As we saw in our previous articles, traveling with diabetes does require a little bit of preplanning, especially when you’re carrying diabetes supplies with you. And it gets even trickier when traveling with insulin. But nothing too complicated at all!
Whether you’re using insulin for type 2 diabetes or for type 1 diabetes, our following tips for traveling with insulin concern you. We’ll go together over the following points (click and jump to any part):
Before we start our series of tips for traveling with insulin, let’s be sure we all remember the basics of insulin storage. In case you do need a reminder, please read this article entirely dedicated to the subject:
And now that you’ve mastered in general insulin storage rules, let’s complicate it a little bit and deal with insulin storage while traveling!
That’s the easy case! As seen above, your in-use insulin pens, vials, or cartridges, can be kept out of the fridge for about a month. So, if you’re traveling with insulin for less than a month, all you’ll need are some common sense good practices to keep it at room temperature.
If you’re traveling with insulin supplies for less than a month, you will only need to keep your insulin at room temperature (between 10°C and 25°C / 50°F and 77°F). That means you’ll only have to take specific precautions when traveling to very hot or very cold destinations.
As a general tip, always keep your insulin in the shade! Do not leave it in the car on a sunny day, do not store it near the cooker, and do not leave it in your leather bag in the sun on the beach…
But don’t get too stressed about it neither. It’s mostly common-sense practice. You won’t destroy your insulin simply by walking one hour under a strong Mexican sun at 35°C / 95°F. But if you do it every day all day long, you should consider using an insulin cooler bag. In that case, something like a Frio Insulin Cooling Case would be enough, easy to use, and would do a great job!
“The FRIO® Insulin Cooling Case is a reusable evaporative cooler whose cooling properties do not come from an icepack – or anything that needs refrigeration. Its cooling properties come from the evaporation of water. When activated, it keeps its low temperature for a minimum of two days, even in temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit”
Frio bags are very easy to use. I always carry the Frio Duo Insulin Cooling case when traveling with insulin. I use it for my in-use insulin pens when I’m going to spend a day under high heat. It works great and its very practical: all you need to make it work is some fresh water (no electricity nor ice!).
They provide different sizes and formats adapted to both insulin pens and vials. And the prices are quite reasonable (22-30$). Check it out here!
Insulin can freeze if exposed to extremely cold temperatures. And frozen insulin is good for your trash! If you’re traveling to extremely cold weather destinations, you’ll have to protection your insulin against the cold.
We’re talking extremely cold here! It means if it is constantly under 0°C / 32°F, don’t leave your insulin outside all day and night. Keep your insulin inside the house, at room temperature.
And if you go outside by extremely cold weather, simply keep your insulin close to your body, in the interior pocket of your jacket for example. Your body warmth will do the job and prevent your insulin from freezing!
If you’re traveling with insulin supplies for more than a month, you’ll probably need a more complex equipment. Indeed, you’ll need to be able to constantly keep your stocks of insulin at fridge temperature (between 2°C and 8°C / 35.6°F and 46.4°F).
You’ll need to find the equipment and the organisation you’re the most comfortable with. It’s a personal decision and really depends you and on the type of travel you’re planning.
Insulin travel coolers can be a good solution to keep your insulin cool while traveling. Be careful though: you’ll need to choose one that keeps your insulin stocks at fridge temperature! And there are not that many…
Most of them will keep it only at room temperature, like the Frio Insulin Cooling case. It works great for your in-use insulin, but is NOT adapted to your stocks of insulin that need to be stored at fridge temperature.
Unfortunately, insulin travel coolers that keep your insulin at fridge temperature are a bit more expensive. But nothing too crazy. In the following article, we’ve reviewed what we found were the 8 best insulin travel coolers on the market in 2020! Choose between Insulin cooling travel bags and cases, and Powered insulin coolers that work like proper mini-fridges!
If the above prices scare you away, or if you need an insulin travel cooler more adapted to your personal needs, you can also decide to make your own one! Depending on your personal needs and tastes, it can cost you as little as 10$.
All you’ll need to make your own insulin cooler bag a good insulated cooling bag, some ice, ice packs or gels, and a thermometer:
To pack your stocks of insulin that need to stay refrigerated while traveling, the first thing you need is a good insulated cooling bag. Nothing crazy, any regular cooling bag that you use to pack your picnic will do it.
The good point is you get to choose the size that can go from as small as 100mL to more than 10L. Enough to pack insulin vials or pens for years of travel! And you get to choose its colours as well as its ergonomics (are you more shoulder bag or backpack?).
Prices will range from as little as 5$ to around 30$ for the biggest ones. You’ll find them anywhere online or at your regular supermarket.
To keep your insulin cold while traveling, you’ll need to add some ice, bottles of ice, ice packs or ice gels in your insulated cooling bag. It’s really your own choice as to what you prefer using.
You want your insulin to stay cool, not to freeze! It’s important that you keep it isolated from the ice inside your cooling bag. I usually put a dry towel around my insulin pens, and wrap it in a plastic bag. That way, my insulin won’t get wet nor in direct contact with the ice.
This is optional, but if you want to check the temperature inside your insulin cooling bag, I’d recommend you use a thermometer. That way, you’ll know exactly when the temperature inside your bag is rising up, and will be able to control it by adding some more fresh ice.
Get a waterproof thermometer, as it will get humid inside your bag! Or directly go for the top-of-the-top: MedAngel Bluetooth thermometer.
MedAngel is a wireless thermometer and app for iPhone and Android specially designed to monitor the temperature of medication. Its sensors constantly measures the temperature inside your insulin cooling bag and communicates with your phone to alarm you when the temperature is getting outside of the defined range. The only downside is its price: 49,90$. But if you’re often traveling with insulin, it’s an efficient investment for you comfort and tranquility.