Diabetes type 1

Travelling abroad with diabetes

Travelling is something many young people, including those with diabetes, feel passionate about. Many of the young people we talked to had travelled all over the world and had such a good time that they were determined to keep travelling - even though a few of them had lost their insulin or been taken ill when they were abroad. Several said they decided not to let diabetes get in the way of their plans.

Everyone said they needed to take enough insulin with them to cover the entire trip.  They thought it was important to stick with their usual insulin - rather than getting hold of supplies abroad - and several had asked Diabetes UK for advice about how to get medical help in whichever countries they were planning to visit. Most young people had also had useful advice from their GPs/diabetes teams about what sort of insulin to take with them and how much to take.
The problems young people had when they were travelling centred mainly on leaving insulin behind in hotel rooms or having bags stolen at airports -which left them without enough insulin for the rest of the trip. Several people explained how worried they had been when their insulin was missing, but everyone managed to get help in the end. Several young people were unclear about how they should pay for medication that was prescribed abroad.
Keeping insulin cool enough could be quite a problem, depending on whether there was a fridge where they were staying, and also what kind of activities they did.  Some recommended using special small cool bags that didn't need freezing. Trekking long distances - particularly in the heat - as well as hard physical work used up more energy than usual and some young people said they were glad to have got advice before they left and were well prepared for it. 
Insulin pumps are easy to wear but Katie prefers to revert to insulin pens when going on summer holidays. She starts using insulin pens a week before going abroad in case there are problems that need medical attention.
Coping with long haul flights which involved crossing several time zones was quite a cause of concern. Though most young people said they had managed well, they had needed extra help planning and sometimes adapting their routines before they left the UK.
Not everyone feels comfortable at the prospect of travelling abroad, and several young people didn't want to change their usual routines in case it put them at risk.
Overall the young people we met had really enjoyed travelling and wanted to do it again, though many were aware that it could cause their parents a lot of anxiety and stress.

Last reviewed December 2017.
Last updated December 2017.


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