Our traveling adventures, or how NOT to pack for a trip with T1D

I took my kids on a first real trip since T1D diagnosis. We went to Disneyland last year but we drove there, only stayed for a couple of days, my husband came with us, and we were fairly close to home. This time I flew solo with kids to visit friends who live in a small town in a different state. This presented a first-time challenge of packing all of the diabetes supplies. Now, packing for T1D is like Noah’s Arc on steroids. You have to pack two of everything, and then some more, to be prepared for every contingency. And there’s lots of “everything”: meter, strips, lancets, pods, sensors, tape, various wipes, fast acting sugars. And there is a bunch of paperwork, just in case: a letter from the Endocrinologist, a list of all medications, notes from the pump and CGM regarding TSA screening and safety for X-rays. I made my list, I checked it twice, I packed. I felt very prepared.


Going through TSA was fairly simple. Since the CGM could not go through the X-ray machine, we requested a visual inspection. I was a little concerned about how long the process would take, since we were also carrying enough sharps to poke every passenger on the plane 50 times, plus insulin and other liquids that would be too much of a pain to put in a zip lock baggie separately. I also prepped my daughter that she may need to go through a pat down. Imagine my surprise when it was I who got frisked by TSA. “We do not pat down children”, they said. Interestingly, I have heard of some other T1D kids getting pat-downs, so I do not know if there are different rules for international flights, or if TSA agents don’t always know what they are doing. Nonetheless, it only took a few extra minutes for us to get through security, they looked through our belongings but thankfully were not perplexed by anything. We were at the gate with plenty of time to spare and found a spot to finally eat our breakfast.

V opens her diabetes kit and asks: “Where is the poker [lancing device]?” Umm, what? We look, it’s not there. We go through her bag, it’s not there. We must have left it in her room in the morning. But hey, we packed double of everything, so I go to our back up supplies and pull out another lancing device. Whew. Crisis averted and I am feeling pretty smug about being so prepared. So smug that I snap a picture of the back-up supplies bag at the airport while we are waiting to board.

About a day into our travels I realize I should have packed a plastic container for sharps. Normally she disposes lancets in a small container that she carried in her bag, and we dump it out into a large container at home. And it just so happens that my friends do not happen to have a plastic container that would work. Besides, I would not want to leave it there, and would need to bring it back with us to dispose of all the sharps. I got lucky there. I happened to put some of our airplane snacks into a tupperware container, which I was able to re-purpose for a sharps container for the trip. Of course I could have made a trip to the store and purchased a suitable container, but still… OK, lesson learned and I am feeling less smug.

Moving along, things are going pretty well for a few days, and then it’s the night before going home. It is 10:15 PM and I see that V is down to 2 test strips in her kit. But hey, I brought more, so no worries. I reach into back-up supplies bag. I do not see the strips. How can it be? I packed them for sure! I was absolutely certain. I crossed it off the list. Maybe the box of strips fell out when I was getting something else out? I tear the room apart but alas, the strips are nowhere to be found. And we are in a small town. Almost everything is closed down. ALL the pharmacies are closed. The next 24-hr pharmacy is at least a 45-minute drive. O.M.G. Breathe. Do not panic. There must be a solution.

Somehow my reptilian brain kicks in with a memory that I saw diabetic supplies on the shelves of a CVS store, not exclusively behind the pharmacy counter. Hang on… You don’t need Rx for most diabetic supplies. It’s just ridiculously expensive without insurance coverage. So maybe, just maybe, if we find a store that is open, we can find something there. To my relief, the Walmart is open until midnight. I have never been happier about going to Walmart, which I generally prefer to avoid. But on that night, Walmart = love. My friend takes me there, and on the way mentions that she has a diabetic friend and, if nothing else works, she will call and wake her up and see if we can get strips from her. I’m deeply grateful but crossing fingers that we won’t have to use that option. I also ask my friend about where they would get their medication filled if they needed it in the middle of the night. Is there a pharmacy at the ER? And perhaps if I cannot find anything at Walmart I can go to the ER to have a heart attack and ask for some test strips on a side.

We get to Walmart, where indeed there is a diabetes supplies section. There is hope. I scan the shelves like a hungry vulture. I find several brands of test strips. The cheapest box is over $50. Who cares, I’m willing to pay whatever it costs. Except none of the brands are compatible with the two meters that we have. I scan the shelves again and spot a kit that includes a meter and 20 test strips. It’s not a brand we use or will use in the future, but it will do! And it’s under $20 to boot. I walk out with much needed supplies and without a heart attack. I get back to the house, test out the meter and the strips and everything works well. Breathe and eat chocolate ice cream. Crisis resolved.

Next time diabetes packing will be a two-person job. One of us will pack and the other one will check everything against the list. And maybe we will pack triple of everything, just in case.

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