While you can easily replace that travel-size bottle of ibuprofen or shampoo at almost any destination, losing your prescription medicine during a trip can pose a real risk to your health. Make sure your prescription drugs make it onto the flight with you by following guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection.

Do I Have to Declare My Medication?

You don't have to declare non-liquid medications at the airport security checkpoint. If your meds are in liquid form, are bottled in quantities of 3.4 ounces or less and will fit in the quart-size baggie you're allowed under the TSA's 3-1-1 liquids rule, you don't have to declare them, either. But if you want to take more than 3.4 ounces of liquid medication through, or if you simply don't want your meds to take up space in that baggie, you do need to declare them at the TSA checkpoint. Keep in mind that your liquid medications will be subject to extra screening; the TSA warns that you might need to open the bottles.


Medications can go in either carry-on or checked luggage, but it's best if you keep then in your carry-on bag. That way, you have immediate access if you need them, and you don't need to worry about being without your meds if your checked bags are misplaced or delayed.

Should I Carry My Prescription?

The TSA specifically notes that they don't require your medication to be in the original prescription bottle – but they also warn that you must comply with each state's laws regarding the labeling of prescription meds. In the face of this ambiguous information, it's easiest to play it safe by either keeping the meds in their original containers or at least bringing a copy of the prescription label with you.

Medication Rules for International Travelers

The rules are a little different if you've been traveling abroad: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol – the agency that controls your reentry into the U.S. after an international trip – does require that your medications be in the original containers with a doctor's prescription printed on them. Each country's regulations for transporting medication differ too.

Extra Tips for International Travelers

Three steps will help keep your essential medication right by your side, even in a foreign country. First, carry each medication in its original container, including the prescription label, if at all possible. Second, bring a doctor's note explaining the active ingredient in each medication and why it's medically necessary, translated into the language of your destination country. (Knowing the active ingredients will be a big help if you need to replenish your supplies abroad.) And finally, if there's any doubt at all, contact the embassy of your destination country, well before your travel date, to verify that nation's policies about transporting meds through the border.