Traveling with Diabetes – What to Pack, How to Prepare, A Guide

Posted June 8, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

Traveling with diabetes can be tricky for many people. It can be even more difficult going through TSA at the airport, traveling outside the country, and crossing over time zones.

So, in this article, we will discuss tips for traveling with diabetes and what to do to manage your condition. Here is a quick summary before getting into all of the details.

Traveling with Diabetes: People with diabetes that are traveling have to take extra time and steps to ensure they are fully prepared for their trip. Traveling with diabetes can cause blood sugar levels to become out of control due to a variety of factors. Therefore, those with diabetes have to make sure they have extra supplies for the duration of their trip and take precautionary steps to control through condition while traveling.

Those with diabetes may have many questions surrounding the topic of traveling with diabetes. Here are the answers to those questions and everything else you need to know.

Preparing to Travel with Diabetes

Traveling with Diabetes

Preparing to travel with diabetes may be the most important step in the whole process. When it comes to preparing to travel with diabetes, individuals must make sure they have all the necessary supplies. Supplies that a person with diabetes will need when traveling include:

  • Insulin or other necessary medication (more than enough for the duration of the trip)
  • Test strips
  • Lancets
  • Glucometer
  • Syringes if insulin-dependent
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Glucose gels or tablets
  • Medical bracelet

On top of packing all the right supplies, you should plan out your time during your trip. Knowing what you will be doing will help you know what to pack. For example, if you are planning a hiking trip or other outdoor activity that will last all day, then you should be prepared with extra snacks and supplies in case of an emergency.

Those with type 1 diabetes especially need to be prepared to travel, as they are more likely to experience hypoglycemia. They will also need to be sure they are prepared with extra insulin pump infusion sets and CGM’s if that is part of their treatment plan.

If you are flying, then you will want to pack all of your diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag. It becomes risky to pack your essential medical supplies in a checked bag when flying, as the bag is more likely to get lost. Flying with diabetes adds other complications as well, as you have to pass through airport security.

Going Through Airport Security

Going through TSA with diabetes at the airport can be a little confusing and sometimes difficult. Though TSA has many strict regulations, they cannot prevent a person with a medical condition from bringing their medication or supplies with them on the plane.

TSA specifically states that a person traveling with diabetes is permitted to bring their diabetes medications, equipment, and supplies with them on the plane after they have been screened.

Traveling with Diabetes

Someone traveling with diabetes can even bring diabetes-related liquids with them. This includes insulin, glucose gels, or a glucose drink.

If you are going through TSA and have diabetes, then you should set aside all your diabetes-related supplies. This will make the process go a little smoother.

You can request to have your glucometer or another medical device to be hand-inspected so that it doesn’t have to go through the X-ray. In some cases, the X-ray can damage such devices and cause them to malfunction.

If you wear an insulin pump or CGM, then it is best to let the TSA officer know that you are wearing one before being screened. You can still pass through the image screening, but additional screening may be required. This additional screening typically includes the passenger (you in this case) patting down the device. After this, the officer will test your hands for residue, which is known as explosive trace detection.

While traveling with diabetes, some individuals may experience fluctuations in blood sugar levels. So, if you are in line at TSA and your blood sugar is dropping, it is important to let an officer know immediately.

Managing Diabetes During Travel

From my personal experience, managing your diabetes during travel can be very difficult and frustrating. Getting out of your routine and eating fast foods for the purpose of traveling can very easily throw off one’s blood sugar control.

Having abnormal high blood sugar levels can make one irritable, and low blood sugar levels can be life-threatening.

Therefore, it is necessary to have fast-acting carbs handy when you’re traveling with diabetes. This will prevent you from having an emergency during a hypoglycemia event.

On the other hand, it is recommended that you pack light and healthy meals or know what options you will have for meals when you’re traveling. Knowing the number of carbs in each meal prior to eating them will prove to be beneficial in preventing high blood sugar after eating.

Traveling with diabetes can also increase your chances of being dehydrated, which can lead to hyperglycemia. Generally, when people travel, they don’t make drinking water a priority. Plus, if you are having trouble controlling your blood sugar, dehydration will increase more.

Just about everyone knows that traveling can be stressful in many situations. Traveling with diabetes only adds to this stress. Unfortunately, stress can cause the body to release hormones that can lead to increased levels of blood sugar.

Given this, traveling with diabetes requires you to monitor your blood sugar often, which goes back to preparing by having enough supplies.

After Reaching Your Destination

Even after you’ve finished traveling to your destination, it can be difficult to gain control over your blood sugar levels. This is partly due to being out of your normal routine, which affects the body’s hormones.

If you have crossed time zones, then controlling blood sugar levels can be even more difficult. When you cross time zones, your body has to adjust to the new times that you are awake and times that you will be sleeping. Again, this goes back to hormones and how they affect your blood sugar control.

Jet lag and travel fatigue are also more likely to occur after crossing time zones, which makes for higher risk of making poor decisions. This includes poor judgment in how much insulin you are giving yourself. Jet lag can also cause your circadian rhythm to be thrown off. A person’s circadian rhythm plays a major role in how one utilizes insulin and controls blood sugar.

One factor to consider when traveling with diabetes is the food that you will be eating while at your destination. Typically, when on vacation or traveling for business, we eat differently. We’ll cheat more on our diet, eat more desserts, and possibly have more drinks. All of this affects blood sugar control.

However, making adjustments to your insulin doses appropriately can help with transitioning. Your doctor can also make suggestions based on your specific condition for traveling.

How to Store Insulin While Traveling

Traveling with Diabetes

In some cases, those traveling with diabetes may need to bring insulin that they need to keep cold.

Insulin, once it has been opened, will last about 28 days. So, if you are going out of town for a few days or a week and you just opened your insulin pen or vial, then it should last you for the duration of your trip.

However, if you are going on a longer trip or if you are halfway through your insulin vial, then you should bring additional insulin. This additional insulin should be kept between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit to keep it from breaking down.

Having some sort of portable cooler with a long-lasting ice pack will certainly help in keeping your insulin cold enough. However, you do not want the insulin to freeze, as this can cause it to be unusable. So, try to keep it from directly touching the ice or ice pack.

Your main concern when traveling with insulin is getting to your destination. Once you are there, most places will have a fridge you can keep your insulin in.

Conclusion

We hope this has given you some helpful advice on traveling with diabetes. If you have questions regarding adjustments to your insulin dosages or other questions about your specific condition, consult your doctor.

If you are struggling to afford your prescription drugs, such as insulin or other diabetes medication, then Prescription Hope can help. The team here works directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide individuals with their medications at a set, affordable cost. Enroll with us and start paying just $50 a month for each medication.



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