Memory-making travel with the family is not a pleasure of the past just because somebody added meds and medical devices into their luggage. There are ways to keep flying and roadtripping even with prescription medications. Together-travel with meds means kids with ailments too. Cultural Heritage TravelingMom shares some multigen medical travel tips, and some real-life tales.
Guide to Traveling with Medications
1. Know the TSA Rules
2. Packing Rules
3. Getting Medical Liquids Through TSA
4. Bring Cash
5. Traveling with Oxygen Tanks
6. Packing the Car
The day the medical supply store delivered R2-D2 – an oxygen concentrator – to my house felt like the day road trips and flights to new places ended. Multigen travel with my family used to be as normal as romantic getaways.
Tethered to the couch by medical machines and bottles of over-the-counter medications and prescription pills? Please no.
Grandparents who love to travel need not define themselves by their meds and doctor’s notes. And the children who grew up traveling with them can keep the same traveling pleasures alive for their kids.
Even with meds and regimens and machines.
Families with children’s medical challenges – or just kids who get sick on the trip — have ways to forge ahead into the world too. Draw on Travel Hack TravelingMom’s clear advice.
Don’t fear traveling with medications. Embrace the realities and see the world.
Traveling with medications takes a bit of hutzpah and a bunch of desire. Some tips from the wife of a traveling grandfather-of-many with a boatload of meds might help navigate the rules.
Facts or Funny Stories?
Start with knowledge. Then the coping-with-situations stories are funny instead of tragic.
Cars are easier to pack with meds and medical devices, but far away shores are alluring so start with flight facts. Carry-on bags or checked luggage are part of the research.
1. Know The TSA Rules, and Anticipate Surprises
Set aside some follow-the-rabbit-trail time when you open up the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website. Categories are clearly delineated on this website, but oh my! a multitude of links also pop up to learn a bit more. Everything looks simple and straightforward until you look a little closer.
For instance: State laws vary regarding prescriptions. And CDB oil, which also needs FDA approval.
“TSA does not require passengers to have medications in prescription bottles.” That’s verbatim from the website.
So is this: “but states have individual laws regarding the labeling of prescription medication with which passengers need to comply.”
Turns out that’s only the Transportation Security Administration giving travelers a heads up if they encounter state officials on the road — traffic stop maybe? Before asking, I struggled, wondering if I needed to know laws for departure, arrival and layover cities.
Those bottles of 90-day original container prescription supplies are much too large for efficient luggage packing.
TravelingMom Tip: Call TSA Cares with questions. 855-787-2227. Perhaps my experience was too good to be true, but the call was quick, efficient, pertinent.
2. Packing To Travel With Meds and Medical Devices
What Can I Bring is the section to seek on the TSA website for specifics. Antlers and artificial limbs are both on this lengthy list. Artificial skeleton bones, too.
Scroll down to “Medical” which is illustrated with a simple graphic in a grid of nine categories.
The set-up is clear with “Checked bag” or “Carry-on bag.” Yes is green and No is red.
However, chances are good the things medical travelers need to know require clicking on the yellow link for Special Instructions in many topics.
Heads up: There are a lot of yellow links. Allow time.
External medical devices such as a CPAP sleep breathing machine must be displayed to the agent.
For the body-part types of medical devices, the question is, “Can you disconnect for inspection?”
No kidding. Even a feeding tube and ostomy bag are on the Travel Security Administration list wondering that.
TravelingMom Tip: If you’d like to be discrete about your personal parts, order in advance a TSA Notification Card via the website. Then you can hand the card to the agent.
3. Getting Medical Liquids Through TSA
Medically necessary liquids can fly in amounts larger than the 3.4 ounces standard for shampoo and toothpaste, or routine liquids and gels. “Reasonable quantities” is the description.
That might mean different things to the people using and the people checking. Ask well in advance. The liquids will be subject to screening, even opening the container.
Wonder if a doctor’s note would help? Can’t hurt for the case to state medical necessity.
Systems to keep meds cool are allowed, too, but the key seems to be planning ahead, preparing to share information and items with the agent and not to freak out about examinations.
A bare minimum: 72 hours ahead of the flight, call to request passenger support. That’s PSS for Passenger Support Services.
My traveling with medications perspective comes from a 40-year marriage with the last 20 involving medical concerns beginning with that R2-D2 oxygen concentrator for my husband. His COPD, diabetes, leg lymphodema and spinal stenosis trigger other assorted conditions. But, we wear out suitcases.
We prefer to describe ourselves during those 20 years through a dozen cruises, including across the pond, road trips throughout the southeast, fishing for trout in mountain streams, and international flights to visit our children in their academic and professional journeys.
Head Colds and Flying: Survivable?
Of course, none of us should sneeze on the other. So what is there to do when the flight is reserved, non-refundable and important to you?
TravelingMom Deb Steenhagen is sensitive to all the others in her sneeze trajectory. Here’s her advice for traveling with a head cold.
She also knows the value of keeping an inhaler in her purse, even though symptoms cleared after her original prescription for a breathing issue.
4. What About Traveling Healthy, and Trouble Strikes?
Money helps, or access to cash. When I got suddenly sick (oh the nausea) in Jordan, the hospitable Kingdom readily provided access to medical care. That included an easy-in clinic plus a doctor visit to my hotel.
Also required wobbly walking to the hotel ATM for local currency. Would a doctor come to a hotel room in America? Actually, two came to my aid, presumably for protection from allegations of impropriety.
After a diagnosis, cash payment required. They did walk with me to the hotel lobby ATM, and back to the door of my room.
For unexpected medical intervention, be sure to have cash access when you travel internationally.
5. Can Oxygen Fly or Sail?
Research is required to figure out if your oxygen-using travel partner can organize a reliable system.
Airline rules vary by carrier so don’t plan to find the answers with TSA; it is best to call the airline directly.
Portable oxygen machines run on batteries that last no longer than five to seven hours, so airlines require back-up battery power for delays. That’s expensive and heavy.
Batteries recharge with electricity but the problem is in-air or stuck on the tarmac time.
Twenty years ago my oxygen-using husband was able to order small canisters to store in the overhead. Not so likely now.
One Mediterranean cruise leaving from Barcelona required us to have local currency (cash again!) to pay for oxygen canisters delivered to the ship. We complied but the purser charged it to our cabin instead.
That was a pile of bills to convert back.
A simpler, shorter Caribbean cruise introduced us the oxygen canister failure. The tanks leaked.
Ship’s solution: move into the infirmary. Our solution: take the canisters to a dive shop at the first port of call to repair and refill.
Ready to take a vacation with the grandkids? Get all the help you need from our Traveling with Grandkids Facebook Group!
What to Know if the Kids (or Parents) Get Sick at Disney?
Crying shame to interrupt the magic of Disney if somebody gets sick. Here’s what TravelingMom Caroline Knowles figured out.
6. Roadtripping With Medications Takes Space
Car reviews ought to address available (and ingenious) spaces for meds and equipment for families who travel together with medical needs.
Where can the grandchildren sit if a rollator fills the back seat?
Hips need to angle easily into seats. Good chance if a traveler needs medical devices, he or she is not a candidate for stepping up to a tall SUV.
Think the drink holder spaces at every seat were great auto improvements? Traveling with medications can mean a discrete place to hold the urinal. Spills undesirable.
That particular problem also influences planning road trip rest stops.
Plenty of funny family stories recalling “Dad wouldn’t stop; he told us to use the mayonnaise jar.” Not so funny when it’s Granddad in need.
My traveling with medications family has learned to skip the highway welcome centers because the walk is too long from the parking lot to the bathroom. Fast food handicapped parking spot gives closer access.
TravelingMom Tip: The curb cut is often on the driver side, not the passenger.
Getting To the Car to Start a Trip
No small feat packing all this stuff so I recommend paying attention to the caregiver who is most likely also the driver.
Night-before packing is hardly possible since the meds and machines will be in use.
Even if the traveler with medical needs can negotiate steps, a ramp helps the one moving equipment and luggage. And it’s a good thing to have in place when needed for significant mobility issues.
Check List for Road Trip Meds
Road trips give the allure of plenty of space. All travelers feel the inconvenience of having just too much stuff.
Different when it might be life or death.
No need to look for a master checklist to help. Travel with medications is personal.
My situation works best with one container for the daily vitals and another for just-in-case. Emotionally, snazzy medical luggage is more uplifting. We use a hand-woven basket for the major meds and a zippered picnic tote for the others.
Vital for my packing? Nine prescription medicines, 7 over-the-counter supplements, nebulizer machine (and don’t forget the mouthpiece since you washed it after the morning dose), CPAP machine and the various forms of oxygen.
Personalize your list to prevent dangerous left-behind lifesavers.