For people with diabetes, traveling with insulin can be a daunting experience. The need to maintain consistent blood sugar control and ensure insulin pens or vials are transported at the correct temperature while traveling and dealing with jet lag or changes in routine can be overwhelming.
Whether planning a short or long trip, it is essential to know how to keep your insulin cold. Indeed, insulin is a very temperature-sensitive drug. It needs to be refrigerated when not in use and protected from heat once open. Failure to follow correct temperature storage conditions can seriously affect the efficiency of your treatment and, ultimately, your diabetes management.
This article will explore practical tips and tricks to help you keep your insulin cold while traveling, so you can relax and focus on enjoying your trip instead!
Related article: Why Does Insulin Need to be Refrigerated?
How to Travel with Insulin That Needs to be Refrigerated
First, let’s come back to insulin storage instructions.
If you're more of a visual learner and prefer watching over reading, we've got you covered. Check out our awesome video guide on how to keep insulin cool while traveling:
Insulin storage instructionsWhen not in use, insulin should be stored in a refrigerator at a temperature between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). Once open or removed from the fridge, insulin can be kept at room temperature (not exceeding 77°F / 25°C) for a limited period (typically about a month).
The exact length of time insulin can stay unrefrigerated depends on the brand and type of insulin. For example:
- Humalog or Novolog, rapid-acting bolus insulins, can be kept at room temperature for up to 28 days.
- Lantus, a long-acting basal insulin, can be unrefrigerated for 28 days.
- Levemir, a long-acting basal insulin, can stay unrefrigerated for up to 42 days.
- Most premixed insulin (such as NovoLog Mix 70/30 or Humalog Mix 75/25) can be kept at room temperature for shorter periods, generally up to 14 days.
To make it simple, there are two situations where you must pay special attention to temperatures when traveling with insulin:
- You’re traveling with stocks of unopened insulin pens or vials that need to be refrigerated.
- You’re traveling with open insulin that does not require refrigeration but must be protected from heat if the outside temperature is above 77°F / 25°C.
Insulin Travel FridgesInsulin travel fridges are portable refrigerators specifically designed to transport cold insulin (or any other refrigerated drugs) while traveling. The benefits of using such medical-grade travel fridges are numerous:
- Convenience: An insulin travel fridge allows you to carry refrigerated insulin wherever you go. This is especially useful when traveling to areas where refrigeration is not readily available or when flying long distances, for example.
- Temperature control: These travel fridges are designed to maintain a stable temperature, usually between 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F), which is the recommended temperature for storing unopen insulin. Some even come with a temperature display screen and auto shut-off security.
- TSA-approved for air travel: The portable insulin fridges from 4AllFamily are all TSA-approved for air travel, so you can keep your insulin cold even when on a plane.
- Versatility of use: 4AllFamily offers various cooling solutions for travelers with insulin and refrigerated drugs, so you can find the one that best fits your needs. You can choose a travel fridge that works with biogel packs or USB power (car cigarette lighter, travel power bank, solar panel, household power, etc.). Whether you have access to electricity or are traveling off the grid, you can keep your insulin cold while traveling, camping, hiking, in a car, boat, plane, train, or at the beach.
The Voyager Travel Fridge can refrigerate up to 7 insulin pens for 30 hours while traveling at 95°F / 35°C or unlimited time if plugged into a USB power source.
With the Nomad Portable Cooler, you can refrigerate up to 3 (medium-size cooler) or 7 (big-size cooler) insulin pens while traveling without electricity!
View more insulin travel fridges here:
Alternatively, you could use an insulated lunch bag with ice packs to keep your insulin cold while traveling. However, we do not recommend that solution, as it is unreliable for refrigerated medicines. The inside temperature fluctuates a lot, the ice is dripping, and there’s no way to guarantee your insulin is safe.
Related article: Tips for Camping with Insulin!
How to Keep Insulin Cold while Traveling (Room Temperature)Now, suppose you’re traveling with pens or vials of insulin for less than a month (or 14 days if you use premixed insulins). You do not necessarily need to keep them refrigerated, as insulin can stay at room temperature for about a month.
However, if it’s hot and the outside temperature gets above 77°F / 25°C, you must protect your insulin from the heat while traveling. Indeed, exposing insulin to high temperatures, even briefly, can deteriorate your medicine and make it lose part or all of its potency.
Therefore, to prevent your insulin from going bad when traveling, you should use an insulin travel cooler during hot summer days.
The Pocket-size Rambler Insulin Cooler keeps 1 insulin pen or several insulin vials at room temperature even when it’s 104°F / 40°C outside!
Our Companion Insulated Bag can fit up to 5 insulin pens!
View more insulin travel coolers here:
Related article: How to Keep Insulin Cool During a Power Outage or Without Electricity!
Should you have any questions regarding our products, please do not hesitate to contact us or leave us a comment below. We've been there; we know about lost insulin. We're here to help!
More tips for keeping insulin cold while travelingBesides using an insulin travel cooler, here are a few common sense habits that will help protect your insulin from heat and ensure it does not go bad during your trips:
- Always keep insulin away from direct sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause insulin to overheat and lose effectiveness. Keep your insulin in a shaded area or covered with a cloth.
- Never leave insulin pens or vials in the car. The temperature inside can rise very quickly.
- Only take the insulin you need during your excursions. Leave the other pens or vials in your hotel room or apartment.
- Use a refrigerator at your destination. For example, if you're staying at a hotel or a friend's house, ask if you can store your insulin in a fridge when you’re not using it.
- Protect insulin from freezing. Freezing temperatures can destroy your insulin too! When traveling to cold weather destinations, always keep your insulin pens or vials in an inside pocket so your body warmth prevents them from freezing.
More Tips for Traveling with Insulin & DiabetesBesides temperature conditions, traveling with insulin requires some planning and preparation. Here are some tips to help you travel with insulin safely:
- Talk to your doctor before departure: Consult with your doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator before you travel, especially if you are flying with insulin. Your doctor may recommend adjusting your insulin doses or timing depending on your destination, itinerary, and time difference.
- Pack extra diabetic supplies: Make sure you pack extra insulin and supplies like syringes, pen needles, glucose test strips, blood lancets, ketone tests, insulin pump supplies, glucagon emergency kit, and others in case of an emergency, your trip is unexpectedly extended, or your flight gets delayed.
- Bring back-up glucose meter and insulin pump: It’s also a good idea to bring back-up diabetes devices in case yours gets lost, broken, or unfunctional during your trip.
- Always carry fast-acting sugar: Insulin therapy puts you at high risk of low blood sugar. Therefore, people with diabetes using insulin must always have fast-acting sugar within easy and quick reach. Pack juices, honey sachets, or glucose tablets in your carry-on when traveling.
- Pack your insulin and medical supplies in your carry-on: If you're traveling by plane, always pack your insulin, medications, and medical devices in your carry-on. Hazardous temperature and atmospheric conditions in the hold could damage your supplies. Not to mention lost luggage...
- Wear a diabetes medical alert bracelet: In case of a medical emergency while traveling, such as a hypoglycemia episode, seizure, or loss of consciousness, a medical alert bracelet can provide important information to emergency responders. The bracelet can alert them to your condition and help them provide appropriate treatment. That is especially important if you’re traveling unaccompanied.
- Follow TSA regulations for diabetics: If you are flying, follow the Transportation and Security Administration regulations for carrying insulin and other diabetes supplies on board. You may need a letter from your doctor stating that you must carry insulin and other medical supplies.
- Comply with your destination’s regulations: Insulin is widely available worldwide, and most countries do not restrict quantities. However, depending on your destination country, customs agents may require you to show certain documents like a medical prescription, a letter from your doctor or pharmacist, or a health card.
- Make sure to have travel insurance for diabetes: Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are considered “preexisting medical conditions” by most travel insurers. Call your insurance before departure and ensure you’re covered in case of an incident related to your condition. You may have to adjust your travel insurance plan.
Related article: How to Find Travel Insurance for Type 1 Diabetes?