Planning a Summer Holiday by The Cornflake Traveller
Since my introductory blog post a few weeks ago people have been asking questions about travelling on aeroplanes and planning summer holidays, in this post I will empty my head regarding these topics and tell you about the latest addition to the list of countries I have corn-flakeified.
If you have specific question please don’t hesitate to throw them at me, via the comments box or directly to my twitter account or my ‘Travelling with Corn Flakes’ page on facebook (which has some of my favourite travel photos).
Planning Summer Holidays
Where to go on your holidays will be dictated by your confidence and how good your control is. There are certain things I would consider; some obvious such as
• Keeping your insulin safe – I use Tupperware containers with socks for padding
• Keeping your insulin cold – does your hotel have a fridge? Or maybe you need to buy some of the products available to do the job (e.g. frio pouches)
• The standard of healthcare available – whether it’s free or you need insurance and whether you feel like you need the security of an ambulance with an engine rather than a cart and a mule
• The type of food available – really depends on the type of trip, when I took a boat down the Amazon river I didn’t even know what I was eating let alone its carbohydrate content
I personally feel in complete control of my diabetes and feel like I will only need medical help in an emergency. I don’t worry about what food I can obtain as I just adjust my fast-acting dosage but if you’re not so confident with changing the food you eat then research the foods available in your destination or, as my mum used to do, take a suitcase full of digestives and Corn Flakes.
Other less obvious things I would consider:
• The time difference –
A few years ago I took a flight from New York to Bangkok, two cities with a time difference of 12 hours. This caused a conflict with my night time insulin injections so I had to spend about 10 hours with no Humulin-I running around my body, this caused my blood sugars to keep rising. In the end it wasn’t that bad, I just monitored my blood sugar more frequently and injected more fast-acting insulin to bring my blood sugars down. If your destination has a large time difference just be aware and monitor more regularly on the day you travel and the following day.
• The temperature and altitude
The temperature effects insulin and the body’s metabolic rate, which means I need to alter the number of units I inject and consider the sell by dates of the insulin I take. Now, if you’re going on a quick trip I wouldn’t worry about the life-span, its affectivity doesn’t change overnight, I have had insulin at room temp in tropical conditions for up to a year before it stopped working . I would however monitor your dosage as your body may metabolise it at a different rate, particularly those that use a fast-acting/slow-acting treatment. I find that if I move from a cold climate to a hotter one I need fewer units and this change is quite dramatic for me.
I have also found a change when I move between different altitudes, but when you change altitude significantly the temperature also changes so I am not sure if it is the altitude or the temperature change that effects me, worth bearing in mind though.
• And if you are going on long trips – how much insulin should you take?
I always take enough insulin to be able to finish the trip, and plenty of spares; I have smashed vials in the past and run out of insulin, something I would love to avoid doing again. I always take batches with different sell by dates in case the heat effects my insulin, usually the oldest batch stops working first so I can use a newer batch while I work out how to get more.
Travelling on a Plane
I always carry my insulin in my hand luggage to prevent it from freezing in the cargo hold, plus if the airline loses my bag I know I have got those vital vials with me. I also carry plenty of sugar, as nervous moments like turbulence or landing can cause my blood sugar to drop a bit. Apart from that I’d say it’s ‘business as usual’ when it comes to flying. I can honestly say the biggest agitation for me is feeling violated when passing through the security gates but not for being diabetic, just for being a person. Carrying needles and a white powdery substance has the potential to drive security crazy but I have never had any problems and never had to use the doctor’s letter I was told to carry with me.
Those with strict control over their diet should be aware that you have the option of a diabetic meal, something I used to do but don’t anymore as they tend to taste even worse than the standard meals. Oh, and if your flight is delayed significantly, tell the airline your schedule has been thrown out of wack and you need some food vouchers, doesn’t always work but has for me on some occasions. Although don’t tell Ryan Air you’re diabetic as they will probably charge you extra for the weight of your insulin and they would never give you vouchers anyway.
And if you’re still worried about flying and the state of the healthcare system, why not catch a train to somewhere in Europe. I am currently working as a cycle/walking tour rep for 6 months in Provence, a fantastic area with beautiful scenery, lovely towns and world-class wine.
I seized this opportunity to eat my French Corn Flakes and I chose a beautiful spot to eat them in. (take a look at my latest youtube video, with some of that lovely scenery when I cycled into the mountains for a special place to eat my flakes)
In my next blog post I shall talk about how I explain diabetes to the non-English speaking community and tell you about the time when I was in Bolivia and I was given a massive lesson about why it’s important to tell people I am diabetic and to always carry ample sugar.