Traveling with insulin and supplies

I am type one and am planning an extended road trip involving air and train and car travel in the United States. I am seeking advice on do’s and do not’s for my insulin and supplies. I am on MDI and use Levemir viles and Novolog pens. Any tips and advice would be great. Thanks Greymore

Pretty broad question but here are a few thoughts from my experience, more or less at random. Obviously bring extra everything in case of loss or breakage. This is one area where MDI has some distinct advantages over pumping: a LOT less D-junk to carry around in case of failures and problems (and fewer failure points to begin with). Re air travel, the biggest risk is having your luggage not end up at your destination, so carry what you need for a couple of days with you on the plane. I’ve never been hassled about syringes or D-gear by TSA, though again it’s a bit more complicated with a pump. Don’t worry overmuch about refrigeration–if you have it, fine, but modern insulins can tolerate room temperature without degrading for something like 30 days. Don’t leave vials or pens sitting in a hot car though. If you’re changing multiple time zones you might need to test more often, so bring lots of strips. And traveling by its nature tends to disrupt all your routines, so testing more often is a good idea anyway.

I’m assuming you’re in the US to begin with, so all this stuff is a lot simpler than if you’re traveling abroad. But if you’re coming here from abroad, there may be a lot more issues. If you have specific questions there are tons of people here on TUD who will be happy to weigh in. :slight_smile:

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Pretty much plan for a zombie apocalypse. Think of every worst-case scenario and pack meds and supplies based on that. Then bring double of all of those things, because you never know when you will be forced into a delay. Last year we were delayed in Italy on our return flight home. Fortunately it was only a day and a half, but it was nice to know I had an extra week’s stuff on hand in case I needed it. Also pack an extra vial of insulin and a meter kit in a separate bag from your main supplies, just in case you get separated from one of your bags. Keep a letter from your endo indicating all the stuff you will have with you - they should have a stock letter on hand they can give you.


I keep my insulin in a Frio pouch, and it stays good for more than a week without any refrigeration at all. I haven’t been away from a refrigerator longer than that.

In addition to the other advice, bring gallon size plastic zip top bags to keep your d-waste in. Don’t forget glucose tablets.

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Educate me please; what is MDI?

MDI is multiple daily injections (as opposed to insulin pump).

I am with @angivan, I imagine that total disaster happens and I have to deal with no access to anything, just what I have with me. Since this has indeed happened to me, and I was prepared, it is how I travel. Have extra supplies of everything (I keep a full backup kit). Don’t check any of your supplies. I have never had to worry about keeping insulin cool. For extended travel, I carry dried fruit so I have a sugar source to fuel exercise. Most of all, you can do it and have fun!!!


Being on MDI and being on an 8 day trip myself now here is my advice. Never trust anyone else with your supplies. Try to split your supplies. Don’t trust a refrigerator. Bring a written backup prescription. Research destinations to know the local Walmart, pharmacies and healthcare facilities. Always bring extra pens, needles, glucose meter and strips.
And I agree, frio, frio and frio.

Oh, and don’t worry too much and have fun


Staying in the US makes it simpler. Basically, take more supplies with you than needed, I travel with 50% to 100% spares. Safely transporting insulin had always been a concern until I found the FRIO insulin cooling bags which will help protect if left in a hot car for an hour or 2. Definitely do have at least a couple days of supplies in your carry on - it took 3 days for my checked bags to catch up with me at 1 point.

I agree, I used to travel often, overseas, to pretty primitive areas, on construction projects. I figured that if I had t carry copious quantities of insulin and syringes, in case of a pump failure, may as well just carry plenty of pens and be done with it. Pens are almost indestructible and it is easy to see how much you have left.
Never check in baggage, don’t let carry on bags out of your sight, guard as if your life depended on it; it does.
Now that I often sail, offshore, I keep pens in a lock top plastic box, and chuck them in the bilge, where it’s nice and cool.
Biggest surprise?? I entered China, in a place where there were few tourists. The customs guys saw a box of 100 syringes and got all excited about the commendations they’d obviously get for arresting this “drug smuggler”. After a while they all settled down and we all had a laugh about it.

We often travel by car for extend periods. I have invested in some smaller watertight pelican cases that I can store unopened pens in. I can leave them in the top of our cooler with out worrying about them getting wet. I keep all my extras and back up meter in my back pack.

I was really concerned about this when we travelled to SW China, to the Jingpo Prefecture, a small area that sticks down into Myanmar and where there’s a huge amount of heroin trafficking. Lots of scare stories from my brother about spot searches and whatnot. Anti-drug slogans painted on the walls of people’s houses by the government up in the villages. Death penalty for those caught doing it. I had a doctor’s note translated into Mandarin and kept my fingers crossed. Fortunately no one challenged me on it.

I found that the best approach was not to make a big deal about it (not easy, considering the pressure you’re under), don’t get upset, just keep asking questions, often repeating the same ones, this buys you time to think about your next move and gives them the impression that you really do care about their concerns (whether you do, or not!). Eventually, a person with some common sense intervened, everyone settled down, and we all had a laugh about it as they apologized profusely and offered me some tea.

Surprising thing to me was how little the common people knew about T1. Basically like they’d never even heard of it, up in the village anyway. Which made it hard to explain what I was doing, why certain foods (rice! in China!) were a problem etc. Made me a lot more apprehensive about explaining to the authorities if I had to. Fortunately I didn’t.

I went traveling and got a Frio pouch from information I read here in the forum. So glad. I’m getting to be a better traveler. Thank you all.

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Just a reminder - FRIO bags are great but should not be considered a replacement for refrigeration. FRIO works under same concepts as ‘evaporative’ cooling which is not very efficient in high humidity but will drop the temperature below ambient and will work as ‘insulation’ against short term temperature swings such as an hour or 2 inside a hot car.

I’m going to the Arizona desert USA. That will be a good try out.

Hi, do you refrigerate (use a cooler) for your back up unopened pens and insulin vials?

It does depend on the insulin. And how long you will be “on the road”. The newer Insulins are fine up to a certain temperature for 30 days. I’m not sure if they vary in temperature allowance insulin to insulin. But the Novolin type insulins need to be refrigerated past a few hours.
If insulin gets too warm though (or freezes), it degrades, so sometimes it might be safer to keep back up supplies in a cooler. Days or a week to an area without a bad temperature and in a hotel room. No cooler. Luggage going to be left in the car and unknown temps, cooler.

There is one possibility for traveling with insulin. Go to FRIO and take a look at the diabetic choices. Two facts. All you need is cold water to change the hard small rock type into a gel. Second the enclosed unit requires that the air be able to “blow” around the packaged unit. It is the evaporation that cools the insulin in the enclosed unit.