10 Tips for a Successful Vacation with the Insulin Pump

Whether it’s a summer at the cottage, an escape to an all-inclusive resort in the hotter climate, or a simple road trip with friends, it is important to keep some key tips while traveling with the insulin pump.

  1. Contact your insulin pump company to request a travel loaner pump. Most of the companies will have a travel loaner program. It is always best to contact your pump company ahead of time to find out more details about this program (for instance, how much notice the pump company needs to send you a loaner pump or the cost of the program).  It is always best to have a reliable back-up pump—just in case.
  2. Make sure to also bring extra insulin and supplies—what if your trip is prolonged? It is always best to pack as if you were going for twice as long. Must-have supplies include extra pens of rapid & long acting insulin, testing strips, batteries, alcohol swabs for disinfecting injection sites, an extra glucose meter, glucagon kit, and plenty of infusion sets & reservoirs. Always wear a medical alert bracelet while you’re traveling.
  3. Print off your pump settings and keep them in a reliable place like your wallet so you can convert over to the travel loaner pump or insulin injections if needed.
  4. Always keep your insulin and supplies in your carry-on luggage (in their original packaging). Never store insulin in checked luggage because it may be exposed to extreme temperatures which could damage the insulin.
  5. Make sure you bring a travel letter with you— this is especially helpful when going through security.  Speak to your doctor, endocrinologist, or educator well in advance of your trip to request one. It is always best to tell the airport security you have diabetes and that you are wearing an insulin pump. A helpful idea is to make a few copies of the travel letter and give a copy to the people you are traveling with—this will make sure that there is documentation present at all times.
  6. The insulin pump should remain attached to you and therefore, should not be exposed to x-rays equipment (for example, the devices used for scanning purses & bags). This includes the travel loaner pump.
  7. Carry snacks & treatment for hypoglycemia with you on the plane and while traveling. You want to make sure that you are always prepared to treat low blood sugar levels. A good treatment would be glucose tablets because they won’t melt and are easy to carry around. Some examples of snack ideas which are easy to travel with include whole grain crackers, granola bars, or rice cakes because they don’t need to be kept cool.
  8. Keep both your insulin and pump out of direct sunlight—try using a FRIO cooling pack.  You don’t want to use a freezer pack because freezing insulin can destroy its efficacy. Check the appearance of your insulin periodically and do not use it if there is a change in appearance.
  9. Speak to your diabetes educator about “time off the pump” while on vacation, for example, when swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving. You may need a larger bolus of insulin with the pump or an injection of rapid insulin to cover the basal insulin missed and the carbohydrates consumed during the time off the pump. It is always best to speak to your diabetes educator beforehand if you are planning to go for periods of time disconnected from the pump.
  10. Make sure to change to local time as soon as you land at your designation and test your blood sugar levels more frequently. Travel can have all sorts of effects on blood sugar levels due to the change in schedule, activity level, and change in type of foods consumed.

Always book an appointment with your educator before traveling to review any additional questions or concerns with traveling.  Diabetes shouldn’t prevent you from doing anything you love while you are away!

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