How To Travel With Insulin On A Plane and Keep It Cold

In the United States alone, around 7.4 million Americans use insulin to manage their diabetes. 

Storing insulin properly while you’re traveling is important so the insulin doesn’t lose its effectiveness. 

It’s also crucial to continue your normal insulin regimen while traveling so you don’t develop high blood sugar levels and other potential complications.

In this article, we’ll cover tips on how to travel with insulin on a plane and keep it cold, how to store your insulin correctly, what happens if insulin is not refrigerated, and more.

Tips for traveling with insulin

Considerations for traveling with insulin will depend on many factors, including the type of insulin you have, how long you’ll be traveling, the climate, and what type of accommodations you’ll have (refrigerator, air conditioning, etc). 

We’ll review some specific guidelines in terms of storage and flying with insulin on a plane soon, but here are some of the basic considerations when traveling with insulin.

1) Take more insulin than you’ll need

If your trip is delayed for any reason, you don’t want to be without insulin. Make sure you take enough insulin to account for any potential delays, especially during seasons when bad weather might impact travel plans.

2) Avoid storing insulin in the car

Even if it’s not hot outside, temperatures inside the car get much hotter than outdoor temperatures. Exposing insulin to high temperatures can reduce its effectiveness. 

Likewise, storing insulin in the car in cold weather could cause the insulin to freeze, which destroys the proteins and makes it ineffective at lowering blood sugar levels.

3) Keep unused insulin chilled – but it’s okay to keep the container you’re using at room temperature

Insulin doesn’t always have to be in the fridge. Opened insulin (the vial or pen you’re currently using) can stay at room temperature for 28 days or more, depending on the kind you use. 

It’s best to keep unopened insulin in the fridge until you need it, though.

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Does insulin need to be refrigerated?

It’s ideal to keep unopened vials or pens of insulin refrigerated until you need to use it. Once you’ve opened or used an insulin vial or pen, it can remain unrefrigerated at a temperature between 59°F and 86°F for up to 28 days and continue to work.

Injecting cold insulin can be painful, so it’s not recommended to keep your current vial or pen of insulin in the refrigerator.

The exception would be if you’re going to be in very hot climates without access to air-conditioned buildings – in that case, you’d want to keep your insulin chilled to prevent it from exceeding the recommended temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can insulin last longer than 28 days?

Some types of insulin can last longer than 28 days once they’ve been opened. Tresiba (insulin degludec) can last up to 56 days (8 weeks), and Levemir (insulin detemir) can last up to 42 days.

How to keep insulin cold while traveling

If you need to keep insulin cold while traveling, you have a few different options.

Keep it in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack

Just like you might pack a cold lunch without access to a fridge, you can keep insulin in an insulated bag or box with an ice pack. 

This should keep insulin cold enough to last throughout the day as long as it isn’t left in a hot vehicle or other place where it could reach a temperature beyond 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’d like, you can opt for medical-grade ice packs or packaged dry ice, which can work better than freezing containers of water or using regular ice packs.

Travel insulin cooler or case

If you look online, you’ll see several different options for dedicated travel insulin coolers and thermal cases. 

Some of these options might maintain cooler temperatures longer than a lunch box with an ice pack, so they can be suitable options if you travel often or are in a hot climate.

In a refrigerator in your hotel or place you’re staying

For extended travel exceeding 28 days, it is advisable to store unopened insulin in a refrigerator for optimal preservation.

Keeping insulin in a fridge means it won’t be subject to fluctuating temperatures compared to keeping it in an insulated lunch box or other options.

If you store insulin in the fridge, avoid storing it in the very back, where temperatures can get colder and possibly freeze the insulin. 

Can you take insulin needles and syringes on a plane?

Insulin is always allowed in checked baggage, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). 

If you want to take insulin in a carry-on, it’s important to let the TSA employees know about it before you go through security. 

The insulin should have its label visible so that TSA officers can inspect it if needed.

According to the TSA’s website, ice packs are okay to take as carry-ons if they’re frozen or partially frozen when you go through security. 

Some dedicated insulin containers are considered “TSA-approved” as well – but it’s ultimately up to the discretion of the TSA worker, according to their website.

There is always the possibility that your luggage might be delayed or lost (worst-case scenario), so it’s best to keep all of your insulin in your carry-on.

type 2 diabetes supplement

What happens if you skip your insulin dose while on holiday?

It’s very important not to skip your insulin dose while traveling or on holiday. It might be tempting to go off your routine, but you must continue your insulin regime when you’re on vacation or holiday.

It’s important to take your prescribed insulin as normal regardless of which type of diabetes you have (type 1 or type 2), but it’s especially crucial if you have type 1. 

High blood sugar and diabetic ketoacidosis

If you have type 1 and withhold insulin while on holiday, you might develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when insulin levels are very low and blood glucose levels climb very high.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, some signs of DKA to watch out for include:

Earlier signs:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination 

Later signs:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fast, deep breathing
  • Dry skin and mouth
  • Flushed face
  • Fruity-smelling breath (indication of being in the state of ketosis, one of the hallmark signs of DKA)
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain

Uncontrolled diabetes

Skipping insulin doses can have detrimental effects if you have type 2 diabetes as well. Just a few days or weeks of uncontrolled high blood sugar levels can raise your A1c, which indicates poor control of your diabetes.

Refilling insulin while on vacation

If you’re going to be traveling when your insulin is up for a refill, speak with your healthcare provider ahead of time to look at your options. 

If you’re unable to take as much insulin as you’ll need with you, your healthcare provider can send the prescription to a local pharmacy wherever you’ll be staying.

Getting a refill while traveling internationally

If you’re traveling internationally it can be a little trickier to refill medications. Some pharmacies might be able to accommodate a medication refill, so if possible, get a copy of your prescription from your healthcare provider before traveling internationally.

There are some restrictions on which medications can be mailed internationally, so be sure to line up any plans (such as a family member mailing a medication if needed) before you travel internationally. 

How long can insulin be unrefrigerated?

Opened insulin can be unrefrigerated for up to 28 days. Certain brands of insulin pens suggest discarding any remaining insulin after 28 days of initial use, as indicated on the product packaging.

Refer to the packaging of your insulin for up-to-date, accurate storage guidelines in terms of how long you can keep your insulin out of the refrigerator. 

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What happens if you freeze insulin?

Insulin should never be frozen, regardless of the type. Freezing insulin destroys its effectiveness, which means it won’t help lower your blood sugar if you inject it once it’s thawed.

If you store insulin with an ice pack, it’s important not to allow it to partially freeze, which might happen if you place the insulin directly on the ice pack. 

Placing the ice pack in a separate compartment or wrapped in a bag so there is a layer between it and the ice pack is a good idea if you’re worried about the insulin freezing.

What happens if insulin gets warm and is unrefrigerated?

Insulin is more sensitive to cold than it is to heat. It’s ideal to store insulin below 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) for long periods of time. 

If insulin is exposed to higher temperatures for short periods of time, it’s likely still fine to use.

If insulin is stored at temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit for prolonged periods, it can lose some of its effectiveness.


  • When traveling with insulin, you’ll need to plan ahead to make sure you don’t run out of insulin and that the insulin is stored properly so it maintains its quality and effectiveness.
  • Depending on the length of your trip, climate, and the type of insulin you use, you might need to bring ice and insulated containers to make sure your insulin doesn’t get too hot.
  • Avoid freezing insulin as it may compromise its effectiveness in regulating blood sugar levels by damaging its proteins.

Explore More


When To Use Long-Acting Insulin.


  1. Lin Y, Shao H, Fonseca V, Shi L. Exacerbation of financial burden of insulin and overall glucose-lowing medications among uninsured population with diabetes. J Diabetes. 2023 Mar;15(3):215-223. doi: 10.1111/1753-0407.13360. Epub 2023 Feb 7. PMID: 36751859; PMCID: PMC10036254.
  2. Novomedlink. Frequently asked questions about Tresiba® (insulin degludec).
  3. Diabetes Voice. How insulin storage, use and lifespan affect your safety. 2019.
  4. CDC. Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

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