International travel with a pump

I switched to a pump from MDI about 2 yrs back and this April will be the first time I've done any air travel with it. I'll be traveling to Paris and returning here from England, duration of the trip 10 days. Suddenly I realize there are complications to traveling abroad with this system that I didn't have with MDI. There's a lot more diabetic paraphernalia to drag along, I'm not sure what the routine is for getting through airport security with this odd electronic/liquid device strapped to my body, how to keep insulin refrigerated, should I consider switching back to MDI for the trip...? and so forth.

I'd love to hear from any other pump users as to what their experience of it has been like--any pitfalls or unanticipated problems you ran into. Anything you can tell me would be greatly appreciated!

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No pitfalls here, but keep in mind that in England especially they are very serious about airport security. They make us look a bit clownish. No liquids whatsoever in carryons. They’ll just take them away if you get stopped. This includes deoderant and toothpaste (fyi). I carry a card in many languages that simply says on insulin pump, type 1 diabetes. Friends and the Internet can assist you in finding translations. But truly, I’ve not had many issues with my pump/CGMS. If I get stopped, I explain it and worst case scenario is that I get the pat down. Just allow extra time and ask your md for a letter of medical necessity just in case.

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I went to Mexico with my pump on, brought the cards in several languages like the other person mentioned. I also brought 2 extra bottles of insulin, needles and an extra week worth of pump supplies with me. Mexico is different than Europe however and I am sure there is a website as well that you can read about travelling/immigration. I also got a medic alert bracelet that mentioned my pump and being a type 1 diabetic. I phoned my pump company and got advice from them too, my brand name is international (Medtronic).

I travel often with a pump, but admit not to Europe. However, most airport security is quite used to seeing insulin pumps nowadays. They will have to test your hands and may pat you down (although that hasn't happened to me in a couple of years now). Refrigeration is not really a big issue. Insulin will last quite a while without being refrigerated. Consider how long it stays in your pump. The refrigeration is only for long-term storage. Medtronic has some great tips for traveling abroad on their website as well. What you should not do is switch back to MDI for your trip. That is completely unnecessary in my opinion. I hope this helps and good luck!

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Oh, one other thing. You can also leave you CGM in and on while flying. Not sure if you use one, but thought I'd mention it. Just leave extra time for getting through security and you'll be fine.

I’ve travelled through airport security many times wearing the pump. Granted, it was not internationally, but every airport I’ve been through was familiar with the device, although sometimes they pulled me aside and waved the detector all over me. As for refrigeration, if you think you need it, I keep my insulin in a Medicool protector. It will keep 2 vials cool for at least 24 hrs.

Thanks all--very helpful comments and suggestions.

Just a bit of clarification re airport security and getting wanded: so you're generally just going through with the pump still connected, as opposed to disconnecting and letting them run it through the scanner? I guess that's what I'd prefer too--kinda uncomfortable with the idea of having to remove it and reconnect in the middle of a security line (since I don't use an Omnipod!)

I live in France and I'm on a pump. Absolutely no problem in France right now. Have a prescription with you. The pump companies usually don't advise going through the screening machines, so Personally,I announce that I'm diabetic and have a pump - my supplies are on the carry on. They sometimes hand swipe or pat down but I don't have any problems right now. (did for a short time after 9/11). As far as refrigeration of insulin, You can use a vial out of the refrigerator for 1 month so 10 days really no problem. It would be better to have about 1 and 1/2 to 2 times what you need in supplies just in opinion. Keep your prescription on you just in case you lose your carry-on.

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Hi, DrBB,
I had been typing when the power went out, so will summarize my previous attempt to help.
Take 1 1/2 times the amt of supplies you would need for that period of travel. Take all diabetes supplies in your carryon. Take your current vial of insulin with a new unopened one, even if you don't think you will need it. You never know if insulin is bad, till yo have repeated high blood sugars.
Go to and find the "Travel" section for tips that I can give you but they have a summary.
Going through security is the usual thing of not allowing the pump to go through the Xray machine or scanner, just tell them and show them your pump and ask for a pat down.
Check out Joslin Diabetes forums for many posts about travel and what to do and not do! We have crossed by boat and plane and its worth the extra planning and security procedures.
Have a wonderful trip.

Also, take a copy of your insulin Rx with you, in case you need to replace bad insulin. I took that into a pharmacy in Austria and they sold me, retail prices, 2 vials of Humalog. They have all sorts, Apidra, Novalog. It cost me $40 per vial. Aren't we paying too much here? Another issue, but its good for you to know that you can get what you need quickly at a pharmacy.

Do not volunteer to take it off, not necessary.

Thanks for the link--I'll check it out. I'm currently using an Assante Snap, which I don't think is very well supported abroad (if at all) but I still have my Medtronic and a couple weeks' worth of supplies, so I'll probably bring it along as a back-up.

good idea, when we go abroad for long periods, I get a travel loaner ($50.) from Medtronic and its worth the peace of mind.

Check out the Assante Group overseas addresses, you might find a supplier, in case of emergency.

Wow--didn't know there was such a thing. I'm actually meeting with my Assante rep tomorrow so I can ask her these questions as well.

Also, I always take my favorite emergency food, peanutbutter crackers in my carry on and extras in the suitcase since it seems not too many European companies make small, portable- stick in your pocket or bag things that are not just sugary cookies or granola type bars. Or you will end up making a cheese sandwich at breakfast every day!!!

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I might add, I traveled to SW China near the border of Myanmar (major heroin trafficking area) years ago when I was still using syringes. Punishment for trafficking in the PRC is only a little short of summary execution, so I had a bit more to be nervous about that time. But I didn't run into any real problems (except for getting stuck an extra few days in a mountain village and running short of test strips--MDI flying blind, not so cool!)

1)If you wear tubing, an insulin pump can look like a device attached to the body, which in some cases, isn't good. 2)I make wisecracks. Seriously TSA has no sense of humor. 3) Be cooperative. 4)I used to hear full body scans can mess up pumps.

I've emailed my endo about this, but also want to ask it here: what about adjusting your basal settings? I'm going to be dealing with a 6 hour time difference, so jet lag may put me all out of sync with my basal settings for the first 48hrs or so. Anyone have guidelines about that? Last time I went to the UK I was on MDI and I just held off taking my first Lantus dose until the same hour of the day, local-time, that I'd take it at home. Worked out ok. But pump basals are a really different story.

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Go with what your endo says, but I wait till I get to my destination to change the time on my pump to the new time zone. No problem. Keep it as is on the plane.
Make sure you stay level on the plane with the BG ranges. By changing the time on your pump---and glucose meter, you will be in sync with your European time zones and should be good to go. Jet lag never seemed to affect my BGs, but then maybe someone else has had problems.

Keeping it simple like that and just keeping an eye on things makes sense to me. I'm also hoping to be set up with a CGM before we go, though the timing's a little tight. But that should definitely help.

Hi All! I just found this thread but wondering if there is any new info I should know. I’ll be traveling from Toronto (we are from US) to London and then to Paris and back. My son wears both Tandem pump and Dexcom (both companies advise that their systems do NOT go through x Ray). Also wondering if there is similar system to TSA Cares? Thanks for any input!