Traveling with T1D: During the Trip

A few days ago, I wrote about what it’s like to prepare for travel with diabetes. It may have surprised you to learn how many steps are involved! But the work doesn’t end when en route to the destination…

It doesn’t matter if I’m going to be stuck in a car for several hours, flying on a plane, or – my worst nightmare – waiting in the airport for a delayed flight: There are additional steps I like to take when traveling to help ensure my blood sugar is steady and I’m adequately prepared with my supplies.

These steps include:

  • Checking my blood sugar often. I don’t like to rely completely on my CGM; after all, it can be inaccurate from time to time. So I tend to perform more blood sugar checks than usual while I’m waiting at the airport or sitting shotgun in a car. But if I’m the one driving, I (obviously) wait to check at rest stops as time allows.
  • Seeking healthy snacks. It’s definitely easier for me to find healthy options when I’m on a road trip – I can simply pack meals and snacks ahead of time. The airport is a little trickier for me, though. Sometimes, I’m tempted by candy or chips – comfort foods – because I’m not a huge fan of flying and like to do anything to take my mind off it. Luckily, though, even if I don’t make the healthiest choice, everything I’m consuming does have a carbohydrate count that’s easily accessible. This helps me take the correct insulin dosage and removes some extra thought from the process.
  • Getting as much movement in as possible. If this means taking laps in an airport terminal, so be it. I know that my diabetes responds well to exercise throughout the day, but it’s next to impossible to get movement in when cooped up in a car or plane. So what if I look kind of weird at a rest stop doing jumping jacks next to my car? At least I know I’m doing my body some good.

One thing I’d like to note is that the airport comes with some added fun: the TSA!!! (Insert sarcasm here.) That means I also have to be prepared for going through security. Some PWD have reported terrible experiences with the TSA, which is why I’ve devised a protocol for myself when traveling so I can (hopefully) avoid a bad interaction.

This plan consists of:

  1. Having my ziplock bag of diabetes supplies at the ready in my carry-on in case I’m asked to remove it,
  2. Telling the TSA agent conducting the body scan that I have T1D, and pointing out the locations I’m wearing my pod and CGM sensor,
  3. Knowing that I’ll probably be asked to touch my sites (over my clothing), and
  4. Allotting for the extra time it takes to get my hands swabbed.

So far, so good with this little strategy of mine. I’ve found that it works best to stay cool, calm, and collected throughout the whole TSA process. It’s a miserable one at best, but I might as well not exacerbate it by getting in a panic about my diabetes supplies.

After all that, what do I possibly have left to do once I actually arrive at my destination? Be on the lookout for my third and final post in this little series of travel procedures – but certainly not my last on traveling with diabetes, in general!

Traveling with T1D

In a few days, I’ll be jetting off to Washington, D.C. for a week! I’m always filled with a nervous excitement in anticipation of all kinds of trips. Whether they’re to a faraway place or close to home, just a few days long or two weeks, there’s a certain level of preparation I need to do that involves more than picking out a few outfits.

Yep, you guessed it – I’ve got to prepare for apocalypse.

Okay, okay, I’m being dramatic. But not really, because I’ve got to think of every possible diabetes scenario that could happen when I’m away. I could experience multiple pod failures, the batteries might go on my PDM, I could lose the charge on my Dexcom or Verio IQ meter, I might run out of insulin – the list of possibilities goes on and on. How the heck do I go about making sure I have everything I could need on a trip, and backups, to boot?

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A peek inside my (barely packed) suitcase. Note: The pods/backup supplies will go into my carryon…whenever I get around to packing it…!

Here’s a walkthrough of the steps I take to prepare myself for a trip of any length:

  • 7 Days Before I Leave – I come up with a good, old-fashioned and handwritten list of supplies that I’ll need. This includes (but is not limited to): spare pods, alcohol swabs, skin-tac wipes, Humalog vials, backup Lantus vial, backup Humalog pen, Glucagon kit, backup syringes/pen needles, extra lancets, chargers for my meter and Dexcom, extra batteries for my PDM, a bottle of Glucose tablets, extra low snacks.
  • 3-4 Days Before I Leave – I begin to take items out that don’t need refrigeration or special attention. I’ll add them to my carry-on – NOT my suitcase, because that’s not a good idea (what if I got separated from it somehow?) – in a clear gallon-sized ziplock bag. That way, if for any reason I need to take these items out of my carry-on, I don’t have to rifle through it in order to quickly locate them.
  • 1 Day Before I Leave – I charge all of my devices completely. I also double check my PDM to ensure that the battery in it is relatively full. I also run through my handy dandy list from a few days ago to see if I’m missing anything.
  • 4-6 Hours Before I Leave – This is when I’m about to leave the house to head to the airport, and I’m trying to finish up with the last-minute packing. I add my insulin to the clear baggie in my carry-on and check to see that I’ve got extra snacks in both the carry-on and my purse.
  • Just Before I Leave – One of the last things I do before heading over to the airport is check my blood sugar. I have a Dexcom, but it’s not always accurate, so I like to take that extra step of obtaining a fresh reading from my meter.

Bear in mind, these are all of the steps I take before I leave for a trip – there are many more in the during and after phases! Stay tuned for my follow-ups on what it’s like for a PWD during the actual travel part, and what it’s like upon arriving to the destination.

A Mother and Daughter with T1D Take on Disney World

About five months ago, I turned to my mother and asked, “Want to go to Disney World with me?”

“Just the two of us?”

“Yup.”

And just like that, a girls’ trip was born! I was so excited about the prospect of going to Disney World with my mom – the first and only other time she’d gone was back in 2000 – that I didn’t really think about some of the logistics; namely, that it would be somewhat daunting to handle a couple parts of the trip due to both of us having type 1 diabetes. I couldn’t help but wonder and worry about really minor issues, like:

  • How would we handle pod changes?
  • How many extra medical supplies would we need between the two of us?
  • What about food – did I schedule all of our dinners at appropriate times? Would we find healthy options in the parks?
  • How would we keep our insulin vials cool?

It’s not like I haven’t been to Disney World in recent years – in fact, this was my fourth time going in the last five years – but it was just different going with my mom. I was the only T1D there in the recent trips, so I only had to worry about taking care of myself. My mom certainly doesn’t need me to take care of her, but I just get anxious when it comes to making sure we’re both adequately prepared when we’re away from home (and from my dad)!

But I was absolutely not going to let diabetes get in our way. And truthfully? It didn’t, for the most part. After all, we’ve encountered just about every kind of diabetes scenario possible. And we’ve dealt with all of them. Just because we were away from home didn’t mean that all of our knowledge on how to take care of ourselves was going to disappear. Plus, traveling with another T1D comes with a major bonus: They know just as much as you do about diabetes. They’ll understand if you need to have a snack while waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion or if you can’t drink a beer in Germany because you’re too high. They just get it.

Of course, a vacation to Disney World is unlike any other getaway. There’s a lot of considerations to make, particularly if you have T1D. My mom and I made so many memories on our trip (most of them unrelated to T1D), but the following parts of our vacation stick out as I reflect on what it’s like specifically for two T1D girls to go to Disney World.

The most exciting part was having the chance to do something like this with my mom in the first place. For various reasons, I never thought we’d get the opportunity to do a girls’ trip – so the fact that we went was really cool for me (and hopefully for her, too).

The scariest part was planning the trip. I took on this responsibility and was happy to do it, but it was a little added pressure to make sure our daily plans would accommodate our wish lists of what we wanted to do, in addition to both of our diabetes.

The most frustrating part was guessing the carb counts for most of our meals. This is something I would love for Disney to work on – offering nutritional information for as many food items as possible. For the most part, we had success making educated guesses, but it would still be awesome if Disney could be a little more accommodating in this respect.

The most difficult part was finding a good place for us to change our pods. Due to how we schedule our pod changes, they were set to expire when we’d be well into our days at the parks. And even more irritating was that between the two of us, we’d need to change our pods on four separate days of our vacation. So it was definitely inconvenient timing, but diabetes doesn’t care about that! However, we worked it out by asking a cast member (a Disney employee) for some help. She told us that a companion bathroom would be our best bet, so each time we had to deal with a pod change, we located the nearest one and did what we needed to do. It was a little stressful to do our pod changes in such a small space, but the privacy was worth it. And even though it was a challenge, we overcame it.

The most relieving part was what didn’t happen – no pod failures the entire trip! That meant we watched our favorite Beauty and the Beast show at Hollywood Studios without interruption and rode countless rides in Magic Kingdom (her favorite was the Little Mermaid ride, mine was Pirates of the Caribbean) with nary a BEEEEEEEEEEP to be heard.

The most tiring part was walking 10 miles every day of our trip. Yes, 10 miles! We actually made a bit of a game out of it, to see if we could beat our mileage as we traveled from one park to the next. But I can’t say that this part didn’t come without its perks – walking so much really helped our blood sugars! It came in handy if we didn’t bolus enough at mealtimes, and when we were running low from all the movement, we were happy to correct with Mickey ice cream bars.

The most magical part was having dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table during the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Seriously, we lucked out – it’s said that Cinderella’s castle is the hardest dining reservation to make at Disney World, and if you hope to snag a booking, you’d better try to do it at least six months in advance. I desperately wanted to make this happen for me and my mom because Cinderella is our favorite princess. So when I did get a reservation for us, I knew it would be one of the best parts of our trip. Rest assured that diabetes was far from our minds as we milked this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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The castle looked spectacular for the holidays.

From enjoying a glass of champagne over dinner at the castle to reveling at the gorgeous Christmas decorations adorning the Disney property, this trip was worth it in every way. Thank you to my mom for accompanying me, and an even bigger thank you to my dad for being cool with it. And at the end of the day, it was a pretty perfect way for a mother and daughter with diabetes to kick off National Diabetes Awareness Month, don’t you agree?