Travelling and T1D

What to plan and pack for your next vacation.

Planning a vacation or a business trip? Travelling with type 1 diabetes (T1D) requires some preparation to ensure you have everything you might need while away. The information below will help you get ready for your next adventure but remember, always check in with a health professional if you have any questions.

Prior to travel

Visit your endocrinologist for a check-up several weeks before you leave for a trip. Make sure you ask them how to manage a potential illness, whether you should take glucagon with you, and how to adjust your insulin dose if required. Get any required vaccinations before you travel so you have time to deal with any possible side effects. You will need a letter from your doctor that outlines your medical situation and lists all related prescription medications and delivery devices, including syringes. The letter must stress the importance of carrying your medications with you. Discuss your itinerary with your diabetes educator, and work out a plan for meals and medication, especially if you are travelling through different time zones.

Packing for your trip

  • Just like all of the essentials you pack in your luggage, your diabetes supplies need careful planning to ensure you have everything you need while away. Check out this diabetes travel supplies checklist to make packing easier. 
  • For easier access, prepack items needed for site changes into individual sandwich bags (infusion set, reservoir, skin prep & alcohol swab).
  • Things can get hectic before going away; why not set up some calendar reminders to make sure you don’t forget these essential pre-travel steps.

In the weeks before you travel

  • Arrange for Out of Province medical insurance if required.
  • Review diabetes supplies and refill any need prescriptions.
  • If you wear a insulin pump, arrange for a loaner pump with your manufacturer at least one month prior to your vacation, and have a copy of your pump settings to bring with you, or pre-set up the loaner pump.
  • Ensure you purchase anti-nausea medication and any other medications you may need.
  • Purchase additional batteries for your blood glucose monitor and insulin pump if needed.
  • Ensure you wear a Medical Alert.
  • Check with the venue where you are staying for:
    • Local pharmacies and medical clinics
    • Refrigerator available in-room for storing insulin
    • A place to store your medical supplies (i.e., in-room safe)

While travelling

Your diabetes management routine may change as your physical/daily activity and food choices vary during travel. Here are a few suggestions to keep your health in check while travelling:

Insulin schedule:

  • If you are crossing time zones, you will need to adjust your insulin basal settings accordingly with the new times. Ask your health care team to help you. 
  • If you are extremely active, you may need to decrease your insulin, so be sure to discuss this with your diabetes educator or endocrinologist before you head off.
  • If you wear an insulin pump, remember to reset your pump time and make the suggested delivery changes at the prescribed time on the outbound trip and on the return trip.

Insulin and supplies storage:

  • Ensure your insulin is stored properly and not exposed to extreme temperatures, i.e., pack insulin in a cooler bag to carry. 
  • Carry your insulin and supplies with you at all times so they are not misplaced, lost, or stolen. Never store insulin in checked luggage.
  • Keep your passport and diabetes supplies in a handy carrying case for easy access - preferably water proof if you are near water so they stay dry.
  • Pack at least twice the supplies you think you will need in the event some are lost or damaged.  
  • Have any necessary prescription medicine with you in their original bottles and try to bring the written prescription just in case.

Emergency information:
Consider taking an emergency kit for sick day management. Discuss these arrangements with your endocrinologist or diabetes educator.
If you are travelling to an area where you don’t speak the language, make sure to have written emergency instructions available in that foreign language, i.e., location of hospital and pharmacy.

Travelling by air

  • Review the latest Transport Canada and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority information about packing your supplies and to find out what is permitted (and not permitted) in carry-on and checked baggage. This information, along with other travel tips, is located on the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority website at catsa.gc.ca. This will ensure you are not delayed at security.
  • Allow extra time to check in before your flight, in case your items are thoroughly searched by airport screening officers. This may cause you to be delayed at security.
  • If you use an insulin pump, advise the screening officer that you cannot pass through the security scanners; you may need to request a “modified search”. Let the officer know that the insulin pump cannot be removed because it is inserted with a catheter (needle) under the skin. If you encounter problems with the screening process, ask to speak with the CATSA security supervisor.
  • Have additional snacks with you in the event your flight is delayed. 
  • Extreme temperatures affect insulin, and it should never be stored in the baggage area of the aircraft. 
  • If you choose to sleep while travelling by air, use a travel alarm clock or set an alarm on your phone or tablet to check your blood glucose.
  • Some continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) need to be disabled during flight. Check with your CGM manufacturer for specific details and instructions during flights.
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