Travelling with medications

Are you planning a quick get-a-way or bucket-list trip?

Published 5 October 2023

Are you planning a quick get-a-way or bucket-list trip?

Do you take supplements, vitamins, prescription medication or over the counter medication?

Here are some things to consider before you take off.

First, make sure all your medications are packed in your carry-on luggage. Do not pack them in your checked luggage.

Ensure your medication is legal in the country you plan to visit. For example, in Japan, over the counter medication containing stimulants are illegal. Be sure to understand this before you travel with those medications. You can check with your embassy or governmental travel websites before you depart.

Plan ahead, before you travel

Find out what vaccines are required before you travel and which medications you should have with you in case you fall ill — such as antibiotics for traveller’s diarrhea or anti-malaria medications to prevent malaria. Try to book with a travel healthcare provider to get the most up to date vaccines and medicine, six months to a year before you leave, if possible. Some vaccines are in series of 3 doses over a period of six months.

See your doctor prior to travel and make a list of all your medications that you need to cover the entire time you are away. Add an extra two weeks in case plans change so you don’t run out.  Get the prescription filled at least two-three weeks before your trip in case there are shortages or special coverages required for a greater than three month supply.

Keep a copy of all your medications with you and why you take them, in case your medication is lost or stolen so you can see a doctor at your destination to have them prescribed again. Keep the medication is its original, labelled container.

If you take more than five medications think about asking your pharmacy to pack them in bubble packs so that week of medication is completed, you simply remove your personal information and throw out the empty blister package. Plus, it’s easier to take your medication.

Pill containers make it easy to take your daily medication if you are leaving your lodging for a day trip. I like ones that are compartmentalized ,in case you need to take medications four times a day.

Some medications need to be refrigerated, so you will need to use travel packages that keep medicine cold. You can freeze ice packages ahead of time and at destination. Re-freeze by asking hotel staff to refreeze the ice packages for you. Putting them into a thermos and then the medication inside will help to keep items cold.

For syringes, be sure to carry a doctor’s certificate explaining the medical purpose of injection supplies that you require. Check with your airline before departure, as needles and syringes may be prohibited in carry-on luggage for security reasons. For disposal, either bring your own syringe disposal containers or use empty plastic bottles. Ask hotel or lodging staff how you can dispose of the empty syringes

Purchase travel health insurance and make sure to have the card with contact phone numbers and coverage numbers with you at all times. Take copies of the card and put them in different locations so you have extras in case one gets lost. Remember, some travel health insurance policies are void if you are seeking healthcare as a result of being under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol.

At your destination, find out how to get an ambulance and record emergency numbers as they may not be same in each country.

Find out how to contact a doctor that speaks your language. Travel agents, hotels, resorts and lodging owners will have this information. Ask before you arrive so you have an on-call number in case you need it.

Travelling with medical marijuana or narcotics may be tricky. Check with the country you are entering to ensure it is legal. In some countries, these substances are illegal and carry jail time as penalties.

Here are some medications to consider taking on your trip (making sure you confirm with your health care provider which is the most appropriate product based on your medical conditions, allergies and current medication list):


Immunity-boosting supplements, such as echinacea and Vitamin C combinations, to help prevent colds or flu

First aid supplies such as adhesive bandages, steri-strips and blister pads.

Antibiotic ointments, in case of cuts or scratches

Antihistamine, in case of an allergic reaction (cream or pills or both)

Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if advised to take) in case of fever or pain 

Anti-nauseant, in case of nausea and vomiting

Anti-diarrheal, in case of diarrhea

Laxative, in case of constipation

Sleep aids, in case of jet lag

Antacids, in case of heartburn

Cough and cold medication/allergy medications, but watch the ingredients such as stimulants like pseudoephedrine, as those may not be allowed in certain countries

Baby Aspirin for adults (over 18 years of age) for symptoms of heart attack or if at-risk of heart attack — especially if the flight is longer than 4 hours. Speak to your healthcare provider to make sure you can take ASA 81mg before you take it.