Air Travel and Type 1 Diabetes

This is my first post about diabetes.  These diabetes posts may not always be funny or entertaining, but I hope that by sharing our experiences with Type 1 diabetes, I can help others with Type 1 Diabetes in their struggle to make daily life a wee bit easier.

We have flown at least 40 times (domestic and international) since diagnosis, so I consider myself somewhat of an expert on this.

First – Put ALL of your supplies in a carry-on bag. DO NOT CHECK ANYTHING. We have a separate bag dedicated solely to diabetes supplies. When it goes through the conveyor belt we just point to it and say “This is diabetes supplies”. No one, not once, in any country, has EVER questioned it, or wanted to go through it.  We do carry a note from our endocrinologist, stating that it’s okay to carry all these items, but no one has ever asked to see it and we have never had a reason to pull it out.

There is absolutely NO reason to have to disconnect the pump ever at all, with ONE exception – the new full body xray machines at security. The regular metal detectors are fine. If they have the full body xray (which isn’t all that common yet) just have him disconnect, you can hold it, and then put it back on after. They may at that point want to swab the pump, which is no big deal.  You do not need to disconnect the pump while on the plane.

We always take 3 times as many supplies as we need, just in case.  We use a small insulated bag with an ice pack for the insulin. I have a master list of supplies that we just print out for each trip to check off and make sure we don’t forget anything.  Feel free to copy this and keep it for yourself.

Our packing list:

Extra tester(s) – IMPORTANT!!!
We have definitely needed this several times, including the time my son left his tester in the seat pocket on the plane (grrrrr)

Test Strips
Alcohol wipes
IV Prep wipes
Ketone sticks
Sites (we use the Mio, so Mios and Reservoirs)
Lantus (yes, we always take Lantus in case of pump failure)
Flashlight (for testing on a dark plane or in a dark hotel room)
Glucose tabs/gel
EXTRA PUMP – Call your pump company (we use Medtronic) and they will send you a loaner to take with you just in case.  Just don’t open the box if you don’t need it. When you get home you mail it back.

I wouldn’t pack juice, I’d just buy it after security.  That would be the one thing that TSA might question you on, and rather than have to argue with TSA about it being necessary for t1, its just easier to buy it after security.  Yes, include snacks in your carry ons.

Take advantage of pre-boarding for those with “special needs”.  It gives you the time you need to get settled in your seat, check blood sugar, and take care of any corrections you might need before takeoff.

My son tends to run high during flights, mostly from so much sitting, so we set a temporary basal of about 125% for the duration of the flight.

You can request bulkhead seating on the airplane if you want, which they hold for people with disabilities.  It may not be available, but if it is, you can usually get it.  We don’t care for bulkhead, but lots of people do.

Sometimes when you book your flight, there aren’t seats together available.  Most airlines will do everything they can to accomodate families of a child with special needs, especially if you state that he needs assistance with his medical equipment.  They will usually tell you to ask at check-in, and most times they can move things around so that at least the diabetic and one parent are together, if not the entire family.  We used to try to get things changed if we weren’t together, but my son is so self-sufficient now its really no big deal.  If we sit together, we sit together.  If not, oh well.

Also, when you get to your destination, if you are staying in a hotel, you can request a mini fridge if they don’t already have one.  You don’t have to pay for it as per the ADA.

I’d say the most important thing is not to overthink it.  We always approach security as though it is no big deal, and have never had a problem.

UPDATE:This summer we went to Alaska. At the airport in Anchorage they had the full body scanners, and I requested Jordan be allowed to go through the regular scanners because of his pump (I had him hold up his pump to show them). They were totally fine with that, but after he went through the scanner they asked to swab his pump. As they were swabbing, I inquired as to why they wanted to swab it when most airports do not. The TSA guy told me that it was because Jordan had shown him the pump. If he had just left it in his pocket they wouldn’t have cared, but because he showed it to them, they are required to swab it. (which isn’t a big deal, but just an extra step).

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8 Responses to Air Travel and Type 1 Diabetes

  1. Shannon your favorite friend says:

    Having traveled with you guys, I have to say, you have this down to a science and it really doesn’t direct your lives, it’s incredible! You have done an amazing job at making sure Jordan manages this disease and not allowing the disease to manage him! Love ya!

  2. Kara Joseph says:

    I think its great that you’re willing to share this information.

  3. Dave Strnad says:

    What a great mom…

  4. Kimberley says:

    Thanks for the info! What do you do with the extra travel pump if it can’t go through the x-ray machines? Do you remove it when your carry on bags go through the x-ray machine?

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