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Living with Diabetes

How to take diabetes on the road this season

12/18/2018 by Heather Nelson

How to take diabetes on the road this season

Holiday Travel is a time-honored tradition of traversing busy roads and packed airports all for that heart-warming moment of being embraced by our loved ones who have missed us dearly.

Managing your diabetes on-the-go can often be a little daunting, but we’re here to provide you with all the information you need. Trying to remember what to pack and how to be prepared for unpredictable settings can be pretty stressful, but fear not weary traveller! Here are some practical tips to help make sure your travels run smoothly (at least where diabetes is concerned).


#1 Before you leave...

One of the best things you can do to ease the stressors of travel is to pop into your doctor’s office for a quick checkup beforehand. Not only can you discuss any necessary changes to medications (time zone, elevation, and/or climate changes) but they can hand you paper prescriptions for backup supplies and medication should you need it.

Paper prescriptions are old school, but they are still legit and it’s better to have a paper in hand for a replacement insulin vial and not need it, than trying to call the on-call doctor at midnight because you broke your brand new bottle of insulin on the hotel floor. But do bear in mind that this only works when traveling within your country. A French prescription wouldn’t work in the US. ;)

While we’re on the subject, before you leave, map-out medical facilities! If the place you are going to is unfamiliar to you, have the nearest 24-hour pharmacy and doctor plotted out and ready to go. Almost anywhere you travel states should have one of each.

If you are traveling abroad, visit the International Association for Medical Assistance for Travellers. You can find English-speaking physicians and proactively locate clinics. It might seem a little over the top, but “better safe than sorry” as they say.

Finally, get a letter of medical necessity (some call it a travel letter) from your endocrinologist! The security/check-point process is often a lot easier with a letter from your doctor to explain WHY you need a giant suitcase full of medical supplies and sharp needles. In fact, it’s a good idea to make several copies of it to have on hand in case anyone needs a copy.


#2 Travel day

Packing all of your supplies is a job in itself. Some people say take 50% more supplies than you think you need, others suggest packing 100% overage (if you pack it efficiently!) Make sure your diabetic supplies have their own bag, and that your Med bag stays with you at all times. And no matter what, never ever check-in your diabetes supplies. 

Here is a list of items to consider packing in your carry on (as applicable):

  • Insulin pen
  • Glucagon emergency kit
  • Possibly a "vacation pump" - some manufacturers offer this service
  • Extra Needles
  • Extra pump supplies
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Medical tape
  • Blood sugar test strips
  • Ketone test strips
  • Extra batteries for meter and pump
  • A sharps box for used needles
  • Backup lancing devices
  • Extra/backup syringes
  • Fast-acting glucose to treat lows
  • A small cooler to keep insulin cool if needed
  • Backup prescriptions (as mentioned above)
  • Letter from your doctor (as mentioned above)

On the off chance your luggage gets dropped, damaged, or lost, clothing can be replaced anywhere you travel, but your diabetes supplies are invaluable, and you always need them close to you no matter what. In case you are wondering about packing restrictions, ease your mind with a few handy TSA (Transportation Security Administration) Websites:

Between those sites and your handy letter of medical necessity that you got before you left, you should have no trouble taking whatever you need with you on the plane. Just to be safe, give yourself extra time in case a manual search of your bags is necessary, so you don't add flight delays to the stress of it all.

Don’t forget to hydrate! Traveling can be very dehydrating. Between traffic and pressurized aeroplane cabins, you need water!. And let’s all at least promise to try and eat healthy travel snacks like fruit and nuts. Salty chips and roadside candy are appealing, but not the best option.


#3 After You Arrive

On arrival, take a peek at your diabetic supply suitcase and make sure nothing was broken in transit. Take a blood sugar reading and see if you need a snack or maybe even a small meal and then adjust the time zone settings on your glucometer and any other supplies that need adjusting. Be mindful of the changes in climate and/or elevation that might impact your blood sugar levels and ENJOY YOUR VACATION!


The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.
Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Heather Nelson

3-time published author, & homeschool mom to 3 rowdy boys, Heather was introduced to diabetes when her oldest was diagnosed at age 2. From that day forward, she's channeled her signature mama-bear-fortitude into education, advocacy, & maximum effort to empower her son & other T1 Parents to live their BEST life. Active platforms on TwitterFacebook, & Instagram, she blogs privately at in her copious free-time.