Reviewed by Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN. Updated on 6/19.
Summer is here! Are you are globe-trotting or staying local this summer? Regardless of how far your trip, packing your essentials when you have diabetes requires extra attention.
Check out our handy checklist to prepare for any trip, whether you are traveling by plane, train, or automobile, we have you covered.
1. Plan Ahead:
- If you are traveling overseas, see your doctor for a check-up four to six weeks ahead of time.
- Make sure you tell your health care team where you are traveling and make sure all your immunizations are up to date.
- Get a letter from your doctor explaining your diabetes medicines, supplies, and any allergies.
- Get diabetes identification in the languages of the countries you will visit.
- Learn to adjust your diabetes medicine if you will change time zones.
- Always wear visible diabetes identification.
2. What to Pack:
- Double check the amount of diabetes medicine and supplies needed in your carry-on luggage.
- Make sure you pack a glucagon kit if you use insulin.
- Make sure you have an insulated bag and blue ice to keep insulin cool.
- Carry snacks, glucose gel, or tablets to treat low blood glucose reactions.
- Don’t forget to carry your medical insurance card
- List emergency phone numbers on your cell phone, or on your medication supply bag.
- Carry a first aid kit including bandages, gauze, and topical antibiotic. Fever/Pain reducer. Medicines to treat diarrhea and motion sickness. Sunscreen and insect spray.
3. When Flying:
- Ask for an aisle seat if you will use the restroom for insulin injections.
- Get your ticket and seat early to prevent bumping.
- If traveling alone, tell the flight attendant you have diabetes.
- Keep your diabetes medicines and supplies with you (see supply examples), don’t store them in an overhead bin.
- Don’t inject air into the insulin bottle before drawing up your dose. The air is pressurized.
4. On the Train:
- Check to see if a meal will be served when you buy your ticket. Order any special meal requests in advance.
- Remember that meals may not be served at times that fit into your usual schedule of meals, so keep snacks that will not spoil in your carry-on bag (to help avoid unhealthy food choices and long waiting lines at train station restaurants).
- Although it is best to travel with a companion who understands your condition and what to do about it, if you are traveling alone it may be a good idea to let the conductor know that you have diabetes, just in case you should have a problem.
- When checking in for a train, request help boarding if needed.
- If traveling with medications that need to be kept cool, ask train personnel to refrigerate medications while onboard.
- If you need special accommodations – wheelchair space, transfer seats (for when you travel in a seat and stow your wheelchair), accessible sleeper accommodations – train reservations may be required, even for unreserved trains. Call ahead to make your accommodations.
- If you have developed complications that impair your abilities, you may be eligible for a rail discount. Call ahead to find out about their discount program.
5. For Car Travel
- Don’t leave medicines in the trunk, glove compartment, or near a window.
- Carry extra food in case you cannot find a restaurant.
- Carry healthy snacks and a quick glucose source such as glucose tablets in case you need it.
- Move around every one to two hours to increase comfort and reduce the risk for blood clots.
- Tell at least one person traveling with you about your diabetes.
- Never go barefoot, even in the shower or pool.
- Be careful about food safety when traveling in some countries.
- Use bottled water to brush your teeth if you are traveling abroad.
- Drink bottled water with no ice.
- Eat only cooked vegetables and fresh fruit that can be peeled.
- Only consume pasteurized dairy foods.
- Don’t eat food from street vendors.
Before you travel, always check with the Transportation Security Administration for the latest travel updates. You can also read more about traveling with medical conditions on the TSA website here.