Diabetes and travel: Planning is key
Traveling with diabetes can be comfortable and safe as long as you plan carefully. Good planning includes talking to your doctor and doing a little research before leaving, careful packing, and knowing about airport security.
Before leaving on your trip:
- Talk to your doctor about your travel plans.
- If you're on insulin, ask about getting a prescription for a glucagon kit.
- Make sure your vaccinations, your immunization record and your written health record are up to date, especially if traveling abroad. Plan to wear a medical ID bracelet that states you have diabetes.
- Take a copy of your immunization record and health record if needed.
- Make sure that all medications and diabetes supplies you carry have their prescription labels on them. If you use a daily or weekly medication reminder pack, take the original prescription labels with you.
- Refill any prescriptions that may expire during your travel. If you're traveling to another country, some medications, such as insulin, may be sold in different strengths. It might be a good idea to look up nearby pharmacies and clinics where you'll be traveling, in case you need to visit them.
- Keep your health insurance card on you at all times. Review health insurance policy for travel information. Is your travel destination in your provider network? If not, learn what you have to do in order to have insurance coverage out of network.
- If you use an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitoring sensor, check the insulin pump manufacturer's website or call the customer service phone number for information about traveling.
If you're traveling by plane:
- If you're traveling in or from the U.S., go to the Transportation Security Administration website and learn about rules for traveling with diabetes supplies and equipment. Look for information about using a blood glucose meter, insulin pump or personal continuous glucose monitor on a plane.
- If you're traveling from the U.S. to other countries, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for vaccinations needed for countries outside of the U.S.
- Bring enough supplies and medications to last longer than the length of your trip. You'll need extras if you have travel delays or lose some supplies.
- Keep supplies, including insulin, in a carry-on bag. To prevent freezing, don't put your insulin in checked baggage. Bring healthy food, such as fruit and nuts, to help prevent low blood sugar in case you miss a meal. Bring treatment for low blood sugar.
- Give yourself extra time in airports. Some security screeners don't know about insulin delivery mechanisms and blood glucose monitoring, so delays can happen.
- If you're wearing an insulin pump and you have diabetes supplies with you, tell the security staff that you have diabetes. If the screeners or other security staff questions you, ask to speak with a supervisor.
- Don't send your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor through X-ray machines. Disconnect them if you go through an airport body scanner. You may request a pat-down screening if you don't want to or can't remove your device.
- Get up and move every hour or so during the flight to prevent blood clots.
During the trip:
- Monitor your blood glucose more often than you usually do. If you're not sure how often, ask your doctor before you travel.
- Stay as close to your usual schedule as much as possible. Check the time settings on your meter and pump. Change if needed.
- Look for healthy meal options when possible, such as salads with chicken, fruit, yogurt and sandwiches.
- During travel and while at your location, don't leave insulin and temperature-sensitive supplies in a car or any place that could have temperature changes. Check with the manufacturer of your supplies for any specific warnings about temperature.