If you have bad eyesight, as I do, packing can be a bit more complicated than for those with 20/20 vision. I’ve worn contact lenses since I was 13 years old and have gotten the hang of it, but keeping up with that habit means I also have to pack contact lens solution when I travel- another liquid taking up space in my 3-1-1 toiletries bag.
But the advantages over glasses are plentiful, so I continue to make contact solution a priority on my packing list.
Traveling with contacts and contact lens solution doesn’t have to be a pain as long as you’re prepared.
Quick Notes About Contacts
The types of contacts you have may affect the type and amount of contact lens solution you travel with.
- Hard Contacts: Hard contacts, also known as rigid gas permeable, were common early on in vision technology, but now are mostly reserved for specific conditions. They stay focused and don’t dry out eyes as much as soft contacts. They do, however, need to be “broken in” to give your eyes time to adjust. These contacts also require more upkeep than soft contacts and need different solution that may not be as easy to find while traveling.
- Soft Contacts: Soft contacts, on the other hand, are flexible and can get dislodged in your eyes. They’re much more common for all prescriptions and are fairly easily replaced. But because of their materials, they dry out much faster, especially while in dry places like airplanes. This means you are more likely to need eye drops in addition to your solution. They come in formats like dailies, which you change every day, and others that should be replaced every two weeks to a month. Dailies have their advantages, but take up more room in your luggage.
How to Travel with Contact Lens Solution
Traveling with contacts is only slightly inconvenient, but it’s traveling with solution that adds to your already limited TSA liquids bag. As always, we recommend taking only what you need, and also making sure your bottles are as leak-proof as possible.
- Pack Travel Sized Bottles: It’s fairly easy to find TSA-approved bottles of solution at home, but not always overseas, especially in your preferred brand. I typically refill my small bottle from a larger bottle of solution before a trip and when I need to refill on the road. This keeps me from constantly buying new travel sized bottles before every trip.
- Invest in Reusable TSA Friendly Bottles: You can also purchase containers specifically for your contact solution like these from Nalgene. When doing so, it is best to sanitize your container first and never use it for anything but contact solution.
- Medically Necessary Liquid?: Don’t rely on solution being a “medically necessary liquid” and therefore exempt from the 3-1-1 rule. There’s conflicting information online, so be prepared with a travel sized bottle or bottles. I’ve had to throw my small container of contact solution away when traveling in the UK. Things like this can vary by country and even by the agent you encounter when passing airport checkpoints.
Where to Find Contact Solution When You Travel
The more common solutions, like multi-purpose solution, are easily found in most countries, but will usually be a different brand. I’ve traveled through Australia, Asia, and Europe and never had trouble finding it. At stores like Boots and 7-Eleven, you should be able to find Western brands as well.
If you use a hydrogen peroxide system, however, you may need to bring enough to last for your entire trip. It pays to do your research before you go to make sure it’s available abroad. We suggest reaching out to the manufacturer to see if they know of the product’s distribution in the countries you intend to travel. You can also join our community and see if any other women there can help you track down what you need.
In addition, people with sensitive eyes and allergies to certain solutions should pack enough for their trip unless they have confirmed the solution will be available at the destination. Otherwise, it might be a better option to forego contacts and stick to glasses for the brunt of a trip to cut back on the amount of liquids you actually need to pack.
There are many contacts cases on the market, but the most important feature is a tight-fitting, leak-proof lid. Some come with a zippered container, tweezers, and a mirror for ease of taking out like this one on Amazon. I’ve personally found screw-top containers to be more secure than the hinged designs, but all cases differ. Test yours out prior to travel!
The biggest thing to remember when it comes to traveling with contacts is to change the solution and clean the case frequently to avoid infection and irritation. Also make sure to add solution so that they don’t accidentally dry out overnight.
Additional Tips for Traveling with Contacts and Solution
- Always wash your hands with clean water before taking out or putting in your contacts. This can be a problem in third world countries, so you might want to travel with hand sanitizer or wet wipes. If you use hand sanitizer first, make sure your hands dry before touching contacts/eyes. Many women in our HPLWorld community recommend pouring a bit of contact solution over fingers for extra cleansing.
- Change your contacts when your doctor recommends. I write the date that I should change it in marker on the blister pack as a reminder.
- Bring a backup pair of contacts and glasses. In case your contacts rip or you lose them, you’ll have both another pair and your glasses as a last resort.
- Pack your doctor’s prescription just in case. Most countries should let you refill your prescription overseas so it never hurts to have it. Also throw in your solution of choice so that you don’t have to use a random brand and so you can ask the pharmacist by showing them the bottle.
- Put your contacts and glasses in your carry on, not your checked bag. You’d hate for your bags to get lost with your contacts inside! It’s also good to keep your contacts and solution with you to keep your flight comfortable.
If your eyesight allows, a cheap pair of readers from the drugstore can be an easy alternative to your nice glasses for travel. It’s not so devastating if you break them (or lose them). Prescription sunglasses and goggles might be right for active travelers as well.
Do you have any other tips for traveling with contacts and contact lens solution?
Eye infections are very serious. Never decant lens solution from one container into another. It will no longer be sterile and is a risk of infection. Also, use clean fresh solution every single day. If you are traveling somewhere where you wouldn’t drink the water, then be sure to dry your hands after washing and before inserting your lenses. Take extra pairs of lenses – they are not that expensive. Also, snap a photo of your prescription on your phone is n case you need it. Sleep in your lenses only rarely, and only if your eye doctor says it’s OK for you.
If it’s not long term travel, dailies are worth every penny. I’ve had less discomfort, infection and itching since I switched and I no longer need to lug around solution with me (or before that, in earlier years, a heating unit). A month of dailies takes up very little room and is extremely light.
I carry a small eye-drop bottle with solution in it in my purse while out for the day. If a little dirt gets in your eye or your eyes start feeling dry, you can use this to save the day. It also makes a nice backup amount of solution. If it is a long or potentially rough day outdoors I also often bring a lens case and my glasses with me, just in case! I’d love to try the daily disposables for my next trip as it seems infinitely easier. As a tip for those coming to India where I live, eye solution is much more widely available now, but still not available in every medical shop. Worthwhile to get what you need in larger cities and towns before heading out. If you are struggling to find it in the local medical shop, try the chain beauty store Health and Glow (tell them to look as many employees don’t seem to know they carry it) or look for a place that sells eyeglasses as they most likely sell contacts and solution. Eye glasses can be a great bargain in India if you are looking for a backup pair!
Stewart Gooderman says
As others have mentioned, decanting eye solutions from one bottle to another is EXTREMELY dangerous and can lead to an eye infection that can blind you. Carry around unidose eye lubricant vials that you can open if your eye is irritated and you are on the roads.
Love this post! I wear hard contact lenses and user Clear Care (hydrogen peroxide) cleaner. I got rid of all of my toiletries to make room for 8-100ml sized bottles.
I left home with 4-100ml bottles and ran out in about 3 months. At the time, I was in Vietnam and went to about 10+ eye care stores and pharmacies – none of them carried Clear Care or AOSept (the brand in Asia). Long story short, here is the list of countries/places in Asia that carry AOSept or ClearCare that I’ve seen so far:
– Kuala Lumpur
– Hong Kong (I stocked up in HK on a 24-hour layover)
Hopefully this helps someone else looking for ClearCare while traveling!
THANK YOU for sharing that list! I’m sure it will help someone else in a similar situation.
I just learned that a nighttime bonfire in the desert can mean a harsh wake up call in the morning. When I took them out at night no problem but even with clean hands in the morning it was a rough instillation!! I realized that there was probably schmootz on them from ash and sand and I never gave them a good wash before I put them back in my eyes! 😫
That sounds painful!
I’ve never had an problem with solution passing as medically necessary. I use a 3 oz bottle and keep it in a separate ziplock bag. I’ve only tried in the US though.
Thanks for posting this! I recently started wearing contacts and have been stressing about packing solutions for my 3 week backpacking trip next year.
I used to be able to travel with my hydrogen peroxide contact cleaning solution with no problems. Recently had it confiscated at my home airport (failed the strip test) but replacement sailed through return airport (passed the strip test). I called my regional TSA headquarters and spoke with senior person to ask what the official position is – “I don’t know.”
Basically, cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Ugh how annoying! I think that’s it for everything- cross your fingers!
I use extended wear astigmatism contacts and I pack my pairs in their sterile containers, I put in one pair, leave them in for the ~month I’m supposed to, take them out and never put them back in my eyes again and replace them with a new pair.
So my best solution is no solution 😉 😉 (sorry, pardon the pun).
I recommend extended wear contacts to anyone with an eye prescription, it’s like not needing glasses/contacts.