Traveling with insulin presents unique challenges for those managing diabetes. Keeping your blood sugar levels in check, ensuring your insulin is stored properly amid fluctuating temperatures, managing time zone changes and disruptions in routine can be quite stressful. 

Whether you're heading out on a brief getaway or an extended journey, understanding how to effectively keep your insulin cool when traveling. Insulin is highly sensitive to temperature changes; it must be refrigerated before use and shielded from heat once opened. Carrying your insulin at the wrong temperatures can compromise your treatment effectiveness and diabetes control.

In this article, we provide essential strategies and insights on how to travel with insulin that needs to be refrigerated or kept cool, and always carry your insulin at the ideal storage temperature while traveling!

4AllFamily insulin coolers to keep insulin cool when traveling



Related Article: The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling with Diabetes!

When Does Insulin Need to Be Refrigerated or Kept Cool?

First, let's revisit the essentials of insulin storage to understand both why and when insulin needs to be refrigerated. Not all travel situations will require keeping your insulin refrigerated. Many insulin types can remain unrefrigerated for up to a month, though this duration can vary depending on the specific brand and formulation.

Insulin storage temperatures

Before use, insulin must be refrigerated. It should be stored in a refrigerator at a temperature between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C) to maintain its effectiveness.

But once opened or removed from the fridge, your insulin pens, vials, or cartridges can be kept at room temperature, not exceeding 77°F (25°C). In that case, insulin must be used within about a month. The exact shelf life of insulin at room temperature can vary from 28 days (Humalog, Novolog, Lantus) to 42 days (Levemir, Novolin N, Toujeo) or even 56 days (Tresiba), depending on the type and brand you've been prescribed. Therefore, make sure to always check the manufacturer's storage guidelines for your specific insulin.

Understanding Key Temperature Storage for Traveling with Insulin

When traveling with insulin, maintaining the right storage temperature is crucial for its effectiveness. Here are two key scenarios to consider: 

1. Traveling with unopened insulin that needs refrigerated storage. Insulin pens or vials that have not been opened yet require refrigeration to maintain their potency until their use. It's essential to keep these insulin supplies in a refrigerated environment, typically between 36°F and 46°F (2°C to 8°C).

2. Traveling with opened insulin that needs to be kept cool. Once opened, insulin can generally be kept at room temperature, up to a maximum of 77°F (25°C), for a certain period depending on the type-usually about a month. However, if you're traveling to places where temperatures exceed 77°F (25°C), you should carry your insulin in cooling cases to protect it from heat exposure, which could degrade its effectiveness faster than expected.

Related article: How to Keep Insulin Cool During a Power Outage or Without Electricity!

How to Travel with Insulin That Needs to be Refrigerated

Ready to hit the road or take to the skies with your insulin? No worries! Traveling with refrigerated insulin is totally manageable with a bit of prep and the right travel coolers. Let's walk through some simple steps to transport your insulin at fridge temperature, so it stays effective no matter where your adventures take you. 

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:

Choose a reliable insulin travel refrigerator

First, it's important to remember that should your insulin goes above fridge temperature (46°F or 8°C) for even a few hours during your trip, the cold chain may be broken. From that point, it should be used within a month at most. That's why carrying your refrigerated insulin in a reliable insulin travel fridge is essential.

Insulin travel refrigerators are compact, portable fridges designed specifically for transporting insulin and other refrigerated medications during travel. Using these medical-grade travel fridges offers several advantages:

  • Convenience: With an insulin travel fridge, you can easily transport your refrigerated insulin wherever you go, ideal for locations lacking convenient refrigeration or during lengthy flights.
  • Precise Temperature Control: These portable refrigerators are engineered to keep a steady temperature range of 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C), the optimal range for transporting unopened insulin. Advanced models even feature temperature display screens and automatic shut-off for anti-freeze security.
  • TSA-Approved for Air Travel: Not all portable refrigerators are TSA-approved for air travel, but the ones from 4AllFamily are! This ensures you fly with refrigerated insulin and make sure it's safe even on the plane.
  • Versatile Cooling Options: 4AllFamily provides a variety of cooling solutions to meet the needs of travelers who need to carry insulin and refrigerated medications. Whether you prefer biogel packs or USB-powered travel fridges compatible with car adapters, solar panels, or household plugs, these insulin travel refrigerators ensure your injections stay chilled whether you are traveling, camping, hiking, or enjoying time outdoors by car, boat, plane, train, or beach.

The Voyager Travel Refrigerator, for instance, allows you to safely travel with up to 7 refrigerated insulin pens for more than 30 hours off-the-grid, or for an unlimited time when plugged into a USB power source. With the Nomad Portable Cooling Cases, you can also refrigerate up to 7 insulin pens while traveling without electricity. And the same goes with the Explorer, our 3-in-1 Insulin Cooler, that can carry your insulin pens refrigerated for over 52 hours!

4AllFamily Insulin travel refrigerators to travel with refrigerated insulin

Related article: How to Keep Insulin Cool on a Plane?

Avoid DIY cooler bags

While an insulated lunch bag with ice packs might seem like a practical and cheap solution to keep your insulin cold during travel, we strongly advise against this method for transporting refrigerated insulin.

Such setups are not designed for medical use and can result in highly inconsistent internal temperatures. As the ice melts, it may cause water intrusion, and the frequent temperature fluctuations can jeopardise the safety and efficacy of your insulin. This option lacks the stability and reliability of medical-grade cooling devices, and there's no reliable way to ensure your insulin remains effectively preserved throughout the entire length of your trip.

Refrigerate your insulin upon arrival

Upon reaching your travel destination, store your insulin in a refrigerator as soon as possible to maintain its effectiveness. Some of 4AllFamily's insulin refrigerators, like the Explorer or the Voyager, can simply be plugged to keep your insulin refrigerated during your stay. If not, it's important to plan ahead. 

  • Request a mini-fridge in your hotel room when making your reservation. Most hotels are equipped to accommodate this need, especially for medical purposes like storing refrigerated insulin, and often at no extra cost. Once you arrive and have access to your room, place your insulin in the mini-fridge before unpacking other items or settling in.
  • Alternative arrangements. If a mini-fridge is not available, ask the hotel manager if it's possible to store your insulin in the hotel's main refrigerator. Ensure that it's stored in a secure area and clearly labeled to avoid any mix-ups. If the hotel cannot accommodate your refrigeration needs, ask local pharmacies or any nearby family or friends if they might be willing to store your insulin in their refrigerator for the duration of your stay.

Related article: TSA Regulations for Diabetics: Traveling with Diabetes Supplies & Insulin.

How to Keep Opened Insulin Cool while Traveling

Now, suppose you're traveling with insulin supplies for less than a month. In that case, you do not necessarily need to keep your insulin refrigerated, as most insulins can be stored at room temperature for about a month (from 14 to 56 days depending on the brand and type).

However, room temperature storage is suitable only if the ambient temperature does not exceed 77°F / 25°C. So, if you find yourself in hot climates where temperatures soar above this threshold, you must carry your insulin in a cooler to keep it cool and protected from the heat. Exposure to high temperatures, even for short periods, can quickly make your insulin go bad. 

Related article: How to tell if your insulin has gone bad?

Choose the right insulin travel cooler

To keep your insulin cool when traveling, consider using a medical-grade insulin travel cooler. These coolers are designed protect your insulin from external heat and make sure it's always carried below 77°F / 25°C, even on the hottest summer days.

You may consider a DIY cooler with an insulated lunch bag and ice, but we'd like to warn you that it's very unreliable. Not only is it difficult to ensure consistent cooling, but it also tends to be messy with dripping ice and it's not always approved for air travel.

The new Chiller Advanced Travel Cases are a reliable and medical-grade cooling solution for traveling with in-use opened insulin pens. These tiny, lightweight cooling pouches can keep your insulin cool for at least 45 hours of travel! They're extremely convenient, as they work with an innovative cooling technology based on evaporation, requiring no ice nor electricity!

For compact solutions, the Rambler Single-Pen Insulin Travel Case is great too! It effectively keeps your in-use insulin pen cool below 77°F / 25°C from 12 to 16 hours depending on the ambient temperature.

And if you need more insulin storage capacity, the Companion Insulated Cooler Bag allows you to carry up to 5 insulin pens, perfect for longer journeys or carrying large quantities of insulin.

4AllFamily Insulin Coolers to keep insulin cool when traveling

Practical tips for keeping insulin cool when traveling

In addition to using a travel cooler to keep your opened insulin cool while traveling, adopting a few common-sense practices can also help safeguard your insulin against heat, ensuring it stays cool and effective throughout your journeys:

  • Keep insulin aways from sunlight. Always ensure your insulin is not exposed to direct sunlight, which can rapidly increase its temperature. For example, when dining outdoors, don't leave your insulin on the table; instead, keep it in a shaded, cool bag or under a cloth within your personal bag. 
  • Don't leave your insulin in the car. The temperature in a parked car can climb quickly and dramatically. Always take your insulin with you rather than leaving it behind in the car, even if you think you'll only be gone for a short time.
  • Carry only the insulin you need. During day trips or excursions, carry only the amount of insulin you'll need and leave the rest securely stored in a cool place in your accommodation. This minimizes risk and ensures you have a backup supply in case of accidental exposure to heat.
  • Refrigerate your insulin when possible. At your destination, use a refrigerator to store your insulin-whether in a hotel, a rental property, or a friend's house.
  • Always have a back-up plan. Have a clear action plan for what to do if your insulin does become bad because of improper storage conditions while traveling. Some travel insurance companies may cover the loss of medications during travel, so plan ahead and call your insurer to check if you're covered! 

Related Article: The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling with Diabetes!

We'd Love to Hear From You!

Are you an avid traveler with insulin? We'd love to hear how you handle your insulin on the go. What are your tips and tricks for keeping insulin refrigerated or cool while you explore the world? Drop your stories and suggestions in the comments below - your insights could be a lifeline for fellow travelers!

Article Last Updated on May, 21, 2024

March 29, 2023

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The information presented in this article and its comment section is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a replacement for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for any medical concerns or questions you may have.