Advise Me

These Expert Strategies Make It Easy to Travel With Your Medication

If you routinely take medication, it can feel daunting to travel, especially by plane. But don’t let the hassles of managing your medication while you travel keep you from visiting family, friends or destinations you want to see.

“Planning ahead can eliminate almost all problems,” said Paul Thompson, PharmD, a clinical pharmacist with Banner Pharmacy Services. These tips can help you manage multiple medications when you travel, whether you’re taking medication yourself or traveling with a parent or relative who might need some help.

How can I get through security with medication?

Pack your medications and keep them with you in a carry on bag. “You don’t want any of your medication in your checked luggage, in case it gets lost or delayed,” Dr. Thompson said. You’re allowed to carry on insulin and the supplies you need for diabetes. You need to carry on injectable medication if you’re carrying on any unused syringes. (The air pressure changes in the plane’s cabin can affect insulin and other injectable medications, so inspect them before you use them.)

You’re allowed to carry on liquids in amounts of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters. But you can carry on more medically necessary liquids, gels and aerosols as long as it’s a reasonable amount. When you pass through security, you need to declare your excess liquids and allow the TSA staff to inspect them.

“Store your medications in labeled containers or vials to make them easy to inspect,” Dr. Thompson said. “Your pharmacy should be able to give you additional vials and duplicate labels if you need them for your trip.”

How can I travel with refrigerated medications?

If you’re traveling by air, carry on any medications that need to be refrigerated. And whatever method of transportation you use, keep your medications temperature-controlled in a travel cooler bag with cold packs, ice packs or gel packs. Those items are permitted on flights.

Can I travel with medical marijuana?

Marijuana and some types of CBD oil are illegal under federal law, except for products with no more than 0.3 percent THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) or products that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you fly with medical marijuana and it’s uncovered at security, the final decision on whether you can travel with it and what happens next rests with the TSA officer.

How should I time my medication when I travel across time zones?

Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about adjusting your medications to allow for time zone changes. Some medications are more sensitive to timing, so you’ll want to keep taking them on the schedule for your original time zone. For others, you can transition to your vacation time zone.

What should I do if I run out of medication when I’m traveling?

Ideally, you should bring along enough medicine to last for your trip. But things happen. Make sure you have contact information for your health care provider and your pharmacy with you. Most of the time, you can have a prescription transferred to a pharmacy at your destination or request a new electronic prescription from your provider.

How should I manage multiple medications when I’m away from home?

“I recommend keeping them together and properly labeled,” Dr. Thompson said. In addition, you can ask your pharmacy or health care provider to print out a list of the names of your medications, their strengths and the directions for taking them. Referring to it can help keep you from overlooking any of them. It’s a good idea to set reminders on your phone or to use a pill organizer to help you remember to take the right medications at the right times when you’re away from home and your routine.

Regardless of how many medications you take—prescription, over-the-counter or herbal, you should carry a list with you at all times in case of emergencies, especially when traveling. Your list should include:

  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Any allergies
  • Emergency contacts
  • Name and phone number of your primary care physician and regular pharmacy
  • Name of any medication, the dose you take and how often you take it

Is there anything else that can make it easier to travel with medications?

Dr. Thompson recommends enrolling in Global Entry ($100 for five years) or TSA PreCheck ($78 for five years). “It makes traveling and passing through security so much easier,” he said. With these programs, you don’t need to remove your shoes, laptops, allowable liquids, belts or light jackets. You’ll often get through security in five minutes or less. Global Entry also speeds up the passport control process when you return to the United States from another country.

The bottom line

When you take medication, managing it when you travel might feel overwhelming, especially if you need syringes, liquids or refrigeration. But planning ahead and knowing what to expect can make it manageable. Reach out to a Banner Health provider if you would like individualized tips for managing your medication when you travel.

To learn more about safe ways to travel, check out these articles:

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