Frisked At TSA, and Other Travel Tips

March 27, 2016

Recently, I was traveling to Los Angeles for a college scholarship interview, and had quite the experience going through TSA at the airport. My insulin pump set off the full body scanner, and I was pulled aside for additional screening. A TSA woman asked me to handle my pump, then she swabbed my hands, probably looking for metals or evidence of hazardous materials. When she fed the sample into a scanner, it lit up and began beeping. I was then given a pat-down (the TSA almost had to call in someone to do it; at the last minute, the woman realized I was pre-checked, so she could pat me down herself) while someone else went through my bags, swabbing everything inside. I then had to take off my shoes (which were also swabbed), and after all my things were sent through the X-ray scanner again, the TSA decided they could let me go on. All the while, my parents and I were worried we'd miss our flight. Interestingly, when I went through security again in Los Angeles on my way home, my pump gave me no trouble at all.


Traveling with diabetes can be a hassle, but with preparation and help from my family, I've been able to have wonderful trips with few problems. Diabetes doesn't have to stop you from traveling--with preparation and planning, you can still have an amazing vacation. Here are a few tips for traveling with diabetes:


-Pack all your diabetes supplies together--I like to use a container or Ziploc bags. If you're traveling by plane, putting your supplies in bags makes it quick and easy to pull them out for security screening.


-NEVER CHECK YOUR DIABETES SUPPLIES! Checked baggage can easily get lost or subjected to harsh temperature changes, which could damage your supplies. Instead, carry your supplies with you in your purse and/or carry on.


-Bring multiples of everything, and if possible, have multiple people carry supplies with them. This goes for any type of travel--car, bus, train, plane, etc. If your diabetes supplies get lost, or your purse gets stolen (purse and backpack snatching is a concern in many cities around the world), you could be left high and dry. Also, it's a terrible feeling when your pump site is faulty or your continuous glucose monitor sensor fails, or you end up needing more test strips than you thought, and you don't have extras.


-Bring extra insulin, and don't count on being able to keep it cold. A few years ago, my family and I discovered that the hotel refridgerator froze my insulin. Since then, we don't rely on hotel refridgerators.


-Bring a container to use for a sharps container. While on vacation, it can be pretty hard to find places to dispose of your sharps (Hint: I've discovered many airports have sharps containers in the bathrooms, and I dispose of my old needles there before I go through security), and they CANNOT be put in with regular trash. I like to use old salsa containers to store my sharps until I can throw them away properly at home.


-Keep a stash of carb-free or low-carb snacks for the trip--string cheese, tomatoes, gum and walnuts are some of my favorites. Long periods of riding can make your blood sugar high, and if you're hungry, it helps to have something to eat that won't send your blood sugar higher.


-Remember that changing time zones can affect your blood sugar! The first time I traveled to Europe (crossing nine time zones) with T1D, I would get seemingly random blood sugar spikes as my body and hormones adjusted to the time change. Over time, my blood sugar normalized, but the first week or so abroad can be a little rough.


I hope these travel tips help as you plan your vacation! Bon Voyage :)

 Biking in Munich, Germany. I'm on the left :)



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