Planning to Travel with Medications
Last updated: June 2023
Welcome to my summer travel series. Today I want to talk about packing for a trip or vacation with chronic illness. Packing can be the most important part of the planning process. Whether you have one chronic illness or two, or too many to count, here are my tips!
I like to break my packing down into different categories: medications, equipment, and supplies. Depending on your chronic condition, only one or two of these categories may apply to you, so feel free to pick and choose which sections to read. And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, read them all!
This can start with a little bit of planning. Depending on when you are traveling and for how long, you may need to get your prescription filled a little early to ensure that you have as much medication as you need for the trip. Some pharmacies will even provide an extra week or so of medication if you have an active prescription on file. Talk to your pharmacist if you are worried that you won't have enough medication for your trip.
Pill containers/organizers are your friend!
If you take more than one medication a day, it might be worth investing in some pill organization. A pill organizer with one, two, or even thrice daily dosing can be a really convenient way to carry and organize your medications for a trip. It can also be an excuse to get something new!
More than the actual organization is making sure that you bring enough of each medication with you. I always bring extra. If I’m planning a week-long trip, I make sure to bring 2-3 extra days' worth of meds in case I am delayed for any reason.
I also try to bring all or as many is reasonable, of my “as needed” medication. There are some “as-needed” meds that I only reach for once or twice a year, but it’s inevitable that I will need them while I’m on my trip. One of my hacks for getting all of these to fit in my bags is to purchase small pill bottles online and transfer a few pills from my big bottles to the smaller ones. Be sure to label everything. And if you’re planning to bring any controlled medicines with you, always leave them in their original bottle, even if it means taking up more room.
I prefer to leave gels and creams in their original containers. It’s not worth the mess to move it into something different.
Some medications require refrigeration. I have a reusable cold container that I transport medications in, but there are lots of different options for keeping medicine cold while traveling. If you get refrigerated medications from a specialty pharmacy, they can even send your medications (and supplies too) to where you are going. That way you don’t have to carry it with you or make a plan to keep it cold while you travel.
Depending on your illness, equipment can mean a lot of things. This could include everything from an IV pump to a thermometer to a spacer for an inhaler. I think of medical equipment as non-consumable, which is in contrast to medical supplies, which are consumable. Other items in this category are things like blood pressure readers, portable nebulizers, insulin pumps, walking aids, etc. Whether you think you’ll need it or not, or if you could possibly benefit from it in any way, bring it!
As I mentioned above, supplies are any medical paraphernalia that is a one-time use-only item. For me, it’s things like supplies for my infusions and extra blood sugar sensors. How many of each item I bring on a trip with me will depend on how quickly it will be consumed. If I’m doing three infusions a week, I might bring supplies for two extra infusions. I only change my blood sugar sensor every ten days, so even if I’m going to be gone for seven days, I will bring two extra— in case one falls off or malfunctions, I will still have an extra. How much supplies you bring will be up to you. I always tend to err on the side of caution. You can always have more than you’ll need, but you'll never have enough of that something if you run out.
I hope this quick guide is helpful as you plan to pack for your trip. Packing for my medical needs always stresses me out, no matter how prepared I think I am or think I will be on my trip. But I guess that’s just part of living with a chronic illness.
What kind of medical supplies and equipment do you pack for a trip or vacation? Do you have any pointers? Let us know in the comments!
How well do you feel you manage your chronic hives?