How to Ensure You Have Enough Medication for Your Vacation

You’re packing for your month-long trip to Europe, but suddenly realize you don’t have enough medication for the whole vacation and it’s too early to refill. What do you do?

The first thing you should do is contact your prescription insurance company about the possibility of getting a “vacation supply.” A vacation supply is a clause in your insurance plan that allows you to fill a prescription early, usually for a month’s supply or longer. However, not all insurance plans provide it; coverage is based on your specific plan benefits. That’s why it’s important to check if you have that provision before going to the pharmacy. Another reason to check with your insurance company first is that many insurance companies require you to notify them about the details of your trip in order to start the approval process.

Once you have started the ball rolling with insurance, your next step is to contact your pharmacy. It’s best to give your pharmacy staff as much advance notice as possible. If you’re going on an extended vacation and will need more medication than you usually fill at one time, it may take the pharmacy a few days to order enough of the drug to complete the prescription. Keep in mind that different pharmacies have different ordering systems and sometimes there may be a manufacturer backorder you’re not aware of.

You’ll also want to give them plenty of time to contact the insurance company if there are any issues processing the vacation supply once the medication is in stock. Some state-funded insurances, like Medicaid, are only open during weekday business hours. So, if your plane is leaving at 10 a.m. on a Saturday and you let your pharmacy know that morning, chances are you won’t be able to get your vacation supply.

Insurance caveats

Other important things to know about vacation supplies are the caveats. Most insurance plans will authorize only one vacation supply per calendar year. Some insurances even combine this clause with a “lost or stolen medication” one. So, if you use your vacation supply for the year on a trip and then your medication is stolen later in the year, you’ll have to pay out of pocket or wait to refill.

The majority of insurance companies also have strict rules on how to fill your vacation supply. For instance, they won’t let your pharmacy process the vacation supply until five days before your departure date. Recently, many companies are even cracking down on what qualifies as a vacation supply – if you’re not leaving the continental US, then you aren’t eligible. Their reasoning is you can always transfer your refill to wherever you’re going in the U.S. (This, by the way, is usually quite simple. Just go to a pharmacy wherever you are vacationing with your prescriptions; they can call your regular pharmacy and arrange a transfer. Again, allow a few days time).

While it may seem a bit intimidating to try to get a vacation supply, just make sure you plan ahead and you’ll be fine.

About the Author

Julie Kaplan, Pharm. D.
Julie Kaplan is a licensed pharmacist in Virginia and the District of Columbia. She received a Bachelor’s of Arts in English from The College of William and Mary and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has experience in patient communication from working as a retail pharmacist.