Just A Spoonful of Sugar

by Nancy Bestor

pills-out-of-bottle-1394618-mNobody wants to get sick when they’re on vacation. And I’ve always been of the opinion (certainly misguided) that the less prepared I am, the more likely I’ll come down with a mysterious illness on the road. So I always take some precautionary medicine on my travels. Of course I could pack these items into my checked bag without worry, but as I like to carry-on, I consulted the TSA Travel Tips Tuesday blog to find out the rules for carrying on liquid medications. It turns out you are allowed to carry on medically required liquids in amounts larger than 3.4 ounces, up to a “reasonable” quantity. You don’t even have to put them into a zip-lock bag. Simply inform the attending TSA officer that you are traveling with medically required liquids. You will likely be subject to additional screening, and you may also have to open the bottles, so be sure to pad a little extra time into your check-in process before your flight departure. The TSA does not even need your prescription information.

This rule does however beg the question of just how much is a “reasonable” quantity. Does a TSA screener get to determine that amount? Could one TSA officer tell me one thing at the San Francisco Airport, and another tell me something different thing at JFK? I’m thinking that yes, they could. But because this rule is vague, I’m also thinking a passenger could press the issue and carry-on their medicine under most circumstances, particularly if they do it in a friendly manner. I’d rather the rules be more specific, but there are a lot of things that I wish the TSA did differently.

Here are a few other tips related to traveling with medicine:

  • As far as the TSA is concerned, you don’t need to bring any prescription information when you’re traveling with medications. However, if you’re ever in a situation where you cannot communicate with a doctor, it’s always a good idea to have your printed prescriptions that a traveling companion or medical professional can read. If you don’t have a copy, stop by your pharmacist and ask them to print one out for you. Then tuck it into your documents near your passport or id, or better yet, store it with your prescriptions. It’s also a good idea to list any allergies.
  • Whether you check your bags, or carry them on, I highly recommend putting vital medications into your carry-on bag. It’s not that I don’t trust the airlines with my luggage, but…….well, I don’t trust the airlines with my luggage.

Here’s a list of some of the medications I always try to include in my toiletry kit:

  • Advil/Aspirin
  • Anti-Diarrhea Capsules
  • Antibiotics (particularly when my children were younger, or if I’m going to be in a third world country)
  • Cortizone Cream
  • Neosporin & Bandaids
  • Cough medicine