Medicines & travel

There are lots of things to remember when travelling and people often forget about their medicines - things like storage, knowing what to do if you run out of medication or if you miss a dose. If you're travelling overseas, many countries have different regulations about medicines. Here are a few tips on how to manage your medicines while you travel.

General tips

  • Try to carry your medicines and medical equipment (needles, syringes and so on) in their original, correctly labelled packages. 
  • Take a written list of your medicines with you. Ask your pharmacist for an updated list. This may be needed at customs or if you need to get medical help while you are away.
  • Check that the expiry dates of your medicines will be valid while you will be away.
  • Take enough medicines with you to last while you will be away.
    Pack an extra supply in case you are away for longer than expected,  or if you lose any medicine so you won’t run out.
  • Have a plan of what to do if you miss a dose. 
    Usually medicines can be taken if you remember them within a certain period of time, but don’t take too much at once. Go over your list of medicines with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist and ask what to do if you miss doses.
  • Know what to do if you have side effects. 
    Go over your list of medicines with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist and ask on what to do if you have side effects.

Storage

Some medicines are fine to be kept at room temperature (below 25°C) while others may need to be stored in the fridge.  Ask your pharmacist about storing your medicines correctly while you travel. You may need to store some medicines in a thermos flask or cool bag.

Overseas travel 

  • Check the rules for all the countries you're going to and passing through. Different countries have different rules about the medicines they allow and the amount you can take in.
  • Travel with a copy of your prescription and a letter from your GP with the details of your medicines, including generic name (not just the brand name) and what the medicine is for. This will be useful at customs and if you need medical help while you're away.
  • If you'll be changing time zones, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to plan when you should take your medicine. 

Air travel

  • Carry your medicines in your hand luggage with a copy of your prescription but check your airline's regulations before travelling.
  • Pack a spare supply of medicines in your suitcase or hold luggage, along with another copy of your prescription, in case you lose your hand luggage. 

Learn more

The following links provide further information on medicines and travel. Be aware that websites from other countries may contain information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.

Can I bring my medication into NZ? New Zealand Customs Service
Traveling safely with medicines Safe Medication (US)
Can I take my medicine abroad? NHS choices (UK)
Managing medications while traveling Epilepsy Foundation (US)

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 02 Feb 2017