Traveling can be an exhilarating yet challenging experience, especially when managing diabetes with an insulin pump. As a user of Medtronic’s latest model, the Minimed 780G, I understand the importance of meticulous preparation. Recently, I embarked on a week-long trip – my first since upgrading from the 670G. To my relief, the 780G performed seamlessly, requiring minimal intervention during my vacation.
My family even remarked that the pump requires a lot less of my attention than the model I was using last time I visited — they heard far fewer alerts. Most of my efforts were channeled into pre-trip preparations, ensuring a smooth and worry-free journey. Here, I share my top tips to help fellow Minimed 780G users enjoy a hassle-free travel experience:
1. Refresh the Battery
Replace your pump’s battery before departure. Starting with a new or fully recharged battery (see my article on rechargeable batteries for the 780G) minimizes the need for a battery change mid-trip. A battery change is usually quite simple, but I like to change the battery on my own schedule, and not get a surprise low battery alert. Doing this before vacation could mean not having to deal with this while on vacation. Of course, bring an extra battery along as well — just in case. (The pump takes the common AA battery.)
2. Overpack Supplies
Pack way more than you should need. Think 2x or 3x what you should need. Infusion sets can fail with a bent cannula or other possible issues. Prepare for a streak of bad luck, and bring plenty of extra, since this is one thing you can’t buy at the local pharmacy. Furthermore, you could get delayed returning unexpectedly due to bad weather or a myriad of other reasons, so be ready for an extended stay.
3. Remember All Accessories
Ensure all essential accessories are packed and easily accessible.
Here’s my list. Please comment below if your list has anything else, or any other questions or advice on what to pack.
AA Battery for pump
AAA battery for transmitter charger
Oval tape plus extra tape/adhesive
Extra battery cap
Back up insulin pen & pen needle tips
Glucose test kit – including test strips, lancet device, lancets and battery
Glucose tabs and juicebox for low blood sugar
4. Pre-empt Sensor Changes
Ideally, start with a new Guardian Sensor before your trip. Align the sensor’s 7-day lifespan with your travel duration to potentially eliminate the need for a sensor change while away. If a change is unavoidable, plan it around your schedule to avoid disrupting any activities.
5. Avoid X-ray and Body Scanners
Medtronic advises against exposing insulin pumps, transmitters, and Guardian sensors to x-rays, including full-body scanners. Opt for alternative screening methods at airports, like a pat-down or a metal detector. Utilizing TSA pre-check can streamline this process.
While some people do go through the full body scanner despite the recommendations against, when this topic comes up on social media, usually there is someone who reports that they had the unfortunate experience of their device failing after going through the full body scanner, so best not to take chances with that.
6. Disconnect During Takeoff
Pressure changes during takeoff can inadvertently deliver a small amount of insulin. Consider disconnecting your pump during ascent and reconnecting at cruising altitude. Learn more about flying and how pressure changes effect insulin pumps.
7. Minimize Alerts
Let your 780G do its job. Adjust settings to receive alerts only for significant low and high blood glucose levels. I set my low alert at 75 mg/dL (4.1 mmol/L) and my high alert at 240 mg/dL (13.3 mmol/L) and achieved greater than 80% time in range (TIR) with relying on auto corrections in smartguard (auto) mode. I carb count as usual and bolus before eating, but otherwise I find that being hands off and trusting the pump works out best. There is so much variability when vacationing, from adrenaline, increased activity, diet changes, etc, that it’s natural that there will be some differences in insulin requirements while on vacation.
8. Adapt to Climate
If traveling to a warmer climate, take steps to keep your insulin cool and ensure infusion set and sensor adherence. Use additional tape and adhesives, and regularly check their attachment. I like hypafix tape and simpatch tapes. For insulin storage, consider using an ice pack or a frio insulin cooling case.
9. Develop a Backup Plan
Carry long-acting insulin and syringes as a contingency. In case of a pump failure, if you have an insulin syringe, then you can manually inject insulin extracted from the reservoir.
10. Stay Hydrated
Adequate hydration is crucial. Dehydration can affect sensor accuracy or even stop it from working, which can be super stressful, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids. I had a brief “sensor updating” issue, but after drinking extra water, the sensor resumed working.
A Few Other Precautions
While the pump is waterproof, if there is any crack, it can stop working when exposed to water. One cause of pump failure is submersing it in water when it has a crack. I take it off when swimming or bathing as a precaution.
It’s important that the insulin doesn’t get too hot or freeze. I’ve found that some hotels have small refrigerators that are set too cold, so I avoid putting insulin in them because it might freeze. Instead, I keep the insulin cool with a frio cooling case. Insulin can stay good at room temperature for quite some time, but it will go bad if it gets hot. Make sure your insulin isn’t left in a hot vehicle. Also, smart thermostats may shut off the AC when no one is in the room, so you can’t count on AC to remain on all day while out sightseeing. Keep your extra insulin refrigerated if possible, if you know the fridge is at the right temperature and won’t freeze it. I place a water bottle in the fridge first to see if it freezes.
About the Author
Lin May has a decade of experience living with LADA diabetes and is the author of Success with LADA Diabetes: Achieving Optimal Health with Diet, Exercise, and Insulin. She is dedicated to helping others learn about diabetes.