What do you need to bring with you? Where to put your supplies and how you can keep your insulin cold while traveling. Everything you need to know about packing with diabetes.
Who doesn’t love to travel ? I like exploring new cities and countries, going on a road trip or swimming in the ocean. However: I’m the worst packer you’ll ever meet. Going away for 3 days : Let’s pack 7 shirts, 3 Jeans and 10 pairs of underwear, you never know. Now throw diabetes into this mix and overpacking is guaranteed. Luckily I found some ways to make it easier for myself over the years and today I’m sharing my Tips and Tricks for packing with diabetes.
Lists, lists, lists and oh, have I mentioned lists ?
Make a list of the things you need. Now that might sound easy and obvious but let me tell you : you’ll pack less if you write a list. If your a perfectionist like me you make several lists : clothes, bathroom essentials, make up, shoes, electronics, handbag etc. You can also save yourself some time and comb through pinterest, I promise you’ll find a list that will work for you. What will be harder to find is a diabetes packing list. I didn’t find one that had everything I needed so I made my own.
I present to you : the ultimate diabetes packlist
And since I’m a nice person I not only made one, but two lists for packing with diabetes 🙂 I have the Medtronic Minimed 640g pump with the Enlite sensor. While I was preparing this post I wrote one of my diabuddies @carbcountingmess and wanted to know her opinion of the list. She agreed with most on my list but since she is on the Omnipod with a Dexcom a few things vary for her. That brought on the idea of creating a second list for omnipod users. So thank you Laura for your input.
Quantity – how many sites, how much insulin etc. do you have to bring ?
Now that you have a list, it’s time to figure out how many of each you’ll need to bring. It’s crucial to know how many days you’ll be gone. As soon as you know that, the math begins. I’m going to show you what I packed for my 5 day trip to Dublin in April and how I calculated the quantities.
Let’s start with insulin. Try to figure out how many units you’re using in a day. On my pump there is a feature that shows you that. For me it’s around 22.5 Units per day (U/d). So 5 days times 22.5 U/d equals 112.5 Units. One vial of Fiasp is 300 Units so I took two vials with me. Don’t worry, I know my maths, I took 2 because you always have to double your supplies if you’re traveling. Some people even take 3 times the things they need.
I change my site every 3 days so for 5 days I needed 2 sites and 2 reservoirs. Now double that up and you take 4 sites and 4 reservoirs with you.
I changed my sensor the day before we flew so I only had to bring a spare one with me. I highly suggest you do that if possible. You don’t wanna get to your destination and have to change your sensor as soon as you land.
I use around 5 Teststrips a day so that’s 25 in 5 days. Double that up -> 50 Teststrips
Altogether I brought 2 vials of Fiasp, 4 sites, 4 reservoirs, 1 sensor, 20 Teststrips and 2 accuclix lancets. Plus everything else on the list but I didn’t have to bring multiples of those 😉
Where do your supplies go ? Actually packing with diabetes
First off : ALWAYS and I mean always pack your diabetes supplies in your carry-on. You never know if your main luggage gets lost or how the temperature in the luggage compartment is. Now there is something else you can do. Did you know that most airlines allow you to bring a medical bag on board ? Free of charge might I add. I checked this with our national airline (Swiss) before flying to Dublin and they said I could. So you can bring a checked bag, a carry-on, a handbag and a medical bag. How neat is that ?
To actually pack your stuff I recommend plastic containers and ziploc bags. You can find an array of containers at different stores, mine are from our local grocery store. Make sure you get the ones with a good strong lid. Personally I prefer the clear ones so I can see what is in there. You’ll see on the pictures that a small one is green but it’s also kind of see-through if that makes sense. You somewhat have to play Tetris to figure out which supplies fit into which containers but once you have that, you’ll know for the next time. I like to store my supplies in the containers to prevent them from flying around my bag. I’ts also easier to find what I need if they have a set place. Snacks go in ziploc bags so they don’t spill.
What you need on you
While packing, set aside a pile of supplies that goes into your handbag. I have a small pouch that I fill with : 1 insulin vial, 1 reservoir, 1 site, inserter, 1 battery, 2 alcohol wipes, 1 pack of teststrips, 1 pack of glucose tabs, snacks and 1 juice. This pouch stays in my handbag and that stays under the seat in front of me. In case something is happening with my pump, I have easy access to it. My medical bag can go into the overhead compartment with my carry-on.
How to keep your Insulin refrigerated
Ideally your insulin should stay refrigerated while you’re traveling. Stick it into the hotel fridge as soon as you get there. For the trip, invest in some Frio bags. I’ve been using mine for several years now and they absolutely do their job. If you want to find out more about them, have a look at their website here. A fairly new device is the MedAngel Sensor. You can stick it in the same bag as your insulin and it will tell you if the temperature of it is in range or not. I just ordered one last weekend. I’ll tell you how I like it.
I hope you like my Tips and Tricks on packing with diabetes. Please don’t hesitate if you have any questions or leave your best packing Tips in the comments.
I have a few more posts planned for this Diabetic on Tour mini-series so be on the lookout for those soon. I’ll be talking about airports and travel-partners.