Skip to content

Everything you need to know about traveling with medication

April 24, 2022
6 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

While getting to travel is an incredible opportunity, it doesn't always come without some annoyances.

In addition to ongoing COVID-19 testing requirements and restrictions, you also have to deal with packing — in particular, how to pack medication you might need on the trip. After all, the last thing you want during a getaway is to run out of prescription medication (especially if you're stuck someplace due to a positive coronavirus result) or come down with a nasty head cold without access to over-the-counter medications.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

That's why it's essential to know certain key details when hitting the road with medications in tow. To find out the best way to be prepared for your vacation, TPG spoke with Dr. Julian Klapowitz of Travel Medicine Consultations, who shared everything you need to know about traveling with medication.

Should I pack my medication in my carry-on bag?

Be sure to keep your medication on you just in case something happens with your checked luggage. (Photo by Karl Tapales/Getty Images)

The short answer is yes; that way, you don't risk losing essential medicine in your checked luggage. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically recommends carrying your prescription medication.

"If I give someone three months of malaria pills, I still tell people to put everything in their carry-on," said Klapowitz. "That way, it doesn't accidentally get lost. Plus, the luggage storage area of the airplane can be freezing. So, anything liquid — like insulin — may end up frozen."

How much medication am I allowed to bring?

Generally speaking, 30 days' worth of medication is acceptable pretty much everywhere. If it's more than that, a doctor needs to provide a note, and you should also have the original prescription, according to Klapowitz. Just allow for extra time at security if you have larger amounts of pills or liquid medicine that doesn't fall into traditional TSA guidelines.

When traveling internationally, the quantity issue really boils down to the types of medications allowed in your destination.

What if I'm traveling for an extended period?

The same answer from above pretty much applies here.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

"If you're traveling for more than 30 days, try to have the medication you will need for the entirety of the trip," said Klapowitz. "But, again, those larger quantities will require a doctor's note and original prescriptions to prove the need to travel with that amount."

How do I get medication abroad?

If you don't have enough medicine to get you through an entire vacation or are stuck needing something abroad, there are ways to get medication. Interestingly, the U.S. is more strict regarding many medications than many other countries where you can purchase antibiotics, blood pressure medications and a variety of other pills over the counter.

But, in some destinations, counterfeit medications are a major problem.

"You should be fine to walk into a pharmacy or doctor's office in places like Western Europe and know it's safe," said Klapowitz. "If you're somewhere that's not as reliable, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. They should be able to get you in touch with reputable doctors and pharmacies."

Are there destinations that have medication restrictions?

Yes, some destinations do have medication restrictions. For example, Japan doesn't allow certain allergy and sinus medications, and types of inhalers are illegal. Plus, travelers to the United Arab Emirates have ended up in prison because the country has strict narcotics laws.

Different countries have different restrictions on medications so always check before traveling. (Photo by d3sign/Getty Images)

"Before traveling internationally, check with the foreign embassy of your destination to make sure your medicines are allowed in that country," said Klapowitz. "If it is banned, talk with your doctor about possible alternatives. Or, if you plan to travel with it, be sure all medication is in the original bottle.

"You should also have a doctor's letter explaining the condition and need for the specific restricted medication and an original prescription," Klapowitz added. "Of course, it's not guaranteed you'll be allowed to keep it, but it certainly increases your chances."

Which medications are often restricted?

The most common banned substance is narcotics. "If somebody is thinking about taking codeine, Percocet, Vicodin or methadone, I usually advise to see if it's possible to travel abroad without them," said Klapowtiz.

"The same is true for some regulated psychotropic medications like Adderall and Ambien. But always do your research on the specific destination."

How can I travel with a restricted medication?

Unfortunately, sometimes the answer is that you just can't travel with restricted medication.

But, countries will have a variety of rules — i.e., allow 30-days' worth — so it's important to contact the embassy to see what's allowed. "

Again, if you plan to travel with a restricted medication, be sure you have the documentation to back it up, and everything is clearly labeled," said Klapowitz.

What if my medication is liquid?

If traveling domestically, liquids are allowed so long as they adhere to the TSA's 3.4-ounce rule and fit in a quart-sized bag.

The TSA will allow you to travel with more than that amount, but you must declare the liquid medications to TSA officers at security for inspection.

"The same is basically true for international destinations, so long as it's not a banned substance," said Klapowtiz. "Just be sure to have the original prescription and doctor's note, and leave time for extra security checks."

Can I bring syringes?

Usually, bringing sharp, pointy objects onto a plane isn't allowed. But, some medicines require the use of syringes or needles.

"If you have diabetes, for example, have the same documentation as you would for a restricted medication," said Klapowitz. "Unused syringes and needles are allowed when accompanied by the medication, prescription and doctor's note."

Are there medications I should always bring with me when I travel?

"I always recommend bringing Tylenol, Motrin or Advil for pain and fever, and Imodium for mild diarrhea," said Klapowitz.

"You should also consider taking an antacid if the local diet doesn't agree with you. Then, for anybody who gets motions sickness, pack Dramamine."

In addition to those standard medications, Klapowitz suggested bringing any OTC medications you commonly use.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best luxury travel rewards card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

5X points
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 Points
Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best luxury travel rewards card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 80,000 Points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees