Get Packing! But What? And IN What?

Here I go, getting ready to take another trip, pondering what to
take—and what to take it in. (I asked my granddaughter if I could use her hot pink bag—it’s easy to find on the luggage carousel—and she asked me what she got in return. Telling her I was the one who bought it didn’t seem to cut it with her.)


Used to be I could take off for a weeklong trip with a toddler toting only a carry-on bag and an umbrella stroller. And the carry-on bag included enough diapers to last for two or three days, until I could get around to buying more.

Then I got diabetes and had to take “stuff” with me, beginning with throwing a bottle of pills into my purse and escalating to a meter, strips, insulin, syringes, and on into insulin pump supplies and such. Which called for a larger “purse” (actually a courier bag that was more of a medical supply cabinet and only incidentally contained “purse contents”).

After a flight that was supposed to last 1½ hours escalated into a full day of being stuck on runways, flying to airports that weren’t on the original schedule, running from one gate to another, and finally landing at my destination in full hypoglycemia, I decided to start carrying more than a snack with me and began packing full meals plus snacks.

Speaking of being stuck on the runway, I had to add a real (i.e., sugary) soda to my kit. That was after an incident when I had trouble getting my blood glucose up while parked on the runway and the flight attendant refused to bring me a soda “because we don’t have enough for everybody to have an extra one.” That was followed by telling her I needed it to raise my blood sugar and her informing me that I needed juice. No. I needed a soda. When I can’t get my blood glucose up, I need sugar and caffeine. Juice doesn’t have caffeine in it.

I may have been back to carrying a real purse, but I’d added a traveling medicine/supply cabinet/cafeteria.

Which necessitated checking my baggage and lengthening my time at the airport. I could no longer get off the plane and go directly to my final destination. Now I had to add a side trip to wait for my checked luggage. Sometimes it even arrived.

And because it sometimes doesn’t arrive when I do (and I had a particularly bad time with that last summer), I now need to shlep jammies, extra clothes, and emergency toiletries with me.

I don’t need a luggage cart; I need a mule. Actually, at this point, I have a courier bag and a tote bag on rollers. Plus my checked bag, of course. Which, by necessity, needs to hold all but emergency toiletries in addition to whatever clothing and shoes I can stand to do without until the airline gets my luggage to me.

Thanks to terrorists, I don’t need my fancy bags and cases to carry my diabetes paraphernalia with me, either: A plastic bag will do. I’m not sure if I can still carry a soda with me to treat obstinate lows, but I do know that I can overpay for a bottle of water once I get through security instead of bringing a bottle from home.

Actually, since you can’t even lock your luggage any more, in case security wants to search your bags, why am I even bothering to keep it around anyway? I may as well go back to my roots: West Virginia matched luggage (in other words, shopping bags). Maybe I’ll get a set of those on this trip. In fact, I know just the place: Bloomingdale’s. For a Small Brown Bag, a Medium Brown Bag, and a Large Brown Bag.

I wonder if they have a Clear Plastic Bag for my diabetes stuff.

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  • Mary

    I just went to England and back and found out that if you are diabetic, you can take water with you. Dang! I handed in my full new bottle to the guy at the gate only to be told that later. Also, they have to let you take all your medical stuff, which sometimes I carry in a small carry cooler. But coming back from overseas is crazy. They even make you put your purse in your ONE carry-on.

    The worst was the airline I traveled on (won’t mention which), served me chick beans with bits of pepper in a sauce for my lunch and a donut and fruit for breakfast. I opted to trade for the regular fare and picked out the bad stuff. The dinner was OK though — chicken with a salsa and rice. Dessert was some vegan cookie. Not too bad. Under 60 carbs. However, the donut was almost 30 carbs and 29 sugars all by itself. Fruit had grapes, watermelon — highest in sugars.

    I figure that their nutritionist is counting sugars, not carbs. We still have a long way to go to educate people!

  • dolphinqueen

    To those concerned with not having enought room to carry all of their “stuff” when traveling with diabetes, we are allowed a separate bag for medical supplies per TSA. I would never limit myself to what I can carry just because of diabetes. I have diabetes; it doesn’t have me! ūüôā

  • EMS2006

    This is a great article. Maybe I think so because I just returned from a trip and can relate to everything the author says. Going through security and explaining the ice packed meds, syringes, need for snack bars and drinks is embarrassing. Having to lug what is basically a small pharmacy as one of my carry-on bags limits me from carrying the items I would normally have carried onto the plane. I’d appreciate ideas from other readers that would help streamline the packing and traveling challenges.

  • Robert Ference

    You’re fortunate to have a purse. For us guys, it can be a challenge or even a road block.

    When are the designers and engineers going to focus on the ergonomics of being a baby boomer?

  • kim murray

    I am looking for the number or something that I can call to get a free new poker that holds 5 or 6 needles for my blood sugars if you could help me thank you kim

  • Jan Chait

    I believe you’re talking about a lancing device made by Accu-Check. The web address is See if there’s a phone number or an offer there. You can also e, keep your eye out for a free or reduced-price meter offer from that company. The meter kit will include one of those pokers. Since November is National Diabetes Month, many pharmacies will run specials on meters during the month.

  • jendorn

    Great travel bags can be found here