Traveling with your contact lenses? These 9 tips will help
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, it’s easy to slip out of your normal routine. Maybe you skip your daily workouts. Perhaps you overindulge in food and fun.
You might even fail to follow your usual regimen for wearing and caring for your contact lenses.
Unfortunately, slacking off when it comes to your contacts could result in hassles, discomfort, or, worse yet, an eye infection.
Here are nine tips for being prepared and equipped to travel with contact lenses:
1. Pay attention to your eyewear prescriptions
At least a few weeks before you pack your business suit or bathing suit, get your eyes checked to make sure your contact lens and eyeglass prescriptions are up to date.
This is especially important if you’re going to be away from home for an extended period or if you’re headed to another country.
Aside from bringing a backup pair of glasses with you, put copies of your prescriptions in an accessible bag in case of an emergency.
The numbers that appear on your prescriptions are recognized around the world, meaning you can order new contacts or glasses in Texas or Taiwan.
IS YOUR PRESCRIPTION UP TO DATE? Find an eye doctor near you and make an appointment.
2. Pack all your eye care gear
In addition to contact lens solution and a backup pair of glasses, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry suggests taking a few leak-proof contact cases, spare contacts and any other eye care supplies you need.
You may not use all of it, but it’s best to be on the safe side.
3. Know the travel security rules
Whether you’re flying to Boston or Budapest, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations could affect you as a wearer of contact lenses.
TSA allows contact lenses in both carry-on and checked bags, but contact lens solution is another story.
A container of contact lens solution in your carry-on bag must contain 3.4 ounces of liquid or less, and all of your carry-on liquids must fit into a clear quart-size plastic bag.
The amount of liquids in your checked bag isn’t restricted.
A smart move when you’re flying: Pack a travel-size container of contact lens solution in your carry-on and a larger container in your checked bag.
However you divide it up, make sure you’ve got enough solution to last the entire trip.
4. Consider switching to disposable contact lenses
If you’ll be visiting a place with less-than-ideal hygiene conditions, the University of Michigan’s Student Life University Health Service recommends using daily disposable contact lenses.
With disposables, you can toss them each night without having to clean or store them.
5. Practice good contact lens hygiene
No matter where you are traveling, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your contact lenses or your eyes, advises the University of Michigan.
Your hands should be dry before touching a lens or an eye.
Remove and clean your lenses every day, and wash your lens case with storage solution.
Furthermore, wear your contacts only for the recommended period and resist the urge to leave your contact lenses in overnight, says the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Also, never use water for contact lens storage, warns the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More about that next.
6. Don’t wear contacts in the water
Whether you want to splash around in the ocean or do laps in the hotel swimming pool, remove your contacts before entering the water.
Your risk of fungal, bacterial or amoeba-borne eye infections goes up when you wear contacts while swimming, says the University of Michigan.
Courtesy of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, here are three pointers for wearers of contact lenses who do decide to keep them in while swimming:
Wear daily disposable contacts, if possible, and toss them once you’re done swimming.
Put on goggles before going into the water.
Throw soft contacts away after getting out of the water, even if they’re not daily disposable contacts.
7. Shield yourself from the sun
Just as you apply sunscreen to your skin, you should take precautions to protect your eyes from exposure to dangerous UV rays. One way to protect yourself: Consider getting contact lenses with UV protection.
Other precautions include wearing polarized sunglasses, a large-brimmed hat and UV-blocking contacts, according to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
8. Don’t take chances with your sight
If one or both of your eyes become red, painful, blurry or sensitive to light, remove your contact lenses right away, the University of Alabama at Birmingham says. After that:
Put your contacts in their case rather than throw them away. Doctors might want to take cultures from the contacts or the case to figure out what’s bothering your eyes.
Wear glasses until you can get your eyes checked by a doctor.
Obey your eye doctor’s orders about your contacts. For instance, if your doctor tells you to stop wearing contacts for a week to give your eyes time to heal, follow their advice.
ARE YOUR EYES RED OR IRRITATED? Find an eye doctor near you and schedule an exam.
9. Don't buy questionable contacts
Outside the US, you might spot contact lenses for sale in corner stores. Simply put: Don’t buy them.
Never purchase contacts unless they’ve been prescribed for you, the CDC says. Wearing contacts that haven’t been prescribed can harm your vision.
If you're traveling abroad, especially in the UK, you can get replacement contact lenses from a trusted international eyewear retailer like Vision Direct.
Page published in August 2019
Page updated in January 2021