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packing quandary

I use eye drops for dry eyes about three times a day. At home, I use the tiny one dose vials. I packed enough to get me through my trip. Now I'm questioning if TSA will let me though without putting them in my 311 bag (they would take up the whole bag). I can buy a bottle of dry-eye eye drops but I prefer not. From all I've read and heard, the vials are safer, without preservatives. What do you think? Will TSA give me problems? Thanks!

Posted by
1459 posts

I would just use a bottle for the trip unless you absolutely have to use the vials. Or can you buy the vials at your destination?

Posted by
6105 posts

For the TSA, they go "by the book" (or at least they try to). You should assume they will enforce all limits.

Plenty of eye drops available everywhere in Europe. Bring what you need to get you there and keep you going with the familiar for a while (within TSA limits). Once you get there, enjoy the adventure of shopping for, trying out, and eventually settling on a new favorite brand. Ask a pharmacist for their recommendation. You might even find a new favorite that you'll wish you could buy at home...

Posted by
353 posts

I flew to Europe in mid-June and again in early August this year. I put the eye drop vials in my “medicine” zip lock bag, not in my 3-1-1 liquids bag. No one said anything.

Posted by
1877 posts

Oops I just deleted my post. Didn't mean to.

Thanks Roubrat, David and Mary. Scudder, TSA doesn't address eye drop vials as liquids. I'll buy a bottle and take a few vials in my purse. It really boils down to the TSA agent.

I have to redo my 311 bag. It's a little overstuffed. This week's project to figure out what I can live without or buy there.

Posted by
3579 posts

I travel with eyedrops for dry eyes too 3X/day. If you don’t want the bottle confiscated by the TSA, put it in your 311. Opt to travel with a smaller bottle.

Posted by
838 posts

I pack both nasal spray and eye drops in the bag with other medications if going thru TSA screening. At times going thru European security screening I've had to shove them in my 3-1-1 bag but usually that's on the way home when I have more room or don't care if I pitch them.

Posted by
1877 posts

Y'know, sometimes just posting a question, a concern, a thought helps me reconsider what I'm doing or need to do. Thank you all.
So here's what I decided:
For eye drops, I'll buy the bottle, it's only .66oz. I'll leave most of the vials home, but stuff a few in my purse for the plane.
For the overstuffed 311 bag, I repackaged one of the skin lotions. The room saved fits the eye drops. I should be able to decant a couple things into even smaller bottles and jars to save more room.

Posted by
123 posts

My refresh plus vials are 0.4ml. It takes 250 of them to add up to the 100ml TSA limit. Of course there is no guarantee they would see it that way but I will be making that argument next month.

Posted by
1190 posts

I am super sensitive to the ridiculously small amount of preservative in standard eyedrops bottles. Can't use 'em, just cannot. The only tiny vials I can use are preservative-free. I do not know if a similar product will be easily available for purchase in Spain next year so I'm planning to take a bunch. But I'm also preparing a card that I can take to a farmacia that will describe, in my best googlish, "Gotas oftálmicas sin conservantes, por favor."

Posted by
2087 posts

I put my OTC and Rx eye drops in my gallon ziploc medications bag and have never been questioned about it.

Posted by
137 posts

I consider drops for dry eye syndrome to be a medical regimen. Like others here, I cannot tolerate preservative of any kind. Therefore, I must bring what I need. It can be hard to find preservative-free eye drops at my local pharmacy, much less in a different city. I can’t risk being forced to use products with preservatives.

So I’d be tempted to split up what I need for the trip. Packs of individual vials in a medical 311 bag. A bottle of the preservative-free drops in my toiletries 311 bag (maybe with individual vials added as will fit.) I’m using a Systane 0.34 ml bottle now. I prefer the individual vials, but think the bottle setup does a decent job keeping the drops sterile. More drops, less space. And by splitting the drops when I pack, I’d have a week’s worth of drops if the medical 311 bag doesn’t work. That buys me time to track down more drops.

As a third line of defense, the largeer single-use pink saline vials (often used for nebulizers) are sterile, preservative free, and readily available. They are not as effective for dry eye (per my ophthalmologist), but might work for a trip. I’d think those aren’t hard to find in other places. As long as saline vials aren’t in short supply overseas? :-)

Posted by
2960 posts

Horsewoofie, I need eye drops as well. I put most in a medical baggy for TSA and I put one in the 311 bag also. I also have prescription eye drops, which go in the med baggy. I pull it out and just tell the TSA agent it is medicine when I'm putting it in the tub. They've never even looked at it. Wray

Posted by
13841 posts

I just checked the Amazon websites for several European countries. I found Allergen Refresh Plus (preservative-free) in vials ( pack of 100) on Amazon.it, Amazon.de, and Amazon.fr, but not on Amazon.es. So that suggests to me you can buy them easily in Italy, Germany, and France, but maybe not in Spain. They did have other drops for “ojos secos”, but I could not determine if they are preservative-free.

They are expensive, though—-€65 for the 100 vials on each website.

Posted by
4553 posts

If your dry eye issue is similar to mine (which seems to be quite common among friends my age), the eye dr. recommended a specific brand or two. I wouldn't count on being able to get the drops your dr. recommended or have worked well for you, in Europe. Also, my dr., did like the vials as they are more sterile. That said, they didn't work for me for travel, and I have purchased the larger bottles for travel and bring just a few vials to keep in my purse for urgent needs. I haven't had an issue. BTW, my doctor also suggested the hot packs (heat in microwave), and they have been even more useful than the drops. A really warm washcloth is somewhat similar though doesn't retain the heat nearly as long.

Personally, I wouldn't risk it with TSA. I think they are too expensive to have TSA confiscate them from you. If the drops were prescription, that'd be a different story.

Here's another idea, bring the eye drops you decide are necessary and cut back on other toiletries. For example, my last trip was to Sicily, and Sicily water hated my hair, I guess. I had to go by a large bottle of conditioner. My husband lost his travel toothpaste and he had to buy a medium size tube. Since we were gone almost a month we were happy to have the larger amounts. So we got to thinking, and there are items we use a relatively lot of that are readily available in Europe and we care little about the brand--hair conditioner, tooth paste, my husband's shampoo, lotion, etc. So now, instead of packing multiple small containers for a particular item, we plan to just buy it in Europe, and we can bring home any extra when we check our bags, or leave it behind if need be. Certain things like my shampoo, sunscreen, the eye drops, etc., I'm not willing to buy in Europe and those are the items that I will put in my 3-1-1 bag.

And something some do not know, hand sanitizer, wipes, etc. need not be included in your 3-1-1 "allotment". I would still put them out in the TSA tray. This is true for the U.S. and not necessarily Europe.

Posted by
66 posts

I went to Europe for five weeks at the end of April. I also brought enough of the one dose vials for the entire trip. I had some of them in a separate clear bag where I had my contacts, travel size solution (2x), glasses. I also had some in my backpack (they come in packs of 5) and I had some with my toiletries. I took lots of flights and had no problem in both the U.S. and Europe. Security considered them medical and did not hassle me.

Posted by
80 posts

Horsewoofie, sounds like you have a plan! I have to use preservative-free drops. My eyes seem to prefer some PV drops to others, so I make room in my med bag for ones I know are effective. Sterile and preservative-free are not the same thing, as you probably know. All eye drops are sterile, not all are PV. I have never found preservative-free drops sold in a bottle; my ophthalmologist says that's because PV drops are only packaged in individual doses.

You must be getting so excited as the takeoff day approaches! I really look forward to hearing all about your solo experiences.

Posted by
4553 posts

The vials are more sterile than a larger bottle in the sense that they are not used continually over a longer period of time. The vials are also preservative free, yes. I mentioned the travel issue the last time I was at the eye doctor and he mentioned he'd rather I used the brands recommended, and I could give the larger bottles a try just for travel. He also said that he felt, at least for me, the hot pack for 15 minutes a day is more effective than the drops and provides a longer term solution.

Posted by
1877 posts

Thank you everyone for your responses! I knew I could count on you to help me.

Posted by
546 posts

My experiences internationally have been the same as Mary’s from MA. I pack any wellness health items separate from my 3-1-1. I do buy new small bottles/jar that are sealed. I also use eye drops.

Twice in error I had a remainder of a bottle inside my shoulder bag and no one in any country said a thing. Perhaps having a sealed container of the same item helped my cause.

Posted by
2129 posts

horsewoofie, just came in at the end of this, but couldn't you just pack them separately in a bag and check them (maybe keeping the TSA allowed amount with your carry-on)? Or do you just not want to take the risk?

Posted by
1877 posts

Mardee, carry-on only for me. It's a challenge but I got everything to fit when I did a test pack today. A little heavier than my goal, but it's doable. I fly into Heathrow. There's no way I will check luggage and have it end up in the deep dark hole there. From others' replies, I don't expect to have problems with eye drop vials. Just in case I cut that quantity down and am adding a bottle of eye drops.

Posted by
137 posts

My ophthalmologist has encouraged me to consider punctal plugs for my dry -eye issues. I guess these are silicone plugs that go in the tear ducts. He thinks it would be a good option, but I haven’t decided.

I mention this, in case you want a minimalist packing solution. :-). —Sherry

Posted by
1877 posts

Sherry, I tried the duct plugs. Not something I’d try again. Didn’t help my dry eyes and I could feel them (poking sensation). Not comfortable.

Posted by
630 posts

I use Restasis for dry eyes which comes in one dose vials. I pack the container containing them separately from my 311 bag and inform TSA that i am carrying a prescription medicine. They have yet to ever ask me to take them out of the bag. We just completed 30 days in Africa with no issues. Usually about 1/2 way through a trip I put the remaining vials in in my 311 bag and get rid of the container.

Posted by
137 posts

@horsewoofie — thanks for sharing your experience! I could not tolerate what you’ve described. Argh.

Posted by
13841 posts

I will just add—-I used drops for dry eyes for years, in my 50’s and early 60’s. It seemed to be mostly a problem indoors, especially at work. My optometrist suggested I had become dependent upon the drops, and proposed duct plugs, but also suggested diet and skin care alternatives—-which were much more appealing than the plugs. It has worked very well for me. I bought a humidifier for my office, started taking Omega 3 capsules and eating lots of salmon, and used eye cream (Roc brand) to moisturize the area around my eyes 2x a day. I haven’t used the eye drops for over ten years now. And when I retired 8 years ago I left the humidifier behind for my successor.

Posted by
1190 posts

Remember that TSA's 311 rule does NOT mean you can only have three bottles.

Posted by
584 posts

I still miss the soft contact lenses I could use in my early 20's before my eyes became too dry for them. I've since spent 4 decades dealing with dry eyes and discovered that I can only tolerate the unfortunately expensive Systane Ultra Lubricant PF drops in vials. We also tried the plugs which were entirely too irritating to me. No other treatment (humidifiers, foods, etc.) have had any impact whatsoever. My ophthalmologist prescribed Restastis 2 years ago which has lessened but not eliminated entirely the need for the OTC Systane. I'm glad that I have a very small copay on the Restasis. It's curious that the generic Restasis costs twice the name brand. My insurance must be slow to add it to the formulary.

So I've got a real collection of vials to carry with me! Has anyone been able to obtain the Systane Ultra Lubricant PF drops (preferably in vials as I've had a bad experience once with the bottle) in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or Austria?

Posted by
1190 posts

Has anyone been able to obtain the Systane Ultra Lubricant PF drops (preferably in vials as I've had a bad experience once with the bottle) in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or Austria?

All bottles have a preservative. It is an irritant after prolonged use.

Suggest you drop by Systane’s site and see what they have for International products. You might contact their customer service. And your doctor might know of an alternative product.

Posted by
584 posts

All bottles have a preservative. It is an irritant after prolonged use.

Yes, it makes sense only single use vials can be preservative free. I've got 2 doctors consulting (an ophthalmologist and a retina specialist) and they have decided that preservatives are a big issue for me. The retina specialist travels more and might have some ideas.

I will need 35 days worth of Restastis & Systane vials for my next trip. I think my partner will agree to stash some of my vials if necessary.

Posted by
1190 posts

will need 35 days worth of Restastis & Systane vials for my next trip.

I just discovered that my PF vials can be resealed. The tiny twist Off cap is actually designed to snap back into the exit tube. Each vial contains 8 to 12 drops.

Posted by
584 posts

I just discovered that my PF vials can be resealed. The tiny twist Off cap is actually designed to snap back into the exit tube. Each vial contains 8 to 12 drops.

Yes I routinely make use of a Systane vial the entire day. I discussed using Restastis vials more than once with my ophthalmologist who told me she does that herself with Restasis. I only have problems with preservatives and careful enough to avoid any infections using vials more than once. I wouldn't use a Systane vial longer than a day since I would be carrying it with me all day but the Restastis would be morning and night at the hotel only. I can stretch use of a vial of Restastis to 3 days without issues. Sometimes I have a bad day where more than 1 Systane is needed. I will have a little leeway since I won't need insect repellent or sunscreen in April/May. I will need them in my September travel but it will be 22 days instead of 35. I should be able to bring what I need.