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 I traveled for 1 year abroad in Australia and review the top 5 traveling kits to keep insulin cool for diabetics.
In this Diabetic & Me article you will learn about:
- 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 diabetics?
The #1 Best Insulin Cooler for Diabetics
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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 possibly other health issues. This is normal. Before I met my current girlfriend, I never traveled for longer periods than a few weeks or longer distances than 4 hours of flying. After meeting my girlfriend, she traveled for 6 weeks by herself to Thailand (from Belgium), she convinced me to travel with her to Australia for 1 full year. We also traveled 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 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, 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. Insulin cooling is an important factor while traveling.
Treatments With Insulin
The method of taking insulin is called insulin delivery. There are many ways you can use insulin:
- 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. Insulin is categorized under temperature-sensitive medicines. So to keep insulin cold without electricity can be a significant issue. Here are some precautions you should take into consideration when traveling and keeping insulin cool.
- When exposing your insulin to 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, pack 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 user manual to avoid any unfortunate mishappenings.
- Pack your insulin separately. If your insulin travel bag provides no extra compartment, then 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.
- 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 the only solution for many diabetics. Traveling is a part of life that can't be avoided, so there is only a single solution left. Carry your diabetic medication in an insulin travel cooler while traveling to keep your insulin safe and cool.
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 insulin cooler uses 3 insulin cooling methods and keeps your insulin cool and safe for up to 72 hours. It can fulfill all your traveling needs.
The uniqueness of this cooler is that by changing the lids you can easily transform the bottle from a regular medication cooler into a mini-fridge. The USB function alone can maintain a constant temperature of around 27°F (15°C) lower than the outside temperature. 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 an outside lab temperature of 104°F (40°C). Moreover, it is patented so you will never find the same quality in other insulin coolers.
After testing and using it myself this is worth it. Looking forward to doing some longer travels with it.
- It offers 3 insulin cooling methods to suit your needs.
- It is made up of rust-free and high-quality stainless steel which enhances its durability and keeps your insulin safe.
- The best thing is that it can store 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.
- An extended nylon belt is attached to the collar, giving you an extra grip.
- You can charge it up with a solar panel or with your car battery easily.
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It's one of the best portable insulin cooler travel cases 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 insulin cooling kit can store up to two insulin pens with four vails.
Its 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 much 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.
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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 Plus 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 9 hours at 38°C/100°F and full days at lower temperatures. Safe for use at up to 46°C/115°F for shorter durations. A unique feature on the "plus" model that 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 FRIO insulin cooling bag deserves a spot in the number 5. I used them myself when I took a flight 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 remain your insulin cool for a more extended period.
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. When soaking the inner bag in the water you activate the insulin cooling bag. Water activation technology is a recent invention used by 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 2 days. The most important thing about the FRIO bags is a 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 choices, four colors; red, black, blue, and purple, are also available.
Carrying insulin with you is a bit risky, but if you have an insulin travel cooler, it 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.
How Do I Keep My Insulin Cold 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 time.
What To Pack While Traveling
When I fly I always have some Sprite (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 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 documents and prescriptions with me made it OK for them.
Creating 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.
- 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
Me During 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 provide 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.
- Every time you travel (far), 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 the flight. They 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 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. Never let your insulin hit 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
More About Traveling With Insulin
Find out more about traveling with diabetes and diabetic-related travel products in the articles below.
No matter what type of diabetes you have, you just 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 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 mentioned above, then there is nothing to be worried about. Enjoy your traveling alone or with your loved ones.
Last update on 2022-06-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API