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Travelling with type 1 diabetes

Travelling with type 1 diabetes can be challenging, but with a bit of planning there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy adventuring at home and abroad. Whether you’re flying across time zones or taking a road trip across the UK, here are our tips on how to manage your type 1 when travelling.
Content last reviewed and updated: 13.03.2024

A woman with type 1 diabetes, standing in the desert and smiling at the sunset

Preparing to travel

Work out what supplies you need

Take some time to work out how much insulin, test strips, glucagon, glucose tablets, lancets, needles and set change equipment you need. When you’re packing, take three times as much medical equipment as you expect to use.

If you use an insulin pump, take insulin pens and insulin cartridges in case your pump fails, along with manufacturers’ helpline numbers for any countries you’re visiting.

Make sure you pack emergency supplies for the journey and for days out once you start your holiday.

Keeping insulin cool

Buy some medically approved cooling packs to keep insulin cool in hot weather while you’re out and about. Make sure they’re medically approved, otherwise you may not be able to take them through airport security.

Tips on packing

Divide supplies between bags just in case you lose one.

If you’re flying, don’t put any of your insulin in your checked-in luggage as it can freeze in the hold. Instead, keep it with you in your hand luggage.

Get information about where you’re going

Make sure you check the government website for information about where you’re travelling to.

It’s a good idea to check where the nearest pharmacy or hospital is so that you can get there quickly in an emergency.

Make sure you’ve got the documents you need

You will need to take a doctor’s letter with you to prove that you have type 1 diabetes and need to carry medical supplies. Your GP or Diabetes Healthcare Team can provide you with this.

Take a medical prescription with you in case you need to get supplies while you’re away, and a diabetes identity card or bracelet.

Print off a Medical Device Awareness Card to show airport security that you are carrying type 1 diabetes tech. If you don’t have a printer, you can email Rachel Crawford at to arrange to have one sent to you. Get more information about taking tech through airport security.

Many airports provide a hidden disability lanyard for people travelling with type 1. Find out more about how to get one.

Prepare for varying insulin doses

You may find you need to vary insulin doses for very active holidays or places where the weather is hot or cold, which may affect your blood glucose levels.

If you’re doing activities like swimming for extended periods, test your blood glucose level regularly. In the evening and night, your blood glucose level could drop after periods of activity, so beware of night-time lows.

Learn more about managing your glucose levels around exercise and physical activity.

Insulin absorption is more rapid in a hot climate so watch out for after-meal lows, followed by a spike. If you’re on a pump, use the dual or square wave function.

Travelling with diabetes checklist

Download the Diabetic Travelers Network’s checklist to help you plan for travel and make sure you take everything you need.

Travelling by plane

Do you need a doctor’s letter to take diabetes supplies on a plane?

You will need to take a doctor’s letter with you to prove that you have type 1 diabetes and need to carry medical supplies, especially when you go through airport security. Your GP or Diabetes Healthcare Team can provide you with this. This letter will also allow you an extra bag to carry diabetes supplies.

Can you take insulin on a plane?

Yes, but only as hand luggage (though you will need to put it in a separate plastic bag to go through security). Temperatures in the hold can drop to freezing which will affect the effectiveness of insulin.

Can you take insulin pens on a plane?

Yes. Keep your insulin pens in your hand luggage so you have easy access to them.

Can you take blood glucose meters on a plane?

Yes. Keep it in your hand luggage in case you need to check your levels whilst you’re in the air.

Can you take an insulin pump on a plane?

The reduction in atmospheric pressure on planes can sometimes cause them to deliver insulin by accident. This can be caused by air pressure, dissolved and/or visible bubbles or the plunger moving.

The following steps are recommended for insulin pump users going on flights:

  • The cartridge should only contain 1.5ml of insulin
  • Disconnect the pump before take-off
  • After take-off, once the plane is at cruising altitude, take the cartridge out of the pump and remove any air bubbles before reconnecting (it’s recommended that you don’t disconnect your insulin pump for longer than an hour, but check with the manufacturer or your Diabetes Healthcare Team).
  • After the aeroplane lands, disconnect the pump and prime the line with two units. Then reconnect the pump
  • If there’s a flight emergency involving cabin decompression, disconnect the insulin pump

Can you take a continuous glucose monitor or a flash glucose monitor on a plane?

You can use continuous glucose monitors (CGM) or flash glucose monitors on a plane and connect them to the handset or your phone using Bluetooth. They will still work if your phone is on airplane mode.

Airport security

You can take some items, like insulin pens, safely through airport security. Other equipment – like insulin pumps – may be damaged by x-rays and scanners. Find out more about taking type 1 tech through airport security.

Food and travel

When you’re travelling, make sure you take snacks with you – don’t rely on having to find somewhere in case you need to eat quickly or treat a hypo.

Aeroplane food

Contact your airline before you travel to tell them you have type 1 diabetes so that they can accommodate you. You can also ask to be served your food first.

Long train and car journeys

If you’re going on a long train or car journey, make sure you have plenty of snacks with you in case you’re not able to stop when you need to.

If you’re buying food on the train, wait for it to arrive so that you can judge how much insulin you need.

Managing insulin across time zones

If the time zone change is less than four hours, you don’t need to change how you would normally take your insulin. Talk to your Diabetes Healthcare Team before you leave for your trip to get their advice on how to manage your diabetes across time zones.

You can find information about how to manage changes in times zones (going east to west and west to east) in the Diabetes Travel Network’s Guide to Traveling with Diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes and travel insurance

Travel insurance is available for people with type 1, although it may be slightly more expensive. You can usually find insurance to cover things like medical expenses and loss of insulin and devices (find out more about insuring type 1 technology).

When buying insurance, you will need to give details about how your type 1 has impacted you, for example, if you’ve had any hospital stays within a certain period of time.

The Global Health Insurance Card

If you’re travelling in European countries (apart from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland) carrying a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will entitle you to low cost or free medical care. Formally known as a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can find out more on the government website.

Long-term travel

If you’re travelling over a period of weeks or months, you can still follow the guidance on this page. Ask your Diabetes Healthcare Team to prescribe enough supplies to cover the length of your trip (up to six months).

It may seem like a lot to pack in your suitcase, but it will prevent you having to spend time looking for places to get supplies when you’re away.

Insulin is available almost everywhere, but it’s a good idea to check if your insulin is available in the country you’re travelling to. You can do this by checking the manufacturer’s website. Sometimes brand names are different in each country, so make sure you know what yours is before you go.

If you need to get your supplies abroad, you can use your travel insurance.

Travelling with Type 1 Diabetes guide

Download the Diabetic Travelers Networks® ’Guide to Travelling With Diabetes‘ for information and tips on travelling with type 1.

This content was created in partnership with Julie Kiefer from the Diabetic Travelers Network®.

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