Diabetic & Me

Top 5 insulin cooling kits for traveling diabetics (Review 2020)

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Traveling is an essential and a need, but as a diabetic it's not always that simple. How do I keep my insulin cool? Can I fly without taking precautions? I'll share my personal experience as a diabetic that travelled for one year abroad in Australia and review the top 5 traveling kits for diabetics. 

In this article you will learn about:

  • What is insulin and the importance of it?
  • Different types of treatments with insulin
  • The precautions related to insulin and flying
  • What to pack while traveling as a diabetic?
  • What are the best traveling kit for diabetics?

Traveling as a diabetic

It's a famous saying; "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." (Saint Augustine)

But when you have diabetes you always hesitate to travel because you feel limited due to your diet, your medication and possible other health issues. This is normal. Me personally never travelled for longer periods of a few weeks or longer distances than 4 hours of flying. After meeting my girlfriend that travelled for 6 weeks by herself to Thailand (from Belgium) she convinced me to travel with her in Australia for one full year. Eventually we also travelled for a month in Sri Lanka and 3 weeks in Bali. It took a lot of courage and preparation but eventually I did it. I'll share in this article a few of the things I took into consideration.

Instead of avoiding traveling you must take precautions and prepare yourself for any situation. In the end you'll grab a ticket to your favorite destination!

What is insulin and the importance of it?

Insulin is hormone produced by the pancreas. When you eat something, insulin gets the sugar from carbohydrates in your food. This way your body gets the energy it needs or stores energy for later. It regulates your blood sugar levels, makes sure it doesn't go too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). Without a working pancreas your body starts using fat to produce energy but also produces keto acids. When these keto acid levels are too high you can get into diabetic ketoacidosis.

Insulin is an essential medication for people with diabetes type 1. If you travel and have diabetes it's important you always bring insulin with you. People with type 1 diabetes and some with type 2 diabetes always need insulin to maintain their sugar levels. Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medication and needs a cold environment to be stored.

Treatments with insulin

The method of taking insulin is called insulin delivery. There are many ways you can use insulin:

  • Syringe
  • Jet injector
  • Insulin pen
  • Insulin pump

Precautions related to insulin

A crucial point of bringing insulin with you or storing it is that it always needs to be kept in a cool or cold environment. Generally, while traveling or flying you don't have any electricity. So how to keep insulin cold without electricity can be a significant issue. Here are some precautions you should take in consideration when traveling.

  • When exposing your insulin in extremely high or low temperatures it can change its chemical composition. This can cause insulin to not behave as it should and not control your blood sugar.
  • If you are traveling with, then always carry your doctor's prescriptions with you. Also make sure you have a signed document from your doctor that clearly states that you can travel with all of your medication. 
  • Your equipment and medication can behave abnormally during flights. Always read the the user manual to avoid any unfortunate mishappenings.
  • Pack your insulin separately. If your insulin travel bag provides no extra compartment, then make sure to take a wet cloth and wrap it around your ice pack. Direct contact of a very cold surface with your insulin can freeze and damage your insulin.
  • If you want to keep insulin cold without electricity while traveling you can use  many of the insulin travel cases available.

Top 5 Diabetic Traveling Kits

Insulin, a temperature-sensitive medication, is the only solution to many diabetics. Traveling is a part of life that can't be avoided, so there is only one solution left. Carry your diabetic medication while traveling and keep it safe and cool.

The FRIO cooling bag is my number #1 pick. I used them myself when I took a flight from Belgium to Australia. It was one flight to Bangkok of 11 hours, a transit time of 14 hours and the other flight from Bangkok to Sydney was 9 hours. These cooling bags made it easy to keep my insulin cool during that time.

Taking ice packs is not always that convenient. If you're familiar with diabetes medications, then you know that without ice packs, it's impossible to remain your insulin cool for a more extended period.

FRIO is a leading brand in insulin travel cases and cooling bags. Each package consists of two parts; one inner bag and one external bag to carry the internal bag with insulin and vials. When soaking the inner bag in water you activate the cooling bag. Water activation technology is a recent invention used by travel and cooling cases.

Once you soak your FRIO bag in water for 10 to 15 minutes and place your insulin inside, the insulin will remain cool for 2 days minimum. The most important thing about the FRIO bags is weight of 0.8 ounces with a vast capacity of placing four insulin pens and 5 to 6 vials efficiently.

A reusable product in this age of disposable things is an eco-friendly step. A variety of sizes is also available, so you can buy a FRIO bag that suits you. Keeping in mind people's choice, four colors; red, black, blue and purple, are also available.

Carrying insulin with you is a bit risky, but if you have a cooler case, it will be much more helpful. This insulin cooler travel case can be a great deal for a diabetic.

Things you carry with yourself must look good too. This grey colored insulin travel case looks slimmer but has much more space than any other insulin case. 

There are some key features of this insulin travel case;

  • Durable polyester gives it a much longer life and makes it more robust.
  • A particular insulating layer stitched inside to lock the cooling in the case and resist external heat.
  • Dual zippers added to give it a premium look.
  • A much more compact size with a rigid frame avoid any damage to your insulin.
  • Two ice packs come with the package, which is a unique point.
  • An inside compartment separated with mesh fabric that can be used to store the icepacks.
  • It's water proof. This unique feature makes it more convenient for outdoor use.
  • A cashback warranty of 30 days can win anybody's confidence.
  • Dimensions of this insulin travel case are 7.9" x 3.5" x 1.6" with a weight of 6.4 ounces.

Rohkler comes with a suitable solution, a travel cooler for diabetic supplies. It's one of the best insulin pen travel coolers on the market.
The significant features which differentiate it from other insulin cases are;

  • It has plenty of separate compartments to carry al your diabetic supplies.
  • Four extra ice packs also come with its packaging.
  • Typical insulin travel cases have a thickness of 5.5mm. This travel cooler has a thickness of 6mm, which means it's more efficient than others.
  • The whole interior compartment is customizable. It gives you the flexibility to organize your supplies as you want.
  • It looks like a mini suitcase with a tough exterior. This makes it durable and your supplies are stored much safer for outdoor use.

A belt clip bag is always in demand, no matter for what purpose it is. A diabetic who loves traveling frequently can use a product which is more robust and easily accessible.

The high-quality nylon fabric that is used gives it a shiny look. A military-grade product in combating all seasonal challenges with a rear metal clip to hang on your belt.

If you need a medical supplies bag for heavy-duty use, then don't waste your time. A glucose meter, an insulin pen with some vails can easily fit in these mini insulin travel bags. There are also two extra metal loops attached, giving you the option to hang it in a vertical or horizontal position.

The best thing about this case is that it will not damage your equipment like cheaper ones. A flip cover saves your medical equipment and makes it easily accessible. The flip cover also has a sturdy closure providing more safety. There is only drawback of this case; that it doesn't give that airtight environment to your insulin.

It's one of the best portable insulin cooler travel case you ever see.

The unusual feature of this bottle is that it can maintain a temperature of 2°C to 8°C for almost 28 hours. A proper way to use is to keep this bottle in a freezer for 6 to 8 hours and then leave it to cool down at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes.

​The performance of this insulin travel cooler bottle is ten times better than any regular freezer bag.

This most spacious cooling kit can store up to two insulin pens with four vails.
It stainless steel body makes it durable and rust-free. The downside is that if you want to travel for a longer period you are not able to carry many of your medication.

Four color steel variants are available Gray, Silver, Red, and Blue, providing you a good range of colors. It's TSA Approved and you have one year warranty with a refundable one month warranty​.

How to store and use insulin while traveling?

Always try to place your medication and snacks near to you — a place where you can easily reach it during flight. Sometimes you don't have time to ask something from a flight attendant if your sugar level starts dropping down rapidly. If you're using a pump for insulin delivery you must take advice from your medical personnel. Takeoff and landing are two critical points where the pressure in the cabin becomes unbalanced and can result in pump failure. I flew many times and had no issues.

If your flight is longer, then check your glucose levels after intervals. Your glucose meter with extra strips or your CGM must be with you all times.

What to pack while traveling

When I fly I always make sure I have some Sprite (sugar), extra medication for a week and my insulin in my bag. If my luggage doesn't arrive I always have this bag with to make sure I have my equipment and medication with me.

When you're maintaining your schedule according to your medical conditions never skip your precautions and don't compromise your life for short time fun. Long term traveling with type 2 diabetes or type 1 diabetes is not an easy thing and certainly not something you should do without thinking.

As a diabetic you must prepare yourself for traveling no matter if it's a more extended vacation or a one-day tour. Carrying with you a signed document from your doctor that clearly states that you can travel with all of your medication saves you from the hassle during airport securities. When I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand it was difficult to explain everything but the fact I had all my medication and signed document and prescriptions with me made it OK for them.

Create a checklist before packing is a must have. Below you can find an example of my packing list. I am using a FreeStyle Libre CGM and a MiniMed 640G insulin pump. I packed to travel one year.

  • Passport
  • Spare prescriptions + copies
  • Travel insurance papers
  • Batteries
  • Charging cables (Phone)
  • EHBO set
  • FRIO cooling bags
  • 16 Freestyle Libre sensors 
  • 82 catheters for the pump
  • 100 syringes for the pimp
  • 40 bottles of Humalog insulin
  • Extra Humalog for MDI if my pump would defect
  • Extra Toujeo insulin if everything fails
  • Wet wipes, if you're in a remote area

Some photos of my travels through Australia and Sri Lanka

Does flying affect diabetes?

Traveling is all about planning. Flying with diabetes can be a bit more challenging than you think. Flying does not affect your diabetes in a direct way but it can have an effect on your blood sugar levels. From a proper diabetic meal to the unexpected stress during flight or in the airport waiting area, everything needs your care. Usually, business class and long domestic traveling airlines offer complimentary meals to their passengers. Some of them take special care of their passengers and provides meals with sugar free or low carb options. Before booking your flight, check these things first.

Take an in-depth look at which are the crowded places and what you should expect can make your travel a bit easier.

Precautions before and during flying

Some of the precautions I took and wished I took before flying.

  • When you're traveling in a different time zone, reschedule your insulin delivery time. This is a lifesaver. Especially when you are using an insulin pump.
  • Carry your doctor recommended prescriptions of any equipment or medication you are taking.
  • Pack with care. Give everything a place so you don't need to start looking after stuff when you need it the most.
  • Make sure you have travel insurance. You probably never need it but when you do you might not have it.
  • Always be conscious about your meals during flight. The might contain more sugars or higher carbs.
  • Pack all your medical health care things apart from other essentials. A separate bag that you take on the plane with you is not a bad idea.

International standards for storing insulin

If you want to store your insulin for a much more extended period, then you must follow the international standards. The standard is that you have to store your insulin in a dry environment within a temperature range of 2°C to 8°C. The critical temperature on which your insulin starts decaying is 25°C. Always make sure your insulin never hits this top line. The bottom line is to never freeze your insulin. It will stop working.

According to NHS Solent Trust,

  • Syringes related to the delivery method must be kept in a fridge
  • Pen-filled insulin cartridge packaging must not exceed 10ml
  • Only recommended 8mm or below 8mm syringes should be used
  • Shake your pre-loaded insulin 20 times back and forth if you're using cloudy insulin

Final verdict on traveling and flying as a diabetic

No matter what type of diabetes you have, you just need to do little bit of homework before traveling. Four to six weeks before traveling you need to plan your diet, insulin dosage, medical insurance plan & your doctor's authorization. A travel cooler to keep your medication cool is a must. If you're alone make sure you tell someone on the place or in your hotel that you are a diabetic. If you have been following the procedures as mentioned above, then there is nothing to be worried about. Enjoy your traveling alone or with your loved ones.

It is one of those rare books which clearly describes all the policies that a medical insurance plan can have.

This book is basically for insurance company specialists, but reading this can be beneficial for anyone traveling an wanting to know more about medicual insurance.

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