The Six Stages of Packing to Travel with Type 1 Diabetes

-Lisa Taylor

As a person with type 1 diabetes, I carry some serious baggage. I’m being literal – we have extra stuff to carry, especially when we travel.

Filling a suitcase with shiny, pointy diabetes things makes me uneasy long before I step into an airport. Turbulence, terrible food, and icky bathrooms are nothing compared to the anxiety of packing dozens of needles and really expensive – yet hard to describe – medical equipment for a trip through airport security.

This is why my packing happens in stages, much like the stages of grief.

Stage 1: The Heaping

I pile everything I think I might need on the bed. Clothes, toiletries, accessories, as well as diabetes supplies. My husband gets an oh-here-we-go-again look in his eyes and steers clear.

Stage 2: Sorting and Separating

Here I assess what’s necessary from what’s not. Do I need 20 shirts? No, that’s ridiculous. Do I need 20 backup syringes in case my pump breaks? Well, possibly.

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Stage 3: Panic Mode

“There’s no way all this is going to fit,” I think.

So I put the extra shoes back in the closet and recalculate all the medical supplies heaping on my bed. For instance, I calculate that a nine-day trip equals a minimum of three infusion sets.

Then the panic sets in. What happens if a setting falls off in the pool? If I get a kink? If one of my kids yanks it out while we play Frisbee?

And just like that three becomes nine. Or, a whole box of ten. More often than not, ten.

Stage 4: Medical Assessment

After my clothes are neatly tucked into my suitcase, I organize the diabetes supplies with the hope that I haven’t overlooked anything.

Reservoirs, infusion sets, IV prep wipes? Check. CGM sensors, sensor inserter, transmitter, transmitter charger (with a new battery), and IV 3000? Check. Insulin and emergency syringes? Check. Glucose and Glucagon? Check and check!

If you’re observant, you may wonder why my picture above doesn’t have my blood glucose meter. The answer is because I nearly forgot it for this particular trip.

Then, a few days later, I lost it on the beach.

Stage 5: Carrying On and On

If the trip is longer, I’m still not done.

I have to assess what goes in my carry-on versus what goes into the suitcase. I pack for the slight chance the plane might make an unscheduled landing. Hey, it happens. I’ve seen the news.

supplies 2
That’s why I make sure to stash in my carry-on the really expensive items that the insurance companies don’t take too kindly to losing, like my transmitter charger. I also take at least one of every supply.

Then, I double it.

Stage 6: An Act of Faith

At the airport, I hold my breath while the needles in my carry-on bag disappear through the x-ray conveyor. I keep my breath held as I disconnect my pump, put it in a baggy, and send it through, too.

After what feels like forever, I’m eventually seated on the plane with my blood glucose meter and airport water within reach.

Finally, I exhale.

That is, until the pilot announces that takeoff is delayed. Then I’m just hoping we brought enough snacks for the kids.

Lisa Taylor is a freelance writer, wife, and mother of two. For thirty years (and counting), she’s been living with type 1. You can contact her through her website at or or tweet her @taylorwriting.


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