Home Tips and Tricks What To Do If You Forget Your Medications When Traveling

What To Do If You Forget Your Medications When Traveling

by joeheg

With so many things you need to remember when going on a trip, it’s understandable if you leave something at home. That’s why I still use a packing list. If you forget your toothbrush, toothpaste or comb, you can get those items at your hotel. However, if you’ve forgotten to bring your high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid or any other prescription medication with you, it could ruin your once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Luckily for you, your unfortunate experience isn’t the first time this has happened and pharmacies are there to help you. Here’s a guide to help you get your medications and get back to your trip.

(Please note, the instructions below are only if you usually get your prescriptions filled in the United States. If you’re from outside the United States and have forgotten your medication, you might need to see a medical provider licensed to practice in the U.S. to get new prescriptions for your medications.)

There are three things you need to know:

  1. You need to have a prescription that can be filled at the pharmacy
  2. You need to know if your insurance will pay for the medication and which pharmacies are in your plan’s network (unless you’re willing to pay out of pocket)
  3. You need to call a pharmacy that meets the requirements of step 2 to have them transfer your medication or have your doctor send a prescription to the pharmacy

You need to have a prescription

Just because you take medication doesn’t mean you have a refill that the pharmacy can easily transfer. While everything is easier if you have a refill for your blood pressure medication at your home pharmacy and it’s a weekday during business hours, you’ll have a more difficult time getting medication if you usually deal with a mail-order pharmacy, have no refills available and/or it’s a weekend, holiday or after business hours. A pharmacy needs to have a current order from a doctor, nurse or other authorized prescriber on file to give you medication. Don’t expect to walk into a pharmacy, say you need medication and have the pharmacist hand you some tablets.

It’s also important to know that states have different rules about prescriptions. Some locations don’t allow transfers of certain medications like sleeping pills, anxiety tablets or pain medications. Even if you have a written prescription from your doctor, a pharmacy may not be able to accept it, or if they can, it may require additional work to fill it. Don’t expect to drop it off and wait for 15 minutes like you do at home.

If you forget medications at home, I suggest calling your home pharmacy FIRST and see if you have a refill that they can transfer. It’s a straightforward process to have the pharmacy where you are to call your pharmacy at home if you have a refill available. If your hometown pharmacy tells you that you have no refills, you should then call your doctor and describe your situation once you find a pharmacy using the steps below. They’ll need to send a prescription to the pharmacy for you. Most offices understand situations like these (after all, everyone knows how stressful it is to travel, so they usually go out of their way to help you) and send a prescription to a pharmacy near to where you are. Once you’ve decided on which pharmacy you’re using, you can provide that information to the doctor’s office.

Will your insurance pay for the medication, and where can you go?

Just because you have insurance for your prescriptions doesn’t mean your insurance company will automatically approve payment for a refill just because you left your meds on the dining room table. The insurance computer systems are designed to reject claims for refills that are requested too soon. This isn’t a problem if you were almost out of medication, but if you just picked it up a week ago, you’re likely to run into a problem at the pharmacy near where you are.

I’d suggest you’d contact your insurance plan by calling the customer service number on the card and explaining your situation. See if there are any overrides they can provide that will allow you to get an emergency supply of medication for your trip. Plans differ in when they allow overrides and the copay they charge. Understand, you may need to pay more or get a smaller amount than usual; these are special situations, and while they may be willing to work with you, it might cost you. They want you to stay on your meds, but they also weren’t the ones who forgot them at home.

Also, ask your insurance company what pharmacies you can go to in the area. Most times they can search by zip code and provide a list of pharmacies that are in-network. Most commercial plans are nationwide, but some state-sponsored assistance programs (i.e. Medicaid) are restricted to the home state. In these cases, you may be required to pay for the medication yourself. Better to find this out before heading to the pharmacy. With this information, you should be able to select where you want to get your medication filled.

Contact the Pharmacy

Now that you know if you have refills at your pharmacy at home and know if you will be able to use your insurance, contact a pharmacy that meets your needs.

There are a bunch of things to take into consideration. How far is the pharmacy from where you are? Do they have your medication in stock? This isn’t a problem for common meds, but if you’re taking a less-used medication or strength, the pharmacy may have to special order it, or you might need to pick a different location. Do you have transportation? If you’re in the middle of a road trip, this isn’t a problem but if you’re staying at an isolated resort, this can be an issue. You might have to take a taxi or Uber/Lyft to get to the pharmacy.

You can always ask the hotel’s front desk if they have a pharmacy that they deal with. There might even a place with a delivery service to the hotel. Hopefully, it’s a place on the list of pharmacies you just researched.

When calling the pharmacy, explain the situation. Tell them that you need to get medication because you left it at home, or whatever the reason is. Ensure they have it in stock (or can get it in a reasonable amount of time). If you need to get it transferred from your home pharmacy, have that information ready. If you need your doctor to send in the prescription, verify the pharmacy info, such as the address and correct phone number.

It’s best to get everything taken care of before you even go to the pharmacy. The ideal situation is that all you need to do is show up and pick up your medication.

Final Thoughts

The pharmacy will be able to take you through the final steps from here. There are some things that you should know. If you need to pay for your medication yourself, it isn’t necessary to get a whole prescription. Pharmacies can dispense enough for 2 weeks, 1 week or even 1 day worth of medication. Ask if there are any discounts or if they can prorate the price for a vacation supply. You can also see if they accept discounts from programs like GoodRx or AAA. You can get a code on your phone that could save you a bunch of money.

Forgetting your medication is stressful, but pharmacies deal with situations like this all the time. If you’re in Orlando or Las Vegas, they deal with this every day. Doing a little bit of the work yourself will help you avoid many of the problems people face when trying to get medications. It will also help you get on the good side of the pharmacy staff, which never hurts.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Gene November 27, 2019 - 11:40 am

I think insurance should be the least important consideration if your medications are for a serious/chronic condition. Your health is more important than the cost. You can often use an app like GoodRx to save a substantial amount on your prescription, even without insurance. You can also usually submit for reimbursement from your insurance/FSA later, although you may not receive the full benefit to which you are accustomed.

joeheg November 27, 2019 - 10:41 pm

If you’ve forgotten something like an insulin pen, getting just one can cost several hundred dollars and there’s no guarantee you’ll get reimbursed. In that case, checking with insurance will be a smart idea.

derek November 27, 2019 - 1:29 pm

I have heard stories of drug addicts calling a doctor at the destination and saying “car ran over medicine” or “stray dog ate it” but only the opioids and not the blood pressure medicine or diabetes pills. Yeah, right.

It pays to make a standard packing list.

Documents: credit cards, ID, passport, money
Kitchen: medicines
Bath: toothpaste, toothbrush, floss
Bedroom closet: clothes and underwear, etc. ….

Mathew November 27, 2019 - 2:20 pm

Don’t ask me! New wife left her pills for our honeymoon. We never wanted children:(


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