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Traveling with Medication

Hello everyone...My wife and I are going to be in Italy for three weeks in May. She is recovering beautifully from breast cancer, however she takes quite a few supplements and prescription medication daily. Do you have advice on how to minimize security issues at airports, etc..when we travel? She usually has everything organized into those little weekly plastic containers (i.e. one for each day of the week). Thanks for any help.. Tom

Posted by
10403 posts

She should take her meds in their original containers. She can still use her weekly container while there to keep track of what she is taking. I would keep the prescription bottles together in her carry on. DO NOT check prescription meds. Have a great trip!!

Posted by
2092 posts

Tom, if you check the tsa.gov site, you'll find that medication should be together in one ziploc bag...even a gallon-size is ok if needed. (Please note that I haven't recently checked the site.) I keep all my medications in their original Rx bottles (& if necessary I ask the pharmacy to give me smaller, labeled bottles since I don't need 90 days worth for my trips). I also print out a list of all my Rx and OTC meds with the doctor's name, address & phone number and have him sign it. The filled weekly dose case I keep easily accessible in my Civita Day Pack so I can take my meds on the flight as needed. (Sometimes I find it tricky to take them on time, flying over 9 time zones.) Hope this helps.

Posted by
990 posts

Liquid medicines (including liquicapsules) can be taken in your carryon in addition to the ordinary 3-1-1 liquids baggiejust announce to the TSO that you have a medical baggie. Other drugs in pill and capsule form need not be separated from your other personal items in your carry-on. Carry them in their original pillbottles, which will have prescription information. And be sure to have copies of all of your prescriptions just in case you ever lose your medicines while abroad so you can replace them! My husband takes 12 different medications daily and we could not keep track of them all without one of those plastic pill organizers. So definitely bring yours along and use it while traveling. If it makes you feel more at ease, my personal experience (and I fly probably thirty or so flights a year) is that the TSA inspection has never once questioned my OTC or prescription drugs, or even looked twice at them. Not that it couldn't happen, but it is really, really unlikely.

Posted by
3428 posts

This is the answer I gave to a previous post: TSA does NOT require that medications be in original bottle or even have a label. That said, it is advisable to have the correct info with your medications in case of illness, emergency, needing refills, etc. You could ask your pharmacist to print you extra labels and put them on a Ziploc bag, then put the medications in the bag. Alternatively, some pharmacies will prepare blister packs with all your meds grouped according to when you take them (example, day 1, am in one blister, day 1 lunch next, day 1 pm next, then day 2...) and put all the labels on the top of the sheet. You could also use a pill organizer and put the labels from the pharmacy on one sheet of paper taped to the bottom of the organizer. there are small ziploc bags you can buy at Rite Aid that have a place to write things like Monday, breakfast, Tuesday bedtime, etc. Lots of ways to do it. I also carry an information sheet with all of my medications listed (both generic and name brand), the dose, when I take it and what condition it is for. I also list my Dr's phone #s, pharmacy's #, and emergency contact info as well a list major medical conditions (I have asthma, high blood pressure, etc.) and surgeries/dates. This info sheet has come in handy when I had a severe asthma attack at work (the EMTs knew everything they needed even though I had trouble speaking). If you become ill while traveling, or need a refill because you lost meds, etc. this could be vital.
EDIT: Feel free to private message me if you want a sample copy of the info sheet. Also, liquid meds of more than 3 oz should NOT be placed in your 3-1-1 bag, but should be in their own baggie. You must declare them to the TSA before screening. It is helpful for liquids to be in their original bottle.

Posted by
655 posts

As JER has noted, we travel regularly, we take our meds in whatever container is handy - often not in the prescription container. So far they have never paid any attention to them at all. Ours do not include liquids which I suspect might attract attention. Do not take glass bottles. On this site, certain destinations (Morocco, for instance) have caused more concern. When you think about it, concerning older Americans, it would be suspecious if they didn't have lots of meds. We had previously planned at trip to Paris when my wife was recovering from cancer surgery. With the doctors advice we kept to our plan. We were carefull not to get overly tired. We had a wonderful trip. May is perfect in Italy. Happy travels.

Posted by
6898 posts

My wife and I group our meds into as few containers as possible. For a 3-week trip, we take 30 days worth of meds. We use spare med bottles that are not necessarily associated with the medicine inside. We place these meds in plastic bags separate from the one permitted for liquids. We used to pull these med bags out along with the liquid bag but we don't pull either out any more. We've never been challenged or asked to show our medicine containers. We never place our medications in our checked luggage. Carry-on only. We do, however, bring a one-page summary of all of our medications in case of difficulties.

Posted by
16934 posts

Tom, I sincerely wish you wife the best success in overcoming her cancer. I truly do not understand the answers that say you must carry all meds in the original containers. I traveled to Switzerland in 2002 right after completing radiation for breast cancer. I carried my Tamoxifen in one of those daily reminder pill boxes because I knew it was so important not to miss a dose. Subsequently we have been to Europe every year and I used the same container to carry my cancer meds. No one has ever even looked at it, either departing the US or upon return. She will be be fine with her meds in the pill organizer. In the very unlikely event she is questioned (something that has never happened in more than 20 trips to Europe) it will be easy to explain. Do keep the meds in your carry on, not in checked baggage.

Posted by
2876 posts

It helps to remember that the TSA is not the DEA. The TSA's job is airline security, not drug enforcement.

Posted by
12193 posts

Bring enough for your trip. Carry everything in it's original container. Put the containers in their own plastic bag (not subject to normal 3-1-1 rules). Bring a copy of your prescriptions, in case your return is delayed or your medications are lost and need replacing. Never check prescriptions, always carry them on. Point them out to TSA rather than waiting to be asked. (Probably overkill but good techniques) If your drugs might be considered narcotics or illegal in other countries, it's a good idea to also have a letter from your doctor explaining what you are being treated for and why the drug is necessary (more common for pain medications). Your pharmacist can prepare a list of other names for your medicines, in case you have to replace them overseas.

Posted by
3428 posts

One additional point to Brad's post- take about a week's extra supply- in case of delay's like the volcano, etc.

Posted by
16934 posts

What Tom in Chicago said. TSA is not DEA. They do not care about your pills; pills are not a security issue. If you are carrying narcotic painkillers (opiates or other controlled substances) then yes, it might be wise to carry those in the labeled bottle with the prescription and your name affixed, in case you are questioned by customs officers (something I've never seen happen in my 20+ trips to Europe). Nothing else needs to be in the original container. A weekly pill organizer is just fine for the supplements and meds.

Posted by
12193 posts

Lola has a good point. The customs people know what the pills are. They know a multivitamin from a narcotic. The problem is many prescriptions can be considered narcotics by other countries or vice versa. An example is codine. Canada, last time I checked, sells cough syrup with codine (which is one of the best cough suppressants) over-the-counter. In the U.S., however, codine can't be sold or possessed without a prescription. A Canadian traveler might not think twice about packing cough syrup but could get in trouble bringing it into the U.S.