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Tips for hitting the road with diabetes

Summer is almost here and it’s just about time to hit the road. However, if you have diabetes, there are some additional steps you’ll need to take to ensure safe (and fun!) summer travels.

“Planning ahead is crucial when it comes to going on vacation if you have diabetes,” says Michelle Kennedy, RN, BSN, CDE, diabetes program coordinator for Maury Regional Health. “By making well-informed, healthy choices, you can ensure you have a safe and satisfying time.”

As you pack for your trip, make sure to have your diabetes kit ready and keep it with you at all times (not in your luggage). Your kit should include your log book, lancet, fast-acting carbohydrate, test strips, ID bracelet, syringe, insulin pen, diabetes medication, meter and ID card. Don’t forget to pack any other medications you take, too.

If you’re planning to take a long flight to reach your destination, it is essential to know your in-flight dining options, Kennedy emphasizes. For long flights where meals are served, many airlines allow passengers with health concerns to pick a meal that meets their needs when they book the flight online.

You should also take snacks with you to the airport if possible. (Check out the TSA carry-on guidelines for more information about what food items you can bring through security.) Most airport vendors usually sell a variety of healthy snacks, too, so stocking up at the gate before your flight is a great idea.

Whether you’re taking a flight or going on a long car ride, be sure to stick to regular meal times. Pack sandwiches, fruit and healthy snack options like granola bars, nuts, whole grain crackers, baked chips and light popcorn, which can help keep you feeling full without too many carbohydrates, Kennedy says. You’ll also need to drink plenty of water — especially when traveling on an airplane. (If you’re traveling overseas, though, avoid tap water and ice cubes; bring along bottled water instead.)

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s important to note that you may encounter some foods that could potentially upset your stomach and hurt your diabetes control. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the full experience! Ask for a list of ingredients for unfamiliar dishes when you’re dining out, Kennedy advises. You’ll find plenty of options that give you a healthy — and delicious! — taste of the culture.

And if you encounter buffets while you’re on vacation, particularly if you’re on a cruise ship, Kennedy notes “that moderation is the name of the game.” Avoid seconds and stick to one plate of healthy food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and beans.

It’s also important to remember that if you’re more active than usual during your travels, your blood glucose could drop. Plan to take along snacks, glucose gel tablets, soda and juice when you’re hiking or sightseeing. Don’t assume you’ll be able to find food wherever you are.

“By taking preventative measures and listening to your body, you can still enjoy an excellent vacation if you have diabetes,” Kennedy says.

For more information about diabetes management and education, visit

Michelle Kennedy, RN, BSN, CDE, is the diabates program coordinator for the Maury Regional Health system.