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How to travel with prescription medication

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Prescription drugs (Photo: Index Open)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on April 2, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, government regulation, health and safety, Jessica Labrencis, security, senior travel.

The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) ever-changing rules can make it difficult for travelers to know what is permitted in carry-on bags, particularly if you don't travel frequently. Generally, my motto is "when in doubt, leave it out" of your carry-on, but that isn't a good idea for essential medications. You can't risk packing necessary prescriptions in checked bags in case your bags are delayed or lost.

All prescription medications are permitted in carry-on bags, even those in liquid or gel form. Associated supplies such as syringes, disposal containers, and the like are also allowed once they have been screened by security.

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Medications, particularly sizeable pill bottles, can eat up precious carry-on space. The TSA recommends having the same name on prescription labels and boarding pass, but it isn't a requirement, so you can pack a small day-of-the-week pill organizer rather than several bulky bottles. Most drug stores carry organizers for less than $5. If you prefer to bring entire bottles of pills, a multiple-bottle storage case can keep the bottles together in your bag.

The TSA encourages travelers to bring "supporting documentation" such as a doctor's note explaining medication needs. Additional documentation isn't necessary, though it may prove helpful if you encounter an overzealous TSA agent.

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