The last time we took all four kids on a plane was a day to remember, and we didn’t even have to deal with type 1 diabetes at the time. We had just ended a fabulous trip to Hawaii, and it was time to load up our kids and take the red-eye back to L.A. Getting our 1-, 3-, 5-, and 7-year-olds (well after bedtime) through check-in and security, up to the gate, and on the plane with all our car seats, carry-ons and diaper bags was hard enough. But then we had to make it through the five-hour flight.

My kids have always been good car travelers, but when we thought about the fact that we’d be on a plane with hundreds of other people who would be trying to get some sleep, we knew it might be a different story entirely. Luckily, the kids ended up doing awesome! With the help of DVD players, coloring books, snacks and Sippy cups®, they were quiet and calm and slept for most of the flight. There was one moment when I woke up to see that my 5-year-old had flopped over to the other side of her seat and was lying against the gentleman sitting next to her. Thank goodness he was very kind and hardly seemed to notice! When we finally landed in LAX at 5 in the morning, my husband was actually applauded as people saw him carry both our two youngest sleeping kids—one in each arm—along with two other big bags on his back. I was loaded up as well, carrying the rest of the luggage and a car seat while trying to lead our two other very sleepy kids down the aisle.

To be honest, we haven’t gotten on a plane with our kids since Kaitlyn was diagnosed. It’s not about the diabetes, but just figuring out how it will make sense financially and logistically. It won’t be long, though, before we convince ourselves that taking the kids on an amazing trip is worth all the hassle that goes along with it! So as I mentally prepare for when we go on our next airborne adventure, I imagine that dealing with diabetes will just add to the complicated nature of travel in general. These are the tips that I’ve picked up so far:

  1. Pack at least double the amount of insulin and supplies you’ll need (stored according to the instructions that come with them) and put them in your carry on luggage. It would be a big bummer to be hundreds of miles away from home, doctor and pharmacy and have to deal with getting replacement supplies in a hurry.
  2. Be aware of the latest regulations concerning carrying liquids and other diabetes-related supplies. The most recent thing I’ve heard is that you’re allowed to bring any and all diabetes supplies including syringes and lancets and as much insulin as you need, even if it is more than three ounces. Also, liquids including water, juice, or liquid nutrition for passengers with a medical condition may also exceed 3 ounces. Personally, I plan to avoid the hassle of trying to explain this to the security officer and leave the extra supply of juice in my checked-in luggage. I’m just going to bring plenty of glucose tabs and candy and maybe buy extra juice in the airport after we’ve passed through security.
  3. Let the security officer know that you’re traveling with a diabetic child. This will hopefully help you avoid the hassle of extended wait time as they inspect your bags.
  4. Talk to your healthcare team ahead of time. See more travel considerations here: Holiday Travel with Type 1 Diabetes.

Here’s to happy flying!


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.

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