Tube feeding tips:  Flying and how to prepare

Tube feeding tips: Flying and how to prepare

Tube feeding whilst going abroad, an airport corridor.

For those of you who, like us, haven’t flown before I thought I would share my research with you to save you the time and effort.  I've also created a planning sheet which you can find at the end of the post to download and print out.  Some of this info is from Facebook threads where others shared their own experiences - thank you everyone!

Tip #1 - Ring your nutrition company

Your nutrition company is a great place to start your prepping so give them a ring as soon as you’ve booked your flights.  Depending on the country you are going to they may be able to send your feed and supplies direct to your holiday destination.  To do so they require a certain length of notice and there’s a minimum length of stay.

  • Nutricia - Six weeks notice required.  Minimum length of stay ten days.
  • Abbott - Six weeks notice require.  No minimum length of stay.
  • Fresenius - Twelve weeks notice (this info is from word of mouth as I haven't managed to ask directly. I will update once I do).

Some nutrition companies will also provide you with rumble trunks for free.  These are large plastic boxes for packing your feed and medical supplies into and can usually be checked in as free baggage allowance.  

A tube feeding medical case for supplies A case for tube feeding supplies and medicines  

If you are taking a pump then the airline will want the specifications and battery information so make sure you ask your nutrition company for these details when you ring them.  Some nutrition companies will give you a spare pump for travel so make sure to ask for one!

Tip #2 - Ring the airline

As soon as your flights are booked you should ring the airline and discuss your travel and your needs.  Remember that they have teams which deal with special assistance all the time so even if this is all new to you it isn’t new to them!  Ask them what they need from you, gather the information and then ring them back once you’ve got it all. Ask for everything in writing via email, print it out and take it with you and remember to arrange for both flights, there AND back!

The airline should be able to provide you with a free medical baggage allowance but they will need to know what weight of supplies you will be taking and returning with once you’ve used your consumables.  Pack your medical baggage trunks and weigh them, don’t just estimate as it’s probably heavier than you realise!

The airline should also provide you with extra medical hand luggage allowance.  Ask as to whether there’s any restrictions regarding what you can carry on and what paperwork they require when you travel.  

Tip #3 - Gather the relevant paperwork

You will need paperwork with you explaining your extra baggage allowance and the reasons for bringing it.  I suggest you gather the following but ask your airline what they require as well:

    • A letter from the GP or hospital explaining the following:
      • The need for tube-feeding.
      • Documenting that you will need to carry feed supplies in your hand luggage as well as your hold baggage.
      • What care will be required during the flight and the equipment, feed and medicines needed for that to happen.
      • A list of prescribed medications that you will be bringing with you.  Formula should be listed as medical feeds.
      • Need for additional liquids such as breastmilk or blended feeds.
    • The delivery note that arrives with your monthly feed delivery should have all the feed supplies listed on it so take this with you.
    • If you have a repeat prescription list then use this as evidence for medications.
    • Pump and battery information from your nutrition company.
    • Print-out of email from airline stating the agreed medical baggage allowance for the hold and hand luggage.

    As a side-note, it is also helpful to gather information about where and how to access medical help at your holiday destination and to keep it with printed out details of your insurance policy.  Hopefully you won’t need it but having it written down may give you peace of mind while you’re away.

    Tip #4 - Know what goes where

    The nutrition companies recommend that you carry one week’s worth of supplies in your hand luggage in case your hold baggage goes missing or your travel plans are delayed.  There is useful information from about hand luggage restrictions related to medicines and medical goods which you can read here.  One important point to know is that the 100ml rule doesn't apply to essential medicines and liquid foodstuffs but you will need supporting documentation.

    Make sure that all medication has a prescription label with the patient’s name on it and is listed in your documentation, and remember to carry liquid medication in your hand luggage as it will freeze in the hold.

    You can use cool packs in your hand luggage to keep feeds and medicines cold during travel.  Liquids in hand luggage (such as breastmilk or blends) may be tested at security.  This happens by passing the bottle through a machine or by a taste test so take a little pot to pour a drop into to avoid contaminating the whole bottle of liquid.  

    It appears that taking blended feeds in hand luggage isn’t a problem as long as you have documentation but I know that some people take baby food pouches, RealFood Blends or buy smoothies once through security for during the flight.  If you are doing blended diet on holiday then it would be worth asking about practicalities for your trip on a blended diet Facebook group.

    Tip #5 - Arrange airport assistance

    Travelling with additional needs and tube-feeding requires a lot of extra equipment and weight in your hand luggage plus extra time at security checking through what you’ve brought with you. If you are travelling with a baby then use a baby carrier or sling to make this easier.  Speak to your airline and request airport assistance, fast tracking and priority boarding. There are people there to help so make sure to use them!

    * * * * * * * * * *

    It feels like a lot to do, doesn’t it!?  But remember that although it’s new to you, the nutrition companies, airlines and airports deal with it on a daily basis.  Planning is the key so I’ve created a planning sheet for you which you can print out here.

    Do let us know if you have any other tips in the comments section below!

    Enjoy your holiday!

    A packed suitcase for a happy holiday