Top Tips to travel with Diabetes

Top Tips to travel with Diabetes

Dated : 03 Nov 2020

Travelling with diabetes can be difficult if you are not prepared. You don't want any surprises when you are away from home and cannot run to a known medical facility or pharmacy. As a T1D who loves travelling for vacations, meeting family living abroad, or for studying, I have learnt from my mistakes. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your travel, followed by a checklist that can help you make sure you have everything you need.



Your prescription is proof of your diagnosis and will help you pass any security measures that are put in place during travel, especially if you are taking a flight to your destination. Have a picture of the prescription on your phone and a hard copy in your hand carry. Sometimes, you may need to go through an entire swab check for both you and your icepack with insulin in it. You will have to be patient and show them your prescription.



The easiest and hassle-free way to carry insulin is using Frio (available on Amazon) or similar packs. They are small, concise, and you don't need to carry a big ice pack. Many security checks, especially at airports, will not allow you to carry icepacks with melted ice, and you may find yourself in a dilemma to get ice or a cooling system for your insulin. Frio, in this case, has been a lifesaver for me. It is suitable for traveling or daily use for students too!



When you are travelling, know how long your travel will last and how long you will be away from home. Calculate an estimate of how much insulin you would need and always carry at least three vials (300 ml each) of extra insulin. If you are using a pump or a CGM, always carry 5 extra (along with how many ever you need for the days of travel) of each along with your basal and bolus insulin pens in case you have fewer pumps, or they do not work. It is a good idea to have two glucometers – one in your hand-carry and one in your main luggage that is checked in or not always with you. This is to make sure you have a backup in case one gets lost during travel. You do not want to be at an airport or a different country with no backups and no idea where to get your supplies from.



If you are travelling by plane or any mode of transport that involves extensive security checks, it is a good idea to leave from home earlier than you would have. This is mainly to ensure that you have time to explain or go through extra security measures that wearing a pump, CGM, or carrying insulin may lead to. This may not be the case in every airport or every country, but it always good to have a little extra time in case something like this happens. I have experienced thorough checks while travelling within the United States and also sometimes during layovers in Germany. Always be prepared with your prescription in case they ask you for it.



You know which airports and which places you will be visiting. Research about nearby pharmacies or medical facilities that can help you if you ever get short of supplies or need medical attention. If there aren't any, no worries at all! You have packed everything that you need and spare.



If you are travelling alone, it is a good practice to wear a bracelet or a marker that identifies you as a T1D and insulin-dependent. If you have an unexpected hypoglycemia episode, people around you or paramedics will know what measures they need to take in case you cannot respond. Also, make sure you carry a lot of glucose tabs or your preferred hypo treatment. It is a good idea to have at least 2 in your hand carry/backpack and some extra in the main bag.



Running out of glucose tabs is not too bad. There are many stores everywhere where you can buy juice bottles, which can help treat low sugar. Small packets of sugar that restaurants offer or you get at hotels with morning tea or coffee can also be a good substitute as they are easy to carry and involve less hassle.



Over the years, I have learnt what to eat, when to eat, and manage a bit of exercise, especially in long flights or train rides. Long hours of travelling can be hectic for you and your blood sugar levels and lead to many fluctuations. Sleep, food, and exercise are not all available when you like it to be. You can only sleep if you have long layovers or on the ride. I like to control my levels with food and insulin boluses. I eat when my levels are on the lower side and use boluses as needed. Packed food may not always be something you want to eat because it's cold and may not taste so well. At airports, I eat fast food from restaurants but reduce the quantity. I like to keep walking around to make sure my levels don't shoot

up. During flights or train rides, food choices are minimal, and any form of exercise is almost null. I check the quantity of food I am eating. Protein bars and nuts can be good snacks that do not majorly increase your levels and are filling. However, I do take boluses as needed for these too.

*This is mainly my experiences, and your levels can react very differently from mine. I suggest using my experience but also finding out what suits you better.


Here is a checklist to make sure you have everything you need:

ü  Insulin vials (number of travel days + extra)

ü  Insulin pens/pump and or CGM (number of travel days + extra)

ü  Needles for insulin pens (number of travel days + 1 extra box)

ü  Glucometer – 2

ü  Glucometer strips – 2 + 1 extra pack depending on the number of travel days

ü  Glucometer needles - in glucometer kit + extra

ü  Glucose tabs – lots and lots

ü  Additional hypo treatment if needed