With five kids and type 1 diabetes on board, we don’t exactly travel light. Our typical checklist includes:

Full tank of gas

Blankets and pillows

Tablets and portable DVD players

Audio books

Caffeinated soda

Sunflower seeds

Wet wipes

Road map

Portable toilet

Coloring books

Plenty of snacks

Clothes and toiletries


Phones and chargers

Diabetes supplies

Good music

It’s a lot, but for us, it’s the perfect recipe for an awesome adventure. My husband and I have always loved going on road trips, and so our kids have become amazing road-trippers too. Since they were babies, we forced them to endure the torture of driving hundreds of miles all over the country. We’ve driven through many states, visited countless national parks, and seen so many beautiful places. Whether we’re camping or staying in hotels, our kids have learned to enjoy these trips as much as we do.

When Kaitlyn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (about 6 years ago), we wondered how our road trip experiences might change. Would it be possible to keep insulin cool over the hot deserts in Arizona? Would the road trip junk food be too hard on her blood sugar? What if we forgot something important or lost it on the way? Would we be able to find a replacement or do without?

I’m happy to say that road trips are definitely doable with diabetes as part of the mix. It hasn’t been perfect—one time we ran out of test strips and had to buy them at a local pharmacy at $100 for a box of 4 canisters! It was an expensive mistake, but we were okay. Kaitlyn was safe, and we were able to enjoy the trip. Another time, we left our insulin in the car, and it got fried! Luckily we had another vial with us that wasn’t left in the car. Yes, we’ve made a few mistakes and had less-than-stellar numbers at times, but we’ve figured it out along the way.

Here are a few things we’ve learned…

  1. Bring extra of everything. Extra insulin, test strips, pump supplies, meters, batteries, etc. We use a special case to organize all the supplies. If Batman® had type 1, he would totally rock one of these cases.
  2. Make sure you’re ready for an emergency. Pack syringes in case you have a pump failure and keep extra low supplies and treatment for severe low blood sugar handy. You may find yourself far away from a pharmacy or an emergency room.
  3. Don’t be a slave to road food. Fast food is the easiest thing on a road trip, but it’s not always easy on the blood sugar, and it gets old really fast. We try to stop at the grocery store and stock up on fresh fruits and veggies.
  4. Bring a cooler, if possible. If we’re going to be on the road for several days in a row, we always try to bring a cooler so we can have cold food and drinks in the car. We keep our insulin in there as well.

Good luck and enjoy the road! Hopefully you’ll grow to love it as much as we do!

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.

Batman is a registered trademark of DC Comics, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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Navigating Family Road Trips
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