, I sound like a total diabetes rookie here). I chose not to worry about it and make the most of our beach day, and rely on my body’s signals to let me know if I was going low.

Sounds like I had my fair share of diabetes drama on vacation, right? I can’t deny that these instances were varying degrees of frustrating, but also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also consider all the things that went right while we were away:

  • I didn’t forget to pack any of my diabetes supplies for the trip! While I may not have had certain things (see reference to meter, pod, and insulin above) on me at all times, I did always have back-ups at the house, and remembered to carry low snacks with me no matter what.
  • Despite delaying a pod replacement for my failed pod, my blood sugar was totally fine! I didn’t spike from that whatsoever.
  • Even though I didn’t have a working CGM for 4-5 hours on my last beach day, I wound up having a stellar blood sugar when I checked it with my meter once I was at the house. I was 81! I attribute that to staying hydrated and getting exercise on the beach, as my boyfriend and I had played volleyball with a couple of other beachgoers for a solid 45 minutes.
  • I was able to walk just about everywhere, which was a massive help to both my mindset and my blood sugars. Turns out, walking approximately 50 miles total over the course of one week is a really good thing for a person with diabetes on vacation.
  • My travel partner was incredibly mindful and considerate of my diabetes needs over vacation. Whether that meant walking with me at 10 P.M. at night to fight a stubborn high, or splitting a super carb-y meal at a restaurant so it would be easier for me to bolus, he made the entire trip so much better by being a thought partner with me when it came to taking the best possible care of my diabetes.
  • Also, not especially diabetes-related, but a personal milestone unlocked: I didn’t get sunburnt at all from this trip. Dare I say that I’m actually TAN now?! (And by tan, I just mean that my pale skin is speckled with a few more freckles now, given me the illusion of being tan. I’ll take it.)

So yeah, I could choose to dwell on the things that went wrong with diabetes while I was away…but then when I think about what went right and take a look at that list above, they absolutely outweigh the snafus. Diabetes tested me over the course of this trip, but it certainly didn’t ruin it, and I’m still very much so looking forward to the next time I can get away for another week.

How to Travel Smoothly and Safely with Diabetes

Traveling plus diabetes can equal…a lot of chaos. At least, it does for me when I don’t take the time to properly prepare for a trip.

I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve when it comes to traveling with diabetes…

However, I’m happy to say that my most recent trip to New Orleans was remarkably mayhem-free, thanks to the steps I took in the couple of weeks leading up to the trip (all that covid nonsense aside). In fact, it went so smoothly for me that I decided now would be a great time to document what I did that helped me travel with minimal stress but maximum organization, before I forget everything I did! So here’s what worked for me:

  1. Making a list. Roughly two weeks prior to my trip, I physically wrote out a list of every single item – related and unrelated to my diabetes – that I’d need to pack for my trip. As I packed little by little in that span of time, I checked off items when I added them to my suitcase. It was satisfying to see the number of items dwindle so that by the morning of my trip, I only had a few things left to pack and I wasn’t worried about forgetting anything major.
  2. Having extra snacks on hand. A few days before my trip, I went to the grocery store and bought snacks. Like, a bunch of them. A few boxes of granola bars, some fruit snacks, things that were generally easy to transport and wouldn’t melt in any condition. This ensured that I would have food on hand at all times for any scenario, whether it be a low blood sugar or simply staving off hunger.
  3. Optimizing organization. One of my favorite “tricks” when it comes to packing is utilizing storage cubes! Some people might find them totally unnecessary, but for me, they equate instant organization. When they’re filled completely, they become little rectangles with handles attached to them, so packing my suitcase with the filled cubes is almost like planning a game of Tetris – except it’s even more satisfying because I know I’m doing myself a favor by sorting clothing items away from medical supplies, and keeping things like charging cables separate from my toiletries.
  4. Storing insulin properly. The last thing that I pack for any trip is my insulin. It’s literally the final thing I slip into my backpack before locking up my house. This is to help keep it cold for as long as possible, but then to also prolong the cold temperature of my insulin storage pouch. It does a pretty good job of keeping insulin cool, but on a longer travel day where I’m logging a couple hours of ground transportation, a couple hours of airport waiting, and a few more hours of actually air time, it does lose some of its effectiveness as the ice packs slowly melt. So I like doing what I can to keep the ice packs as cold as possible for as long as possible.
  5. Wandering the airport to keep blood sugar at bay. This might be the one element of my last trip that I would’ve liked to change, because I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to pace around the airport before boarding my flights. I have used this strategy effectively in the past, though – my blood sugar and my restless body have both benefited from a few extra steps prior to a flight.
  6. Keeping all supplies within reach. Any diabetes supply, whether it was as sensitive as my insulin or as mundane as a back-up vial of test strips, stayed secure in my “personal item” – the bag that you can bring on a plane that doesn’t have to be stored in the overhead storage bin, it can actually go under the seat in front of you. For me, it’s not worth running the risk of needing any type of supply in the middle of a flight, only to be unable to reach it because it’s tucked away in storage (or worse, a checked bag that you can’t access at all). Knowing that I can get anything I might need, at any time, goes a long way in curbing my anxiety.
  7. Eating consistent meals. In my humble opinion, I actually think the options at airports are pretty decent these days and that makes it relatively easy to find an option that will work at any given mealtime. For example, I got a Starbucks breakfast sandwich the morning of my trip that helped my blood sugars stay steady, and on my trip back home I found a Caesar salad that was lighter on carbs to eat for lunch, which didn’t spike my already-slightly-high blood sugar further. I was tempted to skip those two particular meals because I was running short on time, but I’m glad I ultimately made eating a priority because I do think it made my numbers more stable.
  8. Staying hydrated. Last but certainly not least, I always have a bottle of water on hand when traveling. Always! I make it a mission to down at least one full bottle before going through security (that way I don’t have to waste it by chucking it), and then one of my first tasks post-security is to find either a water bottle refill station (most airports have these now and they’re awesome) or a store selling water bottles. It’s important to stay hydrated everyday, not just travel days, but there’s something about the stress of travel that makes me extra keen to keep drinking water. Plus, high blood sugars are already a nuisance to deal with – without water, they’d be even more insufferable and tricky to deal with when also trying to get from point A to point B!

So those are the things that I did to make this last round of travel go so well. What about you? Do you do anything special to prep for a trip that wasn’t featured on my list? Let me know in the comments!

Travel Time…Again

This past September, I wrote a blog post (that you can read here) about the emotions surrounding my first plane flight and travel plans since the start of the pandemic. Primarily, I was feeling a lot of anxiety and nerves, but the trip wound up being wonderful and proof to me that I am still a very capable traveler who can adapt to the new travel norms of the last couple of years.

Now, I’m feeling a different level of anxiety and nerves over traveling again – this time, solo, to an entirely new place. I’m traveling for work to a state I’ve never been to before, which is definitely exciting, but also a little scary for me. And that’s kind of funny for me to admit, seeing as I used to travel by myself all the time and it was no big deal.

Traveling + diabetes = travelbetes.

But it’s been years since I last traveled alone, so now I’m rusty on the old tried-and-true routines I followed back then that helped me feel more prepared before and during a trip. It’s also my first trip post-personal experience with covid, which you would think would decrease my stress levels because I’m likely to be protected by antibodies (in addition to my original vaccinations and boosters). On the contrary, it just makes me more uncertain about the steps that I should take to protect myself and others as much as possible – for example, do I make sure to wear a mask at all times, or can I be a little more lax about it?

As I navigate my shaky self-confidence in my ability to travel solo and how to best take care of myself, I’ve come to at least one conclusion that will assuage both concerns: Prepping ahead of time is key. Two weeks prior to my trip, I started packing my suitcases and making a list of everything I need to bring with me, checking items off as I’ve added them to my luggage. I’ve even started packing as many diabetes supplies as I can (saving something like insulin for last, obviously, because it needs to stay refrigerated) and taking care to double or triple up on everything, such as my pods or vials of extra test strips. It’s a little challenging to try to think ahead on everything I might need on this trip, but as any person with diabetes can tell you, it’s so important to plan for any and every possible scenario that could occur when traveling.

And I know my future self will be thanking me for taking the time now to do so much of this preparation. Goodness knows I would not want to do it all the night before!

Despite the varying levels of worry I have about this trip, I know that doing all of this prep work will keep both me and my diabetes happy and healthy, as well as help ensure that I can even have a little fun while on this business trip.

3 Tips for Maintaining Good Blood Sugars on Vacation

As promised in my last blog post, I’m going to share how I kept my blood sugars (mostly) in range while I was on my trip to California a few weeks ago!

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy; in fact, I had a couple of not-so-fun nights where I was stacking insulin like crazy due to some post-dinner highs. But the vast majority of the time, I was really proud of my diabetes management when I was away. It can be tough to take good care of diabetes when in a new place and thrown off schedule, but it can be done, and these are the three biggest tips that I used that were most helpful to me:

Pro tip – Going on long scenic hikes where you can take in views like the one above AFTER eating a huge breakfast is an amazing way to keep blood sugar in range.
  1. Split meals with travel partner(s). I don’t know about you, but when I’m on vacation, any self-control as well as the idea of eating super healthy/clean goes out the window. I want to indulge when I’m in a new place! I want to try new foods and enjoy them rather than stress over how they might impact my blood sugar levels. So I was thrilled when my partner suggested we split any meals that we ate out at restaurants. We figured this was a smart strategy because most restaurants serve ridiculous portions of food anyways, and this also meant that I could order a carb-heavy item from the menu and automatically split the carb count in half because I was sharing the dish. This worked out so well and I got to eat foods that I normally don’t dare to touch, such as a fisherman’s platter (consisting of 3 different kinds of fried seafood) and garlic french fries (these were beyond incredible).
  2. Stay as active as possible. This is kind of a no-brainer – most vacations that I’ve ever gone on have involved lots of walking in order to sightsee and get from point A to point B. But it’s worth mentioning that getting in any other types of activity in addition to walking can reap benefits on blood sugar. For example, I started off one morning with a 25-minute yoga practice soon after I ate a heavy breakfast and my blood sugar levels were stellar for hours. On the night of the wedding that we flew out there for, I balanced sampling every dessert at the reception with hitting the dance floor, which worked wonders for my blood sugars. And generally speaking, I found that sneaking in at least 15 minutes or so of extra exercise after meals was a great way to keep my blood sugars in check, even if it was just walking around the block for a bit.
  3. Keep a consistent eating schedule. Traveling can make it difficult to maintain a regular meal schedule, but with a little extra effort it can be done. Within hours of landing in California, we made a trip to Target to stock up on a bunch of extra snacks and drinks so that we would always have something within reach, whether my blood sugar was going low or one of us just needed an extra energy boost. We also made sure to take advantage of complimentary breakfast provided by the hotel we stayed at for the first couple of nights – the fact that they stopped serving it at 10 A.M. automatically put us on some type of schedule. And on the day of our friends’ wedding, we ordered pizza and timed it so that we’d have it about an hour before we were due to leave for the ceremony…because as anyone who’s ever been to a wedding before knows, guests sometimes have to wait a looooong time before they’re served food. I didn’t want either of us to have an empty stomach for potentially hours on end, so ordering food before the wedding pulled double-duty as a late lunch and as something that would keep our bellies full until we were served dinner at the reception.

But what made it the easiest to take care of my diabetes while on vacation was the support from my partner, who always put me and my blood sugars first and checked in on me frequently (but without being overbearing). That alone goes a long way in making diabetes management a breeze when my normal routine is disrupted, but when combined with all the tips above, it’s practically like taking a vacation from diabetes itself.

The Biggest Diabetes Mistake I Made on My Trip to California

A couple weeks ago, I shared about my fears over flying again for the first time since before the pandemic.

Fast-forward to now and I’m happy to report that basically none of those fears came to fruition over the course of my trip…

…but of course I did experience one snafu that was definitely avoidable.

All smiles in scenic California in this pic, but I definitely wasn’t grinning like this when I made my mistake.

The biggest diabetes mistake I made on my trip to California was neglecting to charge my OmniPod DASH PDM as often as it (apparently) needs to be charged.

I’m not going to make excuses for myself because I should’ve planned better, but I will say that I’ve only been on this system for about six weeks or so now…and I’m still getting used to some of the PDM’s quirks. In particular, I have yet to figure out exactly how often I need to charge my PDM. It runs on a lithium ion battery, which is the same thing that most cell phones use. So one might make the assumption that I’d need to charge the PDM daily, but that’s definitely excessive – I’d guess that I only use about 20% of the PDM’s battery each day, but of course that depends on how frequently I need to bolus or play around with my basal rates. However, using that rationale, I’ve been charging the PDM every 3-4 days, or whenever I notice the battery falling to a 20% or less charge.

My logic failed me, though, when I falsely assumed that my PDM’s battery would last a day trip into San Francisco when it had a 40% charge.

I still have no idea what happened – all throughout my day walking the hilly streets of San Fran, I was careful to turn off my PDM screen whenever I wasn’t actively looking at it, and I was only turning it on to bolus slightly more than usual (I was basically snacking my way through the city the whole afternoon).

I consider myself pretty lucky, though, because I made the discovery that my PDM battery was dead towards the end of our day, right when we were headed on the subway back to our Airbnb: If there was a time for this to happen, it’s definitely better at the end of the day’s activities rather than at the beginning or somewhere totally inconvenient.

At least, this was what I tried to futilely tell myself in an attempt to feel better about my negligence.

Instead of feeling better, I was beating myself up over making what felt like a rookie mistake. I should’ve charged the PDM because, after all, there was no way that I was about to go into a brand new city for the first time with my phone battery at 40%, so why on earth did I think it was okay to do that with my PDM? Moreover, how the heck did this happen in the first place – does the battery really just drain super quickly and/or easily?

I knew there was no point in trying to figure out why it happened at that point in time – it was more important for me to charge the PDM as soon as possible so that my partner and I could experience In-N’-Out for the first time on our way back to the Airbnb as we had planned.

So, because he is brilliant and calm in “emergency” situations (unlike me), he came up with a plan: I’d head over to In-N’-Out, order our food, and wait for him in our rental car while he ran up the street to a nearby CVS to see if they sold any USB cables (you know, the types of charging cables that everyone has because most electronics are charged with those). And his strategy worked out beautifully. Soon after I had our bag of In-N’-Out in hand, he arrived at the car with the charging cable and I was able to plug my PDM into it so I could bolus for dinner right then and there instead of having to delay it. (We could’ve just waited until we were back at our Airbnb, but then I would’ve either had to eat a cold burger [blech] or eaten it fresh and run the risk of my blood sugar jumping up without the necessary insulin in my system. Obviously, we went with the more appealing option.)

All things considered, if that was the biggest diabetes mistake I made in California, then I’d say I did pretty good – more to come soon on my strategies for maintaining decent blood sugars while on vacation.

As for now, I’ll leave you with this – In-N’-Out is kinda overrated.

How Time Travel Affected My Blood Sugar

This was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on May 25, 2018. I decided to share it again today because in light of my travels last week and this week, I thought it’d be fun to revisit how my blood sugar was impacted by a long flight. Read on to learn more about my last long flight experience…

I traveled through time last week.

No, I didn’t use a magical device or step through a portal. It’s much more boring than that: I flew across the country, east coast to west coast, to spend a few days in Las Vegas.

Okay, there’s no way in hell that I could justifiably describe my Vegas trip as BORING.

But my point here is that flying through a couple different time zones is totally trippy. And, of course, it impacted my blood sugar. Because why wouldn’t diabetes just cooperatively come along for the ride?

Travelbetes is guaranteed to keep me on my toes.

I knew I should anticipate some sort of blood sugar swings going to and from my destination, I just wasn’t sure of when and how they’d hit. But I did know that when I landed in Vegas, the first thing I needed to do was adjust the time on my PDM (my insulin pump). Surely, my blood sugar would not react kindly to thinking that it was three hours later than it truly was in my new time zone. My question, though, was when should I do this? On the plane? After we landed? Should I adjust it slowly, in one-hour increments? Or should I dial it back entirely in one go?

Normally, I would’ve asked my endocrinologist what to do – but I forgot to bring it up during my last appointment with her a few weeks ago. So naturally, I asked the next best source: the Diabetes Online Community (DOC).

The answers I received were varied; nevertheless, I appreciated the immediate replies. I decided to quit stressing about it so much and focus on getting to the actual destination, vowing to keep an eye on my blood sugar for any suspicious trends while on the flight.

Five and a half long hours later, my travel companions and I arrived at our hotel. While in line for check in, I fixed the time on my pump and glanced at my CGM (which I didn’t bother adjusting, since none of the settings on it or my meter were dependent on time). I was steady at 97 mg/dL…not too shabby at all. And I’m pleased to say that I maintained that decent graph for the next day or so. I was nonplussed by the phenomenon, but I couldn’t complain about it.

The next few days are a different story, due to some “lifestyle choices” I made while in Vegas (c’mon, you know all I mean by that is eating junk food and imbibing alcohol). But that’s a tale for another post, coming soon.

This one’s about time travel, and while I had no issues flying TO Vegas, I did encounter trouble flying home FROM Vegas. My friends and I chose to a red-eye flight, which I don’t regret per se, but I’d never done one before and didn’t realize how much trouble I’d have falling asleep on the plane. It was disorienting enough leaving one place at 9 P.M. to arrive in another at 5 A.M., but add a freezing cold aircraft, turbulence, and an unsettled stomach to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. As I tossed and turned in my seat, violently shivering a few times, my blood sugar was very slowly, incrementally, rising. I didn’t realize how much until we landed and drove home, where I had to bolus for an out-of-the-blue 308 mg/dL. I was so bloody tired, yet sleep evaded me further as I anxiously waited for my blood sugar to budge – which it did, but not for several, agonizingly long hours.

It definitely didn’t help matters that I wasn’t eating regularly; at the time of our arrival home, I hadn’t eaten real food in about 36 hours due to nausea that wouldn’t seem to leave me alone. I’d muscled down toast and a couple of granola bars, but not much else. I’d like to think that my entire body was just rebelling against me for spending the weekend eating too much pizza, staying up too late, and drinking a little too much whiskey, because that train of thought at least helps me make sense of my lack of appetite and recurring high blood sugars.

I’ve been back on the east coast for a couple days now, and I’m relieved to report that things have settled down. I’m eating regular meals (and I actually feel hungry for them), and besides a few flukes in my CGM graph, my blood sugars are mostly back to normal. I wish I could say that there was some big takeaway from this all: that I know exactly what to do next time I travel through time zones, or that I know just what to do to prevent it. But that’d be silly, because with diabetes, there are just too many variables. At least I CAN say that I know to take it in stride next time, to roll with the punches. Monitor my blood sugar like a hawk, correct as often as needed, eat normal meals as much as possible, and drink plenty of WATER. In any case, isn’t that what diabetes is all about…

…regardless of time travel and/or sorcery?

Travel Time

Tomorrow, I’m boarding a plane again for the first time in more than a year and a half.

I’m having some feelings about it.

According to my calculations, it’s been 629 days since I last boarded a plane. That’s wild considering I used to fly a couple times a month in 2019.

The primary feeling is excitement. I’ve missed traveling – not the flying part – but I’ve missed the opportunity to see new sights and experience new things. I’ve been extra excited for this trip because my partner and I are both going to California for the first time for a friend’s wedding, so we definitely have a lot to look forward to regarding our plans.

But the secondary feeling is anxiety. A whole lot of it. I don’t quite know what to expect when it comes to traveling in this weird, not-so-new normal we’ve got going on. The only thing I do know is that I’m going to take as many precautions as possible (including masking up, carrying hand sanitizer, eating outdoors whenever possible, etc.) and try my best to quell my anxieties by taking comfort in knowing that I’m doing what I can to protect myself and others.

Of course, it’s easier said than done to conquer these anxious thoughts, and my pre-existing worries about traveling with diabetes complicate matters. For example, I’ve always had concerns about managing my blood sugars on flights. I’ve never been on one this long before (it’ll be about 6 hours), so I’m a bit stressed about that. Other pain points linger in the back of my mind: What will I do about meals? Will I have enough back-up supplies? Will I remember all my devices (and their respective charging cables)? Are my nerves going to drive my partner bananas? (He’s the most patient person I’ve ever met so I will be putting that to the test on this trip!)

So staying healthy and well, in addition to making sure I take good care of my diabetes, are top of mind. It makes me long for the days when getting from point A to point B was the most pressing part of planning a trip…

Through writing this blog post, though, I think I’ve come to realize that I’ve got to keep a third thing top of mind: having fun. The first two things are obviously important, but so is enjoying every minute of this vacation.

And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Packing for my 1st Trip Post-Vaccine…Diabetes-Style

I’m going away this weekend!

It’s just a one-night trip, but one that I’m super-excited about for a few reasons: 1) It’s for my best friend’s bachelorette weekend, 2) it will be the first trip that I’ve taken since I got vaccinated, and 3) it will be the first time in just shy of a year and a half that I will be gathered in-person with a group of people.

My anxiety and nerves are starting to kick in, but it’s not because I’ll be under one roof with nine other people (every person attending has been vaccinated, in most cases completely, and each individual will be taking a rapid-result COVID test to ensure the health and well-being of everyone for the duration of the weekend). Rather, I’m on edge because I feel like I’ve forgotten how to adequately prepare for an overnight trip.

Packing for a trip during a pandemic in which vaccines are becoming more and more available is just…uniquely different compared to how packing for trips used to feel.

Let’s be real, prior to the pandemic, traveling with diabetes could get tricky. Even if I was only going to be an hour away from home, I’d still pack back-ups for my back-ups, or at least do my very best to do so (let’s pretend that I did during that near-DKA episode a few weeks back). In addition to normal overnight trip things like clothing and toiletries, I’ve always had to leave extra room in my bags for spare pods, alcohol swabs, insulin vials, my meter, and the like. But for this trip, not only do I have to be cognizant of packing the “normal” stuff and the “diabetes” stuff, but I also have to take care to remember the “bachelorette” stuff – snacks, paper goods, and alcoholic beverages that I signed up to bring. And extra masks, hand sanitizer, and such because I want our group to be protected and to help protect others. There’s just so much to remember! I’m positively terrified that I’ll forget something, but I can’t let my stress cloud my thinking because that won’t lead to a positive outcome.

As a result, I’ve come up with a strategy to make sure that at the very least, the diabetes aspect of traveling is well covered. I started packing earlier in the week and made out a list of the must-bring items as well as the just-in-case items. I went to the store to buy extra juice boxes and snacks so I won’t have to worry about access to food at all times. I’m definitely erring on the side of cramming so much into my bag that the seams will split, but you know what they say – better to be safe than sorry.

So when I head out of the house tomorrow morning, my arms will be laden with so much stuff that it’ll appear as though I’m going away for much longer than one evening. But such is life – not just with diabetes, but with people you care about who make it worth it to bring so much to a weekend getaway.

The Dos and Don’ts of Vacationing with T1D During a Pandemic

Every summer, I spend at least a handful of days at the same beach town. These trips have created so many memories for me, my family, and friends over the years. But back when the pandemic started and travel came to a standstill, I wondered whether it would even be possible to head up to my ocean-side oasis this year. After all, many states have restrictions about visitors right now, and protocols aren’t always clear. Luckily, though, due diligence was done before it was determined that yes, my family and I could still go on our trip, though we knew it might look a little different compared to our trips in the past.

Based on my experience, I’ve come up with a few dos and don’ts when it comes to traveling with diabetes during this pandemic:

Do wear a mask. Please, for the love of everything you hold sacred in life, wear a mask when you’re out in public. It’s not about political leanings or agendas: It’s about protecting yourself and the ones around you. I kept a mask on at all times when I was out and about and only removed it when others were more than six feet away from me. It was the smart and sensible thing to do. Just because I was by the beach for a week doesn’t mean that the pandemic wasn’t a reality for me. As someone who has an invisible illness, I know that I appreciated it (and still do) when I saw others wearing masks because they were not only protecting themselves from exposure, but they were also protecting me from being exposed to them.

Don’t neglect what works best for you and your diabetes when you’re at home while you’re away. I exercise in some way, shape, or form almost every single day. So being on vacation didn’t mean I was taking a break from that and my job. On the contrary, I can’t remember the last time I was so physically active, and my blood sugars responded well to that…at first. Then I started to neglect the fact that my diabetes does best when I eat a moderate amount of carbs per day (maybe around 120 total)…I definitely ate way more than that and paid the price with some sky-high numbers. I wish I’d been more mindful of my diet, but oh well, I learned from it.

Do have extra supplies on hand at all times. Besides all of my extra diabetes supplies, I also had access to an abundance of PPE (gloves, masks, hand sanitizer) throughout my trip. It brought me peace of mind knowing that I was prepared and wouldn’t have to worry about running out of any of these items.

 

Pink and Dark Blue Cake Quote Instagram Post (1)
I wish I could say I was at this gorgeous-looking tropical oasis; instead, I was at a quaint New England beach town for a week…which was perfectly fine by me.

Don’t go somewhere or do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. This is absolutely common sense under normal circumstances, but times are far from normal now. It was important to me that my family and I have discussions about what we did each day on vacation so we could make sure everyone was comfortable with the plan: the number of people that might be around to us, where to eat, what to do, how diabetes might come into play…we talked about it all and I think it helped assuage some of our worries.

Do think outside the box when planning daily activities. If you’re like me, you’re probably more than a little wary about spending prolonged periods of time around groups of people other than the ones you’ve quarantined with. This meant that I was not looking to eat inside at restaurants, go into stores, or even use public restrooms (which may or may not be an extreme view of mine). So what exactly did I do when on vacation? Well, for starters, I hit the beach nearly every day. I hit the jackpot weather-wise because it was a little too cool to be totally comfortable on the beach, so it was never crowded and I could easily stay more than six feet away from others. In keeping with the “outdoors” theme, I visited a state park, rode my bike around town, and went for a hike while I was away. I ate outside at a few different places that handled social distancing rules very well, and of course, I attended the Virtual Friends for Life Orlando conference. All of that kept me pretty busy, and I found that I didn’t really miss hanging out indoors.

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, a week off from work is a week off from work! Despite my fears about going on this trip, I’m really glad that I did because a break is exactly what I needed. My anxiety is much less intense when I’m by the beach, and I’m relieved that the weirdness of the world lately didn’t take that away from me.

A Week Off

Starting tomorrow, I’m on vacation for a week – not from my blog, of course, but from my real-world job.

I’m headed to the beach for the week. It just so happens it’s also the week of the first virtual CWD FFL conference, which I plan on jumping in and out of throughout vacation.

Sun, Sand, Surf
I HOPE my week off involves all of the things in this photo – I’m looking at you, fancy coconut drink.

Like many other 2020 CWD FFL conference registrants, I have many mixed feelings about the conference turning virtual. I’m sad and disappointed that after a seven-year hiatus from conferences, I’m not able to make my IRL return to it this year. But I’m also exceptionally grateful that the CWD FFL staff made the call months ago to turn virtual because they recognized it would be safest for our at-risk population. I’ve been in awe over how quickly they made the transition from an enormous in-person event to an enormous-er virtual event – they’ve proven how effective they are at organizing this sort of thing, and I applaud everyone involved for their efforts.

My original plan was to attend the conference in-person this year while my family was at the beach for the week. But obviously, when the conference became virtual, I decided to tag along to the beach with my laptop in tow because I wanted the best of both worlds: family time and diabetes online community time.

Normally, I wouldn’t dream of packing a laptop along with my swimsuits and sunscreen, but even a trip to the beach looks a little different this year. I have no idea if my family and I will be able to even go to the same strip of sand and ocean without having to worry about things like too many people and not enough masks. We probably won’t be able to eat at many restaurants like we typically do on vacation; instead, we’ll likely cook a significantly higher percentage of our food at home. And we definitely won’t be able to peruse the shops like we have done every year since going to this particular beach town – we’ll have to be a little more creative when it comes to staying entertained.

It’s a weird adjustment to have to make, but I think we’re all in agreement that we’re just happy to have a safe place to get away to for a period of time. And I’m very glad to have the option to soak up the sun while also soaking up support, information, and friendship from the diabetes community.