For those of us who have medications we need to take every day, packing them can throw a kink in our packing plans. It requires more planning than it might for travelers who don’t have medical conditions to deal with.
But even travelers without medical conditions may be carrying prescribed Cipro or anti‐malarials to prevent illnesses in certain parts of the world or birth control pills. No matter your situation, packing medications can be a pain during the preparation period, but makes the trip run smoothly once you leave! Here are a few tips to get you started when it comes to packing medications.
Medications in Your Carry On or Checked Luggage?
Depending on what you’re traveling with, you might wonder whether you should bring it in your carry on or if it’s okay to be checked. I would recommend always putting medications in your carry on as you never know what might happen to your bags. You might be asked to check it, even if you had planned on carrying on, or it might go missing for a few days, leaving you without important medicine. It might throw a wrench in your plans, making you skip out on planned activities when you arrive.
It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Over‐the‐counter medications and vitamins, however, should be fine to be left in your checked luggage.
Bring the Written Prescription
Even if you do carry on your medications, something might happen while you’re traveling. It’s also smart to bring the written prescription with dosage from your doctor if you’ll be traveling for a while or if you need it immediately. That way, you can walk into a pharmacy and show it to the employees to get the same medication, or a close version. I’ve done this many times overseas, including in Germany and Thailand, where many of the medications are cheaper than in the United States.
Some countries, however, won’t accept your foreign prescription, but might be willing to give you an over‐the‐counter version available there. And for some medications, namely pain pills, anti‐anxiety medications and syringes, it’s smart to also bring a doctor’s note explaining why you have it.
Importance of Original Packaging
While I’ve never had any trouble with airport security questioning my pill containers, I have had trouble with medicated lotion whose label had worn off. Since then, I’ve learned to put a clear piece of packing tape over it so that, if nothing else, you can see my name on the bottle. A clear bag with your pill bottles should do the trick.
Note: Security checks are not equal in all countries, so plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Remember that if your medication is a liquid, you don’t have to worry about the TSA liquid rules as long as it’s prescribed. Just be sure to mention it to the security officer so they don’t think you’re trying to sneak larger liquids on board.
Accessories for Packing Medications
I recommend keeping your prescriptions in the original bottles when possible, especially as it may be easier to show to a pharmacist overseas if you need an emergency refill, but you can put other items in a travel‐sized pill case. For example, you might be prescribed baby aspirin for your heart or over‐the‐counter medicine for stomach pains. These are fine to put in a separate container, as long as you remember which is which.
There are dozens of travel pill organizers on the market, much smaller than the one you might use at home, so check out websites like Amazon and TravelSmith.
If you’re a traveler with diabetes, use insulin or have other medications that require climate control, packing a cooler is an easy way to make that happen. Bring freezer packs that can be re‐frozen in hotel mini‐fridges as needed. Some airlines or hotels may also let you keep items in their fridges in between.
Small coolers and insulated bags can be found in most outdoor retail stores as well as your local Walmart. Ebags makes the Crew Cooler, originally made for flight attendants and pilots, that has room for “dry” items like snacks as well as the bottom cold compartment. It can slide on top of your suitcase and will fit under your seat. Speaking of which, it’s also important to bring a water bottle to take your medicine and snacks.
For travelers who use auto injectors and syringes, consider a way to dispose of them while you’re on the road. Some places may have sharps disposal containers in public places, but it’s good to be prepared. You can purchase a smaller container to keep them in, like this one on Amazon, or use a sturdy water bottle instead. It can be clear or you can label it to avoid confusion. Leave the used syringes in your checked bag and toss them when you get home or find a disposal.
Also remember that if you have to take medication at the same time every day, make some sort of system so that the time zones won’t mess you up. This simple website can help you convert those times.
And you might find that you want to switch times of the day, as I did when taking my anti‐malarials in Southeast Asia. I switched from first thing in the morning, which made me feel nauseous, to right before I went to bed. Your system might include setting an alarm on your phone or other device.
Do you have any additional tips for traveling with medication?