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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

Managing T1D at Sea

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for meeeeee…

I gleefully sang this song multiple times throughout my short Disney cruise getaway earlier this month. I love cruises. I love Disney. I love tropical islands. So I got to combine my love for all three by embarking on a cruise to the Bahamas with my boyfriend that was planned sort of last minute, but desperately needed nonetheless.

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When it comes to diabetes management on a cruise ship, I’m the captain (who does what she can to navigate safely through rough waters).

I’m so glad we went, even if it did involve a helluva ton of preparation time. Because as you’ve probably figured it out by now, traveling with diabetes requires extra work. But traveling with diabetes knowing that you’ll be stranded in the middle of the ocean for part of the time necessitates apocalypse-level planning.

There was a whole list of questions I needed to answer as I packed my bags for the trip. How many pods should I bring with me? How much insulin? How would I keep said insulin cool? What types of snacks should I have on hand? Should I bother bringing Glucagon? What about chargers for all of my devices?

The answer to most of those questions was…just bring more supplies than I think I’ll need. For instance, I brought triple the number of pods than I’d actually go through over the course of a four-night trip. I packed extra snacks – a few unopened boxes of granola bars and a whole bottle of glucose tablets. I don’t even know how many alcohol swabs or spare syringes I brought, that’s how many I crammed in my luggage. And I deemed that two bottles of Humalog, plus Glucagon, would be ample (after all, I’d rather have it all and not need it than need something random and not have it).

I ended up purchasing a cooling case on Amazon that would allegedly keep my insulin cool during the day trips we’d make to the islands. I say “allegedly” because it wound up not being that great (otherwise, I’d add a link here to purchase it). After a day on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, in which the cooling case never left the shade of our umbrella, I returned to our state room to discover the contents of the case were a bit warmer than I had expected. Disappointing, but the insulin still seemed safe to use.

In terms of meals and snacks on the boat, there was a plethora of foods to choose from. Oh, and virtual 24/7 access to a soft-serve ice cream machine. Aaaaand a lot of tempting tropical libations. I tried to stick to healthy options and incorporate vegetables or proteins at each meal, and of course I drank plenty of water, but it was vacation and I couldn’t resist a Mickey waffle at breakfast each morning or the occasional mojito-filled coconut. So it’s not totally surprising that on average, I ran a bit higher than I’d normally like for the whole cruise, but I don’t regret it because it’s really hard to judge how much insulin to take or food to consume when the days are jam-packed with physical activities and sun exposure. And I accomplished my goal of avoiding low blood sugars as much as I could, because I absolutely did not want to be stranded on the sand treating a low when I could’ve been swimming in the most gloriously warm turquoise waters with sea creatures.

Even though my diet wasn’t the healthiest, I was able to combat some of those choices with a lot of movement during the cruise. Between strolling the walking track that was on deck three of the ship, bicycling on Castaway Cay, snorkeling/swimming at the beach, and walking ALL OVER both land and ship to get wherever I wanted to go, I clocked some seriously miles on this vacation. Who would’ve thought that being on a boat would lead to so much exercise getting automatically incorporated into my day?

So sure, going on a cruise vacation does add an extra layer of stress to trip preparation. But trust me when I say it’s worth it. I was blissfully happy during the whole cruise and, even though I didn’t need more than half the supplies I brought with me, I enjoyed the peace of mind it resulted in because I’d taken the time to think things through. It just goes to show that diabetes can’t prevent the enjoyment of any type of travel.

Four Factors that Impacted my Diabetes in Las Vegas

Recently, I returned from a trip to Las Vegas with my best friends in the universe. It was awesome to take a vacation with them, especially in a place that’s virtually a playground for adults.

Before I went on the trip, I knew to expect some sort of disruption with my diabetes care and management routine. I did as much as I could to prepare myself for every potential scenario, from packing extra snacks and supplies, to asking the DOC how I should account for a sudden change in time.

While my preparation really did help, I still encountered the unexpected when it came to my diabetes on the trip. Four factors in particular come to mind…

  1. The heat – At first glance, this is a no-brainer. I’ve been to many hot climates on vacation, so it isn’t news to me that intense sun can make blood sugar go low quickly. We were literally in the middle of the desert, so I knew it would be important for me to watch my numbers closely, as well as keep myself hydrated. But I think the fear of going low all the time was a little too strong, which meant that I was running a bit higher than I’d normally like for most of the vacation. My paranoia about drinking plenty of water, though, was not a joke. I pride myself on being good about staying hydrated, but I struggled to keep up with the dry desert heat. I can’t help but wonder: If I’d been better about drinking water, would it have benefited me during some of the stickier high blood sugars? Speculation can only get me so far now; however, all signs are pointing to probably yes.
  2. The strip – The Las Vegas strip is less than five miles in length, but the whole stretch of it, marked by hotels, stores, casinos, and ginormous flashing lights, feels incredibly long. Nevertheless, my friends and I naively believed that we could skip taking taxis and walk all over the place. For the most part, we could, but it was definitely dicey when we walked nearly a mile and a half from the Cosmopolitan to the Rio one evening. It influenced my blood sugar in a positive way – the exercise brought my levels down to a nice and stable place – but that didn’t mean it wasn’t scary to walk practically on the highway at nighttime.
  3. The alcohol – I’m well aware of the fact that different kinds of alcohol can have different affects on blood sugar. To minimize blood sugar swings, I stuck with the less-sugary options as much as I could (i.e., opting to order a rum or whiskey with diet coke), only getting fancier drinks when I was consuming fewer carbs at mealtime. For the most part, this strategy worked well and proved to me that a little extra thought can go a long way when it comes to deciding how to treat yourself. But it also reminded me why I don’t have weekends like this often – it’s exhausting enough to take care of myself on a daily basis without alcohol being a factor. Throw it into the mix and I’m watching my blood sugar so carefully that my CGM’s battery is drained in half the time it normally takes to zap it.
  4. The pizza – The scientific answer to the reason why pizza is tough on blood sugar involves the glycemic index and some fairly complex calculations…boring! All you really need to know is that it takes a long time for pizza to have an affect on blood sugar due to its high fat-to-carb ratio. As a result, it tends to be a “treat” food for me that I only indulge in every once in a while. But when in Vegas…you have as much of it as possible. Pizza was one of the quickest and easiest food options for me and my girlfriends throughout our trip, so we ate it multiple times. I don’t regret a single cheesy, delicious bite…but I am slightly remorseful for not doing a better job bolusing for it. The first time we had pizza, I didn’t give myself enough insulin. The second time, I gave myself too much and went low, though that may have happened because I didn’t finish both slices like I thought it would. The bottom line? I didn’t realize that pizza would be a dietary staple on this vacation, and I’ll probably refrain from eating so much of it on future vacations.
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A slice a day does not quite keep blood sugar at bay. But it’s tasty as hell.

Despite the diabetes curveballs I encountered, I enjoyed my trip to the fabulous Las Vegas. I managed the challenges as best as I could without letting them interfere too much with what I wanted to do. Plus, it helped that my best friends were with me the entire time. I have to give them credit for making the most of my diabetes difficulties, too. For instance, I felt badly about sidelining them in the Bellagio on our last night there due to a low blood sugar that crept up on me after walking (the strip!) and over-bolusing (the pizza!), but they really rolled with the punches and made the most of it. In fact, I’m pretty sure they experienced their favorite people-watching moments while we sat and waited for my sugar to come up (I got a kick out of the weird people coming in and out of the lobby, too, but was slightly more focused on raising my number).

Thank you, Kortney and Roshani, for accompanying me on an incredible girls’ trip and for being my best friends in the world. Maybe Las Vegas 2020 needs to happen – now that we know to expect, perhaps my diabetes will be a more cooperative travel companion the next time around!

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.