Road Tripping with Type 2 Diabetes

Aug 13, 2019

I LOVE a good road trip! I can get in the car and drive for hours. I particularly like taking side roads and seeing crazy things that are off the beaten path. Some of my favorites have been the Spam Museum and the Jolly Green Giant (both in Minnesota), the prairie dog colonies in the Badlands of South Dakota, and the World’s Largest Rocking Chair (on Route 66 in Missouri--Though I just Googled and learned that it's been outpaced by a BIGGER one in Illinois. Time to get back on the road again!). As you can probably tell, I’m usually just as excited about the journey as I am about the destination!

Road-tripping with Diabetes requires a bit more preparation than just hopping in the car and driving. But with the proper planning, Diabetes doesn’t have to get in the way of the adventure!

Here are a few things to think about when prepping for a road trip when you have Diabetes

Check your blood sugar before you drive! This is particularly important for people who take insulin or other drugs that can cause you to have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Low blood sugar affects your ability to think clearly and respond quickly. Driving with low blood sugar is as dangerous as driving drunk! Even if you think you’re ok, it’s important to closely monitor your blood sugar before you drive and regularly throughout any driving time. Your blood sugar may behave very differently while on a road trip due to changes in patterns of activity, eating, and stress levels. In addition to insulin, medications that can cause hypoglycemia are sulfonylureas (glyburide, glipizide, glimepiride) and Meglitinides (repaglinide and nateglinide). OCCASSIONALLY, some people get hypoglycemia from other Type 2 Diabetes drugs, but this is rare. If YOU are someone who gets LOW blood sugar on one of the other drugs, make sure you’re also checking your blood sugar before you drive and throughout the day while driving.

Road Trip Snacks! If you’re like me, a prime component of road tripping includes yummy snacks! When you have Diabetes, the snacking requires a bit more thought than just picking up a bag of Doritos when you stop for gas.

  • I always take along my trusty plug-in cooler so I can carry things like cheese, yogurt, and meat without worrying about them spoiling. (You can find my favorite cooler over on the Teresa's Favorite Things page.) I bought mine about 3 years ago and I love it! I usually have it packed with yogurt, cheese sticks, chicken skewers (from Costco), and apples. I often save a little room for local treats I may find on my travels.
  • Ziplock bags are your friend! When snacking, it’s easy to keep going until you hit the end of the box or bag. Before leaving home, portion your snacks out into single-servings and put them in ziplock baggies. You can also buy single-serve snack-packs. Just make sure you stop at the end of the first one!
  • Check out nutritional information before going through the drive-through or grabbing a quick snack at Target. Most chain restaurants have nutritional information readily available on their websites. I like to start my day with Starbucks. I know the nutritional information of my favorite breakfast sandwich and the cold brew I always order. I NEVER guess on fast food nutritional values because there is SO MUCH hidden sugar! Know before you order so you don’t end up unpleasantly surprised later.

Activity! Depending on your road-tripping style and your normal activity level, it’s likely that you’ll be spending far more time sitting in the car than you’re usually sedentary at home. I wear a pedometer all the time so I can easily measure the difference between my normal activity and my road tripping activity. I’m often surprised that I end up walking nearly my normal amount despite feeling like I’m spending all day in the car. That’s probably due to my “Stop and smell the roses” approach to road tripping. I stop whenever something seems interesting to me and often go walking or hiking around the area. On days when my pedometer indicates that I’m falling short of my daily activity goal, I explore the neighborhood where we stop for the night or walk the halls of the hotel until I reach my step goal. Some people like to use the hotel gym or pool. I’ve also come across people who find the local branch of a gym where they have a membership.

Hydrate! This means DRINK WATER!!! You should be drinking enough water that your urine is a light straw color. This is particularly important when you’ll be sitting all day in the car! You may balk at this one because you don’t want to stop at every rest area, but trust me when I say it’s worth it! If you’re not hydrating adequately, you’re more likely to retain water and get unpleasantly swollen feet and ankles. Also, those frequent rest area stops will get out of the car and mobilizing the fluid more. If you’re not getting up and walking every 1-2 hours, you should wear compression socks to help reduce swelling and to avoid blood clots.

You may be tempted to let things with your Diabetes slide while on your road trip, but I strongly recommend against that! I don’t mean you have to strive for perfection or always pass up the roadside ice cream stand. But if you’re taking care of your health and watching your blood sugar, your body will feel better and you’ll end up enjoying your vacation more.

With a bit of preparation and planning, road tripping with Diabetes doesn’t have to be complicated. 

I almost forgot: Tunes!!! The perfect playlist is an essential part of every road trip! I usually create a new one for every road trip. Everyone in the car gets to pick a set number of songs from the iTunes library so there’s usually a LOT of variety. Most of my all-time favorite playlists are from old road trips. Every time I cue it up, I’m back in the car with my friends, looking for the World’s Largest Ball of Twine!

Head over to the Facebook page and share your favorite road-tripping hints!



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