As you begin to make your plans for a summer vacation, whether that’s jetting off to a deserted beach in some tropical paradise or setting sail for a special luxury cruise, there will be a number of things on your mind. With the COVID-19 pandemic still very much on our minds, ensuring that you stay safe and healthy when abroad will be one of the highest priorities for most people.
Something that can be concerning when traveling is what to do with your medication. The majority of Americans take at least one form of medication on a daily basis, and it can be hard to know what to do about this when you are on the road. Can you take prescription medications on a flight? Will you be able to find over-the-counter drugs at your destination? What about medication that requires refrigeration?
In this article we will provide advice, guidance, and a few helpful tips on how to ensure you can travel safely and healthily, with all the medication you might need to ensure a smooth, successful trip.
How should I pack my medication?
Medication should always be packed in its original container, clearly labeled and identified. If you want to keep your medication together in one place, a clear plastic ziplock bag is a good idea, as it allows customs officials to immediately know what you are carrying.
What medication is allowed on a plane?
Almost all common medications are allowed to be taken with you on an airplane, either in your checked luggage or in your carry-on. It is usually sensible to take it with you in your carry-on, so you have it to hand and readily available in case of an emergency. It is important that your medications are properly labeled, to avoid problems when going through customs, and any slarger volumes of liquid medication, but you will need to declare it to the TSA officer before your security screening.
What about medications that need refrigeration?
Some medications require storage at a certain temperature in order to remain effective. You will need to keep medications that need to be refrigerated cool during your flight, particularly if you are traveling to a warm destination. The first step is to ask your physician or pharmacist about the best methods to transport your medications. You will likely need to bring a specific container, such as a thermos or an insulated or cool bag, as well as ice packs.
Do I need to declare my medications?
In almost every case, declaring your medication is not necessary, nor do you have to present your medication to customs officials before boarding the plane (unless they are in liquid form). However, in certain circumstances it can be a good idea to let TSA officers know what you have in your bag, particularly if you are carrying many different medications or syringes, to avoid awkward questions or delays.
Can you get medication abroad?
While you will find plenty of pharmacies in most vacation destinations, it is always wise to bring your medications with you, and not rely on finding them abroad. Plenty of foreign countries do not have the same medical standards as the US, so you might not be able to find the right quality, even if you can find the medication you need, and local pharmacies and doctors may not even be able to honor your prescription.
Do I need to bring my prescription?
It is always a sensible plan to bring a copy of your prescription with you, to avoid any complications or confusion when traveling. Your prescription will clearly show to security and customs officials that the drugs you are carrying are legal and legit, and that they are necessary for you to bring with you.
How much medication should I bring?
The obvious answer to this question is ‘enough’, but there are a few things to consider. You should always pack more medication than you need, but keep in mind that some countries do have restrictions on the amount of medication you can carry, so do your research before packing. Unless you are planning to travel for an extended period, packing somewhere around twice as much medication as you think you will need should be ok, and will ensure that you don’t run out.
Are some medications illegal?
Not all countries have the same laws and regulations when it comes to prescription drugs, so it is vital to do your research and find out what you can and can’t bring with you at your destination. For example, pseudoephedrine and Adderall are not permitted in Japan, while medical marijuana can’t be taken across state lines. The International Narcotics Control Board offers a useful resource for discovering what medications are legal and illegal in countries around the world. It is also worth checking for cultural stances, as while medications might not be illegal, there might be stigmas attached to certain drugs or medical aids, as well as controversial attitudes to things like seizures, mental health issues, or contraception.
What if things go wrong?
It is always a good idea to have a back-up plan when you are traveling, and this is particularly important when it comes to your medications. Making plans for the worst case scenario can help avoid any unfortunate events. So before you go, talk to your traveling companions about your health needs, and what regular medications you are taking. Explain to them what you need, and what can happen if things go wrong. This will help them support you in the event of an emergency. Show them how to use any kit or medications that they might be unfamiliar with, and always carry a list of emergency contact numbers for your chosen destination!
Traveling with medication should not be stressful, and with a little forward thinking, research, and advance planning, you can ensure that your vacation goes off without a hitch!