How to travel with diabetes

Posted on September 1, 2017 by Guest Writer

If you’re part of the ever-growing number of people living with diabetes, you’ll know that it’s a condition that doesn’t have to stop you from travelling the world.  As with many other conditions, the key to enjoying a holiday with diabetes is simple – just plan ahead.

Here’s a few things to consider before you go:

Visit your doctor

A letter from your doctor will explain why you are carrying insulin and/or any other medications and syringes with you. Keep the letter in your hand luggage so it’s ready to show at security and customs.

Your medication

Keep all of your medication along with any equipment you may need in your hand luggage, even if you won’t need it on the flight.  If stored in the hold your insulin may be exposed to temperatures that could degrade it. Then there’s the added risk of damage or loss of baggage en-route.

Plan to take twice the quantity of medical supplies you’d usually need to cover you for any delays, loss or damages. After all, it’s far easier to pack extra than to source more in a foreign country.

Prescription labels

To ensure a smooth journey through airport security we suggest you keep your medication(s) in the original packaging with the manufacturer’s label attached. This way security and customs officials can easily identify them with as few probing questions as possible.

Prepare for Emergencies

Before you travel, it’s worth contacting your insulin manufacturer who will be able to tell you if they supply insulin to the country you’re travelling to – and if your brand of insulin is sold under a different name.  Doing your research beforehand will stand you in good stead should an emergency arise.

Bear in mind that blood glucose can sometimes be measured differently from in the UK – this handy blood glucose conversion chart will help you to convert it correctly.

Insulin strengths

Insulin used in the UK is of the strength U-100. However, in some countries insulin comes in strengths of U-40 or U-80 so if you’re sourcing insulin abroad, make sure you find a like-for-like alternative.

Paperwork for a CGM

If you use a pump or a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) be sure to contact the airline a few weeks before you fly. Some may require you to fill in a form beforehand confirming your need to fly with the equipment.

A diabetes ID card or bracelet

These immediately identify your diabetes to medical professionals should you find yourself in an emergency. You can get cards from Diabetes UK or independent companies – speak with your doctor.

A kit bag

Medicool make handy kit bags to help you travel safely with your insulin and supplies, keeping it all at the right temperature.

Time zones

If you are crossing time zones and need to take medication or insulin, check with your doctor or care team for advice on how to manage taking your doses at the right times.


These might disrupt your blood glucose control while your body makes the antibodies to fight the disease you’ve been vaccinated against. Speak to your doctor on how to best manage insulin doses after your jabs.

Travel insurance

A good travel insurance policy which includes cover for your diabetes is a must. The costs of treatment, repatriation and unexpected extra accommodation, let alone extra flights could mount up if you have a medical emergency to pay for while you’re away.