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Essential health information from local experts

Holiday Travel Tips: Flying with Medications

Written by SMH Pharmacy Resident Adrianna Hughes


Traveling over the holidays, whether to visit family or for a romantic getaway, can be a memorable adventure — or a nightmarish ordeal. Being well prepared can take the stress out of air travel.

Skip some of the airport hassles when flying with medications with these tips from Sarasota Memorial Pharmacy Resident Adrianna Hughes, Pharm.D. 

Carry On Medications

Be sure to pack medications in your carry-on bag, not in checked luggage or any bag you might be separated from — even if you don't think you'll need it while you're on the plane. It's a good idea to keep the medication with you at all times, in case there are flight delays, cancellations or lost baggage. And it’s absolutely essential for those who have severe health conditions or allergies that may require an immediate, life-saving dose from medication like an EpiPen. 

If possible, keep medications in their original, labelled containers, to avoid potential issues at airport security or Customs checkpoints.

And as always, check with your airline for any specific rules or regulations regarding medicines. 

Stock Up Ahead of Time

Make sure that you have enough medication to get you through your entire trip, plus a few days extra, in case there’s any delay in your return. This goes for medical supplies as well; be sure to pack extras of things like test strips, needles, or even glasses and contact lenses. 

Medical History & Medications Log

Request a letter from your physician detailing your medical conditions and listing any medications that you're currently taking; pack the letter in your carry-on, purse or wallet. Be sure the list includes each medication’s generic, chemical and brand name.

This is important information that care providers need in case of an emergency, and physicians or pharmacists in other countries may not be familiar with the brand names we use in the United States. 

Liquid & Refrigerated Medications

According to the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA), travelers are welcome to carry liquid medications in amounts larger than the 3.4 ounces allowed for other liquids, and liquid medication does not need to be packed in a zip-top plastic bag. However, TSA does recommend that you let security screening officers know about the liquid medication to avoid any travel delays. This also applies for refrigerated medications, which can be packed in a cooled bag or with a frozen ice pack. 

Crossing Borders & Time Zones

Keep in mind that medications that are permitted by law in your home country / city may not be allowed in the city / country you’re landing in. Upon landing, always let Customs officers know which medications you have with you. 

Also, while traveling, be sure to account for any dosing schedule differences as you cross time zones, so you stay on track. 

Need Help Outside the US?

In the event that your medications are lost or stolen, you can visit any US embassy for a list of pharmacists or physicians’ offices that may be able to provide assistance. 

For more holiday travel advice, visit the TSA website and stay tuned to our Healthe-Matters blog for a roundup of tips for international travel.

Adriana Hughes, Pharm.D., is a PGY-1 pharmacy resident at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She attained her Pharm.D. from the University of South Florida Health Taneja College of Pharmacy and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida.

Posted: Nov 26, 2019,
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Author: Ann Key