Mental Health Management: How to Plan Your Medication Before You Travel3 min read
It’s happened to me too many times to admit. On an early morning travel day, I’ll wake up, take my medication, run around filling my suitcase with final items, and rush out toward the airport, only to realize the next day that I left my pill bottles at home.
Travel can be good for your mental health, but only if you have all the tools you need to keep yourself regulated to begin with. Don’t spend your vacation visiting unfamiliar pharmacies or trying to contact your doctor. Make medication planning an early part of your packing process by following this schedule.
One Week Before You Travel
Take inventory of your medication. Do you have enough pills in the bottle to cover the days before the trip, each day of your trip and the day after you return? If not, contact your doctor right away. Doctors can take 1-3 days to respond to messages, so you’ll want to build that cushion of time. Allow at least one additional day for your pharmacy to fill the prescription.
If you are traveling for longer than a month, now would also be a good time to contact your care providers and let them know where you will be when it’s refill time. Setting that refill up in advance prevents you from having to navigate the transferring process instead of being present on your trip.
One Day Before You Travel
Remove individual pills from your medication bottle to cover the day when you will leave the house. Put those pills in a prominent place, where you won’t miss them tomorrow morning. Then pack bottles that contain the remaining pills in your carry-on. Never put essential medications in your checked luggage—these bags have the potential to get lost or mishandled along the way. Also, remember that medications need to be in their original bottles to go through airport security. Packing your pills ahead of time can prevent you from accidentally forgetting to pack them in the energy and chaos of leaving.
Additionally, take this opportunity to set alarms in your phone for the times of day when you will need to take your meds. When traveling, you are removed from your regular routine (and possibly in a different time zone), so you’ll be more likely to forget small daily tasks like ingesting pills. Trust me—the alarms will fix that.
Ideally, if you have planned and packed ahead of time, you won’t have to worry about your medication on the day you travel, except for taking your regular dose. But it still helps to triple-check before you leave home. Ask yourself: Have you packed your pill bottles? Where are they?
On Vacation: If You Lost Your Medication or Left it at Home
There are all kinds of factors that prevent us from planning ahead. If you had a hectic week and left medicine at home, or if it fell out of your bag somewhere on the road, don’t panic. Try to calmly and immediately take action.
Reach out to your doctors to ask if they can send your prescriptions to a drugstore that is on your route or near where you are staying. If your regular pharmacy is a chain, like CVS or Walgreens, you might even be able to get your meds transferred without involving your doctor. Check if the land you are passing through has a branch of that same store where you are staying. Usually, you can ask the pharmacist there to transfer it from your home location.
If you’re not quite so lucky and your pills will take over a day to arrive, it is better to cut your remaining pill in half than to skip a day entirely. This can prevent the side effects that come from going off your medication abruptly.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone forgets important things sometimes. The key is taking care of it swiftly with minimal guilt, so you can get back to enjoying your time away.