Disney with T1 – Traveling: From The TSA to the Grapevine

Disneyland with Type 1 Diabetes - SeeJenDance

About three years ago, I wrote a very similar post about navigating the Disney Resort with a broken pancreas. However, times have changed, information was left out, and the post was extremely long. To follow up on this original post, I’m creating shorter series-like posts to reference at different points of trip planning.

Why is this relevant to the non-Disney fan? The Friends for Life Conference is held annually in Orlando, usually on or near Disney property. CWD is also planning a conference at the Disneyland Hotel in September 2016 and  May 2017. (And if you are a parent caring for a CWD, definitely check out a Friends for Life conference if you can.) In between sessions and in the evenings would be a fantastic time to check out the Resort.

These posts are Disneyland Resort, California specific, but the tips can apply to visiting the Resort in Orlando as well. (I just live much closer to “Land.”)

Previous Post: Where to Stay
Previous Post: The Ultimate Packing List, Part 1 and Part 2


The bags are packed. The hotel is booked. Let’s go to Disneyland. Oh wait, how? And what about all of this diabetes stuff? While this is a Disney-centric series, the travel tips below are pretty general.

Coming from Northern California, I have both road tripped and flown to Orange County. I find flying to be a bit easier, but realize large families can’t always pile onto an airplane without a significant budget line item. I’ll explore both.

Flying

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If this isn’t a cost strain, I’d highly recommend this option. An early morning flight on a weekday dumps me in Orange County with more than half of the day left to play in the parks. It’s not always convenient with diabetes, but I consider this to be a small blip in the grand scheme of things.

Pros (for me personally):

  • Less travel time – particularly if very little luggage is checked or if flying at an off peak time. (E.G. weekday mornings are VERY busy and require 2-3 hours before the flight takes off.) Most of the time, things go smoothly.
  • Checking Luggage – my preferred airline, Southwest Airlines, allows up to 2 free checked bags. Great for all of those extras I need to bring. And they have so many sales throughout the year to make the trip more cost effective. They have their faults, of course, but so does every other carrier.

Cons:

  • Based on the most recent Southwest Airlines news, cancelled flights and major delays can happen. (But so can traffic.)
  • Dealing with the TSA and Security “protocol” – There are lots of mixed opinions and anecdotes about how diabetes devices and the TSA do or don’t get along. I, for one, will not send my pump through the X-ray anymore, nor will I send my Dexcom through. My sensor can’t go through the scanners most major airports have now. So I requested opt outs and pat downs. This added a lot of travel time.
    Also, I had TSA agents who were either really familiar with diabetes devices and others who were not. Some just swabbed my hands; another wanted to swab all of my pocketed devices. (My Dexcom receiver actually set off an alarm once and I required three levels of permission to get to my flight.) I often arrived at the airport wondering what I’d be asked on THIS trip. And I’ve read about other travelers who just send all their devices through and they’ve never had a problem.

    • Medtronic and Dexcom both advise NOT to send their devices through X-Ray or Millimeter scanners.
    • TSA doesn’t appear to send children under 12 through the scanners. The metal detectors are usually opened for small children, and their families to pass through. (Check the TSA website for more details.)
    • TSA Pre-Check is a more expensive means of getting through security, but this method allows me to go through a metal detector only with my devices on my person. No more pat downs. Or removing shoes. Or removing liquids, etc.
  • Checking luggage and lost luggage: It can happen. This is why most travelers with diabetes will recommend NOT checking any diabetes supplies and bringing along snacks or meals that fit TSA guidelines. (So, probably no Jell-O packets.)

Tips on Flying with Diabetes

  • If on MDI, carry a copy of the prescription with you. Diabetes is pretty commonplace, so an insulin pen probably shouldn’t be that surprising to find in a purse. If there are full vials of insulin in a carry on, the TSA might question it without a ‘script.
  • Bring snacks and an empty water bottle. Because airport food is expensive, as is bottled water. Fill the water bottle after Security at a restaurant tap. (Might require a food purchase.) Stay hydrated.
  • Prime and clear insulin pump tubing after landing. Sometimes air bubbles can form after being in a pressurized cabin for a long period of time. Air bubbles can cause high blood sugars later.
  • Change all devices to the appropriate time zone upon landing. (Not before.)
  • Walk around the cabin a few times during the flight if it’s particularly long. Or, schedule a flight with a layover and use that time to walk, stretch, keep the blood flowing, etc.

Road Trip

street-238458_1280

Another viable method to Anaheim is the road trip. From Northern California to Anaheim, the trip can take about 6-8 hours, depending on the traffic and time of day. While it’s not my preferred method, it is easier for many people to load up the car and go.

Pros:

  • Cheaper. Considerably if traveling with a family of four, with children over the age of two. Plus, no luggage fees, TSA struggles, and limited food options.
  • Flexible. Want to leave at 3 am in order to catch the Rope Drop at Disneyland? Go right ahead. Everyone else can sleep in the car. Need to take a break at the rest stop? Cool. Take one.
  • Cleaner. (Arguable, if the car is not the cleanest.) But, sharing pressurized air with everyone on an airplane can make me susceptible to colds. Especially since the air is so dry. At least in a car, windows can be opened.

Cons:

  • Two days are lost due to travel time.
  • There will always be traffic in Los Angeles. Sometimes it’s tolerable. Most of the time it’s at a stand still. For hours. Nope. The Grapevine is highly unpredictable.
  • Less flexibility to move around. Unless stopping every hour is okay with everyone.

Tips for traveling by ca

  • Try to keep all diabetes supplies in the car. Not the trunk or somewhere else inaccessible while on the road. Same goes for snacks and hypoglycemic treatments. Site changes will probably require rest stop breaks.
  • If the trip is longer than 4 hours, explore using a temp basal to increase insulin during the car ride. Particularly if basals are set low to accommodate a very active lifestyle. Talk this option over with a doctor first.
  • Get out of the car and stretch as often as possible.
  • Pack meals and water/drinks in a cooler to avoid strange restaurants with questionable carb counts.

Happy Travels! Next, the first day at Disneyland!

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5 thoughts on “Disney with T1 – Traveling: From The TSA to the Grapevine

  1. Rick Phillips says:

    For some strange reason I have been waived into TSA preCheck the last four times I flown. So yes I am hooked on TSApreCheck, I love it. Now can I get my wife to let me pay the fee? Ahh, probably not. Now if we ever get waived in together, oh yeah it is an inexpensive luxury that makes life so much better.

    I referred your blog to the TUDiabetes.org blog page for the week of July 25, 2016.

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