Traveling is essential, 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 I traveled for one year abroad in Australia and tested the best insulin coolers and travel cases that can help keep your insulin cool.
In this Diabetic & Me article, you will learn about the following:
- What is the importance of insulin?
- How to keep insulin cold?
- The precautions related to insulin and flying
- What to pack while traveling as a diabetic?
- What is the best insulin cooler travel case for diabetes management?
The #1 Best Insulin Cooler for Diabetics
Use discount code DIABETICME on the 4AllFamily website for 10% off.
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, medication, and possibly other health issues. This is normal.
Before I met my current girlfriend, I only traveled for a few weeks and covered only 4 hours of flying. After meeting my girlfriend, she traveled for six weeks to Thailand (from Belgium) and convinced me to travel with her to Australia for one full year.
We also traveled for a month in Sri Lanka and three weeks in Bali. It took a lot of courage and preparation, but eventually, I did it.
I'll share a few things I thought about in this article, especially with buying the best insulin travel case.
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!
Precautions Related to Insulin
It's one thing to bring insulin (and other extra supplies) while traveling, but a different thing to keep them safe in a cool environment. You usually don't have any electricity while traveling or flying. So keeping insulin safe and cold without electricity can be a significant issue.
Here are some precautions you should consider when traveling and keeping insulin cool:
- Exposing your insulin to extremely high or low temperatures can change its chemical composition. This can cause insulin not to act as it should and not control your blood sugar.
- If you are traveling with insulin, always have your doctor's letter and prescriptions with you. Also, pack a signed document from your doctor stating that you can travel with all your medication.
- Set the alarm on your phone for taking medicine when traveling across time zones to ensure to stick to your insulin doses and maintain good diabetes management even on a fun-filled vacation.
- If you board with your insulin travel case or have an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor, or other medical device attached to your body, identify with the officials and them where the device is located before the screening process begins.
- Pack your insulin separately. If your insulin-carrying case has no extra compartment, please take a wet cloth and wrap it around your ice pack. Direct contact on an icy surface with your insulin can freeze and damage your insulin.
- If you want to keep insulin cold without electricity while traveling, you can use any available insulin travel cases.
- Use insulin vial protectors to keep your insulin vials safe from breaking.
The 5 Best Insulin Cooler Kits for Diabetics
Insulin, a temperature-sensitive medication, is among the most important medicines for many diabetics. Before now, traveling with insulin had been quite challenging, especially regarding its safety from extreme weather, which can be too hot or cold. Fortunately, technology has offered a very dependable solution: The insulin carrying case, which allows diabetic patients to conveniently and safely carry their meds while traveling.
The question on your mind at this point could be, "Which is the best diabetic travel case for me?" Well, having researched a number of options on the market, I arrived at the following top five:
If you are looking for the best insulin pen travel cooler, look no further, this is the best you could get your hands on. This TSA-approved insulin travel case uses 3 cooling methods and keeps your insulin safe for up to 72 hours without electricity and at constant fridge temperature (36-46°F / 2-8°C) with electricity.
The uniqueness of this insulin-carrying case is that by changing the lids, you can easily transform the bottle from a regular medication cooler into a mini-fridge. The USB function can maintain a constant temperature of around 27°F (15°C) lower than the outside temperature. A very cool feature is that it has a temperature indicator to indicate temperature drops and protect your insulin from freezing or getting too hot. It will keep your medication cool at all times.
If you use an ice pack as well simultaneously, it will give an outstanding insulin cooling effect, such as keeping 35-46°F (2-8°C) cold for 48 hours and 36-46°F (2-26°C) for 72+ hours when tested at and outside temperatures of 95°F (35°C). Moreover, it is patented, so you will never find the same quality in other insulin coolers.
After testing and using it myself, I believe this is worth it. Looking forward to doing some longer travels with it. (update: I traveled to Oman with the cooler, which works great in hot outside temperatures.)
- It offers 3 insulin cooling methods to suit your needs, including a constant fridge temperature.
- It is made of rust-free and high-quality stainless steel, enhancing its durability and keeping your insulin safe.
- It stores up to 7 insulin pens. It might even fit two insulin pumps.
- A universal USB 2.0 adapter is used to charge the cooler. You can charge it with a power bank as well.
- Built-in temperature sensor & anti-freeze security.
- You can easily charge it with a solar panel or your car battery.
Read more about my personal experiences with the 4AllFamily insulin cooler in my extended insulin cooler review.
Use discount code DIABETICME on the 4AllFamily website for 10% off.
The unusual feature of this insulin cooler is that it can maintain a temperature of 35 to 46°F (2 to 8°C) for almost 28 hours. A proper way to use it 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 spacious insulin cooling kit can store up to two insulin pens with four vials.
Its stainless steel body makes it durable and rust-free. The downside is that if you want to travel for a longer period, you cannot carry much of your medication.
Four color steel variants are available Gray, Silver, Red, and Blue, providing you with a good range of colors. It's TSA Approved, and you have one year warranty with a refundable one-month warranty.
Use discount code DIABETICME on the DISONCARE website for 10% off.
Insulin cooling was never easier. This insulin cooling bag is the perfect pack for days when the temperature and humidity levels are high, and your insulin needs to stay safe. The Breezy Packs Extra Insulin Cooler Bag will keep everything cool, so you don't need to worry about spoiling your medicine or running out. For people living in very muggy climates, this is a lifesaver!
It is made of quality material that lasts at least 8 hours at 100°F (38°C) and full days at lower temperatures. Safe for use at up to 115°F (46°C) for shorter durations. The unique and most important feature of the "extra" model is that it will automatically replenish overnight without needing charging, minus all those pesky dead batteries with no way of getting rid of them while traveling.
Keep your insulin pens and insulin vials cooler than the outside temperature.
The VIVI Cap offers a thermal protective case intended to shield insulin pens from extreme temperature fluctuations, accommodating both traditional and smart-pens in its updated model.
Utilizing it is a breeze: simply replace your standard insulin pen cap with the VIVI Cap and watch for the light indicator. A green light signals that it's good to go.
However, a red light indicates the pen should be cooled – either in the refrigerator for an hour or maintained below 78.8°F (26°C) for about 5 hours until the light goes green.
What sets this product apart is its independence from battery packs, water, or ice to function effectively.
Ensuring your insulin pens remain under a safe 84.2°F (29°C), the VIVI Cap is undeniably among the most hassle-free solutions for safeguarding your insulin pen (traditional or smart) during your travels.
The FRIO insulin cooling bag deserves to be on my list of best insulin-carrying cases because I used it when I flew from Belgium to Australia. It was a flight to Bangkok of 12 hours, a transit time of 14 hours, and the second flight from Bangkok to Sydney was 9 hours. These insulin-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 keep your insulin cool for extended periods.
FRIO is a leading brand in insulin travel cases and insulin cooling bags. Each package consists of two parts; one inner bag and one external bag to carry the internal bag with insulin and vials. You activate the insulin cooling bag when soaking the inner bag in the water. Water activation technology is a recent invention used in travel and insulin cooling cases.
Each time you soak your FRIO bag in water for 10 to 15 minutes and place your insulin inside, the insulin will remain cool for two days. The most important thing about the FRIO bags is a weight of 0.8 ounces with a vast capacity to place four insulin pens and 5 to 6 vials efficiently.
A reusable product in this age of disposable things is an eco-friendly step. Various sizes are also available, so you can buy a FRIO bag that suits you. Keeping in mind people's choices, four colors: red, black, blue, and purple, are also available.
Carrying insulin with you is a bit risky, but having an insulin travel cooler will be much more helpful. This insulin cooler travel case can be a great deal for a diabetic.
Things you carry with you must look good too. This grey-colored insulin travel case looks slimmer but has much more space than any other insulin case.
- Durable polyester gives it a much longer life and makes it more robust.
- A particular insulating layer stitched inside to lock the insulin cooling is in the case and resist external heat.
- Dual zippers are added to give it a premium look.
- A much more compact size with a rigid frame avoids any damage to your insulin.
- Two ice packs come with the package, which is a unique point.
- An inside compartment separated with mesh fabric can be used to store the icepacks.
- It's waterproof. 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.
Buying Guide for the Best Insulin Coolers and Travel Cases
Insulin is a very sensitive medication for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. And as such, specific considerations must be taken when buying whatever you need to keep your insulin safe.
When buying your insulin cooling case, the following should be your top-most considerations:
As far as insulin storage is concerned, the temperature is everything! Hence, the cooling power is the first thing to consider when getting a new insulin cooling device!
Unopened insulin supplies should be generally stored at a cooler temperature between 36°F and 46°F (2°C to 8°C).
Your insulin will be safe in your cooling device at such a temperature range until the expiry date labeled on the container - the same applies to many other diabetic supplies.
That said, it's important to ensure the device you want to buy has an actively-cooling effect that doesn't go beyond limits.
Depending on where you are traveling to (including the weather, climate, power outages & availability in the location), you surely want to consider if the available cooling method(s) would suffice for such long travels with or without electricity.
For instance, coolers that use ice packs (or biogel packs) are best suited for trips where you have a refrigerator to freeze the packs at night so your insulin can stay cool all day.
However, some products use auto-recharge technology to keep your supplies cool and safe without electricity.
Always choose your insulin cooling cases based on the cooling method that suits the peculiarities of your journey.
Also, pay attention to the cooling duration the product you are about to purchase offers.
You want to be sure that you can stay as long as possible without worrying about the safety of your insulin pens or vials.
The longer the cooling duration, the better convenience the insulin cooling case offers.
I am a fan of portability, so I consider weight a lot when shopping for any product. For me, it's always better the lighter it gets.
If you are traveling for a few weeks and require lots of insulin pens and vials, a portable travel fridge may become necessary - as long as you have access to electricity.
Another core consideration, as far as insulin cooling cases are concerned, is the case capacity.
Always ensure your cooling chamber is wide enough to hold the insulin you require on your journey.
Some small insulin coolers can only store a single insulin pen. And while this is good for everyday purposes, it won't suffice for long trips where you need to store many insulin pens.
Above all, make sure the product you are about to buy is certified by the US Transportation Security Administration.
TSA collaborates with international partners to guarantee safe transportation not only in the US but across the globe. Therefore, a TSA-approved insulin travel case will make your travels less stressful, especially with airport officials.
What Is Insulin and Its Importance?
Insulin is a 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 and ensures it doesn't go too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). Without a working pancreas, your body uses fat to produce energy and builds up keto acids. When these keto acid levels are too high, you can get into diabetic ketoacidosis.
Insulin is an essential medication for people with type 1 diabetes. If you travel with diabetes, it's crucial to always bring insulin with you. People with type 1 diabetes and some with type 2 diabetes always need insulin to keep their blood sugars at the optimum level. Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medication and needs a cold environment for storage. Therefore, insulin cooling is essential while traveling, hence the importance of an insulin travel case.
How Do I Keep My Insulin Cold While Traveling?
Always try to place your medication and other diabetes supplies near you — where you can easily reach them during flights. 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 time.
How to Travel with Insulin that Needs to be Refrigerated
Flying with insulin to different time zones, especially for the first time, requires extra measures to guarantee your safety and that of your meds.
- Discuss your travel plans with your medical care provider, who may adjust your insulin dosage and schedule, as well as counsel you on any precautions you should take during your trip.
- Invest in a high-quality insulated diabetic travel case or cooler designed to maintain a consistent temperature. Look for a travel bag that can cool your medical supplies for an extended period.
- Consider using a temperature monitoring device (such as a digital thermometer) to ensure that the temperature inside your travel bag or cooler is within the recommended range for insulin storage (usually between 36°F and 46°F or 2°C and 8°C).
- Ensure your insulin is stored properly in an insulated bag or cooler away from direct sunlight. Also, keep your insulin away from direct contact with the ice packs to prevent freezing.
- Keep your doctor's prescription letter stating your medical condition and need for insulin. This documentation can be helpful if you encounter any issues at the airport or security checkpoint.
- Pack your meds and supplies in a carry-on bag, not a checked bag, since your insulin could get too cold in your checked luggage.
- Pack extra supplies like extra syringes, pen needles, and blood glucose testing supplies to cover your entire trip duration in case of travel delays or unexpected situations.
- Research the storage options at your hotel and ensure they have a refrigerator for storing your insulin or freezing your ice or gel packs.
What To Pack While Traveling
When I fly, I always have some Sprite (a sugar drink), extra medication for a week, and my insulin in my bag. If my luggage doesn't arrive, I always have this bag with me and my equipment and medication.
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 easy and certainly not something you should do without thinking.
As a diabetic, you must prepare for traveling, whether 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 of airport security. When I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, it was difficult to explain everything, but I had all my medication and signed documents and prescriptions with me, making it easier.
Creating a checklist before packing is a must-have. Below you can find an example of my packing list. I traveled with a FreeStyle Libre CGM and a MiniMed 640G insulin pump. I packed to travel one year.
- Spare prescriptions + copies
- Travel insurance papers
- AA Batteries
- Charging cables (Phone)
- EHBO set
- FRIO insulin cooling bags
- 16 Freestyle Libre sensors
- 82 catheters for the pump
- 100 syringes for the pump
- 40 bottles of Humalog insulin
- Extra Humalog for MDI if my pump would defect
- Extra Toujeo insulin if everything fails
- Wet wipes and alcohol swabs or wipes, if you're in a remote area
Does Flying Affect Diabetes?
Traveling is all about planning. Flying with diabetes can be a bit more challenging than you think. Flying does not directly affect your diabetes but can impact your blood sugar levels. From a proper diabetic meal to unexpected stress during a 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 take special care of their passengers and provide meals with sugar-free or low-carb options. Before you book your flight, please check these things first.
Taking 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 had taken before flying.
- Reschedule your insulin delivery time when you're traveling in a different time zone. 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. Use insulin cases or travel coolers, and always keep insulin safe from extreme temperatures.
- Pack with care. Give your medications and other supplies a place so you don't need to start looking after stuff when you need it the most.
- Every time you travel, never do this without travel insurance. You probably never need it, but when you do, you might not have it.
- Always be conscious about your meals during flights. Most snacks served during flights contain fast-acting carbs, which can raise blood sugar rapidly.
- Stay hydrated by drinking enough water.
- Stay active and prevent blood clots by walking up and down the plane aisle every hour.
- Pack all your medical health care things like test strips, needles, and pens apart from other essentials. A separate bag you take on the plane with you is not a bad idea.
International Standards for Storing Insulin
You must follow international standards if you want to store your insulin for much longer. The standard is to store your insulin in a dry environment within a temperature range of 36°F and 46°F (2°C to 8°C). The critical temperature at which your insulin starts decaying is 77°F (25°C). Never let your insulin hit this top line. The bottom line is never to 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
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best temperature to store insulin?
The top three U.S. insulin manufacturers recommend storing unopened insulin in an insulin pen cooler at approximately 36°F to 46°F.
Opened insulin can be used unrefrigerated within 30 days at a temperature between 59°F and 86°F.
What does spoiled insulin look like?
Most Insulin products are colorless and transparent. And the easiest way to spot a spoilt is via visual inspection. If your insulin looks cloudy, clumpy, or discolored in any way, it could be spoilt.
If your sealed or in-use insulin appears spoilt, please discontinue the usage and dispose of it appropriately.
To reduce the risk of damaged insulin at home or on the way, always use insulin pen coolers at the appropriate temperature.
How do you keep insulin cool without electricity?
If you don't have access to electricity or a fridge in your hotel, then a Frio bag will be ideal. Keeping your temperature-sensitive meds in these insulin cooler bags is perfect for day trips or if you're camping out for one night. The 4AllFamily cooling methods are a perfect solution to keep your insulin cool at all times.
How do I pack insulin in my carry-on?
To make things easier at the airport,
- Ensure your insulin is in its original vial.
- Pack your medical supplies separately from your other belongings.
- Have your doctor's notes, recommendations, or prescription ready in your hand.
No matter what type of diabetes you have, you need to do a 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 bag for insulin or a diabetes travel case is necessary. If you're alone, make sure you tell someone at the place or in your hotel that you are a diabetic. If you have been following the procedures mentioned above, there is nothing to worry about. Enjoy your traveling alone or with your loved ones.
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