5 tips for traveling with prescriptions

image of woman working in pharmacy

When traveling, there are simple things you can do to keep your medication safe.

At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, we see many patients from across the country and around the world. As a result, some of our families travel back and forth many times during the course of their child’s treatment. Whether traveling for the holidays, a long weekend trip or an out-of-town visit, here are five tips for traveling safely with medicines.

1. Store medication in a climate-controlled area, not your glove compartment or trunk. 

If you are driving to your destination, avoid storing medicines in your vehicle’s glove compartment or trunk.

Medicines are sensitive to temperature extremes, and these areas are affected more by outside temperatures.

Medications are tested in very controlled environments, and exposing them to temperature extremes may change their potency. Keep the medication in a climate-controlled area if possible.

2. Keep medicines with you in a carry-on bag

Keep medicines with you in a carry-on bag when traveling by train, plane or bus. You may need a dose during travel. Plus, if your luggage gets lost for several days, you will still have your medications. According to the Transportation Security Administration website, passengers are authorized to travel with medications in a carry-on bag. If you have any questions, you can ask the TSA by going to its Facebook page, or the TSA’s Twitter page.

3. Pay attention to TSA rules when flying
If traveling by plane, keep medicines in clear plastic bags inside your carry-on bag. According to the TSA, liquids in containers that hold less than 3.4 ounces are acceptable to carry on the plane. If you require larger amounts of liquid medicine on board, you must declare them to TSA officers at the checkpoint for inspection. This also applies to insulin for diabetics or any gel or aerosol medication.

4. Keep a list of medications with you
It may be helpful to keep a complete list of your family’s medicines. Include the names, doses and schedules of each. Always keep the medicines stored in their original containers. These are simply good rules to follow so you can stay organized, and so you or a family member can communicate medication information if needed. In the case of St. Jude patients, they may be on four to eight different medications. Keeping a written list in a convenient location helps eliminate confusion. Also, keeping medicine in its original container helps prevent confusion.

5. Make sure to bring enough medication
Take plenty of medicine with you in case your trip is longer than expected. Running out of your prescription seems to happen at very inconvenient times — weekends or holidays are not the time to be scrambling for a refill. Check your medication when travel planning and packing aren’t a distraction. A few days before you leave, see if you have enough medicine for the duration of the trip. Then if you need a refill, you can do it through your pharmacy.

If you have questions about traveling with medicines, be sure to consult your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

About the Author

Shane Cross

Shane Cross, PharmD, BCPS, is a clinical pharmacy specialist in the Pharmaceutical Services Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. View full bio.