As a hypoglycemic and/or a healthy eater, travel can be very difficult. It requires a significant amount of pre-planning, but these quick tips can help you make the most out of your experience:
Before your trip:
– Choose your destination carefully. I probably shouldn’t start this post on such a negative, but this one is important. You MUST factor your ability to get food you can eat at your destination into your decision of where to travel. I’ve had opportunities to travel to many exotic places in the world, but some of these trips I turned down because they were going to areas where there were major food shortages. I try to not let it affect my travel choices. But, in reality, it does.
– Pack at least three carb/protein snacks per each day you will be traveling IN YOUR CARRY-ON. My favorites include Clif bars, Emerald 100 calorie packs of nuts, dried soy beans (Edamame), dried turkey jerky (much better for you than the beef version!) dried raisins and cranberries, and Zone Cookie Dough Bars (pack these in a box though, they smash easily).
– Pack a wide variety of these snacks so you don’t get bored and in case there is an issue with one of them. My friend Angie told me about a flight where someone on board had a severe nut allergy and she only had snacks with nuts with her. It was a long, hungry flight for her.
– Pack something healthy to nibble on. Sometimes, you just need a little something to get you until the next meal. Instead of spending tons of money and eating badly by grabbing a bag of chips at the airport, pack a small sandwich bag of baby carrots. True, they won’t last more than a day, but that’s a day less of junk food. I also always purchase a bag of pretzels or similar quasi-healthy snack item to take with me.
– For all of the above snacks, pack them in your carry-on so you have them accessible.
– If you have a choice of hotels, choose one that has a kitchenette. If that isn’t possible, find one with breakfast or, at the very least, a fridge and microwave.
– Research what grocery stores are located near your hotel.
– Pack an empty water bottle.
– Research how to say your medical condition in the language of the country you are going to and provide an overview of what to do if you get sick for all of your travel companions.
– Research customs where you are going about food. Is it common to wait at a restaurant for an hour to be sat? Is healthy food readily available?
-Pack Vitamin C tablets and take them a day before you leave through the day you return.
During your trip:
– Carry a bag with you at all times. I recommend a backpack or a across-the-shoulder bag. My general rule of thumb is to carry 9 hours worth of food (3 protein/carb snacks) with me at all times in my bag while in the U.S. (this just doesn’t mean while traveling, it’s EVERY DAY of my life) and 12 hours (4 snacks) with me while outside my own country.
– For all of the snacks listed in the “Before your trip” section, try to use them sparingly and replenish them as much as possible. Remember, the idea is to keep a good stash of food on you at all times, so don’t deplete your stash too much! You never know when disaster could strike; it could be as simple as a delayed flight or as crazy as being stranded in an airport for 3 days due to a hurricane. But, in all cases, be prepared. Getting into your stash as little as possible takes some pre-planning, but it’s not too difficult. If you walk into your hotel and notice a free bowl of fruit (if not in the lobby, some have it by the gym), grab an apple to eat later instead of your dried fruit. Or, while grabbing lunch somewhere, purchase a small snack to have for your afternoon snack at the same time and carry it with you.
– Once you reach your destination, assess your room (fridge? microwave?) and then immediately head to the nearest grocery store. Buy fresh fruit and easily-to-eat vegetables, high protein cereal (I recommend Kashi Go Lean), stuff for sandwiches, and snacks for the room based on how often you will be eating in the room (breakfast? lunch? or just snacks for night?).
– Remember that empty water bottle you packed? Good, now it’ll come in handy. If you are like me, you hate most hotel water and drink a lot of water during the day. So, while at the grocery store, also buy 1-2 gallons of water per person depending on the length of the trip. You can use your water bottle to drink this while in the room and, before you leave the hotel each time, you can fill this bottle with “good” water and take it with you on your daily excursions.
– Wear your medical alert at all times (note: you should be doing this anyway!).
– Time zones make it difficult to figure out when your three hours is up and you should eat again. I recommend wearing a watch and keeping it on the same time zone during your trip or, if possible, use a time on your cell phone and set it for 3 hours (not a specific time, just 3 hours), so you won’t have to pay attention to the time.
– When in doubt, or, basically, whenever possible, go ahead an eat. If you gain a few pounds on the trip, fine. Your safety is more important. Just eat healthy and get the weight back off you when you return.
Up-to-date information on hypoglycemia
This blog reflects my journey of learning and understanding hypoglycemia. This means that some of my older posts may have information that is out-of-date as I’ve learned more or research has changed. For the most updated macro-level information on living with hypoglycemia, please visit Up-to-date info on hypoglycemia (start here) page.
If you’re curious if the information in a particular post is still accurate, please feel free to leave a comment on the post asking and I’ll respond letting you know if there is any updated information.
Thanks for reading!