Traveling with Type 1: Best way to keep insulin cool on long trips?

Well, hello there. I'm new to the TuDiabetes community! I've had type 1 (possibly LADA...?) for four years. I love to travel. I was actually diagnosed while studying abroad in Chile. Thankfully, I am in good health with no complications thus far. Recently, my husband and I decided to do a 10-day group trip to Peru and Bolivia. I'm excited to be returning to South America for the first time since I was diagnosed, but apprehensive at the same time. Ever since my diagnosis, I've had the opportunity to travel throughout the US, the Caribbean and Europe, but I still inevitably get pre-trip anxiety when it comes to planning out the logistical details of traveling with diabetes. 

One thing that frustrates me almost more than anything else about traveling with diabetes is keeping my extra insulin cool. I still have not found an efficient way to do this. I do not need basal insulin, I just bolus with Humalog. In the past what I've done is used freezer packs combined with instant cold packs and/or bags of ice inside a cooler to keep my extra supply cool until I get to my destination. That part is complicated because, of course, the cold packs tend to only cool for a couple of hours at most...for overseas travel, I usually have to find some way to get a baggie of ice or something in the middle of the journey to cover me for the rest of the trip after the cold packs have warmed up. Then once I arrive, if I'm staying mainly in one place, I try to make sure ahead of time that the hotel is equipped with refrigeration. For this upcoming trip to South America, although the guides have assured me that we will have refrigeration at each hotel, we will be changing hotels several times during the trip, which means I will need lots and lots of cold packs for the traveling between destinations...and preferably the access to a freezer at some point to re-freeze my freezer packs. The whole business of it just makes me want to say, 'the heck with it.'

I'm curious if anyone else has ever dealt with this issue in an easier/more cost-effective way? Maybe I'm being too worried about keeping my spare supply cold...I'd just prefer not to let it go to waste if I can avoid it, but it might be more hassle than it's worth. Frio packs won't do the trick...the insulin has to be maintained at 36-46ish degrees Farenheit until use. If anyone has any input or suggestions, I'd much appreciate it :)

Views: 2225

Tags: 1, insulin, travel, type

Comment by Gerri on May 6, 2013 at 1:12am

Welcome, Lauren.

I've used a Frio successfully for travel in hot climates. Used it in Turkey, Greece & Italy in the summer without any problem. It's also kept my insulin potent for domestic outings with temp in the 90's.

Comment by Brian (bsc) on May 6, 2013 at 4:28am

I'll also vouch for the Frio's, but I would caveat their use. You need to still keep the pouch out of the scorching sun and not place it in very high heat conditions like a closed up car in the sun. And they don't work well in very humid conditions, once the relative humidity gets really high > 80-90%, then evaporation stops and the Frio stops working. I would also caution you about hotel fridges, they often have terrible temperature control and you need to be careful they don't freeze your insulin.

I took a 16 day trip through Spain and Italy and had some days where the temperature was 100 deg and my Humalog in the Frio did fine. I also did a two week cruise and trip to mexico and my R/NPH did fine in the Frio outside, but that trip also had a twist.

Comment by David (dns) on May 6, 2013 at 10:02am

My experience with the Frio has also been consistently good, though not in quite such extreme conditions as others have described here.

Comment by laurenG on May 6, 2013 at 10:35am

Thanks for all the comments! Looks like Frio has some happy customers. I guess what I'm primarily concerned about though is keeping my extra insulin cool...not the pen that I'm going to be using during the trip (we'll only be gone about 12 days). And doesn't that have to be kept colder than what Frio does? I've been told that once you take insulin out of the fridge it is only good for 28 days and I know I won't be able to use up all that insulin in that amount of time.

Comment by Gerri on May 6, 2013 at 12:18pm

No, all insulin (opened & unopened) should be kept from heat & excessive cold. In hot weather, your pen should be in a Frio. I keep used & new insulin refrigerated. A myth to sell more insulin that it's kaput after 28 days. I use a vial of Apidra for 6-7 weeks with no loss of potency.

Comment by David (dns) on May 6, 2013 at 1:32pm

I concur w/Gerri. I use two types of insulin, keep them refrigerated all the time, and typically get close to three months' use from a vial with, as she said, no loss of effectiveness.

Comment by laurenG on May 7, 2013 at 5:03pm

Great, thanks for the info! I will invest in a Frio for the trip!

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