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Tips for travelling with insulin

 by angela blair rn cde on 29 Nov 2016 |
3 Comment(s)

I recently received an email from Kate who was about to travel overseas and she wanted to know how to be smart with her insulin supplies on the plane trip and while she was holidaying in Thailand.

Kate asked about the amount of insulin she needed to take. I always use the following formula to work out how much insulin is needed, first multiply your daily dose by the number of days away, then add an additional 20% for those “just in case moments”. When Kate applied this formula in preparation for her trip, she was surprised at the large number of disposable pens she would need. So Kate and I talked about re-useable insulin pens, these pens use 3ml penfill cartridges, which are smaller in size, so take up less space when travelling. I suggested a Novopen 4 for her Novorapid and a ClickStar for her Lantus that Kate could order for free from the in preparation for her trip. Using one of her scripts, she was able to have the pharmacist swap from disposable pens to a penfill cartridges.
If you want more information on the different options available for taking injectable medications, please speak with your healthcare team or you can call Diabetes NSW & ACT or Diabets Tasmania on 1300 136 588 and ask to speak with a diabetes educator.
It is important when travelling to keep supplies of insulin at a stable temperature of 2 to 8 degrees. The insulin in use can be kept at room temperature (15 to 25 degrees) for up to 28 days.

I suggested to Kate that she use a Frio wallet for her trip. The Frio wallets come in a range of sizes including one for insulin pumps. The cooling properties of the Frio wallet come from the evaporation of water, which allows Frio wallets to keep contents stored at low temperature of less than 25 degrees for up to two days. No ice packs or freezers required. Simply soak the Frio wallet in water for 5-10 minutes to activate the crystals contained in the panels of the wallet. Once wet the crystals expand into a cooling gel. The wallet can be re-used by just re-soaking or left to dry out until needed for the next trip.

The best way to use a Frio wallet is to keep the insulin in the wallet for the travel period. Once you arrive at your destination place the insulin in the mid-section of a fridge if it won’t be used within 28 days. 

Refrigeration is not required if the insulin is going to be used within 28 days, just keep soaking the wallet insert in water every 2 days to maintain the temperature.

Frio Cooling Wallets

RRP: $42.00 - $60.00

If you have any questions about diabetes related products please email me at

For more information about travelling with insulin or other products please call 1300 136 588 to speak to one of our diabetes educators or visit our online shop at

About the Author
Angela Blair

I am a credentialled diabetes educator through the Australian Diabetes Educators Association and have worked in diabetes care and management since 1979 in a number of clinical and management roles.

My professional qualifications are NSW registered nurse/midwife with a Bachelor of Nursing from the University of Newcastle (1993), and a Masters in Applied Management (Health) through the University of Newcastle.


Daniel - Comment
Daniel12 Dec 2016Reply
As someone who spends 150+ days on the road internationally, I find this very good advice. Thanks, But if I could presume to add a few tips from experience: take a spare empty pen, both Clickstar and Novo. They can be hard to find on the road. Take a spare box of needles, they are very light. Always have a recent letter on your doctor's letterhead for all meds. Especially for travel in Asia. Always be initially wary of bar fridges in hotels, often people have turned the thermostat right down and you you dont want your Frio or insulin frozen, and on your day of departure from each hotel, put your outer cover of your Frio on top of your toiletries bag, to remind ypu to get it from the fridge! Safe travels.
Laraine - Comment
Laraine18 Dec 2016Reply
I will be travelling to US later in 2017. Would it be better to use the Frio Cooling Wallets (how many would I need?) or your 21 x 21 cm travel cube. By your calculations I will need 31.1 pen fill cartridges for my trip. I am a bit worried that there won't be enough room in Motel room fridges to hold my insulin and that they may not have freezers to keep the freezer block (it doesn't say what they are made of and how big they are in the details on your web site). I usually use a Waeco fridge in the car when travelling in Aus.
Sue - Comment
Sue24 Jan 2017Reply
A word of caution re the FRIO wallets and fridges when travelling..
I have had the wallets freeze on me in some smaller fridges, even when place mid level and not near the top.I have been concerned that the frozen wallets will have frozen the insulin as well.

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