About Traveling with Diabetes

Courtesy of the National Diabetes Education Program / Diabetes at Work (pdf)

Plan Ahead

  • For a big trip, see your medical team for a check-up four to six weeks ahead.
  • For trips abroad, get the correct immunizations.
  • Get a letter from your doctor explaining your diabetes medicines, supplies, and any allergies.
  • Get diabetes identification in the languages of the countries you will visit.
  • Learn to adjust your diabetes medicine if you will change time zones.
  • Always wear visible diabetes identification.


What to Pack

  • Double the amount of diabetes medicine and supplies needed in your carry-on luggage.
  • Glucagon kit if you use insulin.
  • Insulated bag and blue ice to keep insulin cool.
  • Snacks, glucose gel, or tablets to treat low blood glucose reactions.
  • Medical insurance card and emergency number for your medical insurance company.
  • First aid kit including:

    1 - Bandages, gauze, and topical antibiotic
    2 - Pain reliever
    3 - Medicines to treat diarrhea and motion sickness
    4 - Sunscreen and insect spray

When Flying

  • Ask for an aisle seat if you will use the restroom for insulin injections.
  • Get your ticket and seat early to prevent bumping.
  • If traveling alone, tell the flight attendant you have diabetes.
  • Keep your diabetes medicines and supplies with you (see supply examples), don't store them in an overhead bin.
  • Don't inject air into the insulin bottle before drawing up your dose. The air is pressurized.

On the Train

  • Check to see if a meal will be served when you buy your ticket. Order any special meal requests in advance.
  • Remember that meals may not be served at times that fit into your usual schedule of meals, so keep snacks that will not spoil in your carry-on bag (to help avoid unhealthy food choices and long waiting lines at train station restaurants)
  • Although it is best to travel with a companion who understands your condition and what to do about it, if you are traveling alone it may be a good idea to let the conductor know that you have diabetes, just in case you should have a problem.
  • When checking in for a train, request help boarding if needed.
  • If traveling with medications that need to be kept cool, ask train personnel to refrigerate medications while onboard.
  • If you need special accommodations - wheelchair space, transfer seats (for when you travel in a seat and stow your wheelchair), accessible sleeper accommodations – train reservations may be required, even for unreserved trains. Call ahead to make your accommodations.
  • If you have developed complications that impair your abilities, you may be eligible for a rail discount. Call ahead to find out about their discount program.

For Car Travel

  • Don't leave medicines in the trunk, glove compartment, or near a window.
  • Carry extra food in case you cannot find a restaurant.

In General

  • Move around every one to two hours to increase comfort and reduce risk for blood clots.
  • Tell at least one person traveling with you about your diabetes.
  • Never go barefoot, even in the shower or pool.
  • Be careful about food safety when traveling in some countries.
  • Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
  • Drink bottled water with no ice.
  • Eat only cooked vegetables and fresh fruit that can be peeled.
  • Only consume pasteurized dairy foods.
  • Don't eat food from street vendors.

Before you travel, always check with the Transportation Security Administration for the latest travel updates.

Reviewed by Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN 01/14.

Last Modified Date: January 15, 2014

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Nicole Purcell
I had a bad one last night. A scary low bloodsugar that reminded me just how tenuous diabetes makes my existence. I hate those. I hate the feeling that I'm anything less than a strong, capable woman. Diabetes, like a sledge hammer to the knees, has a way of hobbling the confidence I have in my health, strength and well-being. It is both frustrating and disheartening. It's 2:00 am and a good friend called from their third shift job because they needed someone. Just...