Managing Your Medications While Traveling

Jan 3, 2022


Alto Pharmacy

Whether traveling domestically or abroad, arriving at your destination with the medication you need is rarely as simple as packing it in your suitcase. From TSA compliance to temperature control, there are many factors to consider when traveling with medication — not to mention getting enough of a supply for the whole trip (plus extra, just in case).

Planning is key to managing your prescriptions and staying on top of your health needs while you’re away from home. Follow these tips to prepare for your next trip.

Research your destination’s medication laws

Many medications that are legal in the U.S. aren’t allowed in other countries. And it’s not only prescription medications: even over-the-counter treatment options may not be permitted in some destinations.

To avoid any unwelcome surprises while going through customs — or any missed doses — confirm that your medications are legal in the country you’re visiting. As a starting point, check with that country’s U.S. embassy. Consider that some countries may only allow a 30-day supply for certain medications and/or require you to carry an official prescription or additional information from your doctor with you. If you learn that your medication is not allowed at your destination, contact your healthcare provider to discuss your options.

There are legal considerations to be aware of even if you are traveling within the U.S. For example, you may be able to fill certain prescriptions out of state if you lose your medication or forget to order a refill before your trip, but the laws vary by state and there are often restrictions on controlled substances. Do your research in advance and make sure to prepare for any scenario.

Make sure you have enough of your medication

Unforeseen changes can happen when traveling, so it’s important to have more than enough medication on hand. Aim for an additional week or two’s supply. Allow yourself plenty of time to fill your prescription(s) before your trip. Depending on when you are due for a refill, you may need to request an early refill authorization from your insurance company — sometimes referred to as a vacation override — in order to get your medication in advance. (Alto can help with this!) 

In addition, make sure you’re prepared in the event that you misplace your medication during your trip. Write down the generic names of your medications, which may be more commonly available at pharmacies in other countries.

Pack smart

Lost luggage can be more than an inconvenience if your medication is in your checked bag, so always pack any important medications in your carry-on. This does mean you’ll have to be mindful of security requirements, particularly if carrying liquid medication. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s current limit on liquids, gels, and creams in a carry-on bag is 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters), but there are exceptions for liquid medications. For the easiest travel experience, inform the TSA officer that you are carrying more than 3.4 ounces of liquid medication before your screening process begins, and be aware that additional screening of your medication may be required.

Keep your medications in their original packaging to avoid any issues when passing through security or customs. You may want to bring an official prescription or other documentation of your medical condition as an additional precaution, especially if you take a controlled substance or are traveling abroad.

Many medications lose their effectiveness if held at extreme temperatures, which is another reason to put your medication in your carry-on, as a plane’s luggage compartment can be very cold. If you take a medication that requires refrigeration like insulin, make sure you have what you need to hold your medication at an appropriate temperature.

Many people with diabetes use insulated medication bags to refrigerate insulin when traveling. Read ‘How to Prepare a Diabetes Emergency Kit’ for more information on the diabetes essentials to bring on a trip.

Account for time zone differences

If you’re traveling far from home, anticipate how time zone changes may impact your medication schedule. Before your trip, ask your doctor how to handle the time zone shift and what to do if you accidentally miss a dose — some medications have more flexible timing of doses than others. 

Choose a flexible pharmacy partner

Getting a last-minute refill before a trip is low stress with a flexible pharmacy partner like Alto. We offer free same-day delivery seven days a week, with the convenience of choosing the best delivery window for your schedule. And we’ll work with your doctor, your insurance (if applicable), and any third party savings programs that you may qualify for to ensure your medications are as affordable as possible

Reach out any time through in-app secure messaging or by phone at 1-800-874-5881.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.