Packing for a road trip with four kids is never easy. Of course you need to bring clothes, snacks, and things to do in the car and at the destination. When you pack for your child with type 1 diabetes, you also need to bring a lot of tools and supplies!

I’ve talked about my giant diabetes supply bag that I used to lug around in the early days of diagnosis. Thankfully we no longer feel like we need to bring the kitchen sink for fun day trips. We’ve got that really streamlined. But road trips lasting several days are another beast all together!

Here’s what we think about when we pack our diabetes supplies:

  1. A dedicated bag

I always put together a special bag just for the diabetes supplies. This is important for several reasons. The bag is rather smallish with easy-to-grab handles, so that I can keep it resting on the center console in my van. From experience, I find that I need to grab this bag if the whole family is leaving the packed car while we are en route to our destination. Oftentimes we travel through parts of the country that are very warm during summer months, and the contents of our diabetes bag, especially the insulin, shouldn’t be left in the hot car. Also, when we unload the car at our destination, we are often unpacking a lot of stuff. Whether we’re staying with relatives or at a hotel of some sort, it can be hard to stay organized at our new home base. Having a dedicated bag keeps us from getting important diabetes supplies lost or misplaced.

  1. The necessities and then some

So what do I carry in my diabetes bag? Here’s a list of some of the things that we find useful. Remember that our regimen might vary from what is recommended by your diabetes team, so keep that in mind! Still, I have included many items just for our comfort.

In our bag we have: our regular meter, our backup meter, and our blood ketone meter. We have lots and lots of test strips. In my experience, not having test strips around can be a very costly mistake! We have lancets, alcohol prep pads, glucose tabs, juice boxes, and treatment for severe low blood sugar. For overnights, we have a headlamp and a baby monitor. We have batteries, and we also have the cords for charging our devices. I keep a phone charger in the bag as well, since I consider my smart phone one of my diabetes devices. We have backup pump supplies and backup continuous glucose monitor (CGM) supplies. We have syringes to use just in case. We have scissors, bandages, and tape to affix pump sites and sensors. We have antibiotic ointment and antiseptic wash. Oh, and we have insulin! I always bring at least two vials. I find that when I’m traveling and out of my routine, I like to have one vial that I leave at room temperature and one that I keep cold in case there are any slipups about keeping the insulin at the right temperature.

  1. Plenty of extras

Unlike my day trips, I am not a minimalist in packing for excursions lasting longer than a day or two! I think about every possible contingency, and I bring whatever I think I might need—times two! It is simply not worth it to try and find diabetes supplies in a totally new locale. It’s much more comforting to have everything that could possibly be needed in my special bag. Traveling can be so unpredictable, it’s completely worth it to me to have everything I could possibly want or desire.

This system has served us really well. Vacations can present some really unpredictable situations that are best served with lots of supplies. Having a dedicated bag has saved us lots of time and stress. When we get to our lodging, we make sure our diabetes bag gets a place of honor. It keeps diabetes management on vacation sane and easy.


Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

Related topics:
Navigating Family Road Trips
People in the Know: Can We Travel Overseas?

Tackling Outdoor Family Adventures

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