Tips for Packing Medication
By Adrian Sparrow
For people who take regular medication, packing introduces an extra set of challenges depending on where you’re going. With extra prep work, you can avoid unexpected pitfalls and focus on your destination.
Packing for Flights
Flying in any circumstance can be tricky, between carry-ons and checked bags, a thorough security screening, and the rigors of the flight itself. Take some additional time to prepare so your trip is as smooth as possible.
Pack prescriptions in your carry-on, but if you’re traveling for an extended period, you can put the rest of your supply in your checked luggage. You want to ensure you have immediate access and that you’re not stranded without medication if your luggage is lost.
Security will usually screen your bags by X-ray, though you can ask for a visual inspection if you’re concerned about your medicine. If you’re carrying liquid medicine or other medically required liquid, you should inform TSA officials before the screening process. Normally, you can only bring up to 3.4 oz of liquid on a carry-on, but medical liquids are the exception (you may be asked to open the container).
Though TSA doesn’t require medication to be in their original prescription bottles, states have their own regulations for labeling prescription medication. Check your destination state, including when you fly back to your origin.
If traveling to a different time zone and there’s medication you take at the same time every day, set alarms for when you usually take them back home. It might be a couple of hours’ difference or even the middle of the night when you usually take it in the morning. Still, it means your body won’t start to withdraw or experience adverse side effects from delayed medication.
If traveling outside the country, be aware of your destination country’s drug laws. Ignorance isn’t an excuse, and being caught with a controlled substance, even with a prescription, could result in jail time. Commonly restricted medications include narcotics, psychotropic medications (any medication that affects your mental state), OTC medications, nutritional supplements, birth control, hormone therapy medication, pseudoephedrine(found in some decongestants), and diphenhydramine HCI (commonly found in allergy medicines).
People with ADHD, pain and anxiety medications should be especially cautious about traveling to another country as they may need to file additional paperwork. This might include a doctor’s note explaining why the patient has them to be able to transport these medications across borders. If your medicine is banned in your destination, you can ask your healthcare provider about appropriate substitutes. You may have to rethink your travel plans if you can’t find a substitute.
If you do need to buy medication in another country, don’t fear. You might not be able to find your favorite brand, but local doctors or pharmacies can provide a generic equivalent. Be prepared to pay upfront for medicine in other countries. Keep your receipt as you may be able to submit it to your insurance for reimbursement.
“Whatever can happen, will happen.” Those of us who have traveled many times know that something is bound to go wrong on a trip. Forgetting or running out of medication happens all the time, though no less frustrating. Before travel, ask your healthcare provider for an extra prescription in case you need to fill it while away. Sometimes a local pharmacy can cover an emergency refill up to a 30-day supply for certain medications, but this depends on the state law and if they need to contact your provider. In addition to an extra prescription, it’s a good idea to pack extra days of medication, just in case you drop a pill down the bathroom sink.
Some medicines, such as insulin, need to be kept cool. While traveling, pack medications in a small cooler bag with a refreezable ice pack. This is also great for setting aside snacks and liquids for medical needs.
Bring a sharps container or labeled, sturdy water bottle when traveling with syringes or auto-injectors. This way, you can safely dispose of them until you get home or find a disposal center.
When packing medicines for children, put them in containers for each child. If they take more than one medication, use a pill sorter in addition to bringing the original bottles and refill as long as the trip lasts.
Remember: Check regulations ahead of time, prepare for emergencies, and hope for the best. Don’t let missed medication ruin your plans!