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Traveling with T1d

Type 1 diabetes doesn't take a vacation

even when we need one. Sure, when Coral was first diagnosed, I dreaded packing everything in addition to normal toddler things like sippy cups and diapers. Our first "vacation" with Type 1 diabetes was simple as can be. We took an outer island trip from Oahu to Maui and we stayed at the Sheraton on the Ka'anapali coast. It was awesome! Any hotel with a fridge is a must-have to store insulin and other perishable snacks such as yogurt or milk. A kitchenette is even better. We managed just fine with only her Dexcom G5 and MDI - no pump until April 2017.


Then, we moved from Oahu to California Fall of 2016. Big move, packing was a pain in the butt including moving my two dogs with us. Since living in Cali, we have traveled once back to Oahu to visit family in Fall of 2017 and will soon be headed back again. We plan to visit Hawaii at least once a year. Therefore, any tips I mention below will be based on how I pack whenever we travel to Hawaii or any other warm tropical destination for a two-weeks stay.

TIP 1: PACK LIGHT

All of our belongings will fit in each of our personal carry-on bags, one (1) carry-on suitcase stored in the overhead compartment, and one (1) check-in suitcase. The Carry-on Suitcase will contain ALL of Coral's diabetic supplies, her clothes, and dozens of snacks. Her personal item, a Skip Hop unicorn backpack, will carry more snacks, empty water bottle (fill after security clearance), coloring books, mini toys, Kindle, and stickers. Our check-in suitcase will carry the remainder of less urgent items. This check-in suitcase will not be filled to the brim so that we have a bit of room for our purchases during our trip. We can always mail certain non-perishable purchases as well. Invest in a lightweight travel stroller that collapses small enough to store in the overhead compartment on your flight such as the Babyzen Yoyo.
  • CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
    • FOR ME: Lightweight cotton clothing - 1 pair of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts, two tank tops, 1 dress, 1 jumper, 3 swimsuits, undergarments, 1 pair Tory Burch brown Miller sandals, 1 pair of slippers (aka "flip flops"), Tory Burch brown hobo bag (placed at bottom of check-in suitcase)
      • To be worn on plane: Le Sport Sac lightweight backpack, Converse slip-on sneakers, Fabletics leggings with pockets, tank top and hoodie
      • A couple pieces of jewelry from my fav local designers like Kiele and Tidepool Love
    • FOR CORAL: As many clothes I think she'd need, but primarily 2 dresses, 6 t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of leggings/pants, 2 swimsuits, swimming vest, 5 pairs of socks, sandals, slippers, 13 panties, and 8 overnight training pants
      • To be worn on plane: shirt, hoodie, leggings, Converse
    • FOR HUBS: 8 t-shirts, 3 cotton shorts, 1 pair of jeans, 2 pairs boardshorts, 1 pair of slippers
      • To be worn on plane: shirt, pants, sneakers, hoodie
    • 1 - lightweight water-resistant beach bag like this one from Aloha Collection which holds ALL of our essentials listed in a previous post, placed at bottom of check-in suitcase
    • 2 - lightweight Turkish towels like these from Hoakai because they dry quicker than those heavy terry cloth ones from the hotel and look way cuter
    • 2 - 3 dry bags - one for dirty laundry, one for wet suits, and last one for shoes
  • TOILETRIES & HYGEINE
    • We pack one 3oz bottle of each - shampoo, conditioner and body wash to share amongst my Hubs and I
    • 1 exfoliating sponge or body pouff
    • Coral gets her own Johnson & Johnson head-to-toe body wash/shampoo
    • 1 mini hair brush to share between Coral and I
    • Coral's hair detangler spray
    • 1 curling iron (optional)
    • Toddler toothpaste & toothbrush
    • Our toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
    • Facewash & toner in travel size bottles
    • Mini deodorant
    • Sunblock SPF 50 or higher with UVA/UVB protection
    • Body lotion
  • TECH ACCESSORIES
    • Apple/Android chargers (plug-in, car, and wireless)
    • Headphones
    • Mobile phones - that's a given, but ya never know who's reading this
    • Dexcom G5 receiver
    • Pump remote
    • Spare lithium batteries for pump and remote
    • Kindle
    • Canon Rebel T6i camera and accessories
BUBM Electronics Organizer on Amazon

Dexcom sensors, Tegaderm, IV Prep, alcohol swabs, syringes, Tini Boy Lancets, pump supplies


Glucagon, pump supplies, Tini Boy Lancets and roll of Opsite Flexifix tape

TIP 2: GET ORGANIZED

  • PURCHASE TRAVEL ORGANIZERS
    • Keep small objects from shifting around in your luggage with a jewelry roll or toiletry bag like these from Target
    • These can also double as your diabetes supply case(s)
  • KEEP INSULIN COOL
    • If using a Frio pack, prep it the night prior since it takes a long while to dry
    • I've even placed it on a dry paper towel over a bowl in the fridge overnight to dry it quicker without losing any chill factor
    • Prior to that, you must place it in ice cold water until it's completely wet
    • You can also look into other insulin storage containers such as these from Amazon

TIP 3: KEEP ALL DIABETIC SUPPLIES WITH YOU IN YOUR CARRY-ON

If you literally cannot live without it, then keep it with you at ALL times while traveling. Bring extra of everything you need and may be even three times that amount (scroll down for Diabetes Supply List). If you're able to pack it all in one organizer or case, then it will be easier to just remove that for the TSA to hand search which is quicker than them hand searching your entire carryon suitcase or baggage. Which brings us to...

TIP 4: OPT FOR THE PAT DOWN

The reason for this is because Dexcom and some pump manufacturers advise NOT to go through any MRI, computed tomography (CT) scan, or high-frequency electrical heat (diathermy) treatment because magnetic fields and heat could stop readings or alarm/alerts.

Traveling with a Type 1 diabetic toddler means that one parent will have to opt for the pat down while child walks along towards a separate area and awaits your clearance. I am usually the one to opt-in and request a female TSA do the pat down for me. It's not weird after the second time you do it. Also, I like to make sure that they place everything back in the suitcase as I had it or else it won't fit.

You may request that your endocrinologist write a letter explaining why you mustn't go through the scanners at the airport, but it is not entirely necessary.

TIP 5: BRING AN EMPTY WATER BOTTLE

Many frequent travelers are well aware that you are not able to bring liquids through the security check point. Traveling with T1d means you will likely be thirsty if your blood glucose level is above your normal range. For Coral, she gets really thirsty if she's over 200 mg/dL. Therefore, we bring an empty water bottle for her and my empty Hydro Flask or S'well insulated bottle and fill it up once we're past through security. We cannot depend on flight attendants to repeatedly refill those tiny 8oz plastic cups with more water especially since they're only allowed to make so many passes up and down the narrow aisles. Alas, the pleasure of flying coach on most occasions.

Coral, age 2, August 2016
TIP 6: PLAN AHEAD

This goes for anyone who travels. It's especially difficult to get anywhere on-time as a parent and caregiver to a Type 1 diabetic toddler because of many various unpredictable factors (high or low BGs, tantrums, need to stop for a potty break, Gah forbid they want something that is packed away deep in the suitcase, etc). That is why I pack at least three days in advance starting with all her diabetic supplies in it's case and into the carry-on suitcase. Then, her things and some of my outfits. My Hubs' things get packed the night before since most guys don't need that much stuff.

We make sure we select a flight at a realistic departure time like 10am versus 7am towards our destination. Ain't no way I'm gonna try and be up at 5am to leave for a vacation! Since we don't want to leave Hawaii too soon, we made sure we selected a flight that lands back in LAX just a little bit after rush hour traffic.

We don't even bother driving and paying for LAX's outrageous daily parking fees and opt for a Lyft ride instead. Get the app here and input your credit card details for easy and quick payment. The Lyft app also allows you to see what drivers and type of vehicle is nearest you. Be sure to review your driver before selecting and take a screenshot of their photo and send it to someone you trust in case they turn out to be a creep. Not likely, but you can never be too sure.

If we're flying internationally or more than an hour away, we make sure we get down to the airport at least up to almost three hours prior to our flight departure time. It also helps to check-in at a kiosk if it's available once you get there. If flying Hawaiian Airlines, which we usually do when flying to Hawaii, you can even check-in online the day prior, but no less than 24 hours.

TIP 7: UNPLUG THE PUMP

I'm not sure what others have experienced while pumping and on a plane, but let me tell you from our experience. The last trip back to Oahu, we unplugged her since the pressure from the air cabin may push insulin through her tube, pass the cannula, and into her body without us knowing. However, she still kept rising and we watched her BG steadily climb up past 200 during that six hour flight. So, we plugged her back in and gave micro boluses (0.05-0.15U) throughout the whole flight until we landed. We gave her the usual bolus to cover all the carbs for her food or snacks. She never dropped low once during or an hour after the flight. Learning our lesson, we made sure to give her a good bolus before disconnecting her on the return flight of five hours. We will likely do the same on this upcoming trip if necessary.

Again, do what works for you and make wise healthy choices. Fly at your own risk. Nothing on this blog or any of my Instagram accounts serves as medical advice and is purely for informational and experiential purposes only. 

TIP 8: BE WELL

I was terribly sick on our last trip to Oahu and had an annoying cough the entire time. My usual cold remedy includes lots of rest (hahah, not with T1d), warm baths, liquid B12 vitamin from MyKind Organics, liquid echinacea or Rapid Immune Boost. You can find the last three items at Sprouts or Thrive.com. Thankful for the warm ocean waters of Hawaii to help clear my sinuses too. I also enjoyed Hot Toddy's if I wanted a stiff drink and to pass out on the plane while Daddy took over D-duties.

Anytime I feel a slight cold coming on, itchy throat, or about to get on a plane, I spritz one spray of that liquid B12 and I am good to go! Let me know how it works out for you.

TIP 9: UPDATE YOUR TIME SETTINGS

Don't forget to update your time settings on your diabetes devices such as your Dexcom receiver, Animas Pump > Main Settings > Time, or OmniPod PDM settings. Keep in mind, you may have to adjust your basal settings pending new sleep patterns, hormones, or activity levels.

DIABETES SUPPLY LIST

*Keep in carry-on suitcase along with snacks
  • Insulin - vials and/or pens, we only use pens since it's more travel friendly
  • Glucagon - in case of emergency injection during severe hypoglycemia (BG less than 40 mg/dL), be sure to check expiration date
  • Syringes - we pack some as backup or for use of Fiasp injections (10 count)
  • Universal pen needles - works with any type of insulin pen
  • Pump supplies - cartridges and infusion sets or Insulets double supply of what you'd typically need pending how often sites are changed (example: we change sites every 3 days, leaving for 14 days, bringing 8-9 sets of pump supplies)
  • Alcohol swabs or non-alcoholic spray sanitizer
  • I.V. prep wipes - cleanses the site and aides adhesives with a sticking agent
  • Unisolve - for removing adhesives
  • Witch hazel wipes - soothes and cleanses the area after adhesive removal
  • Dexcom sensors - 4pk per 2 weeks
  • Dexcom transmitter - pack one (1) extra even if current one is still good
  • Adhesive dressings - Tegaderm x 14 and Opsite Flexifix tape x 1 roll
    • Also, see Grif Grips, Pump Peelz and other dressings you may want to try to keep your pump or Dexcom on longer
  • Foldable scissors - for trimming hole out of Tegaderm and cutting desired length of Opsite tape and travel friendly
  • All Terrain Ditch the Itchy Spray - for post-removal of adhesives and itcy sites (first-time trying)
  • Ketone meter & test strips
  • Any spare glucose meter
  • Spare batteries for glucose meter(s)
  • 2-4 bottles of Freestyle Lite test strips
Feel free to add your tips to benefit the T1dCommunity in the comments below. For more on how we have fun at the beach, please see my T1d is a Beach blog post. Mahalo for reading and I hope you all enjoy yourselves the next time you travel with T1d. I will likely post an update after we return from our trip, a list of sites to see, and where to eat while on Oahu. Praying for surf and good glucose!

Aloha,
Shelsea

See packing list below, right click, save and print to use for your next trip!

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