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4 Holiday Travel Tips

Living Well

November 29, 2023

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Photography by FreshSplash/Getty Images

Photography by FreshSplash/Getty Images

by Sarah Graves, PhD


Medically Reviewed by:

Lauren Castiello, MS, AGNP-C


by Sarah Graves, PhD


Medically Reviewed by:

Lauren Castiello, MS, AGNP-C


If you’re traveling for the holidays, it’s important to plan for your type 2 diabetes needs.

I love to travel, whether for a trip abroad to explore diverse cultures or a domestic vacation filled with fun and family bonding. But having type 2 diabetes makes travel a little more complicated.

Throw in the stress of the holidays, and it could spell a recipe for discomfort and health consequences. I’ve discovered this firsthand.

Over the years, I’ve learned what I need to travel comfortably and keep my blood sugar in check. Now, I can enjoy a trip without getting hampered by my type 2 diabetes.

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Pack medication and device backups

The last time I traveled, my home pharmacy was out of one of my prescriptions. We couldn’t wait the 3 days it would take for the medication to come in because we needed to hit the road.

So, my pharmacy transferred the script to a national chain pharmacy in the town we were visiting.

But, depending on where you’re going, that might not always work. Plus, travel is notorious for throwing curveballs.

Even if you pack all your meds, luggage can get lost. Stuff can get damaged. Or your CGM, if you wear one, can fall off. (This has happened to me more than once!)

It pays to call in your prescriptions before your trip to ensure your pharmacy has time to fill them.

It’s also a great idea to pack extras of everything, even double — as in two sets of the amount of medications you’ll need for the trip — so that you can pack a set each in two separate pieces of luggage.

If you’re flying, definitely keep one set in your carry-on. If one set of medications or devices gets lost or damaged, you’ll still have your backup set.

The same goes if you wear a CGM. You’ll want a spare sensor or two in case one falls off or stops working.

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Stock up on your essentials

Packing your prescription medication may seem like a no-brainer when you have type 2 diabetes. But there are often additional “essentials” that can help keep you comfortable.

For example, I take Mounjaro, which slows digestion and, therefore, backs up my system, especially if I indulge in heavy holiday foods. To combat this side effect, I take Miralax daily. It comes in handy, single-serve packets, perfect for travel and adding to my daily morning coffee.

Swelling in my feet, ankles, and calves is another issue, especially when traveling. I’ve noticed that I swell during long car rides and from the pressure inside an airplane cabin. Compression socks can help with this kind of swelling.

I also swell when I’m on my feet all day walking around tourist attractions. (Can’t win, right?) And I seem to swell up pretty much all the time in the heat.

I’ve discovered a few things that work for me in these situations. One is to ensure I’m adequately hydrated, which is a factor in the heat.

Since dehydration can be about more than water loss but also electrolyte balance, I always pack single-serve electrolyte drink packets, which are easy to dump and mix into bottled water that you can buy anywhere.

Something else that helps is arnica gel. I massage this into my feet at the end of every travel day, especially if I’ve been doing a lot of walking.

As a bonus, it also helps with foot pain. I discovered this while training for a marathon.

I forgot to pack my arnica gel when I walked the marathon in Honolulu, and my feet endured such painful swelling that I could barely walk the next day. So, I missed out on enjoying the beauty of Hawaii.

Years later, I completed a sprint triathlon in Massachusetts and didn’t make that mistake again! After the triathlon, I packed my arnica gel and massaged it onto my feet. My thoughtful preparation meant I could enjoy my trip this time.

So, now, I pack it for every trip, whether I’m hitting the trails, walking around a city, or exploring an amusement park.

Consider your accommodations

If you’re traveling to visit family for the holidays or any time of year, don’t be afraid to book accommodations that work for you.

Many times, family members offer to put us up in their own homes, but this may not be the best way for you to manage your diabetes.

Sleeping on the couch, the floor, or on an uncomfortable mattress can cause more issues than back pain. If you aren’t getting enough rest, it can have consequences for your blood sugar.

Similarly, staying with family might cause too much stress, especially if you’re an introvert like me and need breaks. And stress can affect blood sugar management.

Maybe you don’t have access to the foods you need. I’m a firm believer in indulging a bit while on vacation.

My dad instilled in me when I was young that whenever I went anywhere, I should always try the local foods. And the holidays, of course, come with their own annual array of delicious options.

Still, it can be tricky to manage food choices when you have type 2 diabetes, and everyone should make the choices that work best for them.

If your family doesn’t stock options that work for you, and you’re uncomfortable asking for what you need or adding your stuff to their fridge, consider staying somewhere else, such as a nearby hotel.

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Go easy on your itinerary

An overbooked itinerary can be an issue when you have type 2 diabetes. Doing too much is hard on the body and can lead to stress, which can cause high blood sugar.

For example, I’ve often given myself permission to indulge in treats while on vacation because I assumed I could walk off the excess blood sugar. But the opposite often happens when I do all-day walking activities such as sightseeing.

On my last trip, we walked all over NYC. I had some ice cream, which often gives me slightly higher blood sugar, but I assumed all the walking would nullify the effect.

Instead, my blood sugar spiked significantly higher than usual.

Similarly, diabetes fatigue is a reality. I often get to a point where I hit a metaphorical wall and have no “steam” left in me. I’ve learned to respect this feeling and allow myself to take it easy.

So, if you’re planning a vacation with a long list of activities, leave space in your day for adjustments based on how you feel.

The bottom line

Travel can be tricky when you have type 2 diabetes, but it can also be manageable. It just takes careful planning and the willingness to give your body what it needs.

Understanding and planning for those needs ensures you can enjoy traveling during the holidays or any time of year.

Medically reviewed on November 29, 2023

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Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

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About the author

Sarah Graves, PhD

Sarah Graves is a Columbus Ohio-based English professor, writing center director, and writer whose work has appeared all over the web. She’s written on such diverse topics as education, parenting, personal finance, and health and wellness. She’s most passionate about providing resources for creatives, especially young creators. You can find out more on her website or follow her on Instagram @SarahGravesPhD.

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