Air Travel Tips

Air Travel Tips for families traveling with the diabetes dragon

Travel can be stressful for anyone; travelling with a child with diabetes can add additional worry: What if we run into problems at airport security? Will they let me bring juice on board the plane? When travelling by air, you are likely to be subject to more security measures and have less freedom of movement (think delays on the tarmac, or re-routing due to weather).

But with a little advance prep and planning, you can avoid common pitfalls and have a great, stress-free time away from home. Here are some of the things that you can do to smooth your path when travelling by air with the Diabetes Dragon:

Tips for Air Travel (Airport Security):

  • Leave yourself extra time to get through security.
  • Tell the screening officer at the airport that your child has diabetes and/or wears an insulin pump. Present in a clear bag all items for hand inspection (loaner pump, insulin, liquids over the allowable level, etc).
  • Leave all medications and supplies in their original containers, with the labels intact and clear. Pen tips, syringes and lancets should be capped. It’s best if the name on the medication is the same as the name on the ticket.
  • Be prepared to show the screening officer a current prescription for all the supplies you will be taking onto the plane (including a blood glucose monitor, insulin pump, and glucagon). Again, it’s best if the name on the prescription is the same as the name on the ticket.

Tip from the Trenches

We have never been asked at security for a prescription or a letter confirming that our son has diabetes and needs to wear an insulin pump. However, I bring that prescription and letter every time I travel out of Canada, convinced that the first time I don’t have it, they’ll ask for it!


  • When travelling with an insulin pump, be aware that it is your right in Canada NOT TO DISCONNECT a medical device such as an insulin pump at security screening stations. Once you have disconnected, it is within the screening officer’s authority to put the device through the x-ray machine, which may pose a risk to the functioning of the pump (check with your pump company for the latest on this). If the pump remains connected to your child, you may request a hand inspection of the pump and your child. If you do choose a hand inspection, it is your right to be with your child at all times during the process.

We are aware, however, that this can be a sticky situation, especially if you are travelling outside of Canada where your rights may differ. We recognize that faced with a decision to disconnect or be refused boarding for your flight, many of us may feel pressured to disconnect. If you encounter difficulties, asking to speak to a transportation security supervisor may help. In any case, if you know your rights, you can use your own judgement in a given situation on whether or not to defend those rights .

Tip from the Trenches

We found it useful to prepare my young son for this possibility by telling him beforehand that the man may pat his clothes and may wave a wand over his pump to make sure it was “okay”. We also assured him that we would be right there with him during any checks. If we had not done so, I suspect my son would have been quite worried about what they were doing.


What's Allowed in Checked vs. Carry-On?

Research current restrictions on what you can put in your checked and carry-on baggage. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) offers the following guidelines:

  • Liquids include items such as coffee, bottled water and shampoos. Gels are comprised of food items like jam, pudding and yogurt, and personal-care products like lipstick or hair styling gel.
  • Containers of liquids, aerosols or gels in your carry-on are limited to a volume of 100 ml/100 grams (3.4 oz) or less

EXCEPT the following items which are allowed in your carry-on luggage in containers over 100 ml and do not have to be placed in a plastic bag (but which must be declared at security screening):

    • Liquids/gels for diabetes: Juice or gels are allowed if you need them for diabetic or other medical conditions. (for example, glucose gel, juice, Gatorade, etc)
    • Gel and ice packs are allowed, if they are needed to … preserve medically necessary items or medication. (to keep your insulin cool, for example)
    • Prescription medicines are allowed. (for example, insulin) Essential non-prescription medicines, such as homeopathic products,… gel-based nutritional supplements, … are allowed.
    • Baby food/drink: If you are travelling with an infant younger than two years of age (0-24 months), baby food, milk, formula, water and juice are allowed.
    • Breast milk: Passengers flying with or without their child can bring breast milk in quantities greater than 100 ml.

For more information on travelling with liquids and gels, including how to present these items for screening, see the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) website’s article Liquids, Non-solid Food and Personal Items.

For information on travel from and within other countries, please consult the local air transport authority.

Your Rights at Checkpoints

For those of you worried about blood glucose monitors and insulin pumps at security checkpoints, please note:

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) Special Needs section indicates that “all diabetes related medication, equipment and supplies… are permitted through the security checkpoint”. They further advise that, “if you use an external medical device such as an infusion pump…or blood glucose meter, please tell the screening officer where the device is located before screening begins.” Under Tips for Passengers with Medically Necessary Equipment it states:

“Diabetic supplies and equipment such as syringes, insulin auto-injectors, jet injectors, and pumps are permitted. Syringes must be for personal medical use, and the needle guard must be in place. The person must possess medication that is to be administered by means of the syringe or needle and biojectors. Liquid medications (i.e. insulin) are exempted from the liquid restrictions (including gel or ice packs to refrigerate the medication). Juice and gel for passengers who indicate a need for such items to address a diabetic condition are also permitted.”

Also note that:

  • If you typically use cake icing as a low treatment, be aware that screening agents may or may not recognize it as a medically necessary low treatment. Things may run more smoothly if you opt for a gel specifically designed for the treatment of hypoglycemia. Dex4 glucose gel, for example, comes in a small tube containing 15g of carbs (the standard low treatment for many people).
  • If you are stopped by security, stay calm. Do not take it personally; they are just trying to ensure the safety of all passengers. If the situation gets uncomfortable, politely ask to speak with a transportation security supervisor.
  • Ensuring you have all necessary documentation from your child’s doctor tends to make security clearances smoother.

CATSA states in their Medication and Medical Items section that “Documentation to support your medical needs of condition is not required; however, if you feel that it would help ease your screening, it should be presented to the screening officer along with your medically necessary items.” When in doubt, bring it along!

Tip from the Trenches

I have travelled with my son, who has type 1 diabetes, on many occasions and have had very little turbulence - at the airport and in the air. I have found most airport staff to be friendly and accommodating in terms of my son's insulin pump, low treatments, and sharps.


Other Travel Resources:

The above information was significantly modified with permission from The Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic information handouts.

The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.