Keeping your insulin cold while traveling is a common concern; Luckily, it doesn’t have to be too difficult.
Whether you’re traveling with insulin pens or vials, near or far, we’ll try to answer all your questions in this short guide, including:
The main questions you’ll need to answer to know what to do are for how long you’re traveling, and how hot your destination is going to be. This handy flowchart summarizes what you should do according to that information:
How long can you keep your insulin out of the fridge?
Insulin can stay out of the fridge for up to 28 days, at temperatures of up to 30°C / 86°F. This is true both for a brand new pen or vial, or one that’s already in use. So if you’re traveling for under a month and it’s not hot at your destination, take this worry of your heart and just carry your insulin wherever is comfortable for you. We are happy to have new customers here in BreezyPacks, but if you don’t actually need our products – we prefer that you’ll be aware of it! There are enough people who do. Make sure to keep it away from the sun and direct heat, though, and dispose of your unused insulin once you get back home if it’s been stored outside for too long.
How to keep your insulin cold while traveling in hot places?
Some of the best places to travel to can get quite hot, and if beach vacations are your thing – pretty much all of them are! So what do you do when outside temperatures are too hot to carry your insulin safely?
The old-school solution is to freeze some gel packs or use ice and carry them in a cooler with your insulin. Be aware that this can sometimes lead to insulin freezing and getting destroyed. To avoid this, do not use gel packs that freeze below 0°C / 32°F (many of them do), and when using normal ice – avoid having it in direct contact with your insulin, and let a tiny bit of it defrost before closing it in the cooler. This will mean that your ice has reached its melting point and is much less likely to overcool your insulin.
The more modern approach is using an insulin cooling case. There are many of these on the market, but they mostly come in 3 main varieties:
Simple insulated cases with freezable gel packs – essentially the same as ice in a cooler. Some new ones use a vacuum-insulated thermal bottle, which can make them last much longer, but also leads to an increased risk of freezing if used incorrectly.
Evaporation-based insulin coolers; The first and most famous ones are the Frio bags. They need to be soaked in water, after which they cool your insulin by evaporation – just like sweating cools down your body. This is a great solution for many people as it does not require electricity or access to a freezer. The main disadvantages of these ones are that they are moist/wet while in use, they need to be exposed to the air, and they do not function well in high-humidity environments (just like sweating does not cool you down very much when it’s humid outside) – so maybe not the best for a tropical vacation!
Our BreezyPacks, which work using phase change material (PCMs) – they recharge by crystallizing when you’re in your room / at night and temperatures are lower, and actively cool down your insulin when it’s hotter outside. I’m obviously not objective here, but I do think they’re a great solution for keeping your insulin cold while traveling that avoids all of the issues above – After all, that’s exactly why we created them.
Whichever solution you decide on – make sure to actually use it! getting a cooler or a special case doesn’t do much if your insulin ends up sitting in your pocket while you’re hiking in the sun 😉
How to keep your insulin cold while traveling for over one month?
When traveling for over one month, keeping your insulin at room temperature isn’t enough – you’ll need it fridge-cold, at least some of the time. The thumb rule is that your insulin shouldn’t spend more than a month outside – so if, for example, you’re traveling for two months, the insulin you use during the first month doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but the insulin you keep for the second month needs to spend at least 50% of the time in a fridge (the best option) or a cooler with ice. Most hotels or hostels will have a fridge on premise that you can use, making this task very much possible. If you do use a cooler with ice – make sure to follow the advice in the previous part on preventing your insulin from freezing!
How to keep your insulin cold on a plane?
The simple answer is – you don’t need to keep it cold – just keep it from getting TOO hot.
As we said before, your insulin has no problem lasting through the hours you spend on the plane as long as the temperature there is under 30°C / 86°F. Temperatures higher than that are highly unusual on a plane, but do ensure that you don’t place your insulin on a heating vent – these are often located by the passenger’s feet. If you still are concerned about the temperatures in the plane, you can use an insulin cooling case like our BreezyPacks – which can be carried through airport security with no issues.
If there’s more you’d like to know about flying with diabetes supplies, we have a whole article just about that!
I hope this article helped set things straight! Feel free to comment here or message us if there’s anything more you’d like to know 🙂