Traveling with Diabetes

So many fun things happen during the summer, and traveling is one of them. Whether you’re going to a summer camp, a family reunion, or vacation someone is inevitably bound to forget a swimsuit or toothbrush, or a favorite stuffed animals are left by the door. These situations can be disappointing but rarely do they completely unravel someone’s plans.

This is not the case, however, when a travel hitch involves your diabetes. If you’re not properly prepared, a diabetic travel complication can range from, at the very least, a huge inconvenience, to, at worst, a life-threatening situation.

By developing a travel checklist that utilizes a few of these helpful tips, you’ll be able to minimize your risk of a diabetes-related travel disruption.

Before You Go:

Talk to your doctor. If you are planning a long trip, especially one by air, it’s crucial to have a discussion and schedule an appointment with your doctor. This will give you both a better picture of your current diabetic health, the chance to get any needed immunizations, and a critical travel letter describing your diabetes plan.

While this letter is not required by US Airport Security, it can be extremely helpful should questions or a need for documentation arise. The letter should include your diabetes treatment plan, a list of prescriptions, and a description of the supplies required for your diabetic care.

Research your destination. When traveling with diabetes, a little research can bring great peace of mind. If you’re heading to another country, finding a hospital or doctor who speaks a language you are fluent in can save you from a lot of headaches. Learning key phrases in the country’s language, such as “I have diabetes,” or “sugar or juice, please” can be very helpful in an emergency. For more information on an emergency abroad, please click here to visit the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers page containing useful phone numbers and resources.

What to Pack:

Don’t forget your documentation. Not only is it important to bring a detailed travel letter from your physician, you should also make sure to pack a prescription for insulin or diabetes pills, should you encounter an emergency.

In addition to these two pieces of paper, your medical ID is essential. By wearing one as a bracelet or necklace, you eliminate any possibility of leaving your information in a hotel room or briefcase. In an emergency, physicians can learn about your diabetes, allergies, and insulin needs so that they may properly treat your symptoms.

Keep your supplies close. You should pack a diabetes kit containing all of the supplies you need on a regular basis, and pack it in a carry-on. Never check your diabetes supplies with the rest of your luggage. The cargo hold is not equipped to keep a proper temperature, and you run the risk of being separated from your baggage, which could be devastating. Packing at least twice the amount of needed medications and supplies is also a good idea.


  1. Contact the airline a few days prior to your flight. This is a great time to clarify insulin/supply rules, and to request a meal that is friendly to your needs.
  2. Remember: Eastward travel means you will “lose” time, so less insulin may be needed. Westward travel “gains” time, often requiring more insulin.
  3. Allow yourself a period of rest after you arrive at your destination; this will allow you time to recover after the flight and settle yourself with your medication needs and changing routine.
  4. Check your glucose often; new routines, foods, and environments can throw off your insulin levels, and it’s important to stay on top of them.
  5. Pack airline-approved snacks. This way, you can help control your levels without too much fuss or inconvenience.

Diabetes isn’t something that should keep you from traveling. Even with this disease, you can enjoy a much-needed vacation or expertly handle an important business trip—as long as you employ some thoughtful planning and deliberate preparation.