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8 tips that take the stress out of traveling with medication

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Make a listKeep medications with youThink aheadStock upKeep the original packagingPack for different climatesBring a doctor‘s noteKnow the lawsSummary
Traveling with medication can often be stressful. However, planning ahead and taking time to understand the laws of the country you are traveling to can help.
Medically reviewed by Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN
Updated on January 30, 2024

If you’re going on holiday or traveling away from home, you may find it stressful to plan your journey and make sure you have all the medications you need when abroad. This can be particularly stressful for people with certain health conditions, such as diabetes, that need ongoing medical management.

The following tips can help you organize your journey if you need to carry medications with you and make traveling less stressful:

Make a list

Making a list of any medication you’ll need while you’re away and the dosage required can help you ensure you pack everything you need. The list can include:

  • prescription medications
  • over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, like pain medication
  • inhalers
  • EpiPen
  • any other medications or devices needed to treat your condition

It may also be helpful to take a picture of the list on your phone or send a copy to your email address so you can access it anywhere.

Keep the medications with you

Image of a blue first aid box to depict how to travel with medication.
LunaKate/Getty Images

As it’s possible that your luggage may get lost while you travel, you should consider keeping at least a few days’ worth of medication in your carry-on bag.

If anything happens to your luggage, you’ll still have the medications you need with you.

Think ahead

Consider asking a doctor what time you should take your medication when you’re traveling abroad to a different time zone.

It may be beneficial to speak with a healthcare professional about bringing other medications with you if you’re traveling to a country where you may be more likely to get sick. This could include medications for allergies or gastrointestinal infections.

It may also be a good idea to bring some OTC medications with you, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil). These medications may not always be available abroad, or there may be different rules about how you can get them.

You can also check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to see if there are any other precautions you should take when visiting another country.

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Stock up

It can be helpful to bring more medication than needed during your time away in case there are travel delays or you decide to extend your stay.

Bringing extra medication with you can also relieve any stress you may feel about something unexpected happening to your medication.

Keep the original packaging

To avoid the risk of mixing your medications up, especially if you take more than one drug per day, you may consider keeping your medications in their original packaging so they’ll be easy to recognize.

You should also make sure the name of the medication, pharmacy, and prescribing doctor is visible on the label, as well as the same name appearing on your passport.

This can be particularly helpful if a customs officer asks you any questions about your medication when you enter another country.

Pack for different climates

If you use any medication that needs to be kept in a specific temperature range to not deteriorate, such as insulin, you should pack it in an insulated bag.

Make sure you always use the correct packaging based on where you’re traveling to. This is because the local temperatures may be significantly higher or lower than what you’re used to, and this can affect the way you preserve your medications.

Bring a doctor‘s note

If you take any specific prescription medications, it can be beneficial to ask your doctor to write a note for you. The doctor’s note can act as proof that the drugs you’re carrying are yours.

The note can also detail why your doctor has prescribed those medications to you and whether they need to be kept in your carry-on bag in case you need to take them mid-flight.

Know the laws

If you’re traveling abroad, you should always make sure the medications you take are legal at your destination. In some countries, certain medications, such as cannabis, may be illegal. They may cause legal problems, including going to jail or receiving a significant fine.

You can contact the U.S. embassy or the consulate in the country you’re planning to visit to check whether your prescription medication is allowed there. If it’s not, you can speak with a doctor to see if there are any alternative treatment options that you can use while you travel.


Traveling can be stressful, especially for people who have certain health conditions that require traveling with medications, such as diabetes.

But you can take some steps to make traveling less stressful, such as:

  • checking if your prescription medications are allowed in the country you’re visiting
  • keeping a list of drugs and medical devices you need to bring with you so you don’t forget anything
  • keeping some extra medication doses with you in case you experience any travel delays

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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