If you take medications when you travel, here are five tips to help you have a much smoother and safer trip:

1. Pack You Medications In Your Carry On
Don’t ever put medications in your checked luggage. Keep them on you at all times until you reach your destination and make sure the prescriptions are in your name.

2.
Bring More Than What You Think You’ll Need

This was true before the pandemic but with COVID-19, you never know if you will be able to get back home in time to renew prescriptions. So pack at least two to three weeks worth of extra meds just in case you test positive for COVID when trying to return to the USA. (You know the rule, right?)

3. Lock Them Up and Keep Them Safe
Don’t leave your medications out in the open in your hotel room for someone to steal. Take them with you when you leave your room, keep them safely packed away in your luggage or lock them in the safe.

4. Keep Medications in Their Original Bottles
Keep your medications in their original, labeled containers. If you don’t want to carry the oversized containers that many pills come in, ask your pharmacist to place your meds in the smallest container possible.

5. Take Photos of Prescription Labels
Photograph each prescription label and keep those photos on your phone. In 2014, my then-86-year-old dad met me in Barcelona to go on a Windstar Cruise on the Mediterranean. I gave him strict instructions regarding things to bring and at the top of the list was his medications, since he takes a lot. Sure enough, he forgot to pack them and sure enough, the pharmacy was closed. Before I had someone back home overnight his pills for a ridiculous amount of money, we went to a small pharmacy at our first port of call in Sete, France. Have you ever heard of the village? Neither had I. I didn’t think there was any chance the pharmacist would speak English, or would have the pills my dad needed or even agree to fill the prescriptions. Well, because I had photos of the prescription labels on my phone, the pharmacist, who spoke better English than me (not that difficult, I know), was able to fill them. And guess what? It cost far less than what the pills cost back home.

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14 Comments On "5 Tips For Traveling with Medications"
  1. Kim|

    It’s important to remember, even when putting it in carry on bags, to have it all in one removable bag inside and everything together. You never know when your carry on won’t fit in the overhead, and you’ve got to be aware of having everything you do NOT want checked so you can easily and quickly remove it.

  2. kacy eaves|

    A tour guide once recommended this, and it is brilliant, LOCK anything you are concerned about INSIDE your luggage when you leave your hotel room, as those kinds of thefts are of opportunity nature, it is not likely they will take your WHOLE suitcase.

  3. naoma4|

    I take 6 medications and what a time I have. One MUST BE REFRIGERATED until I begin to take it and I have to carry it in a cool chest (small carry case) — rest are regular. Usually I get GRIEF from security. I am always afraid they will take them away from me!!!!!!!

  4. Kiera Reilly (@KieraReilly)|

    I always bring my medications on the plane with me, and like Kim, I keep them in one removable bag so they are all together, easily accessed and able to be taken out if a bag needs to be checked. I never heard about locking medications up in the hotel safe, but that seems like an excellent tip. And if there’s no safe in the room, locking them in the suitcase seems like a good idea too. Thanks!

  5. bronteandfrank|

    I travel O/S regularly with my young daughter and have had everything from boxed apple juice to sunscreen confiscated going through security (and customs). Sometimes it’s due to fluid limits, but not always. Because she’s little, medicine is in liquid form, so I find those standardized plastic travel containers, housed in a large ziplock bag (some even come with blank labels) really handy. It’s comforting to pour liquids out of large bottles, knowing they shouldn’t be confiscated and won’t smash. I always take children’s fever reducer, antihistamine and a thermometer. When I do, she never becomes ill. When unprepared, it’s inevitably a non English speaking doctor called to our hotel – or a dash to the closest hospital. I throw in my favorite spritzer, lotion and lip balm together with my own medications too. Keep it all in one spot in your carry on and as Johnny says, make sure it stays with you.

  6. Aruna|

    If you are crossing any international borders, you should also have your prescriptions with you to prevent any complications with customs.

  7. Janet Loxi|

    I keep my medications in a small cloth bag. In case of an emergency it is small enough to grab and take with me. Anything bulky would not be allowed so that is why I keep it very simple.

  8. Robert Scott|

    Please keep in mind that although “we all do it”, that it is against the law to travel with prescription drugs that have been removed from their original containers.
    This means putting childrens presciption liquid drugs into smaller containers to get them through TSA security checks, regular prescription drugs in those convenient daily or weekly pill trays or even your prescription antibiotics into a little pill box for your convenience.
    The DEA has been known to enforce these laws occasionally on seemingly innocent travelers and by the time you get this type of thing straightened out you have probably missed your flight and have cost yourself lots of money in additional travel expenses and/or legal fees.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good to know!

  9. Barbara|

    I travel for longer than my 30 day supply last, so not only do I photograph my medication I also have my Dr. write me a prescription to take with me as well. I also have my eyeglass prescription in case I lose or break my 2 pair of glasses. So far I haven’t had any problems getting refills.

  10. Ann Edwards|

    I normally spend five months in Nova Scotia each summer and just started bp medication but am only allowed a three month supply of medication at a time. I have been told that I cannot just take the prescription to a Canadian drug store to fill. I wonder if anyone knows whether I would have to go to a Canadian doctor for a refill or whether I could have someone mail my medication from the US to Canada. Any other suggestions please?

  11. Mdcan|

    Prescriptions are SO Much cheaper in Europe! I always try to stock up when I am there!

  12. Dee Pierce|

    I’m really concerned about the advice and apparently, a federal law requiring me to carry all prescriptions in their original bottles. I hope that security agents are not going to start cracking down on those who don’t. I’ve not traveled since March 2019 due to COVID. But prior to the pandemic, I always carried my prescription pills and vitamins (including ones that I MIGHT need…) in about fifteen very small individual plastic ziplock packs that are stored inside a foldable billfold container (ordered from Amazon). I use to bring about a two week to one month supply of each of the prescriptions, depending on how long I will be gone. I bring some medications for “just in case” situations including ambien/sleeping, anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea. In addition, I will need to bring a separate bag of liquid medications in the future for new liquid medications. I read (TSA.gov) that you can bring a separate bag for liquid medications as long as you inform the agent prior to running it through the screening process. In my case, I only need another quart size ziplock bag to carry a variety of eye drop vials, asthma inhalers and nose sprays. I do NOT carry my medications in the pill bottles because obviously there are no pill bottles small enough to enable me to carry 20 bottles! Instead, I ask my pharmacist to print off a short version of the prescriptions and then I fold them up and place into the plastic pill packets. They fit because you only need the basic info. You can throwaway the pill side effect warnings and other info on the rest of the prescriptions. I’d like to know if anyone else is carrying their medications the same way? I don’t want to be held up or stopped (or worse, lose my medications) because of my pill container and/or extra bag of liquid medications. JohnnyJet: I need you to weigh-in on this question too before I hit the (sky) trails again.

  13. Dee Pierce|

    Correction: There are no pill bottles that are small enough to allow me to carry about fifteen bottles. It would take up too much space in a carry-on bag. I never check a bag unless it’s on its way home.

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