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7 Tips for Flying with Total Parenteral Nutrition

Need to travel with TPN (total parenteral nutrition)? I got you covered in 7 easy steps!

For an updated and more in-depth guide to traveling with TPN check out this post.

1. Prep

A few days before you leave write down all of the medical supplies you will need for your trip. It’s always better to bring a little more than you need just-in-case. Begin the list a few days before you leave instead of doing it last minute; it’s easier to forget things and to make mistakes if you are rushing and feeling anxious. An added bonus to compiling your list ahead of time is that you can revisit it a few times to add anything you forgot to add the first time around.

illustration of notebook paper with list of medical supplies written on it

2. Doctors Orders

Ask your doctor to write you a note declaring why you need to travel with total parenteral nutrition. I’ve never had to use mine but it’s best to have it in case you encounter any issues going through security at the airport. Your doctor should be able to email it to you so that you don’t have to make the trip to the office just to pick it up. Be sure to give them enough time to help you out in this way. 

3. Luggage Choices

Multiple TPN bags are heavy! Not easy for even the healthiest of people to lug around with them all day. TPN also has to be kept cool so you’re going to have to find something to travel with that can keep your TPN cold. I chose a cooler with wheels and an extendable handle. They are super easy to find at most stores or you can find them online. Get one that is large enough for the amount of TPN bags you will be traveling with along with room to spare for ice packs and anything else you need to keep cold. 

*Bonus tip: Call your home med team and let them know that you will be traveling and ask them if they can give you the number of a pharmacy in that area that you can call in case your TPN or supplies gets lost. They can also provide you with advice about traveling with IV nutrition.

4. At the Airport

  • Arrive early to allow extra time going through security. They will need to look through all of your luggage and spend extra time making sure everything you are traveling with is safe. Medical supplies are allowed on the plane free of charge.
  • If you want to check your TPN (remember there is more potential for it to get lost or damaged this way) don't seal the coolers. They will need to look through everything and then you can ask them to tape anything shut if you need that.
  • If you have trouble waiting in long lines or are traveling while not feeling well you can ask if there is a special line for patients with disabilities or get wheelchair assistance.
  • Let people help. If you are traveling alone and are struggling with your luggage or anything else there are people at the airport who can assist you. Do not have too much pride to ask for assistance when you need it.
  • I printed out labels that said ‘medical supplies’ for my cooler so that it would be handled with more care and hopefully not get lost.

5. A Room With A Refrigerator

Call the hotel you are staying in ahead of time to make sure they can guarantee a refrigerator in your room. Many hotels offer small refrigerators in the rooms but I made sure to call ahead to see if they could guarantee that one would be there and explained that I would need to use it for medical supplies that were vital to my health. Depending on the size of the fridge and how many things that you’ll need to store in it you might need to ask for an additional fridge or see if the hotel has one that you can store some stuff in. I’ve had to do this before during a trip to Florida. 

6. Research

Research the area and locate the hospitals, pharmacies, and anything else that may be useful to your situation. Ask your doctor if he or she recommends any hospitals in the area because sometimes the closest hospital isn’t always the best one. When I took a vacation after my 2nd surgery my surgeon told me exactly which hospital he would like me to go to if I ended up in a situation that required me to seek medical care. I was happy to have had that talk with him before traveling so that I felt more prepared about what to do if something unexpected happened. 

7. Enjoy your Trip

Have a great time! Don’t let your TPN stand in the way of doing the things you want to do unless those things are dumb. Then don’t do them. Try to relax and have fun!

*Bonus Tip!*

You can skip a lot of the things listed above if you call your TPN pharmacy a couple weeks before your trip. Most are willing to work with you and ship enough TPN bags along with your supplies to your destination at no extra cost. Just provide them with the dates of your trip and the address they need to ship to. Have them label the packages with your name and a reminder to keep the contents refrigerated. You will need to call the hotel you are staying at and let them know to look for the delivery (explain that it’s medical supplies that you can’t do without) and have them keep it in their refrigerator until you arrive. Doing this step will eliminate a lot of stress as long as you are able to trust that it’ll get shipped and that the hotel will keep it safe. 

Sara

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