23 Best Tips for Traveling with Diabetes Safely

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If you’re anything like me, traveling with diabetes can be anxiety inducing. We want to have all our diabetes supplies (and enough supplies). And we fear the what ifs that circle in our minds.

Whether you are taking multiple daily insulin injections or other medications, wearing an insulin pump, or using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), there is plenty to pack! But it doesn’t have to be stressful if we are knowledgeable and prepared.

23 Travel Tips for People with Diabetes

Traveling with Diabetes: 23 Tips and Ideas

Do you want to approach your next trip without worry? If so, keep reading for 23 practical tips for traveling with diabetes.

These 23 tips and best practices for traveling with diabetes are all practical and realistic. Plus, they are backed by sources like the American Diabetes Association, Transportation Security Administration and Centers for Disease Control. So check below for what you need to prepare in advance.

General Tips for Traveling With Diabetes

Whether you are traveling by plane, train, or automobile, there are a few tips for traveling with diabetes that apply across the board. So we will start with travel tips in general. Here are several pointers you will need for basically any trip you take.

1. Pack Extra Diabetes Supplies

If you’ve had diabetes longer than one minute, you know you always need to have extra supplies of everything on hand. Just in case, right? Always.

These things include (but are not limited to):

  • extra insulin bottle or insulin pens
  • any other diabetes medications
  • blood glucose meter (even if you’re wearing a CGM)
  • test strips for your meter
  • alcohol swabs or wipes
  • insulin pump supplies
  • back up syringes or pens (in case of pump failure)
  • CGM supplies
  • emergency treatment like Glucagon
  • low blood sugar snacks like glucose tablets (or my favorite gummies) and juice boxes

Some sources say to pack double what you would normally need, and some say triple. I personally find that I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. But the amount you pack is up to you. Just know it is wise to pack extra.

2. Traveling with Insulin

Traveling with insulin can be tricky, but isn’t impossible. Our goal is simply to keep insulin at the right temperature as we travel. And there are super handy things to help us do this today with gel packs, a cold pack, and protective cases.

Frio Insulin Cooling Case
Auvon Insulin Vial Case
Insulin Vial Protector
SHOP INSULIN TRAVEL CASES ON AMAZON >>

Also, remember that insulin can be at room temperature for about one month and be just fine. The insulin in your pump, for example, should be great as you travel, since you change it out a minimum of every three days.

In case you are staying in a hotel and relying on their refrigerator, you will want to check the temperature and settings to be sure it isn’t too cold. Unfortunately, when insulin freezes it’s trash.

3. Wear a Medical ID

Wearing a medical ID becomes even more important when you’re traveling. You’re in a new place away from home, away from family members, away from neighbors and friends. In the case you have an extreme low and are unable to communicate properly, this will alert others that you live with diabetes.

Back in the day, a medical ID bracelet was all huge and clunky. But there are some pretty stylish and kid-friendly options to choose from today.

Apple Watch Medical ID
Kids Medical ID Bracelet
Necklace Medical ID
SHOP MEDICAL ID ON AMAZON >>

4. Pack a Medical Info Card

In addition to wearing a medical ID of some sort, it’s a good idea to pack along a medical info card as well. This can just be a small piece that fits in a wallet or billfold or purse along with insurance cards.

Ideally, this card would list your doctor’s name and phone number, along with a list of all meds you are taking. You can include your emergency contact number as well. This is helpful to have handy in case you need medical assistance while you’re away in a new place.

5. Adjust for Time Zones

If you are going through time zone changes while you travel, consider adjusting your short- or long-acting insulin and/or updating your pump’s time settings. If you are crossing several different time zones or traveling abroad, you may want to adjust to the new time zone incrementally.

And, as usual when deciding how much insulin or other medication to take, or also your medication timing, chat with your doctor or diabetes educator first.

World Map, Time Zones Concept, Traveling with Diabetes

6. Move About while you travel

Several sources including the CDC will back this one up. It’s important to get up and walk around from time to time while you travel. Get out of the car, or visit the airplane bathroom to move around if you’re flying.

Some sources say you should do this every two hours. What you do is up to you, but we need to be able to move our bodies to promote good circulation. This also helps to prevent blood clots.

7. Plan accordingly for Your Feet

Will you be walking quite a bit on your trip? You will need comfortable walking shoes to care for your feet. Will you be hiking? Take a pair of good hiking shoes or boots along.

The other thing you will want to do, particularly if you’re walking a lot, is check your feet each evening. I talk quite a bit about this in my pedicure post, but taking care of our feet is paramount to our overall health.

Plan accordingly for hiking when you are traveling with diabetes

8. Check and Check again

With physical activity and meal times with new foods out of our normal routines, it’s certainly important to keep an eye on blood glucose levels. If you’re checking manually on a blood sugar meter, you’ll be checking more often. If you’re wearing a CGM, you will be looking at those numbers more frequently. Knowing your blood sugar levels will help you with overall diabetes management as you travel.

Tips for Traveling with diabetes by Car

I find it less stressful and easier overall to travel by car. I feel like I can have all my things near me and accessible. We can stop for a break or food at any time. And there’s no chance of losing things in baggage handling like at the airport.

So if you are traveling by car for upcoming road trips, here are several tips for you to consider.

9. Pack all your Med supplies Together

Packing a “medical bag” is a smart approach. This will tell you where to look when you need something diabetes related, rather than searching several bags for different things.

The exception would be insulin. You will want to keep insulin cool while you travel. And you will want to keep that highly accessible, as you won’t want to leave that in the vehicle or in direct sunlight when you get out. Keep it temperature controlled and with you instead.

Pack Diabetic Supplies together when traveling with diabetes

10. Bring Healthy Foods and a cooler along

Pack healthy snacks like nuts, fresh fruit, cheese sticks, and more. And pack plenty of water too. Don’t rely on gas station foods that are ultra processed. You will want easy access to healthy foods while you travel to help manage your blood sugar as best you can.

11. Plan for a Trash Bag in The Car

Speaking of packing snacks, you will inevitably have trash on a trip. And this tip comes from me just being a mom. But any time we travel, I stick a plastic grocery bag in the vehicle in a central place so we can use it as a trash bag. It helps keep the car clean, and that makes my heart happy.

This can be useful for your snack trash, empty water bottles, cheese stick wrappers, and more. You can be environmentally friendly and have one for garbage and one for recycling. When it’s full, you can toss it!

12. Consider adjusting your insulin Doses

If you’re embarking on a long car ride, you may need to adjust your insulin for a lower activity level. Sedentary days mean potentially higher blood sugar levels. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider to learn more.

Insulin pens for Traveling with Diabetes

13. Make Frequent Stops When Traveling with Diabetes

Along with potentially adjusting your insulin dosage to prevent high blood sugar, consider taking frequent stops to walk around a bit. Not only will this bit of higher activity levels help with blood sugar levels, but it will promote blood circulation while you travel. It may make a long car trip a bit longer, but it’s worth the time.

Travel Tips for Traveling with Diabetes by Plane

I personally find air travel with diabetes more stressful than driving when I travel, but it’s still very manageable. You will want to think about checked luggage vs. a carry-on bag, airport security, the impact of high altitude and air pressure, and more.

So here are a few tips for a travel day by plane.

14. Pack Your Meds in a Carry on

I’m starting this section with this tip because I think it’s likely the most important. Do not hand luggage full of medical supplies to the agent to be checked. A checked bag can become a lost bag, so be sure to pack all medical supplies in a carry on. Keep your medication with you at all times.

Many airlines will allow additional carry-on luggage for medical supplies, so be sure to check on that with your airline specifically.

packing for traveling with diabetes

15. Carry a Doctor’s Letter with You

Although I have not needed to present a doctor’s travel letter to airport security for my last several flights, it is recommended by DiaTribe. This doctor’s note would ideally list your medical condition of diabetes, any other health information, and a list of medications and supplies you need to keep with you in case a questions arises.

Having this proof of diagnosis can make it easier to work with TSA security personnel. Be sure to carry this in your pocket so it’s not stuck in a bag in the scanning machine when you need to access it.

16. Navigating Airport Security

First, when approaching the airport security checkpoint, alert the security officers that you have diabetes and a separate bag of medications with you. That allows them to scan it appropriately.

Next, do not go through a metal detector or x-ray machines if you have a pump or continuous glucose monitor. Don’t do it. Let them know you are wearing a medical device and will need to be screened separately.

They may wipe your pump to ensure it’s safe, but you should never have to disconnect any of your medical devices to get through airport security.

Traveling with Diabetes through airport security

17. Plan for additional time Traveling with Diabetes

Carrying medical equipment and navigating airport security will take additional time. Be sure to allow extra time when you are planning your trip to the airport. That will help alleviate stress, which affects blood sugar.

18. Apply for TSA PreCheck

Registering for PreCheck can save you quite a bit of time because it qualifies you for expedited screening at airport security. There is a fee ($75 for five years at the time of writing this post), and an online application process through TSA to do so.

19. Know what you can Carry On

With diabetes, you can pack more than 3.4 oz. of liquid in your carry-on bag. You can also carry a juice box with you in case of a low. For a complete list of the things you can carry on, refer to the TSA website.

Liquids in a carry on bag

20. Bring an Empty Water Bottle

As you are packing your carry on, throw in an empty water bottle. Once you are through security, you can fill it at a water fountain. This way you can keep water with you throughout your trip and make sure you are well hydrated while you travel.

21. Consider altitude and pressure changes

This is something I have literally never considered while I have traveled on a plane. But the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says the rapid pressure changes in the cabin while taking off and landing can have an effect on insulin pumps. Here are the details and what to consider. If you have questions, talk with your doctor or health care provider.

22. Consider Bringing Prescriptions

Especially if you are traveling abroad, or to an area where your chain pharmacy isn’t available, it’s a great idea to ask your doctor for written prescriptions of any medications (and the dose of how much medicine) you need. Having an extra prescription can come in handy in a pinch when you realize you forgot something or if you run out too soon.

Doctor filling out a prescription

23. CHECK WITH THE RIGHT SOURCES about Traveling with diabetes

If you have additional questions about traveling with diabetes, you can talk with your diabetes team and/or visit any of these helpful links for more information.

American Diabetes Association flying info

Centers for Disease Control travel tips

TSA flying with diabetes

JDRF airport security and diabetes technology

What Can We Learn about Traveling with Diabetes

Planning in advance and taking extra precautions can lower the what if questions and anxiety of travel with diabetes. And that helps to ensure you enjoy your trip even more! So it’s worth the extra effort and time up front to make sure you are fully prepared.

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23 Travel Tips for People with Diabetes

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Welcome to my Devotions on Diabetes website! Thanks for stopping by. I've lived with diabetes for 30+ years. And I'm here to provide you with a heaping helping of encouragement while you deal with diabetes and navigate this chronic illness with God by your side.

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