How to Fill Your Medication While on Vacation


Getting ready to go on vacation? Planning a week or two away from home? Whether you are travelling near or far - for a few days or for a few months - filling your medications while you are away can be a concern.

NOTE: The article is NOT an offer to provide medication services. Sorry. I am simply a pharmacist giving advice to patients concerning the refilling of their legally and properly prescribed medications while on the road.

What happens if your medication is going to run out while you are away? Unless you personally have experienced this, you may not appreciate the challenge.

  • Some medications CANNOT be filled early due to insurance restrictions. Therefore you cannot just ask your pharmacy to fill it again before you leave, unless you are almost out.
  • Some medications CANNOT be filled early due to doctor restrictions. Your doctor may not provide you with another order, or refill, until you are within a few days of running out. This is sometimes the case with pain medications.

And of course, vacations are not the only reason that you may run out of your medication while away. I have had people come to the pharmacy who need to leave town quickly to attend a funeral and are concerned about their medication running out. Sometimes an unexpected business trip will take you across the country without much notice. Those of you who drive trucks for a living know that this issue is frequently encountered.

In this brief article I am going to share with you several things you may do to handle situations in which your vacation or trip causes you to run out of your medications while you are away.


Having worked as a pharmacist for over 17 years, and being a pharmacy employee for over half my life, I know there are many unique circumstances that may make refilling your meds while traveling difficult. Since it would be impossible to give you advice on EVERY specific scenario, I have chosen to present you with several FACTS & TIPS to help you manage the situation where your medication will run out while you are traveling away from home.

FACT #1: Nearly every medication can be refilled at nearly any pharmacy in the U.S. Chances are, if you are away from home right now and need a refill, you can bring your bottle to a local pharmacy and they can fill it.

Example: You take Lipitor 20mg and you will run out in 2 days while vacationing on Myrtle Beach, SC. You live in Massacusetts. Bring your bottle into any local pharmacy and ask them if they can transfer the medication and fill it for you. Be sure to show them your insurance card and see if they participate in your plan. If not, call the 800# on your card and ask a customer service representative to find you a local pharmacy that accepts your insurance.

FACT #2: Most doctors will provide you with a medication order you can bring with you and fill at another U.S. pharmacy while you are away. Simply contact your doctor's office before leaving and ask them if you could pick up an order for your medication to take with you while you are away. This approach may be good if you are going to be gone for an extended trip, your medication is out of refills, or if your pill is for a controlled substance that cannot be transferred.

Example: You take a medicine known as Lyrica to treat fibromyalgia. A few days before you leave for your trip, call your doctor's office and ask if they could provide you with an order to take with you while you are away. Give them a day to take care of this, and then drop into the office to pick it up.

FACT #3: Many pharmacists will MAIL you your medication for no additional cost. If you happen to be traveling to an area where a local pharmacy is not available (not sure where that would be these days...but just in case!) then call your home pharmacy and ask them if they will refill and mail you your medication. Remember to give them your correct address...or they may mail it to your home!

Example: You are a diabetic patient and take Actos to help control blood sugar levels. You call your pharmacy and ask them if they could refill your Actos and mail it to you in Hawaii since you have decided to stay an extra 2 weeks and do some deep sea fishing. They may take your credit card number, fill it, and ship it out to your hotel.


I've been doing this for a while now. Running out of your medication can be frightening, and I have seen many an upset customer worry excessively about this issue. So allow me to make a few calm suggestions which should make filling your medicine while traveling a little less difficult.

1) Two weeks before leaving on your trip, make a list of the medications that you are going to run out of while away. These are the ones you need to now focus on.

2) Before leaving for any trip in which you may run out of medication, see if you can refill it at your home pharmacy to avoid running out while away. Some insurance plans allow for what they call a "vacation supply override." This means that your pharmacy can refill your meds early (before you run out) in order to allow for your vacation plans. A simple call to your insurance provider could determine if your plan allows for this.

3) Don't wait until the very last moment to try to transfer your medication while on vacation. Walking into a pharmacy 15 minutes before you are due to take your next pill and telling them you need it transferred quickly is a sure recipe for frustration. I recommend you bring in your bottle at least 3 days before you are due to run out. Give them the information they need. And then plan to return later the next day to see if it is ready. Better yet...take a business card and call them the next day before coming in, just to see if it is all set. Remember...the pharmacy may need to order your medication as it may not be something they ordinarily stock. This can take 1-2 days on weekdays to receive.

4) If at all possible, try to find a pharmacy within the same "chain" that you use back home. If you use a Wal-Mart pharmacy in Massachusetts, try to find a Wal-Mart pharmacy in Myrtle Beach. This isn't absolutely necessary (as explained above), but it may make things a bit easier.

5) If you are leaving the country on a trip, then you almost certainly must bring enough medication with you as your order for medicine will not be valid outside the U.S. In this case, you must refill it before leaving for a sufficient quantity to cover your travel time and you may even have to pay for this supply if your insurance does not allow for such an early refill.

6) Will you be visiting friends or family? Ask them which local pharmacy, if any, they use and get the phone number for that pharmacy before leaving on your trip. Call them now and ask them if you will have any trouble transferring your meds to their pharmacy while you are there on your vacation and/or visit.

7) Finally, if you cannot find a pharmacy that takes your insurance (for example, many State medicaid plans are only valid within your home State) you can always consider paying for a small amount of the medication yourself, just enough to cover your vacation needs.

I hope this brief article and these few tips will help clear up any concerns you may have about filling your medication while on vacation!

More by this Author

Comments 32 comments

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Good advice for traveling when you take medication. I am on a lot of meds and I always make sure I have at least one extra day just in case I don't manage to get home on the planned day.

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 6 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


Great tip. Having an extra day "just in case" is brilliant. Thanks for sharing!

KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

Wonderful advice - I had a problem a few years back with refilling a prescription while away from home. I, like Pamela99, have learned to always have one to two days extra just in case. You never know what will happen.

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 6 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


Thanks for the comment and for sharing your experience and advice. Take care!

Jimmy 6 years ago

Any advice for when you're going out of the country and you're on a medication (control 2) that can't be refilled early? My physician could not tell me whether or not a family member can refill and mail it to me.

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 6 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


I don't know of any regulation against mailing a C2. Check with your local post office. The biggest concern is to package it so that the contents are NOT obvious (stuff bottles with cotton, etc). You don't want it to look or sound like pills. Another option is to try to run out of medication just before you leave, thus you fill a full prescription before your trip. To do this, you may need to ask the doctor for a smaller supply. For example, if you are leaving in 1 week and just ran out of meds...ask your MD for a 1 week supply, and then a full month supply to fill just before you leave. Make sense? Just explain to the pharmacy what you are doing.

Jimmy 6 years ago

I've done that but I leave for months at a time and won't be home permanently until next year. The problem is not so much the shipping but having somebody else pick it up for me. So if my physician calls it in, can a relative pick it up and mail it to me?

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 6 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author

Hi Jimmy,

There is no FEDERAL law that would prohibit this that I am aware of. Check with your local pharmacy just to be sure that no State law will interfere with this plan.

Hope that helps,


Jimmy 6 years ago

Helped greatly. My pharmacist had to check and she told me it was OK for a relative to pick it up and mail it to me. Thank you!

Mandy 6 years ago

My daughter is from the UK studying in the USA she has health cover through student services and the study USA health plan - neither seem to cover prescription drugs for pre existing conditions (she is an asthma sufferer on 3 inhalers) what is the best advice you can give her to refill her prescriptions, as she will need further supplies soon

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 6 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


I would be happy to try and help. I would need a few more details. Wal-Mart pharmacy sells Ventolin HFA inhaler (albuterol) for $9.00, called Relion Ventolin HFA. For other inhalers that have no generics, she should try to get help from the manufacturers by visiting their websites and looking into their patient assistance programs. I have written some articles here on saving money on prescriptions. You will find them in my profile. Have her email me through my profile link and I can see what else I can do. Best wishes!

L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

Useful information here. I have many long haul truck drivers in my extended family who will be happy to learn this information.

jerry 5 years ago

it always made me wander if he was to have an attack what would you do to redimy thy sit .asap

Nancy 4 years ago

I am on pain medications for cancer and my husband and I would like to take a 3 month trip around the country in our motorhome.

One of the medications that I am on, I have to physically go to my doctors every month and get a written prescription for.

I am not sure if it is possible to get pain medication while on the road. I can get my Femara and Lipitor easily but I am a bit worried about the pain meds.

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 4 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


If that medication is for a Schedule II narcotic, the MD is now allowed to write up to 3 "1 month" prescriptions at a time. See this link:

Diamond Shields 4 years ago

hey if my friend is not from the states and doesn't have anymore ventolin,what should he do? im trying my best to find a place in atlanta,georgia that would give me one non-prescribed due to the fact he has no way of getting more??

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 4 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


If by "not from the states" you mean they have never gotten Ventolin in the U.S.A., then they will have to visit a walk-in clinic or ER for a prescription.

Doug 3 years ago

I am a Canadian who ran out of prescribed beta blocker. With the number of Canadians who live in Florida in the winter surely this has happened to others. How does one get enough of the medication for the reat of the winter?

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 3 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author

Hi Doug,

Well, I think your options are only 1) have a supply mailed to you from your pharmacy in Canada or 2) Obtain a prescription here from a U.S. doctor and have it filled. Ideally you would get enough before leaving to last for the winter. But I'm not sure if other regulations might have prevented this. Could you not fill enough in Canada before going to Florida? Just curious.

JimWelch 3 years ago

My wife and I are in TN visiting from MS visiting my parents. We had to leave home quickly so we weren't able to call our doctor to try and get written scripts for any meds that may run out. Well one did and we went to Walgreens which we use them in MS for years and where they have our refills on record anyway they would not fill the meds cause they say MS has a state law where you can not transfer a C2 to another pharmacy. So now we are out of this med. This is such a crazy law. They have our records and we have ID. Why do they have to hurt the people that try their best to stay with in the law?

May 3 years ago

I am out of state.. In Florida of all places. I have sever spinal injury and in PT here. My doctor has written 2 1 week perscriptons for my mother to mail, but I need her for the next 2 weeks to come help. Will the pharmacy fill both week at one time tho they are post dated? Then next question is who to go to locally to renew the pain medication for the additional 4 weeks I need to be here due to a death? Will a local Phsyciatrist refill my perscription w/ documentation and past few months bottles? Thank you

Bill 3 years ago

The doc did not mention anything about what to do if you have to see the doc every month to refill pain meds. Is this is a DEA requirement? Anyway, I want to leave for a few months. (Just retired) how can I do this ?

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 3 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author

Hi Jim, Sorry about your problem. A C2 prescription cannot be "refilled" at all, and a "transfer" is really about transferring refills. So I'm guessing you left a NEW prescription at the pharmacy in MS? That is the problem, unfortunately. Possibly a friend or family member could pick it up from the pharmacy in MS and mail it to you overnight? Sorry again!

Lund416 3 years ago

I'm in Toronto, Ont for a while (from Minnesota) and have needed to get my prescriptions sent here. Month one: my pharmacy sent it FedEx and to my surprise, it arrived in Toronto from Duluth, MN in three days. Then hell on earth began: customs had it at the airport and Health Canada wouldn't release it to me. Being Victoria Day weekend, and this being a Friday, I stood to be without my medications for at least five days. I called ahead of time, mind you, and was told to come pick up my package and walked into this madness. I was polite but furious. I wasn't leaving without my prescriptions. A lot of red tape, phone calls, description of every medication (by me), confirmation of my doctor, pharmacy, etc later and I walked out with my medications.

My question is: was this a customs issue, unavoidable, or could this had been prevented if the waybill had been filled out differently by my pharmacy? I'm here for another month. I consider myself lucky because I used my good nature and kindness to work with these folks but that might not always be the case. Should I have my family send it UPS next time? Since I've been a 'customer' of this once is it likely they'll realize I'm not a danger and not give me a hard time next month?

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 3 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


It depends on the type of pain meds. Traveling and getting Schedule II narcotics filled can be challenging. State laws differ. Best bet is to see if the MD will post-date (i.e. date it for when it is DUE to be filled) a prescription for you to fill while traveling (assuming it is in the U.S.). Other alternative is to have a friend or family member fill it for you at your usual pharmacy and have them mail it.

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 3 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


Well, of course, the ideal situation would be to take enough with you so that you don't run out while travelling. If that is not possible, then having a family member mail it UPS might be the best route (rather than the pharmacy which seemed to have provoked concern).

Belinda J Pavlak 2 years ago

I have a prescription that I got from my doctors. I live in Massachusetts but I'm in Rochester New York right now and I was wondering that if I normally use cvs than can I fill my script here. It's for oxycodone 5mg. I couldn't get it filled before I left and I just don't have anyone that could've helped me with it back in Massachusetts.

pharmacist profile image

pharmacist 2 years ago from Whitinsville, MA Author


Every state is different with respect to filling out-of-state prescriptions for narcotics. You'll have to ask a local pharmacy. Go during the daytime so they can call to verify it.

Liz 23 months ago

Never pack your medication in your suitcase. Many seniors provincial plans allow a 180-210 day supply of meds once a year. Your private plan, if any, must also be notified. You must be stable on your meds before requesting a snowbird supply. Give your pharmacy at least a weeknotice. Consider compliance packs

Nimmy 22 months ago

at one time, we had an investment in a conmapy that did this for many sort of medical treatment and worked through insurers, splitting the there may be 15 places to get an MRI in dallas. the hospitals tend to be most expensive. imaging centers in strip malls tend to be cheapest. the difference in price was literally ofter $800 vs $5000.the conmapy would provide the insurer with "preferred" centers and pricing and the insurer would then offer reduced deductibles/copay to patients to encourage them to use these centers.this attempts to emulate the consumer behavior you get when they actually face costs.if you have a $500 deductible, you may not care at all if it's $5000 vs $800. you go to whatever's close/has a good appointment time.but if you were spending your own cash, you'd think hard about driving 15 minutes to save $4000.the medical industry (particularly high cost hospitals) is very much opposed to such cost comparison and try to make it as difficult for insurers as they can while trying to block the entry of low cost providers to the field.the incentives in the health care industry as such a mess it's a wonder that it's not worse than it is.

Donatela 22 months ago

it's worse than that Morg. In Va... some Medical devices like MRIs and other seiercvs have to get permission from the state... they have to get a certificate of "need".and the folks who have the existing equipment will ask for a hearing and go lobby against the new provider and the state will often respond by saying there will be "too many" of something and deny the request.Keep in mind..this is Virginia which is supposed to be one of the more responsibly run states.Further... there is no law in Va that requires hospitals and health care providers to provide a price list of their seiercvs - much less electronically so that an online comparison could be performed.I note that the requirement to provide prices is one of the key part of the Singapore Health System but it's not done voluntarily, it's required by the government.The reality [apparently] is that few health care providers will provide price lists of their seiercvs without the govt forcing them to.

Linda 3 months ago

What do people do now with Electronic Scripts only? I travel for work and can only pick one pharmacy to use for my meds, but if I'm away when the meds are due, than what??

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article