5 tips for traveling with prescription drugs

By | April 15, 2019

Running into a problem with your prescriptions can turn a dream vacation into a nightmare. But with some preparation, you can bring your medicines almost anywhere without a hitch. Here are some tips on traveling with prescription drugs.

Stock up

A few weeks before your trip, check to make sure you have enough medication (plus extra in case your return flight is delayed). Some insurance plans only allow you to pick up one month’s supply of prescriptions at a time. If you’re going on a long trip, you may need to get permission to stock up on your medicine.

“You may need to call your insurance company or work with your local pharmacy to get an advance refill of your medication,” said Dr. Warren Licht, director of medical affairs at Lenox Health Greenwich Village, who has experience in international travel medicine.

Pack properly

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has no rules on the quantity of pills and other “solid form” medicine travelers can bring. You are allowed to bring a “reasonable” amount of liquid medication, but you need to tell the TSA officer about it when you go through security.

If you’re going abroad, keep your prescriptions in their original bottles.

“One of the biggest mistakes is putting medicine in pill organizers,” said Licht. “When you pass through customs in another country, there’s no proof that those medicines are prescribed to you and they could be confiscated.”

Finally, keep your medicine on you throughout your journey, said Anna Ransom, a registered nurse and owner of the travel agency Destination Yours Travel.

“If your drugs are lost with your checked luggage, you may not be able to get them replaced,” she said. “Keep them in your purse or carry-on.”

Account for time zones

Got a medicine that needs to be taken at the same time every day? Plan to adjust if you change time zones, said Licht.

“One day of missed timing, like on the day of a flight, usually isn’t a big deal, but figure out what time you should be taking the medicine to match the time you take it at home,” said Licht.

Check for side effects

Travelers can experience different side effects from their regular prescriptions when they’re away from home. Review potential side effects and plan ahead, said Licht.

“Many drugs make your skin more sensitive to the sun. If you’re going close to the equator, you may burn more easily,” he said.

If you come down with a travel-related illness, talk to your doctor about how that might affect your medications.

“If you take a blood pressure medication and you have an acute bout of travelers’ diarrhea, for example, you may not want to continue taking the medicine. Have a pre-travel consultation with a physician so you know what to do,” said Licht.

Document your medications

Before you jet off, Ransom recommends jotting down the details about everything you’re taking, including:

  • Name of the medicine

  • Dosage strength and frequency

  • Instructions for taking it

  • Name of the prescribing physician

  • Pharmacy prescription number

  • Pharmacy phone number

“Keep this information in your wallet or purse at all times. It will help any medical professional or pharmacy assisting in replacing lost or stolen medication,” said Ransom.