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What’s the Best and Safest Way to Travel With Medication?

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With COVID-19-related restrictions easing up, many people are making plans for summer travel. In a survey of U.S. travelers, about 1 in 3 people said they were planning both a domestic and an international trip this year.

If you’re planning an upcoming trip and you’re not sure what to do about your medications, you’re not alone. One study found that 58% of U.S. travelers take at least one medication on a daily basis. Figuring out what the rules are regarding medications on a plane, or during travel, can be difficult and confusing.

Here, we’ll break down several common questions about traveling with medications. We’ll also include what steps you can take to help ensure that everything goes smoothly during your trip.

1. What types of medications can I take on a plane?

Most medications are allowed on planes. There are some exceptions, which we’ll cover below. You can choose to carry yours in your checked luggage or carry-on.

But delays can happen, and luggage can get lost. So, having your medications in your carry-on is the safest option to keep them in your possession. You can always put your extra supply in your checked luggage.

When packing medications in your carry-on, make sure you put them in a separate container and clearly label them. This will help facilitate the screening process at the airport.

When traveling within the U.S., you don’t have to declare your medications unless they’re in liquid form.

When traveling abroad, each country has different rules. Contact the U.S. embassy of the country you’re going to for any requirements. If you’re unsure, declare your medications anyway.

Below are some things to know about specific types of medications.

But you can bring products containing cannabinoids (substances found in cannabis) if they’re FDA-approved (like Epidiolex) or don’t contain more than 0.3% of THC (a cannabinoid).

2. How do I pack the right amount of medication?

Traveling with medications requires planning. Part of that planning is figuring out how much medication you’ll need so you don’t run out.

To avoid this, pack more medication than you think you’ll need. This is usually twice as much, but no more than a 90-day supply, unless you’re going on a long trip.

Butif you’re traveling abroad, contact the country’s local embassy to ask about their regulations. Some countries don’t allow more than a few days supply for certain medications.

What can you do if you run out of medication anyway?

Ask your healthcare provider for an extra prescription before leaving. This way, you can refill your medication if you run out. If this happens while traveling in the U.S. and you don’t have an extra prescription, contact your healthcare provider right away to get one.

You can also ask the local pharmacy for an emergency refill if your healthcare provider can’t be reached right away. They may be able to give you up to a 30-day supply for certain medications. But this can depend on state law.

If you’re traveling abroad, your prescription may not be honored in another country. If you run out of medication, contact the local U.S. embassy to be connected with local healthcare providers and pharmacies. Avoid buying medications in open markets as they may not be safe.

3. How can I keep medications stored at the right temperature?

Extreme temperatures can affect medications and make them less effective. So, it’s important to take steps that keep them stored properly.

For example, pack your temperature-sensitive medications (like insulin) in your carry-on. This prevents them from getting too cold in your checked luggage. Use insulated travel cases to carry refrigerated medications. Make sure any ice packs are frozen solid as you go through security. Keeping your medications in their original package can also help keep them stored properly.

Don’t use any medication that starts looking or smelling different during your trip. This may be a sign it’s damaged. If this happens, use your extra prescription to get a refill at a local pharmacy.

4. How can I help my child travel with their medications?

If your child takes medications on a regular basis, a little planning can go a long way to ensure they enjoy their trip safely.

To start, it may be helpful to take a shorter trip as a trial run before going on a longer one. This can help you figure out how best to prepare. Make sure you teach your child anything they need to know about traveling with their medications.

It’s also important to plan for screening at the airport. Medical supplies like insulin pumps or IV pumps are allowed on planes. If your child uses any of these, go to the airport early and inform the TSA officer at the start of the inspection.

Ensure their medications are readily accessible to them at all times during the trip. This is especially important if they use rescue medications, like an inhaler or Epipen.

5. What are some of the most common laws people break when traveling with medication?

Laws about traveling with medications can be tricky. And most confusion happens when traveling abroad. That’s because requirements can change depending on which country you visit. As a general rule, always call your destination’s U.S. embassy or visit their website to get the most updated information. Below are a few common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.

  • Traveling with too much medication. Some countries restrict how much medication you can bring with you. This is especially the case with controlled substances. You may even be limited to only a few days’ worth of medication.

  • Traveling with banned medications. Some FDA-approved medications are banned in certain countries. For example, you can’t bring pseudoephedrine or stimulant ADHD medications (like Adderall) into Japan.

  • Traveling without proper documentation for controlled medications. Most countries require your healthcare provider’s prescription, ideally translated into the local language. Some countries (e.g., Japan) require you to apply in advance to bring your medications.

  • Traveling with medical marijuana within the U.S. Medical marijuana is legal in several states, but it’s still illegal at the federal level. So, you can’t carry it across state lines.

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