In a couple of weeks I'll be travelling by air on 2 separate airlines with insulin for my dog that must be kept refrigerated else it spoils, and I have no idea how to go about this. I'll probably be travelling with a handful of vials as he'll need a supply before I can get a new prescription for him from a local vet upon arrival.

It's delivered to me using those freezer packs, but as they're a gel they won't get through security (I assume). I can't think of any other way to transport this on my person. Can anyone offer some guidance as to how I can keep it cold throughout my travels?

I'll be travelling from Manchester Airport (MAN) with Thomas Cook Airlines, and from JFK with American Airlines, if it helps.


I chose to travel with ice packs. Travel happened on 4th and 5th April 2019, and involved clearing security at both Manchester airport in the UK, and JFK in the US. Both times I informed security that the bag I was carrying contained insulin that needed to be kept cold, and 2 ice/freezer packs. On both occasions they took the bag and scanned it separately, swabbed it for the various things they swab for, and cleared it with no further issues. Neither of them asked for documentation to prove it was required. I think it also helped that the box of cartridge refills was still sealed, but it also had the product details printed on it, along with a prescription label.

At JFK the agent said that the ice packs should have been completely frozen, but due to various delays and the odd schedule we had, we were at the airport for around 6 hours before we were able to check the dogs in and clear security, so they weren't solid ice. That, and the freezer at our hotel didn't work very well, so one of them was barely frozen by the time it came to clearing security. He consulted with his supervisor who allowed him to clear it anyway after a swab.

So in conclusion; YES - you can travel with ice packs. Make sure you tell the security agent it's medication that needs to be kept cold. They'll most likely just swab it and allow it to pass. They might say that the ice packs must be completely frozen, but they seem to have enough common sense to do due diligence on it and allow you to proceed.

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    The gel will make it through security as long as it is still completely frozen.
    – Eric
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 16:00
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    @Eric Unfortunately, it won't be frozen by the time it reaches JFK where OP will have to pass through US security to get onto the AA flight.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 17:35
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    I can’t find an official source to back it up, but some airlines (Tui being one) allow you to store it in the fridge onboard. You just let them know when checking in and show a doctors letter then hand the medication to a member of the cabin crew when boarding.
    – Notts90
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 10:16
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    @mkennedy what I failed to include in the original question was that the connecting flight is >24 hours later. We have a hotel and hopefully a minibar fridge/freezer that we can store it in overnight, and re-freeze any ice packs if that's the route we go down. I bought a FRIO as suggested by another answerer and I'll see how well that works. It's useful to know that completely frozen ice packs can get through security though. This much I didn't know.
    – dannosaur
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 18:08
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    Freezing it won't work I am an Insulin dependant diabetic and know that if frozen the stucture of insulin breaks down and it does not work. It has to be kept chilled but not frozen.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 8:14

6 Answers 6


I'm someone who has to travel with refrigerated medication too, and have done so to the USA from the UK a couple of times in the last five years. While just my experience, I've never had any issues. My procedure is:

1) the medication and ice packs go in a separate (offical looking) bag, with the sharps bin and a note from my doctor. If the medicine has any notes saying it must be refrigerated, I add one of them too

2) when I show up at the scanner, I tell them I have a bag with medicine and ice packs in it, and that there is a doctor's note in the top.

3) Generally, they swab the inside with one of the explosive detector things, and wave me through

The customs officers are seriously used to it, there's a good procedure in place. I think it's important to be a bit proactive about telling people, and they seem to appreciate if you let them know before it goes through the scanner. Every now and then they have to go look for a manager, but it's always been fine after that.

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    Agreed. My daughter flies with inhaler medications as well as allergy shot serum (which needs to be refrigerated), and as long as she declares it she's had no problems flying with a suitable ice pack. She did get a zippered case specially designed for this purpose, which also helps TSA identify what's in it. Also make sure that any prescription medications are in their original packaging (where possible) with prescription with the medications, so there should be no uncertainty to TSA in regards to what medications you have and that you have authority to possess them.
    – Milwrdfan
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 14:56
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    Here in Australia, airport security staff seem surprised and confused and make a big fuss whenever someone points out they are carrying something for medical reasons. It's like they're trained to do this to see how you react­—or something? I just leave my syringes in my bag through the X-ray tunnel, and keep my insulin pump in my pocket, and the scanners have never gone off.
    – Artelius
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 8:32
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    The note from the doctor, I'd suggest, is a must. I've traveled with a diabetic multiple times, and I'd say the note has at the very least made the process smoother each time.
    – Dan
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 11:19
  • I accepted this answer as the correct answer, as while the highest rated answer cites sources from around the internet to the rules and regulations surrounding this, I felt that this answer was more helpful with the processes that another person has followed (successfully) in the past. This answer effectively determined my choice as to which route to take. Thank you!
    – dannosaur
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 22:08

Contact the airlines in question. You're not the first person with such needs, and they will have special procedures in place. Most likely it'll be something like you hand over the goods to them and they make sure it gets packaged and transported for you and then handed over to you on arrival.

As the medication is for a pet, the airlines' animal handling departments are probably the most appropriate people for you to approach.

While meant for humans, the American Diabetes Association says that restrictions on liquids and gels don't apply towards insulin and related products. Maybe contacting them can also give you some more information: ADA website

According to USA Today (again, for humans):

Insulin pumps, syringes, ice packs and other equipment related to diabetes management are also exempt from the rule, provided the traveler is also carrying the insulin itself. TSA agents should also allow passengers with diabetes to carry juice or any other medically-necessary liquids through security, even in quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces.

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    Woah... common sense from the TSA?!?!?? Shocking! /only somewhat sarcastic
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 12:14
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    It should also be noted that unrefrigerated insulin will last upwards around a month before it goes bad. The real killer is regular temperature changes or prolonged exposure to temperatures outside the conservative range 40–80°F (5-25°C). This is the reason you keep it in the fridge — to maintain a steady, low entropy state. (Read more here.)[iddt.org/about/living-with-diabetes/storing-insulin]
    – Dúthomhas
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 18:52
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    @FreeMan Yeah, but you can probably only do it on even hours outside of the full moon. Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 23:45
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    @Dúthomhas while your statement is true for human insulin, certain insulins used for animals are different. Caninsulin (Vetsulin) has a much lower tolerance for being outside the temperature ranges specified. I've seen it, it sometimes clumps and won't mix correctly when it's been out for a moderate length of time (like hours).
    – dannosaur
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 18:05
  • @Dúthomhas to clarify dannosaur's reaction, human insulin is often produced differently and has stabilisation agents. Animal insulin is frequently much more raw, and isn't nearly as durable or tolerant to environmental changes. Not sure why this is the case, but it's probably at least in part a cost factor.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 4:44

I highly recommend a FRIO cooling case. They are designed for this exact purpose and do not require liquids or gels to function. You have to soak the case in water for it to work, but this can be done once you are past security. This will also allow you to keep the medication on you instead of handing it over for transport.

I've personally used it to bring insulin on dozens of flights and I've never had an issue.

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    Oh wow, what a cool product (pun only somewhat intended). Thanks for the pointer!
    – dannosaur
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 13:31
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    Not to be too pedantic but the FRIO does use gels internally to provide cooling. It should help that the gel is completely enclosed and inaccessible but that knowledge doesn't keep some poorly trained agent from feeling it, assuming it has a gel inside, and then wondering why it wasn't mentioned. This is not a criticism of the FRIO, we own two and love them, I just don't want you to inadvertently run into issues regarding the gel-nature of the product. Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 21:09
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    @KellyS.French As already mentioned, you can take it through security in dry form (granules), and soak it in water in a bathroom in the terminal. You can even take one "activated" Frio pack through security, but keep a couple of dry ones in your bag so if the activated one gets confiscated you can just activate a new one after security.
    – Artelius
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 8:39
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    You know, I read the whole post the first time but for some reason I completely misread the part about doing the soaking after security. It's a great idea that I will share with my wife for our travels. Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 13:31

I have traveled many times within the United States with my father that needed many drugs for heart and diabetes issues. We purchased a small folding cooler that had gel cooler packs and kept all the medication in that bag (would be able to hold maybe 12 cans or so). The key is to ensure that the gel pack is completely frozen and to inform the TSA agent of exactly what is in there. They will go through all the contents of the bag and test everything for explosives, but you should be fine.


"Dry Ice" (solid CO2) is/was allowed to be carried in carryon luggage for food cooling use [!!!].
Do check latest rules.
This is actually a dangerous allowance but did exist a few years back (long after "9/11" when I traveled a lot.

If Dry Ice is wrapped in enough insulation it can last for days.
It self cools the remainder as it "sublimes" to gas - no liquid is produced.

I've managed to keep a small portion of some dry ice solid for up to a week by using more insulation than you wish to carry. (In a medium size domestic chilly bin).

Layer after layer after layer of Al foil with an occasional separator sheet of plastic bag will probably work.

Or a large-as-you-can-manage block of polystyrene.

Foil may be better.
Meds can be in a wrapping layer near the surface but deep enough to be cooler than ambient.

This can be tested in advance by using an outdoor thermometer probe and wrapping ice and watching temperature. Ice with max salt dissolved freezes at a substantially lower temperature.


Are you sure it needs refrigeration?

As a type-1 diabetic, I've travelled on many flights from the UK, including to the USA and Australia, and I've always kept my insulin just straight in hand luggage. My insulin is fine to be stored at up to about 30°C for about 4 weeks, despite what it may say about refrigeration in the instructions.

Please note I've no experience of insulin for dogs, and there may be some difference, although I'd be surprised. But I'd definitely recommend looking into whether this is a problem you actually need to solve.

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