We can see the ocean from our property. Okay, so it’s just a tiny slice of the ocean, if the weather is clear, and if you’re standing on your tiptoes in the very corner of our lot. Actually it sounds a lot dreamier than it is.
Don’t get me wrong, we love the perks of being close to the ocean. My personal favorite thing is feeling that fresh ocean air every afternoon. But although we’re so close, we haven’t always taken advantage of it. There were challenges — including James’ type 1 diabetes — that kept beach trips from being an easy and enjoyable experience for our family. But now that we have a teenager, a tween, and no more toddlers in the house, we figure there’s no better place to keep kids busy and active.
For me, the biggest obstacle to getting to the beach was stuff. It just felt like I needed to get so many things ready. The beach itself requires a lot of stuff, and diabetes management requires a lot of stuff. And that adds up to just too much stuff! But lately I’ve found a slightly more minimalist system that works for us. Here’s what we do:
- Make sure all our diabetes tech is ready for a long day at the beach. That means checking the pump to see that it’s full of insulin and that all devices are charged, calibrated, updated… you get the picture. Zipper bags are one of our secrets. There are other products on the market that can help protect diabetes gear from water, but for us sandwich bags and freezer bags are a simple way to keep sand and moisture from damaging our devices.
- Make sure we can administer insulin. The beach has had some victories over James’ pump sites before. He’s had sand get stuck in the connecting point of his pump, and he’s also managed to snap his tubing while playing a rowdy game of football at the beach. So as backup, we bring along an extra site change and some syringes. These stay in our car, though, so they aren’t cumbersome to bring.
- Make sure we can test blood sugar. The beach is tough on some CGM systems. Water, distance from sensitive equipment, and sand mean that we rely on our glucometer more than we might at other places. Be sure to bring plenty of test strips. Keep at least one of your towels dry so you can get clean dry fingers to test, and plan on testing regularly until you get an understanding of how your child does at the beach. (We still test a lot while we’re there. We just plan on it.)
- Make sure we can treat lows. Juice works well at the beach; it’s heavy, but it delivers fluid as well as sugar, and playing all day out in the hot sun can leave kids pretty thirsty. (We bring water too!) Along with sandwiches for lunch and a few treats from the shop on the way, our go-to beach snack is grapes. They’re pretty easy to carb-count, so whether you need to bolus for them or give them to a child who’s trending low, grapes make it simple.
So, how do we schlep all this to the shore? That’s a system in and of itself:
- One diabetes bag stays in the car. This has the extra sites and syringes, some extra test strips, maybe even more sugar. If we really need backup supplies, it’s not too far away.
- I carry a backpack and my own towel and chair. I put snacks, water, and sugar in the big compartment. The front compartment has my keys, my phone, and my wallet. The middle is for diabetes equipment (as well as lots of sunscreen!). It holds the glucometer, the CGM, and the cell phone each in plastic zipper bags, and a few extra bags to hold James’ pump and glasses.
- I make each kid carry their own towel and, if they’re big enough, their own chair. James is also a packhorse, so I might have him carry the bodyboards and the sand toys in addition to his chair and towel. I usually end up carrying something (or someone) else too, but by having the kids help out, it isn’t as overwhelming.
And that’s how we make it to the beach!
Really, nothing on this list is earth-shattering or mind-blowing, but it is amazing how just having a simple system has helped us get to the beach more often. Being prepared is important, and thinking through what we need ahead of time makes the whole process less stressful.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.