Travelling Prepared With Diabetes

With the Christmas and New Year break just around the corner (if you’re lucky enough not to be working), today I’m revisiting a post from Diabetes Blog Week on travelling with diabetes.

When I was first diagnosed, I had this attitude that diabetes wouldn’t weigh me down. Quite literally. I wanted to prove that diabetes hadn’t changed me. I wanted to prove that I didn’t need to carry a meter, insulin or jellybeans with me as a just-in-case. It felt weak. It felt like giving into my condition.

So if anyone knows a thing or two about how to travel un-prepared with diabetes, it’s me.

I once boarded a ferry to Rottnest Island, only to discover that I had bugger all insulin left in my pen cartridge. Instead of trying to find a Pharmacy, I decided to wing it and somehow lived to tell the tale.

I remember going hypo on a Friday morning at work, with nothing to eat other than an overripe banana. Yuck.

I discovered a failed infusion site while I was away from home painting a house one Saturday afternoon, and had to drive home in the pouring rain to change it.

When my insulin ran out halfway through a lunchtime dose, I winged it again, probably running high until hometime.

When I suspected spoiled insulin earlier this year, I had to call my Dad to run some up to me work.

And then something changed.

I began using an insulin pump, and I knew that I needed a better contingency plan now that I was relying on a machine to keep me alive.

When it comes to travelling prepared with diabetes, my biggest dilemma is deciding whether I actually need to carry those supplies with me, or whether I am simply preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

I like to travel prepared. But I also like to travel as lightly as possible. Us guys don’t exactly have the luxury of handbags…

I’ll often stand in front of my desk before heading out, debating over whether I need to bring this with me. I’ll tuck things in my pockets. Then I’ll take things out because I feel weighted down and over prepared.

I’ve tried the whole keeping supplies stashed in different places. You know, desk drawers, lockers, in the car, in my satchel. In theory, it sounds like a great idea. The only problem is you begin depleting those supplies. And you have to remember to keep topping them up. Not ideal, either.

I’ve recently invested in a small pencil case. I keep all the essentials in there. A blood glucose meter, lancing device, spare lancets, spare meter batteries, glucose tabs, an insulin pen and needles. Spare batteries, an infusion set, insulin cartridge and my Animas coin to deal with a potential pump failure.

Those are my essentials. Nothing more, nothing less. I grab that case every time I leave the house. There’s no more dillemas over what to bring, or what not to bring. It’s not big, bulky or akward to carry. It can even stay in the car if it’s going to annoy me while I’m out.

You learn from experience when it comes to travelling prepared with diabetes.


And you do get better at it over time.

P.S. Don’t forget that insulin can spoil in the heat if you’re planning on spending Christmas Day at the beach!


A queue full of people greeted me, as I approached the end of a long line. I began removing the watch from my wrist, unlooping the belt from my waist, and loosening the clasp on my Medic Alert bracelet. I shoved those items into the front pocket of my satchel. I pulled my wallet out from the front pocket of my Chinos, and my iPhone from the inside pocket of my Lost Highway jacket. 

As I approached the conveyor belt, I grabbed two of the orange trays and placed my belongings onto them. Feeling more confident than the last time I did this, I approached the gate and took a step through.


The shrill noise hurt my ears.

One of the security staff told me to take a step back, while asking if I was wearing anything that might set the alarm off. 

I have type 1 diabetes. I’m wearing an insulin pump, I said, pulling it out of my pocket and gesturing wildly. 

He told me to take a step aside, and onto the square mat behind a gate that was situated adjacent to the walk through. I watched as he motioned to his colleagues that I needed a pat down.

I was left scratching my head, convinced that my Animas Vibe hadn’t set off any alarms in the past. 

Another member of security approached, and I was told to remove my jacket and send it through the scanner. The likely culprit, I later suspected. 

I was escorted through the gate and asked if I wished to have my pat down conducted in a private room, which I politely declined.

He asked me where I was travelling today, which didn’t really make me feel any more comfortable.

As I stood there with my arms stretched out wide, I felt incriminated.

As comfortable and open as I am with my diabetes, I didn’t like this one bit.

Walking Through

Feeling the weight of my satchel, I headed straight for the chairs the minute I walked through the sliding glass doors. I pulled out my giant toiletry bag filled with insulin, skittles, infusion sets, insulin cartridges, a demi pen, Lantus, spare batteries, needles, Lancets, Rockadex patches for my FreeStyle Libre, and my spare meter that would allow me to check for ketones.

I pulled a small key out of the coin pocket in my wallet and unlocked my suitcase, wondering what I didn’t need in my carry on. I began to pull infusion sets and insulin cartridges out of their elastic bands, thinking I would only need 1 or 2 at most for my flight. I threw the bag of Skittles into my suitcase, knowing I already had 50g of carbs – and some Easter eggs – stashed in my meter pocket. I hated how much space the insulin boxes took up in my bag, and how unnecessary they were to carry with me.

After some shuffling around, my subconscious began to doubt my actions and I eventually threw everything back into my toiletry bag to carry onto my flight to Melbourne.

I shuffled through the documents I had in my clear plastic wallet, making sure I had my spare script for insulin, my travel letter, my travel itinerary, and a copy of the plan I had left with my family containing all the details about my diabetes management should something happen. I saw the brochure I had thrown in about insulin pumping during a flight, and began to realise I hadn’t even given this enough thought.

I locked up my suitcase once again, and began to walk into the direction of Terminal 3 to check in. My subconscious kicked in once again, and I quickly doubled back towards the seats I had stopped at, to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind.

Are you carrying any sharp objects in your luggage? I was asked at the check in counter.

I have type 1 diabetes, so I’ll be carrying needles and other diabetes supplies on the plane.

That’s fine. I was given my boarding pass.

I stuck my head into the Dome, thinking about stopping for a coffee and some breakfast. I glanced at my watch, knowing I had enough time. My subconscious bugged me again, reminding me of possible crowds and that I would be walking through with an insulin pump for the first time.

Frank’s subsconscious won again, as I made my way to the walk through. I began placing my bag, watch, phone, wallet and belt onto the trays.

I’m wearing an insulin pump, I said to the security lady, pulling it out of my pocket and gesturing wildly.

I have DIABETES. Walk through and wand is fine, but I can’t have any X-Rays.

I felt like I was trapped inside a bubble, trying to speak as loudly and slowly and clearly as I possibly could.

Take off your shoes, she said, offering up a tray for me to put them on.

I walked through, waiting anxiously for a beep that didn’t come.

As I began to put my shoes back on, loop my belt back around my jeans, and place all the other loose items back into my pockets, I breathed a massive sigh of relief that it was over.

I don’t fly very often, and this was my first time travelling with a pump, but man diabetes sure does add to the anxiety.