Traveling With Diabetes: How to Prepare

Apr 6, 2022


Alto Pharmacy

Traveling with any type of medication requires advanced planning. For those with diabetes, it’s even more imperative to prepare, as there are additional factors to consider like insulin temperature control and TSA screening of diabetes supplies and equipment. Use the suggestions below to make sure you have everything you need to manage your diabetes while away from home.

Consulting your doctor

Schedule an appointment with your diabetes care provider before your trip to make a plan for diabetes management during your travels. Be sure to cover the following:

  • How will planned activities impact your care needs?

  • What is the recommended frequency of blood sugar monitoring?

  • How might changing time zones impact the timing of your insulin dosage? 

  • Are there any recommended vaccines for your trip?

Keep in mind that eating and physical activity levels can shift during travel — sometimes unexpectedly — so it’s important to prepare for changes in your blood glucose levels.

Travel preparation

Travel doesn’t always go as planned, so it’s important to have extra diabetes supplies and medication on hand. A good rule of thumb is to pack twice as many supplies as you think you’ll need and to bring additional paper prescriptions for insulin or other diabetes medications.

If traveling internationally, be mindful that prescription laws vary by country. It’s a good idea to contact the U.S. embassy of the country you’re visiting for more details. Some countries may only allow a 30-day supply for certain medications and/or require you to carry an official prescription or additional information from your doctor with you.

In addition, keep your health insurance card on you throughout the duration of your travels, and review your policy for travel-related details, including whether your destination is included in your provider network.

Here’s a list of potential diabetes medications and supplies to pack. Depending on your diabetes treatment plan, some may not be relevant for you. If you’re unsure what to bring — or how much to bring — ask your diabetes care team.

  • Enough insulin and syringes for your trip, plus extra

  • A sharps container

  • Enough oral medications for your trip, plus extra

  • Blood glucose testing supplies

  • Glucose meter and extra batteries

  • Sources of glucose to restore blood glucose levels in the event of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, such as over-the-counter glucose tablets (Lift Glucose Chews, TRUEplus® Glucose Tablets, ReliOn™ Glucose Tablets), over-the-counter glucose gel (Dex4® Glucose Gel, Glutose™ 15/Glutose™ 45, Insta-Glucose®), or carbohydrate-rich snacks like dried fruits, trail mix, honey, or granola bars

For a detailed list of diabetes management essentials, read How to Prepare a Diabetes Emergency Kit.

If you are traveling on a longer flight with meal service, contact your airline and ask if it’s possible to request a meal tailored to your dietary needs, with low sugar, fat, and cholesterol values. Be sure to have other food on hand in case there are any issues with your meal.

Make sure others know that you have diabetes. If traveling with others, inform them of what to do in the event of a hypoglycemia emergency. If traveling alone, have a medical ID bracelet or another form of identification that communicates your diabetes diagnosis. You should also carry a list of your current medications and doses and provider contact information.

How to pack

It’s always best to pack important medications in your carry-on rather than in a checked bag. Since you’ll be bringing additional supplies and medications as a back-up, make sure at least half of them are in your carry-on.

TSA regulations

While the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s current limit on liquids, gels, and creams in a carry-on bag is 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters), there are exceptions for diabetes supplies and medications. Give yourself extra time to allow for additional screening of these items. If you use a diabetes device attached to your body, such as an insulin pump or glucose monitor, it will likely require additional screening as well.

Here are some tips that may help you get through security as efficiently as possible.

  • Inform the TSA officer that you are carrying more than 3.4 ounces of liquid medication before your screening process begins, if applicable.

  • Consider printing a TSA notification card describing your condition to hand to the TSA officer.

  • Bring a copy of your prescription(s) with you.

  • Keep all medications and supplies in their original packaging.

  • Put your medications and supplies in a separate, clear bag, as they will need to be separated from the rest of your belongings.

Temperature control

If you take insulin, make sure you have what you need to keep it refrigerated. Keep in mind that insulin should not be held at extreme temperatures and storing it in an ice pack can make it unusable. Many people with diabetes use insulated medication bags to hold insulin at an appropriate temperature when traveling.

Read Taking Care of Your Insulin to learn more about safe insulin storage.

After arrival

It’s important to stay proactive about your diabetes management. There may be times when you have to check your blood sugar even more frequently, for example, if you are more active than usual, and adjust your meal plans accordingly. Keep in mind that hot weather can also impact your body’s insulin use and your blood sugar levels.

Continue to hold insulin at an appropriate temperature during your travels and avoid leaving it in a hot car — including the glove compartment or trunk — or anywhere with direct sunlight. The same applies to other diabetes supplies like your blood sugar monitor and insulin pump.

If you are going on a longer trip, with a full itinerary, try to take it easy for the first few days as your body adjusts. Remember to bring snacks with you on busy days with long activities.

A diabetes pharmacy partner you can rely on

At Alto, we make it as easy as possible to manage your diabetes when traveling. We offer free, same-day delivery of medication and supplies right to your doorstep, and our dedicated diabetes team is here to answer any questions you may have before your trip.

Reach out any time via in-app secure messaging or phone at 1-800-874-5881.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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