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Managing your medication while you travel

Happy mother and child sitting in front of a suitcase while packing

Your trip is booked, your itinerary is set, now it’s time to pack your bags and medication. As you prepare to travel with prescription drugs, remember, you can maintain a similar schedule when taking your medication, but before you hit the road, there are several things you need to consider.

How to travel with your medication 

When travelling with prescription medication, always keep them in their original labelled containers, advises Brian Lee, Pharmacist with TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacy. This is a good practice for travel within Canada and internationally. 

Lee points out that MedPack by TELUS Health is not only helpful for everyday use, but is specially useful when travelling. MedPacks can help keep medication organized, each pack includes your medication for the day, your name, doctor’s name, drug name, strength, direction for intake, quantity, plus the date and time they should be taken. The individually wrapped blister packs are perfect for travel, allowing you to unroll, tear off, and bring exactly what you need for the duration of your trip.

If you’re travelling internationally, he also recommends you carry a copy of the original prescription in case customs or security ask about your medications. It can also help to have a letter from your doctor listing your medications, why you are taking them, and why you need to travel with them, especially if you are carrying medications that require a syringe. 

If you’re travelling by air, prescriptions and non-essential prescription medications are exempt from the 100ml carry-on restriction, but Lee suggests you keep them in a separate bag in your carry-on, as this will make it easier to present to the screening officer. 

Additionally, Lee points out that not all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications may be legal in other countries. He stresses It is always best to contact the foreign government offices accredited to Canada of the country you plan to visit to confirm the status of your medication beforehand so that your doctor can prescribe an alternative. 

Filling your prescription before or during travel

As soon as you know you’ll be travelling, plan to refill all your prescriptions ahead of time, Lee says, so you’re ready when it’s time to go. 

If you are travelling within Canada, any prescription written by a Canadian physician is valid countrywide and can be filled at any pharmacy across Canada. As Lee suggested, you should always pack your current prescription, but if you have forgotten or misplaced it, your doctor can send a new prescription to the pharmacy of your choice. You can also use the Virtual Pharmacy app to order a new prescription. And, if you’re in a remote location not close to a pharmacy, you can use the app for deliveries. Just remember, while delivery is possible to more remote locations, it may take longer than the standard one to three business days so be sure to order one to two weeks before you need your medication.

Filling a prescription during international travel involves a little more work. Lee suggests contacting the Canadian embassy or consulate for help finding a doctor or pharmacist that will provide reputable medications. He cautions that some medications may contain different ingredients and strengths, and that some drugs may have a different name abroad and therefore may not be manufactured to the same Canadian standards.

Monitoring medication while traveling

If you’re travelling in the same time zone you live in, just stick to your regular medication schedule. If you’re in a different time zone, be sure you adjust the time of day you take your medication accordingly. Lee provides a reminder of how easy and helpful MedPack can be to maintain your schedule in different time zones thanks to the intake date and time being printed on the packaging.

Another important thing to consider when travelling with prescription drugs is the type of climate you will be staying in. Always store your medication in the original container and keep it in a cool, dry place - like a drawer or cabinet - and away from any heat source. Avoid bathrooms as the frequent change in temperature and humidity can affect the stability of the medication. On hot summer days, or in extreme climates, you may want to consider keeping your medication in a refrigerator. Finally, if you’re at all concerned about the integrity of your medication, use the Virtual Pharmacy app to connect with a pharmacist for advice.

It's time to hit the road and travel with prescription drugs

With a little planning, you can relax on vacation and easily maintain your medication schedule. Lee has shared his top tips to help it all go smoothly:

  • Plan ahead and look into the medication travel requirements and restrictions for your specific destination
  • Stock up on prescription refills before your trip and bring enough medicine to last for the duration of your travel plus some extra to account for delays
  • Always pack your medications in your carry-on, in case you need immediate access 
  • Carry a physical copy of your prescription and keep a digital copy on your device
  • Carry a list of your medications with brand name, generic name, strength, directions, and reason for taking

And, of course, enjoy your vacation.