Medications You Should Bring With You When Flying

by joeheg

Preparing for an airplane trip can be stressful. There are so many rules to follow when packing and now you’ve waited until the last minute and are scrambling around gathering clothes, electronic gadgets, tickets and whatever else you want to bring with you. To help keep me organized, I have a document named “Packing List” that I print before trips longer than a weekend (Sharon still laughs at me for doing this). (Note from Sharon – Well, yeah! I can’t believe that for as often as we travel, you still need a flippin’ list?!?!?! LOLOL!) The first page is mostly clothes and things I tend to forget, like an umbrella and backpack. The second page is toiletries and medications. The last page is my final checklist of things I absolutely can’t forget. The final three items on that list are:

  • MEDICINES!!!!!!

  • WALLET!!!!!!!

  • PASSPORT!!!!!!!

Forgetting any of these things would be horrible and would pretty much ruin my trip (I don’t carry my passport when we travel domestically and will delete it from the list for those trips). I make sure my medications (most importantly, prescription medications) are always in my carry-on bag. That’s the bag I’ll keep with me at all times. Even if I wind up having to gate-check my roll-aboard bag, I’ll take out this smaller bag to carry on the plane with me. It has in it my medications, MacBook and chargers and any important travel documents.

Next, I want everyone to repeat this next line with me:


Got it? Say it over and over until it sinks in. Never, ever, EVER forget this!

When you check a bag, it’s possible that you may never see that bag again. Or maybe you’ll be “lucky” and it will just get lost for a little while and you’ll only be without it for 24-48 hours. Is that how you want to start your trip, having to run to a pharmacy to see if you can get your medications? Didn’t think so.

Now that you’re going to bring your medications onto the plane, what should you bring? I’ll try to lay out the important stuff but, of course, this list will be different if you are traveling with children, senior citizens, or someone with special needs. The items I bring with me are things that, if I need them, I’m not going to want to get out of my hotel room to find and buy them; I want to have them on hand so I can take them “right now.”

Here’s a list of the items I’ll bring for a typical domestic trip.  These first items I put in a small 7-day pill holder. It comes with us pretty much everywhere we go.

  • Pepto Bismol – for general stomach discomfort
  • Imodium AD  – anti-diarrheal
  • Tums (or Rolaids) – Antacid
  • Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) – for pain/fever
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – for pain/fever
  • Benadryl tablets – for allergic reactions and as a sleep aid
  • Papaya Enzyme tablets – good for digestion (if you had too much at the buffet)

I’ll bring the pill holder along with these next items in a gallon-size ziplock bag. This bag will be in my carry-on but then I’ll place it in my suitcase once I get to my destination:

  • Prescription Medications (enough for your trip + 2 or more days in case of travel delay)
  • Airborne or Emergen-C packets
  • Electrolyte packs – help fight dehydration due to vomiting, diarrhea or heat exposure
  • Band-Aids of various sizes
  • Dramamine or Bonine – for motion sickness
  • Earplanes earplugs – for flying with sinus problems (i.e., due to a cold, allergies, etc.)


The next items I keep in my TSA-compliant liquids bag with the other toiletries I keep in my carry-on:

  • Neosporin (Triple antibiotic first aid ointment)
  • Hydrocortisone cream – insect bites, skin rashes
  • Visine eye redness drops
  • Carmex (or any other lip balm)
  • Purell (Hand sanitizer)

If I’m checking a bag, I may bring these items if we go somewhere sunny.  The bottles are too big to bring otherwise:

  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Diclofenac Gel (for joint pain)

When I travel abroad or to a remote location such as a cabin or an island, I bring a lot of items with me. In fact, I bring so many that it’s been referred to as my “traveling pharmacy”. This is because it can be difficult to find medication when there is a language barrier, and not all items may be available in every part of the world. So, I make sure to pack everything I might need to ensure a safe and healthy trip.

There are several common medications in the U.S. that are banned in other countries (here are some of them). Before traveling abroad, you also need to check if they have any restrictions on medications such as pain relievers or anti-anxiety drugs. Here is what the U.S. State Department says:

  • Bring an ample supply of medication to last your trip and, if possible, a few extra days in case there are delays.
  • Carry a letter from the attending physician that describes the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.
  • Keep medications in their original, labeled containers.
  • Check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting or transiting to ensure your medications are permitted there.


This additional bag of medication is what I’ll bring on trips outside of the U.S. Some of these medications are by prescription only and I get my doctor to prescribe them for me to use only if necessary:

  • Mucinex DM (cough suppressant and expectorant)
  • Sudafed (Decongestant; may not be allowed in some countries)
  • Instant Cold Pack
  • Chloraseptic or Cepacol lozenges (for sore throat)
  • Charcoal Capsules (intestinal distress, diarrhea)
  • Ciprofloxacin for travelers diarrhea (Prescription Antibiotic – speak to your doctor if you are traveling to a country where this is a problem)
  • Ear Wax removal drops and ear syringe
  • Diflucan/Fluconazole – Prescription oral tablet for vaginal yeast infections (Note from Sharon: Ladies, TRUST ME, you are going to want to have this as a “just in case,” especially if you wind up on an antibiotic for some reason)

Between all of these medications, you should be able to treat the most simple problems you would encounter when traveling. When traveling outside the United States, I’d recommend getting travel insurance that includes medical coverage. I’ve used Insuremytrip to find coverage for us. They let you pick between different providers to get the coverage you need for your trip. For our Iceland trip, I used World Nomads, which specializes in coverage in more remote locations.

I’d also recommend that you check to see if you need to get any vaccinations for where you’re traveling overseas. The Center for Disease Control’s website has information about traveling to each country and you can also speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

You could change this list as needed for your own personal needs, but for the most part, these items are a good place to start.

Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.

Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary, or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.

Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Christian June 30, 2019 - 10:29 pm

Several years ago, my really capable doctor learned how much I travel and wrote me 3 prescriptions for what he called a “travel kit”: Antibiotic (Ciproflaxin), antinausea (Promethazine) and antidiarrheal (don’t remember the name). These have come in handy more times than I’d like to recall.

joeheg July 1, 2019 - 12:03 am

I wish I had some Ciprofloxacin when we traveled to Cuba. After that trip we started packing the Pedialyte. Rehydration salts in Cuba are no joke, they take the SALTS part very seriously. Ewwwww.

Samantha February 6, 2021 - 10:05 am


Dora February 21, 2022 - 1:36 pm

I use a packing list for all my trips. My suitcase doesn’t get closed until my final check-off. My list is all-inclusive for any trip I go on so I just cross off the things I won’t need for that particular trip (such as magnet hooks for a cruise). Yep… My friends laugh, but I don‘t care…lol!

JohnB February 21, 2022 - 2:12 pm

Research the country you are visiting! Japan does not allow decongestants to be imported, NONE! You can buy them over the counter in Japan, but you can’t import them. Also, Japan requires special paperwork for many drugs called a “Yakkan Shoumei”. Research all your meds before going to Japan. UAE-Dubai does not allow any prescription painkillers to be imported. For example, tramadol, one must get a paper script from your Dr. in your home country and have it filled in Dubai. But forget things like Vicodin, you cannot import it or get a script filled in Dubai.

Both of these countries are very serious about prescription painkillers, if they are found on your person while clearing inbound immigration, you can be jailed.

Kate November 18, 2023 - 8:35 pm

Japan has a surprising list. And for some, you need permission before arriving
How about paxlovid?

derek November 18, 2023 - 9:38 pm

My doctor (ophthalmologist, which is a MD) recommends that Visine eye redness drops NOT be used. He said it can cause the eye to become MORE red from rebound dilation of blood vessels on the whites of the eye.


Leave a Comment