Top Tips For Flying With A Type 1 Diabetic Child

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Flying With a Type 1 Diabetic Child

The first time I flew with my Type 1 Diabetic Child, he had only been diagnosed for about a month.  I stuffed this duffle bag FULL of supplies.  And food.  And every single thing I thought I’d need for an extended trip to Florida.  My attempt at an insulin cooler was ridiculous!  Flying with a Type 1 Diabetic Child can bring on added anxiety and stress.  

I was prepared, but also not prepared, to fly with my Type 1.  I held up the TSA line; explaining, showing, and opening items.  I had supplies and stuff everywhere!  At the end of the process, I was so annoyed, I just threw everything back in the bag.  When we got to Florida, everything was so squished and a heap of a mess!  It was a disaster.   

Flying with a Type 1 Diabetic Child doesn’t have to be the huge ordeal it’s made out to be, if you have some pointers and know what to expect.  We have since flown A LOT and want to share with you the tips I’ve found to be helpful, so you can breeze through that TSA line like a champ!

First Flight as Type 1 Diabetic

Flight:  May 15, 2019 

Diagnosed: April 18, 2019.  You can still see a little bit of dark circles around his eyes.  He was such a trooper; I’ll admit I was a bit overwhelmed with all the STUFF.  I hope this post helps you feel less of a disaster than I did on your first flight with your Type 1 Diabetic child.

Tips for Flying with a Type 1 Diabetic Child

Vitamins

Whether you choose to wear a mask or not, it is still important to ramp up both yours and your Type 1’s health and immune system a few weeks prior to take off.  

In the two weeks leading up to hoping on a the plane, I increase my son’s vitamins to include the Olly’s Immunity Vitamins (actually we add these throughout the fall and winter season as well).

I also ramp up my vitamin intake of Zinc, Selenium, and A and B complex, as well. 

While this isn’t a necessity, it certainly DOES help both you and your Type 1 to feel good on vacation, but also afterwards! 

Planning

Unfortunately, as a Mom of a Type 1, you now have a lot more things to get in order and plan for besides gathering clothes and any odds-and-ends to go on vacation when you’re flying with a Type 1 Diabetic Child.  

You will need to give yourself more time and start planning in advance if you’re going on a trip, no matter how long you will be gone.

First off, I would consider signing up for TSA Pre-Check, if you are U.S. Resident. This cuts down TSA wait times and you don’t have to remove shoes and unpack electronics, etc. You will already have extra things to do for security because of diabetes supplies, and TSA Pre-Check can make it easier on you.  This is something that may take a few months to get, so you will need to plan ahead for this.  

Things that should be considered when planning: 

How many days you will be gone for?  

You’ll want to give yourself some buffer days and plan for several days of extra supplies.  If you are headed out to a beach destination, sand, saltwater, and sweat can be tough on things like insulin pumps and aide in CGMs falling off.  A good rule of thumb is to bring 2 days of extra supplies for a week.  

Check Your Inventory.

Be sure to check your supplies 1-2 months prior to your trip to make sure you have enough for your travels.  This includes MDI and Pump supplies, CGMs AND TRANSMITTERS, any patches for medical devices, insulin, BG test strips and ketone strips.  Plan your refills accordingly.  If you don’t have extra insulin to bring with you, reach out to the Endo’s office and have them push you a new Rx through that will allow you to bring a back up with you.   

Get a letter from your child’s Endocrinologist.  

Reach out to your the Endo a month or two prior to your first trip, it may take them some time to get you the letter, so don’t wait until the last minute.  Let them know you and your Type 1 are going on a trip and would like a letter from them.  This letter will act as back-up when going through TSA security, if they try to deny you brining things through security.  The letter should include the life threatening severity of Type 1 Diabetes, the requirement to bring and have access to juice and snacks at all times, and the authorization of medical equipment and prescriptions. We have never had to use this letter, but it is good to have on hand, since you’ll find the TSA in each airport has different rules and methods.

Back up to your back up

Plan to bring MDI supplies with you even if your child is on a pump!  As you know, there can be several complications – pumps and PDMs could get wet or damaged, lost… you know you need MDI supplies for a just-in-case, but thought I should also list it here as a reminder!

Organizing Supplies & Packing

As I mentioned, I have done this part like a hot-mess in the past.  I wanted enough supplies with me (not in a lost suitcase), but did not have a great way of keeping that all together and neat and organized.  

A few things I’ve learned: 

Pack as many supplies as you can in a carry-on

If you need more room, use your suitcase as a last resort. Just beware that these are usually screened, so do not pack any CGM devices that cannot go through the x-ray machine.

Know and be prepared for extra time through security. They will most-likely test your hands and the exterior of any liquid you bring through the line.

Let security know when you approach the belt, that your child wears and has medical equipment (if they use a CGM or insulin pumps) *see note below!

Keep the supplies you will need during the trip assessible and separate from the supplies you’re bringing for your trip. This will help keep your supplies neat and lessen the need to dig through everything during your trip.

What Can You Bring Through Security?

Despite what you may have been told, you can bring whatever is medically necessary for your Child through security.  So if that means juice, a sandwich, some fruit, crackers, and all your supplies; then you can bring all that through.  You can also bring insulin and a frozen cooler pack in an insulated bag.  

Just know, to make it much easier through security, the juice should be sealed (not opened), and like items should be packed or grouped together.  So the food should be in one bag, the juice/liquids in another.  This will make it easier on you.  That way you can pull out the items that cannot go through the x-ray and separate the items (like the liquids) that they may need to visually inspect easily and not have to rummage through ALL the supplies, like I did the first time we flew!  

Getting Through Security

I find everything goes a lot smoother when you declare you will need a visual inspection because of medical necessity. 

My personal preference is to NOT send any Dexcom supplies through the X-ray machine, nor the body scanner.  If your Child wears a Dexcom device, you can review their recommendations in Traveling with a Dexcom CGM guide.  If you use another CGM, you should check with that manufacturer.  

By not doing this you should know they will go through your supply bag (which is why we are keeping it so organized), and they will take a little longer.  Keeping your supplies grouped together is especially important for this part of your travel.  You will still send all of your normal “stuff” through the X-ray machine.  If your child wears medical devices, you may be able to walk around the metal detector with your Type 1 Child too (depending on their age).  Keep in mind, circumventing any of TSA’s rules and regulations, like bringing liquids through or avoiding the metal detector, will require extra time of you and may result in pat downs and hand swabs. 

Chances are when they go to check the juice, they will ask you if it’s ok if they open to test it.  You do not have to let them do that.  What are you going to do…carry around an opened juice box?  Ummm. No.  If you don’t agree, they will swab the juice – no biggie.  Just takes a minute or two long. 

Definitely give yourself enough time to get through security!  TSA Precheck is a huge help, even though there is a cost, to avoid even more things to do at the security line.

Pro Traveling Tip

Most airlines will allow you to carry-on your medical supply bag(s) free of charge! That way you can use the overhead compartment for the supply bag and still have room for a travel bag and a personal item. Before you go paying for that carry-on, check with your airlines for their policy on baggage. If necessary, clarify nicely upon check-in that the bag is a medical necessity. It is also helpful to attach a medical tag to this supply bag so it is clear. If you are crafty this is a great home craft project!

Must-Have Travel Items

Looking for some travel solutions?  I seriously could not fly with my Type 1 without these.  Highly loved and worth the investment.  On travel days, there is no peace of mind greater than having everything packed and ready, and knowing it will be a smooth experience.  

More Travel Essentials for Type 1 Diabetes

Traveling with a Type 1 Diabetic child can be stressful and may require a lot of additional “stuff.”  Over the years I have found some really good products that help.  If you need some more ideas, you can visit my storefront to see all the super helpful diabetes travel essentials we couldn’t travel without

Shannon Leigh

Shannon Leigh

Shannon is the Mom of a Type 1 Diabetic son who is determined to help other Moms become confident and in-control of their Child's diabetes. Finding ways to lessen the burden Moms feel as the primary caregiver of a Type 1 is her passion. She also loves cooking and creating kid-friendly, low-carb recipes that are yummy and don't impact blood sugar.

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hi! I'm Shannon!

Full-time problem solver, part-time pancreas.  Boy Mom & solo-parent. Lover of the beach.  I enjoy reading, cooking, and traveling.

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