Travelling tips

Hello all. Any tips or advice for overseas traveling? We are lucky enough to be going to the UK in a couple of weeks and have not traveled since Kate’s diagnosis three years ago. I thought I would tap into your collective wisdom of dos and don’t s at airports, in flight etc. Thank you!

I lived in Britain for 13 years and never had any trouble travelling through British Customs with syringes and insulin, provided I had a photocopy of a doctor’s letter with me. If you are flying into Heathrow, you should keep in mind that they don’t inspect luggage as carefully there as they do in other countries, and even if you want to have medical items sent to you by mail, they don’t make a fuss.

Other countries can be much worse, however, and Germany, for example, seems to regard vitamins as something you can only have delivered to a pharmacy so the pharmacist can decide whether to give them to you or not. If I wanted to stick with my own insulin while living in Germany, I had to fly to London and have it sent to me by mail there, and then fly back to Germany, taking advantage of the EU regulations which did not require customs inspections at the borders between member states.

By far the nastiest border controls I have ever encountered are at U.S. Customs, where even my American passport does not seem to help. One U.S. official would not permit me to bring any vitamins purchased outside the country in with me, while another screamed at me that he would not let me in unless I could demonstrate proof of employment during my stay. He did not seem to realize that citizens don’t have to demonstrate any such thing, since they have an absolute legal right to enter.

Thanks for the info. I have a letter from Kate’s endocrinologist and a script. It is quite a long flight for us - about 13 hours - so I think I will stock up on snacks and healthy food for food emergencies!

There is generally a lot of food served on the plane, though dinners are generally later than in normal life, being served at around 10:OO P.M. on transatlantic flights, so snacks are helpful.

I didn’t have any trouble when I flew to/from London. My biggest recommendation is simply to bring all medical supplies in your carry-on. You likely already know this, but I still think it’s worth repeating multiple times.

Going through security in the UK was very easy. I never took out my supplies, and their scanners were the old-school scanners that have been approved by Dexcom. You don’t need to take your shoes off either!

The nutrition facts listed on packages are different than what you see in the U.S. If you have a particular low treatment that works consistently, then I would recommend bringing a supply of it. While they certainly have sweets in the UK, these items may digest a bit differently because the sweeteners tend to be different there (e.g. soda doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup).

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Thanks - that’s very useful to know - especially about the sweets. We will take our own glucojel and Super Cs, because I know they both work for Kate!

I’ve done a fair bit of international travel, and made the specific flight from Australia to London a number of times.

Most of the advice everyone else has given is so far really great. Some things I’ve found invaluable for myself.

I always travel with Frio packs to keep my insulin cold. For two weeks it might not be such an issue, particularly if you have access to fridges etc, but they’re really useful and all they need is to be wet again for 10 minutes or so and they will continue to keep your insulin cool.

Much to my surprise, despite always having a medical certificate, I’ve never once been actually questioned about my medical supplies. But again, I would highly recommend taking all your supplies as carry on luggage.

I normally eat fairly low carbohydrate, but I’ve usually found most in-flight meals have enough vegetables and meat for me and I just don’t eat the potato or whatever the carbohydrate component is. However, I often also try and pick up some bags of nuts and little low-carbohydrate snacks I can keep with me.

Generally as well, my recommendation would be on the flight to have smaller bag or something to keep with you. There is nothing worse than realising in the middle of the night you left something in your carry on bag that is now in the overhead compartment and then waking up half your row to go get it out. As a rule of thumb I try and keep my insulin, my glucometer and then glucose and snacks in a small pouch that I just pop into the little compartment in the chair in front of me. Though if she uses a CGM and a pump then obviously you’ve got most of that covered already!

I second the recommendation to carry most of your medical supplies in your carry-on baggage, plus a small reserve in your stored luggage just for security. Once, when flying to the Dominican Republic, I found that because the other passengers on the flight had brought so many consumer trinkets with them from the U.S., the airline chose to bump my stored luggage, containing all my medical supplies, because the plane was overloaded.

Needless to say, that produced an immediate crisis upon landing, and then, to add insult to injury, because I had landed with no luggage, the airport police found me suspicious, and so dragged me into an interrogation room for a strip search! My guards did not know any English, but from my knowledge of Latin I figured that they kept asking why I had arrived with no luggage, so I tried to explain to them in a naked pantomime the story of how I had been deprived of my luggage. Must have been a sight!

I would also add that with respect to eating in England, you should note that the English have peculiar dietary tastes, and all their food is overloaded with sugar, syrup, fat, and gristle. They are not much for healthy foods, and a survey once found that the average British schoolchild thought the color of bananas was black, given the way these fruit look when they arrive there. Still, with a little care, it is possible to put together a tolerable diet meeting North American standards.

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I’ve never been outside of London, but I can’t say I found this. In fact, London itself has a great range of delicious and diverse food.

Thanks for the tips! Kate not on a pump, so we will keep her coolbag of diabetes “stuff” with us at all times, as you suggest.

Thanks - the thought of your speaking Latin while being strip searched made my day! But I take your point about lost luggage and will spread the load so that if one case goes missing we are not in dire straits.

We are self catering this holiday, so the food in London will not worry us too much. I love seeing what is on the shelves of shops in other countries.

Nulla tenaci invia est via!

This brings up a question I have. Just started CGM in November and will be flying this fall. What kind of issues should I expect with my CGM and TSA? Planning on having letter from ENDO and I am already enrolled in PreCheck. Anything else to make it a less traumatizing experience?

I can’t imagine why it’d be traumatizing. I’ve been through security domestically and internationally multiple times and never had any issues. I suppose the only inconvenience is that TSA has asked me to touch my sensor, and then they’ve rubbed a pad on my hands and checked it for dangerous residues. It took all of about 10 seconds at the most.

If you’re enrolled in TSA precheck, you may not even need to do that. I wouldn’t be concerned about this at all.

Just have had a couple of bad experiences with a couple of TSA agents who apparently had a bad day and I had the bad timing to be the wrong person wrong time. Good to know about just checking for residues. Maybe just over thinking this


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I end up getting a pat-down every time because my Ping sets off the metal detectors. I have never been traumatized by it. They are always respectful and explain what they are going to do before they do it (I’m legally blind, so often they’ll tell me where they’re about to touch me). They often have me touch my pump and CGM sensor and swab my hands.

One thing to be aware of is that US airports are now inspecting all food in carry-on luggage. They suggest it be put in clear bags similar to liquids, but in my experience they have also swabbed every individual item of food, so they may still open the bags to do that (they don’t open the actual food packages, although I only had commercially-packaged stuff with me at the time).

Thank you. I’m probably overreacting as I had a bad experience with an overly aggressive grumpy agent