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Home > Travel > Airline Travel > Tips on Traveling with Medicine

Tips on Traveling with Medicine

Submitted by: Nancy L. Young-Houser


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When people travel and have to carry medication and prescriptions safely with them, there are two important rules to follow. One is that every prescription medicine bottle in the carry-on bag should have a prescription label from a physician with their name on it. The second rule is to carry a written prescription from a doctor for every prescription medicine they are carrying "without" a label on it. Referred to as "the golden rules of traveling with medication and prescriptions", nothing seems quite as stressful if these two rules are followed religiously. But many other tips help a person who is traveling with medicine and prescriptions during a time when airport securities are at their peak.

Controlled substances

Controlled substances---such as narcotic painkillers, Valium, OxyContin, or oxycodone---should always be left in the original container with the proper prescription label left on. This label should have the correct name on it, the date it was filled, the name of the medicine and prescribing doctor, and the prescription number.

Amount of medication

If a person will be gone for about a week of traveling, make sure enough medication for one week is packed plus a little extra. Many things can happen: theft; spills; or the trip duration is extended. On the positive side, many countries have chain pharmacies which allow refills.

Assistive devices

Walking canes or assistive/mobility devices have no limitations on the number of devices brought onboard for a disabled traveler.


Some travelers will have personal pharmaceutical companies give them a "traveling prescription medication". This is a much smaller prescription labeled bottle, compared to carrying a huge medicine on board with an entire month's worth. Even if it is not time for a refill, many pharmacists will refill a special "traveler's bottle" if requested. Do not place them in a regular bottle with no label or prescription on it, as there will be no legal proof it is the correct person's medication. No name----not yours.

Carry-on baggage

Most airlines suggest carrying medication in each traveler's carry-on baggage, with non-toxic gel packs keeping them cooled if needed. An excellent rule is to never carry medication in suitcases, as they may get delayed for several days or even lost.


Checking with your health insurance company to see if you are covered at your destination should be a priority. If they do not or you have no insurance, an alternative is travelers insurance.


Make sure the medication being carried is legal in the country you are traveling to. Always carry a doctor's note saying why it is needed and what it is. If in doubt of the legality, contact the country's consulate.

Original packaging

Most airlines suggest keeping all prescription medication and over-the-counter medication in their original bottles or packaging. All administering paraphernalia should be in its proper package, properly marked with a professional label identifying its purpose, the name of the manufacturer, and a pharmaceutical label.


Most airlines are not equipped to transport or provide medical oxygen to a traveler. Individuals who require oxygen normally will need documentation from a licensed physician to verity the traveler is able to complete the flight without use of medical oxygen for the trip's duration.


Taking along extra prescriptions from the family physician is a good idea "just in case". Things such as antibiotic, arthritis symptoms, severe diarrhea, or vomiting may develop due to the water, food, sensitive stomach, bowl problems, or the flu. 


There are a lot of medications which cause "sun-sensitivity" in people. Labels are on prescription bottles warning of too much sun exposure. Check on the best skin protection factor if you are traveling in a country with hot weather and lots of sun. Some ideas are to wear a wide-brimmed hat or to hit the shade spots as much as possible. Traveling early in the morning or in the cooler evenings may also help.

Time zones

Depending on where a person goes, medication schedules may need to be altered if the vacation is on the other side of the globe. Talk to your doctor about when to take it, and have him set you up a schedule, beginning with the day you are leaving.

Traveling pill boxes

It may be easier to place them in day-of-the-week pill boxes but they can rub together and decompose when traveling, or if something happens to you---there will be no way for hospital personnel to know which medications a person is on. If they are used, the patient's name, each medication name, dosage, time, and reason for taking it should be attached to the lid or bottom.


Before traveling, it is a good idea to visit the family physician and inform them where your travel plans are going to be if you are (1) traveling to developing countries, (2) traveling off the usual route, and (3) if you have a chronic disease that may be affected by travel. Many foreign countries require routine vaccinations before allowing travelers to enter. However, no vaccinations are required for re-entry into the US for foreign travelers.

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Nancy L. Young-Houser is a professional writer and illustrator, in addition to providing a home for dogs on all levels of need with her best friend, Sandra Marquiss. Her writings include controversial subjects as part of the soapbox she has carried around since childhood, never leaving home without it. Part of this soapbox is her website filled with lots of four-legged information!

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