If you ever see my family at airport security, choose another line. We don’t move quickly. My husband has a prosthetic knee and my son has an insulin pump. Neither provides a fast path through TSA check points.
We don’t always fly and we’re fortunate enough to plan family trips several times a year. In the seven years since my son was diagnosed, we’ve learned a few tricks to make traveling with diabetes just a little less stressful. Most important?
Keep your sense of humor
Go to the bathroom. Go again.
Got it? Okay, here’s the rest:
Consider changing pump settings. Driving usually means lots of sitting still. If the person with diabetes wears a pump, ask your endocrinologist about adjusting the insulin basal rate. I have an active 8 year old and when we make the nine hour drive to my parents’ house, we’ve raised that basal rate as much as 40‐percent. We usually start an hour before and end an hour after the trip. The Animas pump makes this very easy. Check with your HCP about what might work best for you.
Be smart about snacks on the road. We pack a cooler with the high protein, low carb usuals, but those just aren’t as much fun as gas station junk food. So we do indulge a bit. On that 9 hour drive we usually stop once for snacks, once for a real meal and once for JUST GUM, enough already!
Try to move. We bring a football so we can get out of the car and run around every couple of hours. We’ve done jumping jacks, run parking lot laps, anything to just move for a few minutes. Even so, Benny almost always runs high if a car trip is more than 4 hours.
Keep supplies within reach. You don’t want to be zipping down the highway, finally making good time, and realize you need something in the trunk. I usually pack a small bag with a day or two of diabetes supplies and throw it in the front seat with us.
Be early! You already know this, but it really makes a difference. This is especially important if you wear a pump and/or continuous glucose monitor. It’s hard to predict how quickly you’ll get through security. DCF‐13‐3111A
We’ve breezed through with no issues whatsoever but we’ve also lost 30 minutes when the TSA worker didn’t know what an insulin pump was and had to call for her manager.
Find out the policy for your diabetes technology. Get in touch with the company that makes your pump and print out the airport security policy. It’s possible that your pump can be wanded safely, but can’t go through the x‐ray machines or full‐body scanners.
Expect inconsistencies. We’ve had everything from a brief wanding to a full pat down. Once or twice they’ve asked Benny to handle his pump, then they wipe down his hands and test that. One time they wanded and checked his shoe laces! Each time I say, “Wow, every time there’s something different.” And the TSA agent always says, “Nope, it’s pretty consistent.” Okay, then!
Set expectations. If you have a young child with diabetes, explain a few days before what might happen. I’d go so far as to pretend to pat down or wand your child. Since my husband (with the metal knee) has always been taken aside, my kids knew the drill before diabetes entered the picture. If they don’t, though, it could be little frightening. Explain you’ll be there every step of the way and that the airport helpers are just there to make everyone safe.
Bring much more than you think you’ll need and keep it with you. We carry our diabetes supplies in a bag that doesn’t leave my sight. I also like to throw one or two day’s extra supply in my daughter or husband’s carry‐on, just in case. With the extra load, I’m a big fan of the gate check for non‐diabetes stuff. You still keep it with you through the airport, but you don’t have to schlep it onto the plane and into the overhead. Plus, no checked bag charge.
Expect the unexpected. Before diabetes entered out lives, we once sat on the tarmac for six and a half hours before an hour and a half flight. My children were one and four. The airlines have since changed the rules about how long a plane can sit, but I think about that day every time I pack. Believe me, I do not travel light!
However you get there:
Bring phone numbers. You probably won’t need to call your doctor, your pharmacy or your pump company, but you never know. I once had Animas overnight me a box of insets at my mom’s house and our pharmacy helped me arrange for a prescription pick up a few states away because my insurance wouldn’t pay until the day we left for our trip! Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
I hope you have safe and happy travel, wherever the road may take you. Did I mention you should go to the bathroom again?