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Diabetes: Travel Tips


Travel can make it hard to keep your blood glucose (sugar) within your target range because of changes in time zones, meal schedules, and types of foods available.

Whenever you need to see a doctor away from home, let them know you have diabetes. And always wear medical identification. In an emergency, medical identification lets people know that you have diabetes so they can care for you appropriately if you are unable to speak.

General travel tips

When you are travelling:

  • Take extra diabetes medicine, insulin and supplies, high and low blood glucose treatments (including a glucagon kit, if you have one), blood glucose meter batteries, test strips, and lancets. You may not find your regular supplies wherever you travel.
  • Double your normal amount of needed supplies for short trips. For long trips, have enough extra supplies to last for 2 weeks more than the length of your trip.
  • To keep your blood glucose at your usual level, try to eat and take your medicine as close to your regular schedule as you can.

Car travel

When you are travelling by car:

  • Have snacks and drinks with you. Keep sugar-free drinks and drinks with sugar in an ice cooler.
  • If needed, store your insulin in the cooler so that it will stay at a more constant temperature. Don't let the insulin touch the ice.
  • Keep your blood glucose meter at room temperature. Don't leave it in a hot or cold car or in the sun.
  • Walk a few minutes every 2 hours to improve the blood flow in your legs.
  • For more information, see Driving with Diabetes.

Plane travel

When you are flying:

  • Check with your doctor, if needed, about changing your medicine dose and timing if you will travel across three or more time zones.
  • Stay up to date with airport security rules. When you get ready to go through security, tell the officer that you have diabetes and are carrying diabetes supplies with you. Insulin pumps may set off alarms. Metal detectors (even the handheld ones) may damage your insulin pump.
  • Pack your diabetes supplies in your carry-on bag. Luggage can get lost and supplies damaged by the temperature extremes in the baggage area. You will need medical identification or a doctor's prescription for your needles and syringes to be allowed through airport security.
  • Insulin must be stored correctly. It will spoil if temperatures are too hot or too cold. Insulin will keep at room temperature for 30 days. You may need to use a cooler bag, an empty thermos, or ice packs if you are in hot conditions. If you are in cold temperatures, keep the insulin in an insulated bag.
  • If you use an insulin pen, take an extra one and some spare syringes and needles with you so you can withdraw insulin from an insulin cartridge in an emergency. Remember not to insert air into the cartridge.
  • Put in half the air you usually add to the insulin vial, if needed, to adjust for altitude air pressure changes if you draw up your insulin while flying.
  • Get up and walk every hour or so. This will help blood flow in your legs and will make sure that your insulin works properly.
  • If you normally use an insulin pump, contact the insulin pump manufacturer, your doctor, or diabetes care team about what to do when flying with an insuilin pump.

International travel

When you are travelling to other countries:

  • Find out which immunizations are needed for your trip. Get immunized at least 3 to 4 weeks before you travel. These shots can increase your blood glucose for a short time.
  • Visit your doctor if you take insulin and are travelling overseas. Ask for a letter stating that you have diabetes and need to carry syringes and other supplies with you at all times. Also, ask for an extra prescription for your insulin. Take both with you on your trip to help you pass through customs with your syringes, needles, and other injection supplies.
  • Pack a small disposable container with you to hold your used lancets and needles (wide-mouth plastic soda pop or water bottles work well).
  • Pack a supply of non-prescription medicines (that will not affect blood glucose levels) to treat minor illnesses such as a cold.
  • Pack a language/translation book or other type of aid that will help you express your diabetes needs to others if you are travelling to a country where English is not the main language.


Adaptation Date: 9/21/2022

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.