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Treating Diabetes with Good Nutrition: Travel Tips

Updated on January 23, 2018

Getting ready to take a trip may mean a little extra planning for people with diabetes. It is important to consider how your diet, exercise and medication routines will be effected BEFORE you leave, and to identify what you will need to maintain good blood sugar control while you are away. This article will give you some tips to help keep you stay in control while away.

It is a good idea to check out your plans with your physician or diabetes educator if:

  • you do not travel often
  • you have had problems during past trips
  • you are new on diabetes medications
  • you will be gone for an extended period of time you are traveling out of the country

Plan ahead:

Medication and Supplies - Bring enough medication and blood glucose monitoring supplies. A little extra is a good idea. Keep medication and monitoring equipment with you at all times. Pack these in your carry-on bags, not in suitcases that will be checked into baggage cargo.

Clothes - Throw your workout clothes, exercise shoes, socks and a bathing suit into your suitcase. Check the travel log or website for information about exercise options at your destination.

Snacks - Pack some non-perishable snacks with carbohydrate along with some protein and/or fat. Be prepared for flight delays, unexpected traffic, long road stretches without food access, and other situations that will make timely meals difficult. Be prepared with some appropriate, mixed-meal snacks.

Emergency Food - If you take insulin or a sulfonylurea medication, carry quick-acting carbohydrate food or glucose tablets in case of hypoglycemia. Be aware that traveling and vacations may result in a significant activity level increase. You may be more prone to low blood sugar reactions because of this, so be on the alert for early symptoms.

Keep Moving:

When en route - Plan regular breaks for movement. If flying, request a window seat in the emergency row or seat with extended legroom. Walk around the plane during the flight and stretch in the open sections. If traveling by automobile, plan a rest stop at least every 2 hours to stretch and walk around.

Call the front desk - Ask about hotel facilities (pool, gym) and about health clubs or gyms in the area. Often hotels have agreements with health clubs that are within reach. If not, look in the phone book for a place to work out. Most fitness centers have daily, weekly and monthly rates. YMCA's are often good bets.

Go for a swim - Jump in and swim some laps. If you are worried about getting your hair wet, you can try different exercises in the shallow end: jog, skip, hop, lunge, twist and move. Use the water to provide friendly resistance for different body parts. Surprisingly, you can get a good pump.

Explore - Walk around the hallways and explore the hotel. If the weather is permitting, explore the surrounding streets and town.

Give up? - The pool is without water. There is no time for the trip to the gym down the street or you have forgotten your running shoes. What can you do? No problem. You can work out your entire body in your hotel room. Sit-ups, push-ups, leg-lifts can all be done on the floor. Use a towel to avoid those nasty rug burns. Lunges, jumps and hi knee running all require minimum space.

Take caution and enjoy the change - Whether you want low-intensity or high- intensity workouts or just some simple stretches or strength training, you will find that wherever you travel there are opportunities to keep moving. Follow safe exercise precautions but also have fun and enjoy the change of routine.

Eat Well

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate - The benefits of drinking enough water cannot be emphasized enough. Air travel, working out and consuming certain diuretics will dehydrate you.

Call ahead - If you are flying, call the airline ahead and request a diabetic or low fat, low sugar meal. Ask them to describe typical meals provided with this menu request. Request more vegetables and less fruit for the meal, if possible.
If anticipating a late arrival, or surrounding busy schedule, call the hotel and request a veggie tray with some fruit, crackers and cheese be placed in your room. Hotel restaurants can often take breakfast orders the evening before, and while at it, schedule some food for your breaks.

Wet bar/Refrigerator - If you have a refrigerator in your room, take advantage of it. Call the concierge or front desk for locations of grocery stores, produce stands or other food suppliers. Not only will you be able to purchase fresh fruit, veggies, sugar free yogurts, leaner luncheon meats and low fat cheeses, you can get water and sugar free beverages to stock your room.

Hot water - If there is a coffee maker in your room, you can make boiling water. Otherwise, you can find a special plug-in-the-wall gadget that has a metal end that can be inserted in any mug or heat-resistant container. In minutes, you can have portable boiling water. Use this water to whip up some instant soup meals, instant hot oatmeal, and tea or sugar free hot cocoa.

Limit alcohol - Traveling, vacation and business meals may increase the social pressures to drink too much alcohol. Exercise caution and practice moderation, no matter when, where or why you drink alcoholic beverages.

Mixed-Meal Snacks for Travelers

Carbohydrate Grams
Protein Grams
Fat Grams
3 Tbsp.
Almonds 10 items
1 Medium
Part Skim Cheese
1 ounce
2 ounce (small)
Light Cream Chs
1 ounce (2 Tbsp.)
Graham Crackers
3 squares
Peanut Butter
1 Tbsp.
Dried Apricots
8 halves
Pistachio Nuts
1/2 ounce
1 ounce
1/2 ounce
Instant Oatmeal
1 packet
Chopped Walnuts (Mix in cup with hot water)
1 Tbsp.
Fig Newton Cookies
Walnut Halves
5 halves


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