From headache-fighting pain relievers to life-saving insulin, it's the rare traveler who leaves home without some kind of medication. Some of the Transportation Security Administration's rules seem complicated or strict, but the TSA won't prevent you from traveling with all the medication you need for a flight. Packing these substances requires two considerations: keeping them safe and undamaged, and packaging them in a way that TSA agents will approve. Most travelers will find that packing medications correctly doesn't take more than a few minutes.
Store prescription and over-the-counter pills in their original containers when possible. Do not combine multiple types of pills into one bottle to save space; carry each original bottle. If you don't have the original bottles, package each type of pill in its own container.
Label any containers of pills yourself if you no longer have the original packaging. Use masking tape and a permanent marker, or type up a label and tape it to the packaging. Include your name, your doctor's name, the name of the medication and the recommended dosage information. The TSA doesn't require medications to be labeled but it's in your best interest to do so anyway, both to ensure you're using them safely and because officials in your destination city might require medications to be labelled.
Place all medications that aren't in liquid, gel or aerosol form in your carry-on bag. If they take up too much room, you might pack a two- or three-day supply of necessary medications in separate containers to place in your carry-on, and pack the rest in your checked luggage. These substances won't have to be removed from your carry-on when you send it through the X-ray machine.
Gather up all your necessary liquid, gel or aerosol medications. If the containers are smaller than 3.4 ounces each and all the containers fit in a single 1-ounce plastic bag, pack this bag in your carry-on. You'll need to take it out so it can be scanned separately from the rest of your carry-on bag; if you wish, you may also ask that these containers be screened by hand. Pack bottles larger than 3.4 ounces in your checked baggage, or place them all in a plastic bag inside your carry-on. When you arrive at security, take out this bag and tell an agent you're carrying liquid, gel or aerosol medications that need to be screened by hand.
Keep refrigerated medications cold until it's time to leave for the airport. Place completely frozen gel ice packs in an insulated cooler bag and add your medications. These packs can be any size as long as they're frozen solid when you pass through security -- otherwise, the TSA treats them as liquids. Present refrigerated medications to an agent for screening by hand.
Store any supplies that you need to use your medications, like syringes or IV bags, in their original packaging or in hard cases to be sure they won't be crushed during flight. Stow at least a few days' worth of these supplies in your carry-on, again being sure to remove these items from your bag and telling an agent that you're carrying them.
- TSA.gov: What to Expect If a Passenger Needs Medication
- TSA.gov: 3-1-1 for Carry-ons
- TSA.gov: Medically Necessary Liquids
- Japan.USembassy.gov: Importing or Bringing Medication into Japan for Personal Use
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Traveling with Medications and Medical Devices, Such as Needles or Oxygen Tanks