Our team loves to travel for both business and pleasure. We have traveled as far as Barcelona, Spain for international business plan competitions pitching our smart pill box, Ellie. Naturally, we always bring a few Ellie samples as well as medications and vitamins with us to showcase during pitches and meetings. We have never run into any issues when traveling with an Ellie or pills but this does not mean it is not possible.
We have been asked for advice from customers so we did a little research on the rules of traveling with prescription medications and medical accessories. All of the rules may seem intimidating but it is better to be safe than sorry if your health and wellbeing rely on the contents that you are traveling with.
The basic rules from the TSA are pretty straightforward. In the security area of the airport, all passengers and their property are required to go through a screening process upon arrival and prior to flying. There are optional and mandatory processes to consider when traveling with medications, vitamins, and medical accessories.
Medications of all forms must undergo screening along with the rest of your possessions.
Medications must be clearly labeled. The TSA recommends that you check with state laws regarding prescription medication labeling. Just like with anything else you travel with, TSA may do additional screening and eventesting
The TSA website states that you must "Inform the TSA officer that you have medically necessary liquids and/or medications and separate them from other belongings before screening begins".
For those of you who have liquid medications, TSA goes on to say that you must also, "declare accessories associated with your liquid medication such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps, and syringes". They recommend labeling these items. Liquids for medical purposes do not have to be 3.4 ounces or smaller like all other liquids. Freezer packs must be in a frozen or partially-frozen state. You can inform TSA officers if you want your liquid medications to be x-rayed or manually opened. However, if a liquid, gel, or aerosol "alarms", then it may not be allowed. Make sure you declare your medical liquids in order to prevent confiscation!
If any of this is a concern, we recommend contacting TSA's Passenger Support.
If you have any concerns, consult the TSA Passenger Support 72 hours prior to flight or a TSA officer at the security checkpoint.
You have the option to fill out a TSA Notification Card. This card is for "Individuals with Disabilities and Medical Conditions". The card says. "I have the following health condition, disability or medical device that may affect my screening". You can enter the name of your condition or even the name of your medical device. If you use an Ellie, you can enter "Ellie - Smart Pill Box" here. This card also has TSA Cares contact information.
Not thrilled about an airport full of strangers see you potentially unpack your medical supplies? You can always request to be screened in private and a TSA agent will assist you. If you want to be screened privately, we recommend that you get to the airport early in case they are busy.
TSA PreCheck is also a great option for travelers because you do not need to take off your shoes, unload laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets at security. You simply undergo screening by technology or pat-down. TSA still may swab you and or your property and test for explosives.
Contact TSA Cares
Federal Relay: 711
8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET
We know all of this screening sounds like no fun at all. What helps is to keep in mind that they are doing the honorable job of trying to keep all travelers, including yourself, safe!
Different Countries, Different Rules
Some prescriptions and even over-the-counter medications are illegal in some countries and legal in others. The New York Times reports that The United Arab Emirates and Japan are some of the most restrictive nations when it comes to traveling with medications and other medications. Non-compliance with the travel rules by countries could result in a big headache (no pun intended). Do serious penalties usually happen? Well no, but they could! The New York Times says to "Carry all of your medication - even vitamins and supplements - in their original, clearly marked containers or packaging in a clear plastic bag in carry on luggage". We are not quite sure where they found this rule but regardless, it wouldn't hurt to do so.
It would be wise to make sure the name on the prescription and the name on your passport or that of your child's matches! If you lost this information, you may ask your pharmacist to print a new one. You can also ask your doctor to write a letter on official letterhead explaining your need for the medications. You may want to bring a translated copy of the letter.
The best you can do is plan ahead by consulting your doctor and a travel medical insurance company. There are also international insurance providers and websites that can assist with international health coverage and questions.
If you run into any issues while abroad, it can be very helpful to have the contact information to the embassy of your origin country.
Traveling with Ellie
Traveling with an Ellie Smart Pill Box? Well, our team has done it numerous times, even internationally, without any issues. Does that mean that this will also be the case for you? Unfortunately, no. However, here are a few options we would suggest you consider when traveling with your Ellie.
We suggest that you place it in a clear plastic bag and label it with a permanent marker as "Pill Box" with the names of your medications and vitamins. You could even include a TSA Notification Card and label it as "Ellie - Smart Pill Box".
Before going to the airport, turn off the alarm volume on your Ellie in order to respect those around you. Plus, passengers would probably not be thrilled to hear a mysterious alarm set off mid-flight. I wouldn't.
Create a folder in your "Photos" app on your smartphone with pictures of the original prescription and/or vitamin bottle. Better yet, you could pack the original bottles just in case. It might also help to be signed into your EllieGrid app for easy access to your pill information.
Save the contact info of your pharmacist and/or doctor on your smartphone.
Pack Ellie in your carry-on bag.
If TSA requests to test your Ellie, or any medically related object for that matter, request that the TSA officer puts on new clean gloves before touching pills that you later plan to ingest.
Once you are on the plane, don't forget to turn on your smart phone's airplane mode. If you want to receive reminders to your smartphone to take medication and vitamins during your flight, you will need to manually turn on your smart phone's Bluetooth. Here are the instructions to do this on Apple devices.
When you land, make sure you reconnect to your Ellie via Bluetooth once land in a new time zone so the alarms now adjust to your local time.
You could bring your original bottles with you in case TSA tests your Ellie and decides it tests positive for explosives. We do not expect this to ever happen but we have friends whos school books have tested positive and were therefor confiscated. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do in this situation.
Again, even though this has never happened to our team and we don't have any reason to expect that it should happen to you, that does not mean airport security issues relating to your medical conditions are impossible. So our final advice is this, if you are traveling with medications that are medically-required or life-threatening, the safest thing would be to pack that medication in the original bottle with a note from your doctor and his or her contact information and store it in a separate and clearly labeled plastic bag along with a TSA Notification Card.
If you run into any issues while traveling with an Ellie Smart Pill Box, please contact a team member by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org