When gearing up for a family vacation abroad or a road trip with the guys a few states over, it’s important that you remember all of the essentials: clothes, toiletries, wallet, maps, food and most importantly – your prescriptions. There’s nothing worse than being hundreds of miles away from home without your daily medications, especially if you suffer from a chronic illness such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
One common scenario is when you’re asked to check your carry-on bag. If you keep your medications in your carry-on and it doesn’t meet the flight requirements, you will need to check it with the rest of your luggage. This is where anything could happen. You bag could either be left on the tarmac or on a flight to Timbuktu.
If you’re traveling and you forget your prescription or it becomes lost or stolen, there are a few ways you can handle this medical emergency. Here’s what you need to know to replace your prescriptions and get back to enjoying your time away from home.
If you’re traveling domestically...
If you are traveling within the United States, replacing your prescriptions should be fairly easy since there are many drugstore locations from chains like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. If you have a paper prescription – that wasn’t misplaced along with your medication – take it to the nearest pharmacy to get it filled.
If you don’t have a paper prescription, have the pharmacy call your doctor to give over-the-phone prescription approval or to fax over a copy of your prescription. Remember to present your health insurance or prescription card to avoid paying expensive out-of-pocket costs.
If you’re traveling internationally…
If you are traveling abroad, it may be a little more complicated to replace any lost or stolen prescriptions, especially if you don’t speak the language of the country you’re visiting.
Your first course of action should be to find a local pharmacy and give them your paper prescription if your doctor filled one for you before your trip. Again, if you do not have a printed or handwritten copy of your prescription, ask a local pharmacist to call your doctor and get over-the-phone approval for a new prescription.
You can also find out if your hotel or resort has an in-house clinic or doctor on staff who can assist you with your medical emergency. If all else fails, you will need to find a local English-speaking physician and explain your situation so that a new prescription can be filled immediately. To find an English-speaking doctor overseas, check out the American Board of Medical Specialists list of physicians from around the world.
You can also visit the websites of U.S. Embassies and Consulates in your vacationing country. They also maintain lists of physicians and hospitals worldwide. You should also check out these sites before booking a trip to make sure the medications you are prescribed aren’t considered illegal substances.
While abroad, you’ll need to keep in mind that your health insurance may not cover international medical services. For instance, Medicare and Social Security don’t offer coverage outside the states. If you have individual health insurance or have coverage through a spouse or employer, your provider might not offer services outside of the U.S. either, which means you could end up paying full price for prescriptions you need to fill during your trip.
Important travel tips if you take prescription medication:
- Before you leave, ask your primary medical insurance company if you’re covered when traveling abroad.
- If you are not, consider buying a short-term policy that does offer international coverage.
- Ask your doctor to write a prescription for the generic version of your medication in the event you need to replace it since it’ll be more widely recognized than some name brands.
- Create a list of English-speaking doctors at your destination and keep it with you at all times.
- Pack enough of your prescription to last your entire trip, as well as some extra in case you are delayed.
- Carry your medications in their original containers and pack them in an appropriate sized carry-on bag in case your checked luggage gets lost.
- Consider enrolling in an emergency assistance program like the Legionnaire Emergency Assistance Plus Program. Not only will you be able to receive proper emergency medical transportation assistance if you are hospitalized anywhere in the world, this program also helps coordinate the logistics with prescription replacement
- Traveling is stressful enough without worrying about how you’re going to coordinate replacing your medication. Take the proper travel precautions and consider having Emergency Assistance Plus in your back pocket the next time you plan a trip.