Step One - How well controlled are your blood sugars?
If you are having a bad time with blood sugars, and constantly staying high or low, I would NOT recommend taking a trip away just yet! Have a chat with your DSN and try and get your bloods a little more stable before venturing off. HOWEVER, if your having the odd bad blood sugar, that's no reason not to go- I never get it perfect, but I travel just fine.
Step Two - Let your doctor or DSN know you are heading away and how long you plan to go.
Ask them to provide you with a letter stating you need to keep your insulin supplies on you at all times- this will actually allow you to bring an extra liquids bag for your medication, rather than having to give up makeup or perfume! I would recommend translating your doctor's letter into the language of the country you are going to, to speed up security.
REMEMBER; if you are a pump user- you cannot go through the body scanners with certain pumps. Your doctor will give you a letter to confirm this- or the pump company provider will. The relevant contact numbers you need for your pump will be listed at the bottom of this post!
Step Three - Get a FRIO bag.
I don't know how type one diabetics can travel without a Frio bag, it is ESSENTIAL that your insulin is kept at the correct temperature during transit or it will die and be unusable having detrimental effects on your health and blood sugars. Frio offer a variety of cases that fit both insulin pens and insulin vials. They are extremely easy to use- you just dip them in water to activate them.
Step Four - Check the diabetes care of the place you are travelling to
Europe is a good place to begin your travels, simply because if you have the right insurance and your EHIC health card- you can easily get extra insulin in an emergency. If you are heading somewhere a little off the normal grid, a little more preparation is key.
Step Five - Get travel insurance
Insurance companies like to rip people off when you have type one diabetes...but..I personally use comparethemarket.com and go with the best value! For a European 4-5 day trip it should be no more than £10-12.
Step Six - Order double the supplies
When travelling, regardless of where you are going, you should always pack double of what you need in case of an emergency, or delay, or if you're stuck in that country! You can't predict the future and you need to be prepared with type one diabetes. So for example, if I am going on a 4 night city break- I would usually pack, 1 bottle of insulin, one each of short and long lasting insulin, 2 tubes, and two infusion sets. So for this trip, I would pack double of all of this! Pumpers should take TRIPLE of infusion sets- because hot weather can make them more liable to ripping out. This happened to me three times in one day before, but luckily I was prepared!
Step Seven - Bring a spare monitor
Heat and cold can damage them, you don't have to pay for a spare one, there are many sites that will provide you with a free one.
Step Eight - Bring a decent pair of shoes
We all know how important good foot care is for diabetics, so invest in something sturdier than a pair of primark shoes. You don't have to pack loads, just one decent pair and your flip flops will do :P
Step Nine - Stock up on sugar
If you are in the heat, the sun will make you prone to hypos, or if you are walking long distances, this will also lead to hypos. This can be avoided by a little pre preparation of reducing your basal rate if you are on a pump, or reducing your background insulin on pens. Discuss with your DSN the best way to go forward, but as a backup have lots of sweets available!
Step Ten - Wear medical ID
I know this one is annoying, and I am guilty of not wearing one when at home, but if you are in a foreign country, around people who don't know you or don't speak your language, you need to have some form of indication you are diabetic in an emergency! I always find diabetic ID’s, chunky and put bluntly; ugly, but I have found the wonderful Kirsten who makes fabulous diabetic jewellery that's extremely affordable and pretty. So you don't have to compromise on style! Carry a medical ID card too in your purse/wallet.
Making sure you are prepared
If you are worried about the language barrier when you are away, you could always take the time to learn some of the local lingo. Courses, like those offered by Preply, are useful for helping you to better communicate the locals, which is handy if an emergency were to occur.
Alternatively, our eBook "The Ultimate Guide to Travelling With Type 1 Diabetes", comes with 8 emergency phrase guides to help you in moments of need. These phrase cards cover many of the world's most commonly used languages and are conveniently sized to be stored in your wallet. The eBook is also packed full of many more useful tips and tricks for all aspects of travelling abroad, and you can check it out here.
**Disclaimer** I am not a medical professional and do not take any responsibility for any problems or issues with type one diabetes. Please contact your diabetic nurse or GP before embarking on a new journey.
List of numbers for further information:
Accu Chek Pump Careline 0800 73122 91 from the uk and 1800882351 from ROI
Medtronic 01923 205167 UK, (736) 514-4000 (Worldwide)
Animas 0800 055 6606 in the UK or 1800 812 715 in Republic of Ireland
Eli Lilly & Company 01256 315000
Novo Nordisk Ltd 0845 6005055
Sanofi-Aventis 01483 505515
Wockhardt UKLtd 01978 661261