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Everything You Need to Know About Traveling With Prescription Medication

Your questions about traveling with prescription medication—answered!

Published on September 21st, 2023 in Travel Tips

For people who take medications regularly or have a prescription, traveling can throw a wrinkle into their routine. Whether you forget to take your pills at the right time, you run out of a prescription, or you have issues with customs and airlines, traveling with medication presents a unique set of challenges.

With the right preparation, you can be better suited to avoid running into issues while traveling, or at least be in a better position to mitigate any unforeseen circumstances.

In this article we’ll break down how to travel with medications, including tips for preparation, general guidelines for the most common travel situations, and advice for what to do if things go sideways.

Let’s dive in.

Preparing your prescription medication for travel

The best advice we can give to ensure a hassle-free trip while packing your medications is to plan ahead. Here are some tips you can follow to ensure things go as smoothly as possible during your trip.

Discuss your trip with your doctor

Consult your doctor to ensure you have enough medication for the entire duration of your travel. If you’re running low on medication, ask your doctor for a refill before you leave. Calculate the length of your trip, including traveling days, to ensure you’ve packed the right amount of medication.

Carry a copy of your prescription

Obtain a written prescription from your doctor that includes the medication’s name, dosage, and your name. If possible, consider getting a letter from your doctor explaining your medical condition and the necessity of carrying the medication.

Research your destination

Check the laws and regulations related to medications in your destination country. Some medications that are legal in one country might be controlled substances in another. Also, research pharmacies at your travel destination. Take note of their opening hours and locations in case you need to refill your prescription or buy over-the-counter medications.

Pack medications properly

Store medications in their original packaging to avoid confusion and questions. If you’re carrying liquids or gels (like syrups or creams), follow the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines for carrying liquids in your carry-on bag.

Pack medications in carry-on luggage

Always keep your medications in your carry-on bag, not checked luggage. This way, they’re easily accessible and won’t be lost if your checked luggage is delayed or lost.

Check airline and TSA guidelines

Check the specific guidelines of the airline you’re flying with and the TSA regulations regarding carrying medications. You may be required to declare certain medications or medical equipment at security checkpoints.

Declare prescription medications at customs

If required by local regulations, declare your prescription medications when you arrive at your destination’s customs checkpoint. Show your written prescription if requested.

Note any difference in time zones

If you’re on a medication schedule, consider the time zone changes and adjust your dosing schedule accordingly.

Insurance and emergency contact information

Carry a copy of your health insurance information and emergency contact details in case of unexpected medical issues.

Maintain proper medication temperatures

Some medications require specific temperature storage. Consider using insulated bags if you’re carrying medications that need to be kept cool.

Language translation

If you’re traveling to a country where the primary language is different from yours, consider having a translation of your prescription and medical condition to facilitate communication with healthcare professionals.

While it may seem like a long list, it’s best to be prepared when it comes to your health and well-being.

Frequently asked questions about prescription medication and travel

In addition to our preparation tips, please see below for answers to frequently asked questions about traveling with medication.

Can you bring prescriptions on airplanes?

Yes, you can bring prescription medications on airplanes when you travel. See the guidelines and procedures you should follow above to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience.

What types of medications can I take on a plane?

You can take a wide range of medications on a plane, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC), as long as you follow the guidelines and regulations set by the airline and relevant authorities. See the guidelines and procedures you should follow above to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience.

What are the most common legal issues people have when traveling with medication?

Here are some issues people have run into when traveling with prescription medication:

  • Country-specific medication regulations: Different countries have varying regulations regarding the importation of medications. What is legal and readily available in one country might be considered a controlled substance or require special documentation in another.
  • Lack of documentation: Some countries require travelers to carry a doctor’s prescription or a medical certificate for certain medications. If you’re unable to provide appropriate documentation, you might face legal issues at customs.
  • Quantity limits: Some countries have limits on the quantity of medications travelers can bring in. Exceeding these limits might result in confiscation, fines, or legal consequences.
  • Narcotic and psychotropic medications: Certain medications, particularly those used to treat pain, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, are heavily regulated internationally.
  • Expired medications: Some countries have strict rules about carrying expired medications.
  • Failure to declare: Many countries require travelers to declare prescription medications upon entry. Failure to do so can result in penalties or even denial of entry.
  • Language barriers: Miscommunication due to language barriers can lead to misunderstandings at customs or security checkpoints. Having medication names translated and documented can help avoid confusion.

How much medication am I allowed to bring?

In general, it’s safe to bring 30 days’ worth of medication in most places, according to Dr. Julian Klapowitz of Travel Medicine Consultations. If you need to bring more than that, it’s a good idea to bring a doctor’s note and a copy of your prescription, as noted above. You’ll also want to plan for extra time at security if you have a large amount of pills or liquid medicine that doesn’t fit into traditional TSA guidelines.

What if you run out or lose your prescription medication while traveling?

In the event of an emergency situation where you don’t have access to your medication, there are several things you can try to do to resolve the situation:

  • Contact your doctor: If you’ve run out of medication or lost your prescription, try to contact your prescribing doctor as soon as possible. They may be able to send a prescription to a local pharmacy near your travel destination.
  • Visit a local doctor: If you’re unable to reach your home doctor or if your doctor can’t provide a prescription remotely, consider seeing a local doctor at your travel destination. Explain your situation and provide any relevant medical records or information to help them understand your medical needs.
  • Use a pharmacy locator: Use online tools or apps to locate nearby pharmacies in your travel destination. Many pharmacies can help you get a new prescription from a local doctor, even if you’re not a regular patient.
  • Contact the consulate or embassy: If you’re facing language barriers or struggling to find a local doctor, consider reaching out to your country’s consulate or embassy. They may be able to assist you in finding medical care and obtaining a new prescription.
  • Telemedicine services: In some cases, you might be able to consult with a doctor remotely through telemedicine services. This can be particularly helpful if your condition is stable and you just need a prescription renewal.

Does travel assistance help with prescriptions while traveling?

It depends which travel assistance provider you have. Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) provides prescription replacement assistance. If you are an EA+ member and you have an issue with your medication while traveling, all you have to do is call one phone number and we’ll get replacements to you as soon as possible.

We hope you found this post on traveling with medication helpful! If you’re planning a trip and think you may require this service, please feel free to reach out to our team with any questions or concerns.

For more information on services and costs, please feel free to check out our website or call us at 1-866-863-4460.

A Knowledgeable Traveler is a Happy Traveler
A Knowledgeable Traveler is a Happy Traveler

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