Traveling with diabetes takes pre-planning and attention to individual needs. Use these tips as a checklist to remind you of what you need to do before you travel anywhere. Some of them apply only to longer trips; others to air travel, and still others to traveling outside the US. But they’re clearly labeled, so simply check the ones that apply to the trip you’re going to take.
Pack the right stuff, no matter how long the trip
Regardless of where you’re going or for how long, be sure you have the following:
- Insulin (if you’re traveling with diabetes, having the right amount of insulin is vital)
- Insulated bag and cold packs to keep insulin cool
- Glucagon kit
- Extra copies of prescriptions from your doctor
- Testing strips
- Small packages of carbohydrate snacks and drink boxes
- Ketone testing strips (wrapped in foil)
- Medic Alert bracelet (or other ID that informs others that the wearer has diabetes. Essential, especially for travelling with diabetes)
- Extra batteries for glucometer and insulin pump (if you use one)
- Zip-lock baggies to keep supplies dry
If it’s a longer trip
If a longer trip is in the works, arrange for an appointment with your doctor about six weeks in advance of the trip. The doctor and other healthcare team members will help you with insulin schedules and diet plans.
Do the following:
- Take a copy of the trip itinerary with you, and be sure it lists the following:
-Duration of trip.
-Arrival and departure times when you’re traveling with diabetes.
-Flight durations (if flying is involved).
-Time zone changes (so the doctor can determine if you will need to change the insulin regimen when crossing time zones).
- Ask the doctor for extra prescriptions and keep them with you (or be sure your child has them).
- If you’re traveling with diabetes, be sure to get any needed immunizations at least a month prior to departure.
If you’re traveling by air
There are some additional considerations if air travel is involved. Among them:
Pack diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag. Don’t put it in checked luggage.
This is for three reasons:
- If you’re traveling with diabetes, you’ll want to be sure that your supplies are available, even if checked baggage is lost.
- The supplies won’t be subjected to the extremes of heat and cold that can occur in a baggage compartment.
- If they’re needed during the flight, they’ll be there.
Note: Check any pump, glucose meter, or CGM manuals to ensure that airport X-ray or body scanners will not affect your medical devices.
Follow the rules
Since 9/11, the Federal Aviation Administration has made security changes to ensure airline safety. However, to protect the rights of people with disabilities (including those travelling with diabetes), Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
Among its provisions:
- Syringes with proper medical documentation are permitted
- A separate bag, for diabetes supplies, does not count as carry-on luggage
- One additional piece of luggage is also permitted
You can take everything you need. However, the items have to be properly identified.
That means that:
1.) Your insulin will have to have a professionally-preprinted pharmacy label on it, and that label must clearly identify the medication
2.) Lancets have to be capped and they have to be accompanied by a glucose meter that displays the manufacturer’s name
3.) Keep glucagon kits in original containers that bear a pharmaceutical label, just to be on the safe side.
**Note: Prior to your travels, write down the phone number of your pump manufacturer, in case something should happen to your pump. As a precaution: If you’re leaving the country, call the manufacturer before you go and ask for a recommendation for getting a replacement pump outside the US.
If traveling out of the country
In the US, we use “U-100” insulin and syringes. However, other countries might use “U-40” or “U-80” insulin and syringes. If you buy insulin abroad, remember that you’ll need U-40 syringes for U-40 insulin or U-80 syringes for U-80 insulin. Syringes must match the type of insulin you use, or they’ll draw the wrong amount.
Documents you should take
- Prescriptions: Pack a copy of all prescriptions in case you have to get more during your trip. Also, copies of prescriptions will reduce the likelihood of trouble at security checkpoints.
- A letter from your doctor indicating that you have diabetes. (If it is insulin-dependent diabetes, be sure that’s noted in the letter.)
- Traveling medical record. This is not required by anyone, but it seems like a great idea. It’s a summation of all of your medical information kept in one place, in case of emergency, and especially when traveling.
- For pump users: Record of all pump information. Before you leave for your trip, write down your basal rates, insulin to carb ratios, and correction factor incase anything happens to your pump and you are not able to access this information. Be sure to have your pump manufacturer’s phone number on hand as well.
For any kind of travel
Regardless of the mode of travel, include glucose tablets, gels or candy to counter symptoms of hypoglycemia. And pack plenty of snacks (breakfast bars, crackers or trail mix) in case meals are late or missed.