Traveling with Prescription Medications
Know these rules and regulations before packing your prescriptions.
We’ve all been there – stressing over packing for a trip. What is the weight limit for checked luggage? What items should be packed in my carry-on? Will something in my carry-on raise red flags at security?
While prescriptions are allowed in both carry-on bags and checked luggage, it’s always best to store them in your carry-on. Not only will you have immediate access to your medication, you eliminate the risk of being completely without it in the event your checked luggage goes missing, which, unfortunately, happens.
Here are a few tips to follow, giving you one less thing to worry about when it comes to traveling with prescription meds.
Don’t always pack for convenience
Pill cases, along with weekly or monthly pill dispenser boxes are certainly convenient. However, traveling with all your prescription drugs in their original containers, while not always required, can make going through security a lot simpler. Medications in pill or other solid forms must undergo security screening, which can include X-ray screening and testing for traces of explosives. The original bottles will help facilitate the screening process and serve as proof if you are asked to show you are the patient to whom the medicine is prescribed. You also can ask your doctor in advance for a letter explaining your medical condition and the medication you are taking.
TSA advises travelers to check state laws regarding prescription medication labels before traveling as they can vary from state-to-state.
Traveling with liquid meds or oxygen
There is an exemption to the 3-1-1 liquid rule when it comes to traveling with liquid prescriptions. You are allowed larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels and aerosols for your trip. That is, if they are in reasonable quantities. And plastic bags aren’t necessary in this case. You also can bring ice packs to keep medications and liquid medical supplies cold. If you have a condition that requires supplemental oxygen, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) created an entire guide about traveling safely with portable oxygen, which includes comprehensive lists of policies for all major modes of transportation.
To help streamline the process at the airport, be sure to inform the TSA officer that you are carrying prescriptions – whether pills or liquids. Also, be sure to separate them from your other belongings.
Of course you will want to bring enough medication to last your entire trip, but having extra doses is just as important. That way, you are prepared in the event you face unexpected flight delays or cancellations that prolong your travel. If you run into issues and need to connect with your doctor to refill a prescription while on vacation, keep his or her contact information handy, and be ready to provide details regarding the pharmacy at which you want the prescription filled. It’s important to know, though, that emergency refills and dealing with insurance coverage while out of network can be a major hassle.
In addition being prepared for the duration of your travel, make sure you are squared away with the doctor, pharmacy and insurance provider weeks in advance of planned travel if your departure date requires you to refill a prescription early or if an extended trip requires a larger supply of medication. A pharmacy can rarely resolve these issues while you’re standing at the counter, or even in a day or two.
Going abroad? Do your research
Checking the rules and regulations of the country you are planning to visit in advance can spare you a major headache in the long run. Certain types of prescription drugs are illegal in some countries. Some of the stricter destinations include Japan, which prohibits Adderall, and the United Arab Emirates, which has a list of 70 banned medicines.
To find out more about prescription drug restrictions, you can visit the embassy website of your destination country. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers also offers a helpful checklist.
Be aware that a valid prescription or doctor’s note is required on all medication entering the United States. For additional information about traveling with prescription medication, contact TSA Cares at least 72 hours before your trip.