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Vitamins/Prescriptions flying through England, Ireland, France

I’ve read differing information, and need some help. Do we have to pack our vitamins in their original containers? Do we have to pack over the counter medications in their original containers? Do we have to bring our prescriptions, with their pharmacy label on them?

Thank you so much!

Posted by
7659 posts

Do you have to? Maybe I just haven’t run into problems through chance and luck, but I’ve taken prescription meds sometimes in the original container and sometimes mixed in another bottle with other meds and/or vitamins. On long trips, I’ve had up to 5 bottles full of assorted Rx pills and capsules, combined mostly with supplements. I put different distinguishing shapes/sizes/colors in each container, so I could keep them straight.

All containers were together in my toiletries bag, carried on thru Security at every airport. They never resulted in any search because of that arrangement, and I’ve never had any authorities question what substance was in a bottle, or whether it was legitimate, or why there was a combination of pills/capsules/caplets in a particular container. If, for some reason, those containers were singled out and questioned, I’d have to explain more than if everything was in its own labeled container, but it’s never happened, in England, Ireland, France, and elsewhere.

OTC meds, primarily Pepto-Bismol and Imodium tabs, and ibuprofen (which are all either considerably more expensive, or not available in Europe), have been zipped in a small pocket in that toiletries bag - or in a very small separate plastic bottle. Carrying everything in its original container, including shrink-wrapped plastic pouches in the original carton, would take up huge amounts of storage space, that I don’t have available in my carryon-only luggage.

I could understand random pills being questioned, if it ever came up, and perhaps there are actually laws requiring that everything be kept in its proper packaging, but I’ve not encountered any problems.

Posted by
15724 posts

If you are traveling with prescription medication, especially controlled substances, have your prescription information with you. The pharmacy labels will do. If you don't want to bring the original containers, your pharmacy can give you copies.

as for OTC meds and Vitamins, you won't have a problem. Just be aware some OTC meds in the US require prescription in parts of Europe. Naproxen Sodium (Alleve) comes to mind. But then if you just bring enough for your trip, they are not going to give you a hard time.

I use the small pill pouches for OTC meds. I clearly mark each as to what it is, dosage and expiration date.

Posted by
27450 posts

My approach is basically identical to Cyn's, and my trips are often 4-1/2 months long. That's a lot of calcium and magnesium pills, in particular. No one has every shown the slightest interest in my pills. I flew home from Rome a few days ago, and my carry-on tote bag was kicked aside for inspection because of the three large bars of soap I had bought in the airport. I guess plastic bottles full of pills (on the outbound flight) just don't look as threatening on the X-ray.

I would be more careful if I traveled with controlled substances; those I'd have in the original bottles.

Posted by
10370 posts

Imodium and ibuprofen are both available over the counter in Europe and can be cheaper depending on the country (unless compared to giant Costco bottles). Pepto isn't sold here, so I bring a supply. I'd ditch the vitamins while on a trip and try to eat balance, unless the vitamins were for a specific serious condition like macular degeneration.

Posted by
1049 posts

I have a chronic illness and travel with both prescribed medication and vitamins. At Heathrow in September 2022 security was very interested in my prescription medication and stopped me after X-ray and looked at medication, medication packaging with pharmacy labels, prescriptions and letter from my rheumatologist. I was travelling with syringes in a medical cooler plus other medications in tablet form.

Posted by
8664 posts

Probably no one will look or ask. But if they do, it's best to make it easy for them to see what you have. You cant rely on an innocent face to get by.

One of the reasons for needing this information is in case you are ill or unconscious, the medical folks or authorities have a way of figuring out what medications you are on (and hopefully why) if you cant speak for yourself. And many of the meds have different names over there so you cant just assume they know what you're talking about. \

Vitamins? Well you can't expect them to tell what they are by looking at them. A little white pill can be many things, not all of them legal.

Posted by
5386 posts

The official recommendation for the UK is that medicines should be in original packaging but it is not obligatory. A doctor's note is very useful for some conditions for example diabetes.

Posted by
5065 posts

This is what we've done during many trips to those countires, and we've never had anybody even take a second look. That's not to say it's 100% foolproof, just our experience.

We put our meds (both OTC and Rx) in ziplock bags with an extra Rx label attached. In addition, we carry a copy of the data sheet that comes with the meds just as a back up to prove what they are.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
3250 posts

I have a small pouch/makeup bag that I put meds and vitamins in.
I have a big label on the outside saying “Medications”.
Prescription ones in original containers, vitamins and OTC meds like Tylenol in individual labelled tiny ziplock bags.
That way, all is in one bag if I’m asked for inspection, which I never have been.

Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen is very cheap in the UK, but you can only buy very small amounts at one time.

Posted by
73 posts

My husband takes multiple prescriptions. I take a photo of each label with my cell phone before we leave home. It's just a bit of insurance in case he loses them or somehow runs out. I could show the photos at a pharmacy or doctor's office if needed.

Posted by
907 posts

Like most I've never had anyone look at or question my meds. I now use the tiny ziplock bags marked with the date and day of the week - helps me keep track when I'm dealing with jetlag, losing track of what day it is on tour, etc. One benefit is I can pack everything away for the day except my toothbrush and the pills for that morning then go to breakfast and afterwards brush my teeth and take my pills. I also pack about a week's extra just in case.

OTC's are either in blister packs or the tiny ziplocks.

For the prescription, our healthcare system uses MyChart where I can print out my prescriptions or save them as a PDF file. PDF files can be printed as is or if you can use Adobe Reader you can print them as a halfsize booklet. You just open the PDF file in Adobe, select Print, the page ranges you want then the option for Booklet. It works best if your printer can do double sided printing.

Posted by
468 posts

cj-traveler, that is a fantastic idea about printing out your prescription medication list from "MyChart". I hadn't thought of that but will print mine out next time I head to Europe.

Posted by
72 posts

If you have large pill vials that take up too much room, ask your pharmacist to give you a smaller, labeled bottle for the trip.