What to Do If You Forget Your Prescription on Vacation

By Irmanie Hemphill, MD, FAAFP
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
October 18, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • When going on vacation, lay out the medications you’ll need in their original containers so you’re less likely to forget them.

  • If you’re traveling in the U.S., your doctor or pharmacy can send your prescription to a different pharmacy.

  • If you’re traveling abroad, travel insurance, urgent care, and digital providers can help.

We all forget things from time to time—including to take our medication or, worse, to bring it with us when traveling. If this happens or you lose your medication on vacation, don’t panic—there are a variety of ways to get back on track without heading home.

In this article, I’ll talk about how to fill your prescription on vacation in the U.S. and how to get medications abroad. I’ll also discuss how to safely store and pack your medications. 

Prepare Before You Go

Being prepared and organized can save you from the stress of forgetting or losing your medication. So when packing for a trip: 

  • Lay out your medications and check that you have enough for the duration of your trip. 
  • Keep the medications in their original containers, and make sure they’re all clearly labeled with your name, drug name, dosage, and healthcare provider information. 
  • Bring copies of written prescriptions. 
  • If you use controlled substances, like OxyContin or Adderall, or injectable medicines, like insulin or EpiPens, you’ll need a doctor’s note to confirm your usage of the medications or devices. Contact your healthcare provider in advance to get this.

If you’re traveling abroad, check that your medications are legal in your destination. Some common prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in the U.S. are considered controlled substances in other countries. You can learn more at the CDC’s destination pages

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Consider buying travel insurance

Travel insurance offers a range of benefits, and each policy varies in terms of what it covers. Some will help you replace lost or forgotten medication. If your policy does and you need their help, contact the insurance provider and explain the situation. They can contact your doctor and pharmacies and advise you on the next steps.

What to Do if You Forget Your Medication on Vacation

If you’re traveling within the U.S., it should be relatively easy to get your prescription filled. However, if you’re traveling abroad, things can be a little bit tricky.

While traveling in the U.S.

You can use K Health to get your prescription refilled, no insurance or appointment needed.

Alternatively, you can follow a few simple steps:

  1. Find a nearby pharmacy that’s in-network with your health insurance.
  2. Call the pharmacy and explain the situation.
  3. Call your home pharmacy and ask them to transfer your medication.
  4. If your home pharmacy won’t transfer the prescription, call your primary care provider.

The new pharmacy will likely give you a small emergency supply of medication to hold you over until you get home. However, some drugs are not eligible for refills and may require a new written prescription. For example, refills of Schedule II drugs are not allowed because they are a controlled substance. Some common examples of Schedule II drugs include:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Dexedrine
  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin

If you lose or forget a Schedule II drug, call your primary care provider. They may be able to give the new pharmacy an emergency authorization for the medication over the phone.

While traveling in a foreign country

If you’re in a foreign country and lose or forget your medication, call your primary care provider and explain the situation. They may be able to write you a new prescription that you can bring to a local pharmacy in your current location. If you can’t get in touch with them but have your prescription details on hand, visit a local pharmacy and ask if they can help. They may be able to fill your prescription, but it depends on the type of medication you need.

In some cases, you may need a new prescription from a local provider. You can visit urgent care or an out-of-hours clinic, but you will likely need to pay for this out-of-pocket (unless your travel insurance covers it). 

Be aware that the CDC warns that counterfeit drugs are common in some countries

How to Safely Store Medication for Travel

The most important thing to remember when preparing medication for travel, especially air travel, is to keep it in its original container. Make sure the containers are labeled with your name, your healthcare provider’s name, the medication name, and the dosage. It can also be useful to bring a paper copy of your written prescriptions.

Most medications can be safely stored at room temperature, but some need refrigeration. If you have drugs that need to be kept cold, talk to your provider about the best way to transport them. They may recommend that you pack them securely in plastic bags and store them in a medical-grade cooler stocked with ice packs and a thermometer. You should bring this as a carry-on item—do not put it in your checked luggage, or you could lose it.

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How Much Medication Should I Pack?

Pack the amount of medication that you’ll need for the duration of your trip. If you’re going on a one-week holiday, bring what you need for that week, plus a little extra to be safe.

However, if you’re going to be away for 30 days or more, talk to your provider in advance. Most prescription refills are only for a 30-day supply, so if you’re going on a long trip, you’ll need an additional prescription. Your provider may be able to write you an extended vacation prescription or allow you to pick up a future prescription early. 

What If I Miss a Dose of My Medication?

If you miss a dose of your medication, don’t panic. Read the dosage instructions for your medication and follow those directions. Most often, you can resume taking your medication as usual without taking extra medication to make up for the missed dose. Talk to a provider if you have any questions about this.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to miss a few days of medication?
Every medication is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. For some medications, such as pain relievers, there may be little risk in missing several doses. However, missing doses of epilepsy medication or insulin can have serious risks. Talk to your medical provider if you have any questions about a specific medication.
How do I get medication when traveling?
If you are traveling within the U.S., you can call your local pharmacy or provider and ask them to send your prescription to a different pharmacy. Traveling abroad makes it more difficult to access medication, so it’s a good idea to bring an adequate supply with you.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Irmanie Hemphill, MD, FAAFP

Dr. Hemphill is an award winning primary care physician with an MD from Florida State University College of Medicine. She completed her residency at Halifax Medical Center.

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