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Tips for traveling with prescription medication, according to a pharmacist

Dec. 27, 2021
4 min read
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In addition to packing your swimsuit, sunscreen and negative COVID-19 test, some travelers also have to think carefully about the medication they're bringing on a trip.

The last thing any traveler wants while on vacation is to find out they've run out of an essential prescription with no way to refill -- which can become pretty problematic if you have to extend your trip due to a positive coronavirus result.

Travelers should plan for the unexpected, particularly in this age of COVID-19 and the omicron variant, but there are some ways to make sure you're prepared before your trip. To help navigate this, TPG spoke with a clinical pharmacist, Dr. Danielle Tawiah, PharmD, about what you need to know about traveling with prescription medication.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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Should I keep my medication in the original container?

Dr. Tawiah: [The original container] has the pill description, quantity, date filled, your address and full name on it, so it will be known that it isn't fake. Also, if you keep medications in a pillbox or medication keychain, it would be better to fill the box once you reach your destination to be easily identified.

Ask your pharmacy for an empty bottle with the Rx label printed on it if you aren't comfortable taking the entire bottle of medication with you, so you only have to take what you need for the trip.

The most important thing is making sure that the pill is easily identifiable and you have [an] ID to prove that it is your prescription.

Do I need to pack my medication in my carry-on bag?

Dr. Tawiah: You should keep your medication[s] in your carry-on so they won't get lost and keep all medications in a Ziploc bag so that they are easy to take out at TSA and easier to find while traveling.

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Also, TSA allows for "reasonable amounts" of medically necessary liquids, gels and aerosols. Just let the TSA officers know in advance.

If you have diabetes, keep glucose tablets or a bag of hard candies with you as flight times can fluctuate. Plus, with jet lag, you don't want your sugar to drop.

What if I’m traveling for an extended period?

Dr. Tawiah: Make sure your rescue medications are in-date before flying. These are medications like Albuterol, EpiPens and Nitrostat. It may be better to ask for a 90-day supply of drugs for extended trips to avoid running out.

Keep over-the-counters (OTCs) on hand that your provider says are OK for you to use, such as loperamide, meclizine and acetaminophen for nonemergent medical needs like diarrhea, motion sickness and headaches.

Do I need to know my prescription’s name in the local language?

Dr. Tawiah: If you are a veteran or active-duty military, you can go to the nearest military base to get your medications filled if you already receive their medications through the VA or Department of Defense.

For civilians, it may be best to ask the hotel to assist you with this to ensure that there is no language barrier between the visitor and the pharmacy.

Prescription costs can vary depending on the country, so consider that insurance may or may not pay for medications filled abroad –especially if you don't have a prescription or an empty bottle to show what you have been taking. That may require a visit to a local urgent care center or emergency room if you need a prescription, and there should be translation services there.

It is also important to have apps like "MyChart" on your phone that show your most up-to-date medical information and show that you need your maintenance medication filled. However, I would inquire with your insurance company as this may be very costly.

When should I get my prescription refilled if I’m traveling soon?

Dr. Tawiah: If you need refills, do not wait until the day before your trip to do it, in case the pharmacy ran out and either needs to order more, or you have to go to a different location to get it filled.

My destination has a time difference. How can I remember to take my medication?

Dr. Tawiah: You should set alarms on your phone to still take your medications daily due to time zone differences. Note that some medications can be time-sensitive, and a missed dose can cause a medical event.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
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.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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  • Annual Fee

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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more