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Travel Woes? What to Do When You Have Type 2 Diabetes
photo of young woman at railway station or airport

At the beginning of January, my husband and I traveled to Palm Springs, CA – former second home to some of the biggest old-time Hollywood stars, including Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Frank Sinatra. (If you’re under 30, and asking who these folks are, look it up.) 

The trip was great, albeit colder than we expected for a desert. However, the journey to the oasis could not have been worse. Our 1-day flight from Philly to Phoenix to Palm Springs stretched into a disjointed and aggravating 48 hours. 

The weather was not to blame. The weather was fine; it was everything else that went wrong. From a pilot who was missing in action, which pushed an 8:50 a.m. flight to 8:50 p.m., to an hour-and-a-half delay on the tarmac praying for a missing required page of flight instructions to be signed, to agitated and unhelpful customer service reps who insisted they had “no ability” to distribute vouchers for meals or hotels after our very delayed flight landed in Phoenix after midnight. We’re talking nightmare scenarios!

But this column isn’t about the trials of air travel in 2023; it’s about what to do when you run into such a situation and have a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes. In other words: When it appears you can do nothing, what can you do?

Turns out, quite a bit. During my many hours at the airport, here are a few I came up with:

Pack snacks. Airports have upped their nutrition game. A quick survey found a selection of prepacked salads, boiled eggs, and small containers of raw nuts. But if you have room, it’s tastier and probably cheaper to cart snacks of your own: apple slices, carrot sticks, packets of peanut butter, string cheese,  and a small container of brown rice and homemade veggie chili.

Carrying your own healthy choices can also combat a sudden weakness to indulge when you’re swept by the wafting scent of cinnamon rolls or the sight of enormous java chip drinks doused in whipped cream.

Hydrate. Flying on a plane can sap your skin and body of moisture, but dehydration can also occur as you sit and fret on land about your upended travel plans. Hours in a closed-air environment can lead to dehydration, which can make you tired, confused, and, in some cases, bring on headaches and muscle aches. It can also lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels.

The answer? Pack an empty water bottle to fill up in the airport, and sip regularly. Stick to your own bottled fluids on the plane; unbottled water, coffee, and tea in flight tend to be less than fresh. 

Somehow, relax. I must be honest – in this category, I failed miserably. Rather than find my Zen, I complained – to customer service, to other passengers, and to my hubby. And, as far as I could see, most people who were going through the long and longer hours of an endless waiting game did the same. However, in retrospect, it probably would have been much better to download a meditation app and close my eyes. Not only would it have helped my blood sugars, but I might have napped, which at least would have passed the time.

Get in your steps. Modern airports tend to be large and confusing and perfect for mall-like walking. While passing passengers who are getting flights that take off on time can be annoying, if you’re traveling with another person and can take turns guarding your carry-ons, getting in your 10,000 steps might not only be wise for your diabetes care, but account for the biggest accomplishment you’ll have all day.

And keeping moving might help combat your desire to stand in the middle of the floor where your airline is headquartered and yell, “You all suck!”

Not that we know anyone who might have done that. Right? 



Learn, share, and connect with others on WebMD’s Type 2 Diabetes Facebook Support Group.





Photo Credit: Elena Noviello / Moment via Getty Images

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Ilene Raymond Rush

Ilene Raymond Rush

Diagnosed since 1984

Ilene Raymond Rush is an award-winning health and science freelance writer. Based on her own experiences with type 2 diabetes, she brings a personal take and a reporter’s eye to examine the best and newest methods of treating and controlling the disease.

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