Travel tips with insulin/insulin pens

I’ve got a couple trips coming up. One will be 11 days and involve flights. What are your best travel tips for packing diabetes supplies? I’m currently on MDI using insulin pens. Are there any specifc coolers you’d recommend? Especially for the airport and warmer climates? How about specific tips for cruises? We are likely doing a cruise in the fall.

I travel with insulin pens, and I always use the Frio pouches. You soak them in water to activate, and that’s it. I have these net pouches on side of my knapsack that I use to hold the Frio pouches, because I heard the Frio pouches work better if they aren’t in a more sealed compartment. I always bring extra pens and supplies just in case something happens. I’ve never had any issue with these pouches for flights, cruises or sightseeing. Have fun on your trips.

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I have used the Frio packs in the past but find that for trips into warm climates such as South India/China any trip less than 4 weeks, my Humalog has not deteriorated without the packs. When going into super hot areas, I have always found hotels accommodating in putting spare pens in their kitchen refrigerators. Just ask, and the answer is normally yes. The room refrigerators are not reliable. Same for the airlines. If you are taking several long flights, you can ask for the insulin to be stored in the galleys, although that is not necessary unless your trip will be several months long. Reuse needles. With Humalog, I can get up to 50 shots per needle. In some remote parts of the world, you are very limited in how many needles you can take onto a plane. If you use both long-term insulins such as Lantus or Levemir, and short term such as Humalog, flush out your long-term insulin with short-term insulin after use, otherwise, your pens will plug up after 8-10 injections. Do not inject in public, when at all possible. Some countries have very strict policies regarding drugs and incorrect quick assumptions can be made about what you are injecting, so unless you are fluent in the local language, don’t take the risk of an arrest.

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Good point about hotel refrigerators. Insulin does ok at room temperature for a few weeks, but it really does not like to freeze, which is common with the fridges in your hotel room.

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My favorite travel “cooler” is an 18oz hydroflask (or other vacuum insulated stainless steel) drink container.
Actually, I use one of these year round at home too, as long as the lid is closed they protect against extreme temps and I have had no ill effects of leaving my pens out in the car is sub-zero temps for a few hours (not on purpose!) or any of the other dumb life things I do.

It holds several pens… I think 4-5 plus some pen needles, and protects against crazy temperature changes. If Im going to a hot hot place- a scalding hot Mexican beach day perhaps- Ill throw in a few ice cubes in a ziplock baggie and just the pen(s) I need for the day and everything stays cool but not cold. Also, because its just s normal container, it draws ZERO attention and needs zero maintenance. I can (and have) dropped it, lost it, left it in the car, traveled for 38 hours with too many layovers, been through security in many different countries and still zero problems. Every now and then TSA will want to look in it, but they open it, look bored at whatever they think they are seeing, and close it with no question.

It also can double as a protector from sketchy hotel fridge temp variations, and/or used a cold sink by leaving it empty in the fridge and then its nice and cool to start a hot day and buys even more heat protection, although I can’t figure out how to quantify how much.

If Im going long or particularly remote, I split into two cans so I get one and my travel buddy gets the other for super peace of mind, but thats probably not actually needed if everything fits in one can. (Although… peace of mind is worth a lot, so I’ll keep doing that when I ‘need’ to.)

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Take extra and then take extra. Dropped pens, lost pens, or? What you normally use and extra, needs to be taken on the plane with you. You hopefully will be assured it makes the trip with you. When you go through TSA, etc, make sure you keep your eyes on it. I know someone they didn’t put it back into the bag when TSA checked the bag and she ended up without any insulin. But it’s just so important to us. You might also pack some extra into your luggage as a double back up. That can end up being iffy and may need protection because of cargo temps and also there’s lost luggage. A lot of your insulin pens are good for 30 days not refrigerated. But too hot or too cold of a climate could be an issue.

But you also need to check the rules of the countries you will visit. . Depending on the country you might even need your prescriptions and a letter from your doctor explaining you are on insulin and have to have insulin and needles etc with you.

And always, always carry hypo treatments with you. Everywhere.

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I love this idea! Thank you so much! It’s very practical.

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I never use coolers. I carry my current pens in my shoulder bag, plus extra new pens in my carry-on. My spouse carries a second set of new pens in her carry-on. Also, spread between the two (2) of us, extra needles for the pens, as well as backup test strips in meters, again, one set for each of us. We do something similar for medications. For lows we carry and pack Energy Gels as well as Glucose tablets.

As mentioned by others, depending on where you are traveling, you will need doctor’s notes and/or prescriptions. I don’t know if it applies any longer, but way back when liquids were banned, we had a stressful incident when boarding to come home from Italy, and security flagged my pens in a scan, and I wound up walking with a manager back and forth across the seeming length of Milan’s Malpensa airport to have them approved before we could board.

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I never use coolers either. Back in 2000, I travelled for 6 months through Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Greece, and my insulin (Humalog and Lantus) only start to lose efficacy after around 4 months. From memory I needed about 10% more.

After this, I picked up a huge stash of insulin I had left in a wardrobe of a friend’s flat in London (ie unrefrigerated), and travelled for another 6 months in SE Asia. No issues with insulin at all - just don’t leave it in the hot sun.

I think the whole cooler industry is a waste of time, as is the ‘cooler bag’ my chemist insists on giving me when I take insulin home.

In the supply chain, it’s essential that insulin is not frozen (as always) or subjected to high temperatures (e.g. milk products have very strict controls). But that same concern does not carry over to your daily use.

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I don’t use coolers either. Insulin is more robust than it would seem. If I travel in a hot climate, I put my insulin in a wide mouth insulated water bottle with no water of course. I put it through the X-ray. You don’t need it chillled, just protected from extremes. Only one time the tss asked me to open it and see inside and I did and I was let through.
I use a body scanner in the airport but never the magnet sensors( metal detector) I had a pump fail in one a long time ago, but never in the body scanners.

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I have stopped caring about temperature for so long, so I went and checked the recommendations, and they do recommend cool storage for extended periods, but I also ran across a lab study that examined cycling through high temperatures up to 100 degrees, and also advice for the time period that one can use the pen unrefrigerated.

From what I can tell, and since I use pens, once opened, they should be good for up to 28 days, provided I am within normal-ish temperature ranges.

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Do you need a doctor’s note to avoid using the metal detector?

No, you don’t need a doctor’s note. There should be a little plastic dish on top of the entrance of the metal detector. You can put any items you do not want through the metal detector. The TSA agent will process those manually. No dish; offer to hand them to TSA, and they will give you a dish to put them in.

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I bought vivi caps for my insulin pens when I traveled and continued using them every day on the pens I am currently using even when home. Very simple, but a little expensive. https://www.amazon.com/VIVI-CAP-Insulin-Cooler-Travel/dp/B089CQFQXJ

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I’ve never seen these before. I like that they’re small, but wow they are so expensive!

Ok thanks for the info!

This is encouraging. Thanks! The less complicated, the better.

Where do you buy your energy gels from? How many glucose tabs do you pack?

Good idea about hotel fridges! I agree the room fridges are unreliable.

You can choose to go through the metal detector or the scanner in most places. I just tell them I have a medical device and I cant use the magnetometer. Then usually if I’m in the wrong line, they just tell me to go to one. In the off chance there isn’t a scanner, I get a pat down. when you go through the scanner you hold your pump in your hand. I will never take off my pump or put it in the X-ray. Most cases your scan won’t alarm at all, sometimes my dexcom does and sometimes it doesn’t. The airport staff are very used to it. I’ve never surprised anyone. And people with pace makers have the same restrictions.
Likely they swab your hands after rubbing your pump. But it’s much faster than getting a full pat down.

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