Tips: travelling with diabetes

Esme Shanley
Esme Shanley

Travel can be stressful. And if you’re like me – living the fullest of life while having insulin-treated diabetes on multiple daily injections – a little bit of planning can make it much easier.

How I approach travel

When I travel, I generally go further afield on a new adventure as I like nothing more than experiencing different cultures and food. I enjoy activity-led trips, lying on a beach for days on end, and everything in between.

The first thing I think about before going away is do I have an excuse for another shopping trip? Be it a new swimsuit or upgraded ski jacket, you can’t beat a bit of retail therapy.

Once the all-important new wardrobe is in place, I’ll move onto my diabetes checklist which always starts with these 2 key questions: how many days will I be away for? and what’s the time difference?

From here it goes something like this:

  • How much equipment will I need? Including that all-important buffer kit in case of a diabetes disaster
  • Are my diabetes travel items still in good condition? I use a Frio pack to keep my insulin cool and carry a trusty “this person has diabetes” letter from my diabetes consultant to help my case with any airport scrutiny
  • Alongside my checklist, I’ll start to hoard a diabetes pile (minus the fridge items), to make sure I don’t forget the most crucial items I’ll need on any holiday
  • What hand luggage bag shall I take to fit all my diabetes kit in? *Queue an impromptu moment of stuffing everything I’ll need into the bag of choice to see if it all fits.* I like to take almost all of my kit with me in my hand luggage so finding the bag size is usually determined by the distance of the flight and the number of days I’m away for – the longer these are, generally the bigger the bag
  • One of the most crucial questions I then ask myself is: when should I inject my background insulin with an x hours time difference?

Why diabetes won’t stop me

I quite often take a “diabetes holiday” while I’m travelling where I switch off from my diabetes a little more than an average day. I like to explore so I will eat all the foods I want to taste and sightsee until my ankles swell up. While, I refuse to let diabetes stop me from enjoying any part of it, being prepared with enough equipment, such as hypos treatments at inconvenient moments, always helps to pick up continuing to live it to its fullest.



How I deal with my biggest travel challenges

Travelling with diabetes is not always easy, these are my 3 biggest challenges and how I overcome them.

Time difference if travelling long haul. It’s always a bit tricky to get your background insulin into some kind of stable pattern. The more you pre-plan when to adjust it to and/or slowly adjust it in the lead to the travel, the quicker it can become stable while you’re away. Your diabetes team should be able to support you on this too.

Food – trying lots of new foods brings a lot of uncertainty on exactly what’s in it and how much insulin to inject. There’s no magic formula to overcome this. It’s in these moments I go on a “diabetes holiday” the most and that’s OK.

Heat can take its toll. Remembering that you don’t need as much insulin, while sitting on a sun lounger all day, can take a while to re-adjust to. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re human – you’ll get into the swing of it within a few days or so and that’s also OK.

How I use Quin while travelling

This depends on where I’m going. For the most part, I enjoy exploring new places so it’s unlikely I will visit the same place twice. I don’t consider logging my food when exploring a new place as each day is so different that there aren’t as many benefits for me to look back on particular foods that I’ll likely never have again.

Knowing the timing of my insulin is very helpful. So I find the Onboard wheel and notifications useful, especially for background insulin, as it can be a challenge on time zone changes over 4 hours. 

Whereas, if I’m on a “staycation” with familiar surroundings, I use the Quin app as I would on an average day. I’m more likely to do the same things again and want to be able to refer back to previous decisions in the future.


We’d love to hear your views, experiences and advice on travelling with diabetes. 

Check out our video with more tips for travelling with diabetes. If you want to join our research programme, you can apply here


Esme is our Head of Delivery and Operations and has been living with diabetes for over a decade. She loves food, travel and shopping and is pioneering diabetes breakthroughs by driving the delivery of the Quin.




Esme Shanley
Esme Shanley