Flying with medications for ourselves or those we are caring for can be a challenge. Not only do we need to determine the best way to package our pills and other medications, we need to be aware of TSA guidelines. These basic tips will help you—and your medications—get to your destination safer and with fewer headaches at the security-screening checkpoint.
Carry on: All medications are allowable for carry-on (including liquids, gels, aerosols and auto-injection systems). It’s always safer to carry on all medications. If your bags are lost or delayed you could find yourself without the medications you need. In addition, the cargo hold doesn’t have the same temperature control as the cabin. All medications are subject to inspection and x-ray at the Security checkpoint, and you may need to un-package and re-package them yourself. Always tell a TSA officer you have medications and ask if you should put them in a separate bin to go through x-ray.
Labeling: TSA does not require that medications have pharmacy-issued labels, but it’s a good idea to label each medication in some way to make the screening process easier. In addition, some states have specific laws with which you will be required to comply.
Liquid medications: Liquid and other forms of medications are allowable for carry on in excess of the usual 3.4-ounce liquid limit, and you do not need to put liquid medications in a separate zip-top bag. Be sure to tell the TSA officer about syringes or other equipment related to your liquid medications.
Refrigeration: Some medications need to be kept cold during transport. As long as your freezer packs are frozen solid when you go through security they are allowable (and you can keep your snacks cold too!) but be sure to inform the TSA officer before it goes through x-ray. I searched online and found a convenient small pouch with the freezable liquid gel permanently built into the liner, which is less messy and lightweight.
Packaging: As a frequent traveler, I’m always searching for ways to organize and lighten my load. For longer trips I use locking pill organizers with 14 slots each. They are easy to lock and unlock by pushing a tab on the side of the organizer while opening each tab. This assures my medications won’t get dumped in my bag during travel—it’s impossible to sort them out again when that happens! Place the organizer in a large zip-top bag for extra insurance. For shorter trips try using re-closable bags designed for pills (usually about 5” x 4”). Write the time that dose should be taken and place like doses into one larger zip-top bag. Some experts say you should travel with all medications in original bottles, but I can tell you that in twenty years of travel I have never had a problem traveling with pill organizers.
Extra medications: I always pack a few extra doses of medication in case of travel delays or schedule changes. I bring extra amounts of medications I absolutely cannot do without.
Amy Goyer is an award-winning author and expert on families, aging and multi-generational issues. She writes for a variety of clients and she is the author of numerous publications including the books, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving and “Things to Do Now that You’re…A Grandparent”. You can follow her on Twitter @AmyGoyer or connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. She is the primary caregiver for her Dad, Robert, who is 92, has Alzheimer’s disease and lives with her.