Travel can be a source of uncertainty and anxiety for many people with Diabetes. It can require multiple devices and medications to properly manage the disease process and sometimes patients need a little guidance on what to pack. As a nurse and Diabetic, I have made every WRONG move, but I hope my own failures and experiences traveling around the world will help prepare you for your next journey!
Around Town
Whether it’s a day trip to the beach or out to dinner with friends, you will need some key essentials to ensure your safety and to lessen the burden of diabetes on your life.

Glucose Testing Device and supplies
Whether you use a CGM or a glucose meter, you need to bring the supplies to operate that device. Currently, I use a CGM that requires calibration, so I always bring my glucose meter, container of strips and lancing device in a baggy in my purse. You never know when a device can decide not to read, and I need to know my glucose so I can bolus or give my insulin if needed. 


If you will be gone for more than a few hours, consider bringing the medications you could miss during that time frame or insulin you will need for a meal if you are eating out. I wear an insulin pump, so I bring my open vial of insulin* and a backup infusion set and reservoir for my Medtronic pump. I once had my pump site get pulled out before I sat down for dinner with friends, and I didn’t have to miss out on any of the fun. I was able to take my pump supplies and open vial of insulin to the bathroom and change my site within a few minutes.
*Note: never leave an open vial of insulin in a hot car. Pens and Vials should not be left where they can reach over 85 °F. If you are not carrying a bag or have limited space, at least bring your vial inside or keep it in a cooler location and leave your bulkier pump items in the car. . 

Low Blood Sugar supplies
If you have ever had a low blood glucose when you were out and about then you know the panic that can ensue. It’s always a good idea to have something you can grab so you don’t have to think about it. Glucose tablets are the best way to quickly get your sugar back into normal range without spiking it or overdoing it. Each tablet is 4g of carbs and eating 3-4 will usually do the trick. (Note: If you are below 55 mg/dL you may need up to 25 grams of carbs to raise your glucose above 70mg/dL). You can find them at any drugstore.

Out of Town
Diabetes can take a toll on your physical, mental and even spiritual health. However, travel and vacation should be source of joy and relaxation so don’t let a long trip worry you- just prepare! Whenever you go on a long trip, bring DOUBLE the amount of supplies you think you will need. Going for three days and need just one infusion set? Bring two! It’s smart because accidents always happen and it will also bring you peace of mind. 


All of your supplies- extra insulin, pump infusion sets, reservoirs, back-up batteries, CGM site changes, oral medications, etc. should be in your CARRY-ON if you are flying. If your luggage is lost, you must have the essentials to care for yourself. Many CGM/Pump companies recommend not exposing your device to X-ray, CT or MRI. Many passengers who wear external devices can go through metal detectors but may need to go through a “pat-down” process for further security. Just consider this in your time/planning when traveling.


Organizing your bag will make it much simpler to remember everything you need. I carry this adjustable carry case from Amazon with all my pump supplies and back up supplies. I also have a wonderful pill case to bring all my oral medications, so I do not have to bring so many pill bottles. I also recommend a small, insulated bag for back-up insulin vial if you will need more than your open vial for your trip. It’s an effective way to keep your extra vial of insulin cool while you are traveling.


Back-up Plan

It is always wise to consider what would happen if your pump failed or CGM stopped working etc. How will you care for yourself if things go array? Be sure to make a back-up plan with your Endocrinologist/Diabetologist before traveling!
IF you have a pump, are you bringing an In-pen with cartridges and basal insulin or is it just an extra vial of insulin and a syringe? Do you know how to calculate your doses without your pump? If you use the libre, do you have an extra site or a glucose meter if the reader fails or your sites don’t stay on?
I once brought an extra vial of insulin on a trip from Virginia to NC but forgot my back up syringe. Unfortunately, NC law does not allow you to get syringes without a prescription, so I was in a lot of trouble! If I had reviewed my back-up plan, then I could have avoided all the pain of finding a syringe to take my insulin. Better yet, my MD probably would have given me a sample of Lantus and I could have brought my in-pen so My meal boluses would have been consistent. 


I always bring a few balanced snacks, especially when I am traveling abroad or where I am uncertain of the food available. When I go out of the country for a week, I pack 2-3 boxes of snack bars and take them out of the box. I will put a few in my carry-on and the rest in my checked bag. A few snacks that I like to keep on hand are a well-balanced trail mix for protein and energy, a protein bar such as a kind bar and some kind of breakfast bar that I can substitute for a meal. If you plan on being active or traveling to places without readily accessible food, then pack a few in a backpack or bag.
Travel is a wonderful way to experience all the world has to offer us. Never let your Diabetes keep you from experiencing new things. With a little preparedness, you can have meaningful and rich experiences without fear. Always talk to your diabetologist to help make your game plan before you head on your adventures and enjoy your travels, Carpe Diem!

Bethany Barto, BSN, RN, CPT earned her B.S. in Health Sciences from James Madison University in 2010 and her B.S in Nursing from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. She has practiced Neuro ICU nursing, general ICU and Diabetes Education with Medtronic Diabetes. She enjoys teaching type 1 Diabetics, like herself, so they can have better quality of life and know the freedom pump therapy can bring them. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband Kevin and two children, Hope & Will and living life to the fullest through travel, spending time on the water and singing!