Travel Tips for Frequent and Infrequent Travellers

written by Pavithra R - Dec 2, 2019

Photo Credit: WhtsInYourBag, by Just Beth Anne,
Photo Credit: WhtsInYourBag, by Just Beth Anne,

Travelling can be a hectic time with numerous things on the go. Passport? Check. Travel documents? Check. Itinerary? Check. Travel Medication? …Uh oh. Getting ready to travel can put a lot on your mind, but there are a few simple things you can do to help make the journey and destination a lot more enjoyable. We will go through the two main areas of travel medication here:

Travel Medication for Every Traveller – We will discuss basic over the counter medication all travellers should consider. Whether you are headed to on a 24hr plane ride, a train, or a few hours in your car. Spending a few minutes planning for your trip can save you hour or days of misery.

How to Manage Medication While Travelling – We will go through what a traveller needs to consider when travelling with their day to day medication. The importance of documentation, proper packaging, and how much you should consider taking with you on your next trip.

Travel Medication for Every Traveller

Nobody wants their trip ruined due to getting sick, but you can’t always predict when and where you will end up sick. Whether it’s already happened to you or something you’ve never experienced no one wants to face health issues during a trip. Here are a few simple things you can take along with you to protect yourself from these situations.

• Pain and fever medication:

Acetominophen (Tylenol) or ibufrofen (Advil) are both great options for pain and/or fever management. Travel can be exhausting and can result in headaches, fevers, or body pain. You don’t want this to prevent your enjoying your vacation or performing on a work trip. Carrying one or both of these essentials can help you manage these symptoms.

• Diarrhea medication:

Travel isn’t always easy on the stomach, especially when travelling to foreign counties. Food and/or water can cause diarrhea/nausea in many countries. Prepare yourself with a Pepto Bismal and/or Imodium (loperamide). Diarrhea can be hard on the stomach but can also be hard on your body as a whole. It can also be helpful to carry electrolyte sachets such as hydrolyte.

• Laxative medication:

Sometimes travel can be new and a shock to your system. It can be an uncomfortable feeling when you aren’t able to relive yourself. Feeling bloated and heavy is a horrible, especially when you’re trying to be out, enjoying yourself and getting things done. Trying high in fibre foods first is always helpful but may not always work. If you notice you aren’t able to have a bowl movement after a day or two (or an uncommonly long period of time for you) a laxative may help get your system moving. It is important to remember that laxatives should only be tried when you have not had a bowl movement in an unusually long period of time for yourself. They should not be overused and ensure you are properly hydrated.

• Acid reflux medication:

If you suffer from acid reflux regularly this may be something that you already carry. For those who do not, this may be something to consider. Often times when we travel, we aren’t accustomed to the food that is being served us. It may be the fat content, the spice level, or simply the unfamiliarity of a dish. This can result in heart burn also known as acid reflux. Help prepare yourself by carrying Tums or other antacids to relieve the symptoms. It is important to note that many antacids react with other medications so please ensure you are taking them at least two hours apart and speak to your healthcare provider for further advice.

• Antihistamines:

You never know when something can happen. Whether it is an itchy bug bite or sudden sensitivity to another climate with itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing. Combat these symptoms by carrying antihistamines such as Benadryl.

• Cough and cold:

You may not be travelling to a cold climate but that doesn’t mean you may not be hit with a cough or cold. Sudden climate changes and closed travelling space are all factors that can contribute to getting sick. While travelling you are increased germ exposure as well as a changed environment that can impact your immune system. Medication such as a lozenge or cough suppressant such as Robitussin can help ease symptoms.

• Sun care:

Sunscreen is top of mind when we are travelling to a hot or tropical country, but most travellers aren’t aware that sunscreen is needed for all type of travel. Regardless of whether you are headed to the Caribbean or Iceland sun exposure is a risk to all travellers. Be certain to pack sunscreen to protect your skin against the sun’s rays.

The mentioned medication above is a great fundamental checklist for all travellers, regardless of if you are a frequent, infrequent, long distance or short haul traveler. The mentioned medication is only to be a guide for all individuals, and you should speak to a healthcare professional if you have any specific health concerns/conditions.

Prescription travel medication you need can vary depending on the place you are travelling to. For more exotic travel it may help to investigate what types of preventative medication you may want to consider taking. Investigate with your healthcare provider or travel clinic on any vaccinations or medication you may need to take.

What about the day to day medications you are already taking? In this next section we will discuss how to travel with your day to day medications and what considerations you may want to think about.

How to Manage medication While Travelling

During the hustle and bustle of travel don’t forget your everyday medication. Here are a few quick dos and don’ts to remember when packing your medication.

• Remember to always carry more than you need of your medication.

Travel can be unexpected; whether it is a flight abroad or a road trip. Don’t take the risk of running out of your medication. Ensure you take an additional 2 weeks or package/course of your medication more to have ample supply in case of any issues. If you have numerous medications with set schedules you may want to consider having our pharmacy package them in a multiuse package /blister card /dosette card. This will help ensure you have the appropriate number of days needed and may even make packing your medication simpler. Along with your medication it is important to remember proper disposal such as sharps containers.

• Remember to carry your medication in your carry on

Often times when we travel, especially aboard, we can have numerous luggage. Check in luggage that travels separately from us as well as carry-on luggage that travels with us. Ensure you carry your medication is in your carry-on luggage. It may seem like it takes a lot of room but there are numerous reasons why your medication should travel with you. Though we hope and try our best to prevent this, we want to ensure that our medication ends up in the same place we are. The last thing we want is to end up in a different city, nevertheless, another country from our medication. Medication can also be very temperature sensitive. Check in bags can end up in extremely hot or cold environments. To ensure the stability of your medication its best to carry it on your person. You may also want to speak to your healthcare provider on what the best way to carry your medication is. For example, insulin is stable at room temperate for 28 days, but if you are travelling for a longer period of time you may need to carry your medication in a specific packaging such as a certified cooler etc.

• Remember to carry documentation for your medication

Not everyone will be familiar with the medication you are carrying, so it is important to carry appropriate documentation. Your pharmacy can provide you with a medication profile. This will list the brand, chemical name, prescriber, and how to take your medication. It will also show when you started your medication and how many repeats you have on your medication. This information is not only useful to show the medication you are carrying is for your personal use, but can also be useful to help with any issues that may arise at your destination regarding supply etc. You may also wish to bring a copy of your prescription as reference, ensure this copy is clearly labelled copy.

• Remember to check the regulations/laws of where you are going

Just because a medication is legal in the country you reside in does not mean it is legal at your destination. Before you travel make sure of the law and regulations. Check with the embassy of your country at your destination. There are also numerous government websites that can help you identify what you may need to bring.

Canadian Government Travel Website

Unites States CDC Travel Website

Travel can be a hectic and exciting time, don’t let yourself get caught off-guard on any health surprises. Happy planning and safe travels.


Pavithra Ravi is an independent healthcare consultant who works across North America. She has over 10 years of experience as a practicing pharmacist with specialty, retail and long term care experience. In her free time, she enjoys travel and volunteers at the local hospital and children's centre.

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