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8 ways to ensure your diabetes is under control on your family holiday

Providing you plan well enough in advance, diabetes should not need to impact your well-earned break in the sun (or on the piste, or in the mountains or exploring cities, etc.). Living with this condition on a daily basis, you know that preparation is vital. Going away is no different; it simply requires a few extra considerations.

Family children beach

We’ve put together a handy list to make sure that your diabetes is under control on your family holiday.

Declare your condition

To be able to take your medication on the flight, you must have a doctor’s letter which confirms you have diabetes and explains you need to carry insulin, syringes, needles, tablets, etc. Despite the restrictions on carrying sharp objects and liquids that have been enforced over recent years, with this official letter, you should have no problems.
Make your travel insurer aware of your condition so that should you require assistance related to your diabetes, you will be covered.  Better still, insure with a company who has a comprehensive understanding of diabetes and can ensure your policy is just right.

 

Obtain a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

From 1st January 2021 rules around travel to Europe have changed, visit the Government website for up to date information on passports, GHIC, healthcare and more. We’ll update this page with more information as and when the Government release it.

Double up on your supplies

It’s always better to have more rather than less, isn’t it? Whether you need them or not, take twice the amount of your medicines away with you – simply to cover all eventualities. It’s also a good idea to identify the pharmacies/ hospitals in or nearest to your resort where you may be able to pick up additional supplies, just to put your mind at rest.

Speak with your airline before flying

As mentioned above, aviation rules allow diabetes sufferers to carry medication and equipment in their hand luggage if accompanied with a doctor’s letter. That said, the Civil Aviation Authority still recommends that you call your airline in advance to discuss your requirements and understand what restrictions may be in place. This is especially important if you use a pump of continuous glucose monitor.

Know how your medication will be stored in-flight

Once on board, the cabin crew may ask to store your medication during the flight – this is standard procedure and nothing to worry about, but it pays to find out in advance. If you do have to put some insulin in your stowed luggage, pack it in airtight containers, split between several cases in case of damage or loss. Check your medication post-flight; if the insulin has formed any crystals, it should be discarded. Once you’ve reached your accommodation, keep your insulin in the fridge and out of the heat.

Know your food options

Many airlines these days give you the option of a diabetic menu, though experts claim diabetic people don’t necessarily need special meals. You know what you can and can’t eat, but if in doubt, discuss your concerns with the airline in advance.

For shorter flights where meals aren’t provided and the menu is rather limited, you’ll need to take your own snacks, probably bought from shops at the airport. You may be able to find some diabetic/ ‘safe’ foods in Boots, or can find something to take away that won’t affect your blood glucose levels. Regardless of flight times and destination, take some snacks on board in case your flight is delayed or to manage any hypoglycaemic attacks – glucose tablets, Lucozade and slow-release carbohydrates (muesli bars, biscuits, etc) are a must.

While on holiday, just be sensible – as you would at home.

Think about your regime

Travelling to a far-flung destination can make things confusing – crossing time zones can knock out your usual regime and make it difficult to know when to take your medicine. Many people do this frequently and don’t come to much harm.

Diabetes UK says that time changes of four hours or fewer don’t warrant any major changes to your usual routine. If travelling further, then the organisation advises the following:

“When travelling east to west, the day is lengthened and some clinics will advise you to take an extra meal and to cover it with extra insulin. When travelling west to east, the day is shortened and the amount of insulin and carbohydrate may need to be reduced.”

More information is available on the website.

Take care of yourself

Holidays are a time when we tend to ‘let go’ and perhaps indulge in things that we wouldn’t when back home. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a few holiday excesses either, provided you take care of yourself. Check your blood glucose levels frequently, mind those cocktails and just look after yourself.

That way, you and the entire family can enjoy that hard-earned and much-anticipated trip abroad without any worry.

Surviving abroad when your travel plans go wrong

When making travel plans, the idea of things going wrong tends to be at the back of our minds. We’re too busy thinking about the cocktails we’ll be sipping on the beach, and the temples we’re going to explore.

It may not have happened to you yet, but it’s all too easy for things to go wrong abroad. The anxiety of having your luggage going missing or losing your passport can too much for some travellers, especially if they have decided to go away alone.

Some of these situations can be prevented with a bit of preparation, but not all. Here are some tips on how to survive when things don’t go to plan.

Preparation is key 

Whether you’ve been to your chosen holiday destination ten times or never before, it’s vital to do some research about the country you’re visiting. The latest scams you need to watch out for may be completely different, or there could currently be a reason why it is unwise to travel to that country. Check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website for any travel warnings – don’t just rely on news reports. Media outlets may claim that tourists should not travel to Egypt at the moment, but what they likely mean is there is just one area of the country that needs to be avoided.

If you’re travelling somewhere particularly exotic, you need to check that you get the right vaccinations. It’s best to speak to your doctor, as if you’re on any medication you can ask them for advice about travelling with your condition – there may be things you need to avoid or be more aware of. Double check that your medication will be allowed into the country and that you have plenty of it before you leave.

Buy travel insurance

You should never go abroad without buying travel insurance – even if you’ve been lucky in your adventuring so far. Don’t buy insurance just because it’s cheap either; you may find it doesn’t cover something important until it’s too late. Medical costs in other countries, particularly the US, can be astronomical – even for the most minor injuries and problems.

Insurance can also cover you for lost luggage, flight cancellations, theft and more. It’s not just for medical emergencies!

Dealing with theft

Being mugged is never a nice experience, and it often leaves the victim feeling shaken and vulnerable. Some people take a dummy wallet with them abroad, which is full of old/expired cards, so if they are mugged they can hand this over rather than their real purse. However it is all too easy to turn your back on your camera bag or rucksack whilst you’re on a train or sat in a café. The next thing you know, your passport or wallet is missing.

The important thing is to stay calm – double check your possessions have actually been taken, as you may have moved them to your coat pocket and forgotten about doing so. If you’re sure something has been taken, report the incident to your nearest police station within 24 hours. Take your passport – or a photocopy of it – with you so you can prove who you are.

Coping with travel delays and cancellations

We can all aim to get to the airport several hours before our flight, but no matter how prepared you are, travel delays and cancellations can lay ruin to all of your plans. If your flight/train/boat is cancelled or delayed for any reason, try not to get too stressed. Remember, it’s not something that’s within your control, so there’s not much point getting overly worked up about it. Why not pass the time doing something that you can control instead, such as brushing up on the local language or reading a relaxing book? It may help reduce some of the anxiety.

What to do if you get sick

unwell couple

There is always a chance you could come down with a virus or get food poisoning whilst abroad, as the food and hygiene standards in some countries can differ hugely from what you’re used to in the UK. If you’ve been suffering from vomiting, diarrhoea or both for more than eight hours you should go to A+E, as you will likely be seriously dehydrated.

Of course, if you have a pre-existing condition, it may flair up or become particularly bad whilst you’re away too. Your rule of thumb should be this: if you feel so unwell that you would normally go to the doctor at home, then you need to do the same when you’re abroad. All your medical costs should be covered by your travel insurance.

Keeping your money safe

Some of us take a huge amount of spending money away with us on holiday – after all, there are so many souvenirs to buy! No matter how safe the destination you’re going to is, you need to have a back-up plan in case you lose all your money.

We suggest that you take at least one credit card with you – make sure it will work in the country you’re going to and that you tell the bank where you’re going beforehand. Read up on the charges too; you don’t want to withdraw money abroad only to return to a huge bill when you get home.

Although it can be stressful when things go wrong, it can also be a blessing. Sometimes the unplanned turns out better than expected. Remember that holidays are an adventure, and you should be able to take almost any problem in your stride. If you do need assistance, contact your insurance provider and they should be able to sort out a solution.

Destination Availibility Guide: Barcelona

Ever since the 1992 Paralympics were hosted there, Barcelona has worked hard to make sure it’s an accessible tourist destination for all. Over the years, it has introduced dropped kerbs, tactile paving and audible, flashing crossings. The transformation of its transport facilities and most popular attractions, however, is particularly remarkable.

Barcelona Park Guell

Simply put, Barcelona is the perfect location for disabled visitors and travellers with visual or hearing impairments. Here’s why:

Transport

All of Barcelona’s buses, of which there are more than 1,000, are fully accessible. They have ramps, low floors and reserved spaces for passengers with reduced mobility. The bus shelters are also slowly being adapted too – eventually, all buses and shelters will provide both audio announcements and visual information on screens.

Taxis are another great way for disabled people to get around the city, as many of them have been adapted. By law, all drivers must allow guide dogs in their cabs for no extra charge.

Barcelona’s metro system may be 100 years old, but recent updates to its stations and trains means that the service is becoming increasingly accessible for all. The ticket barriers emit audio and visual signals to let travellers know if their ticket has been accepted or not, and at the newer stations there are platform screen doors to help ensure the passengers board the trains safely.

In some stations, disabled tourists may need help with getting on and off of trains. However, ramps are being fitted to solve this problem, and eventually all lines will be fully adapted just like Barcelona’s bus service.

Attractions

Font Màgica

Barcelona fountain

Known as the largest ornamental fountain in the city, Font Màgica combines water acrobats, lights and music to create an epic display that should not be missed. The water show is mostly visual, so it is highly recommended for tourists who are deaf or hard of hearing; however, visually impaired visitors will enjoy it too for the music and the sound of the water.

To get the best viewing spots, travellers who are visually impaired or disabled should arrive early. They are permitted to bring their guide dogs too. There are a few steps at the fountain, but these can be avoided by taking one of the alternative routes designed for wheelchair users.

Zoo de Barcelona

There are more than 7,000 animals to see at Zoo de Barcelona, including the world’s smallest monkey. It’s easy to see why it’s popular with tourists and locals alike and travellers with additional needs are well catered for here.

Disabled guests can enjoy a reduced entry fee – just remember to bring your handicap certificate. There are parking spaces reserved for disabled badge holders too and the grounds are equipped with ramps to help you get around.

Basilica of La Sagrada Familia

This unusual but beautiful temple has been in construction since 1882 and isn’t expected to be completed until 2030! It’s recommended that wheelchair users and visitors with reduced mobility visit the temple with a friend, as accessibility is limited due to the ongoing construction work. Travellers with disability levels of 65 per cent or more can get into the temple for free, as can their companions.

Despite the attraction not being fully accessible, tours can be arranged for visitors with special needs. Plus, all the displays are audio-visual, and blind/visually impaired tourists can enjoy the many tactile features of the temple. To find out where they are, pick up a guide from the information point.

Barcelona travel guide

Barcelona’s beaches

Many of the city’s wonderful beaches have facilities especially for sun-seekers with reduced mobility, including reserved parking bays, showers with seats, adapted toilets, wooden walkways to the water’s edge and preferential zones for disabled bathers. There’s a whole host of different beaches to visit – Nova Icària is ideal for families as it’s one of the more peaceful beaches; Sant Sebastià and Barceloneta are the city’s oldest and therefore the most traditional, and Mar Bella is popular with younger tourists.

Disabled travellers will no doubt be pleasantly surprised by how accessible Barcelona is, and it looks like things are only going to get better.

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