With summer almost upon us, thoughts turn to travel.  Travelling with dry eyes can be nerve wracking but equally many of our members tell us the warm Mediterranean sun makes their eyes feel better than in the UK.

We asked regular traveller and dry eye/RCE patient Hilary Johnman for some pointers.  These are her 15 top tips.

I fly with dry eyes and RCE (recurrent cornea erosions) every few weeks, both long haul and short haul and here are some of my tips.  Although not all my tips are directly eye related, they work for as seamless a journey as possible.

My travel tips
1. I wear cargo pants with pockets or a belt bag to keep my items close by.  If I am going to be separated from my bag/belt bag/liquids as they go through security, I do a last-minute set of eye drops before putting my items into the bin.

If I have inadvertently left a lip gloss or liquid out of my clear plastic liquids bag and my bin goes for additional security examination I could be parted from my drops for a while and I don’t want to be anxious so doing drops immediately before I go through security makes me feel comforted.


  1. I wear Ziena dry eyeglasses for my entire trip, including at the airport. These glasses have a silicone cup around the eye so they stop breezes and create a higher humidity around my eyes.

Planes and airports have differing levels of humidity (new planes usually have better climate control than older planes and long-haul flights tend to be drier in my experience).


  1. I wear a baseball cap (or backless hat like a baker boy) to stop breezes from overhead vents (I close any above me but often get draughts from other people and nowadays the planes control their own aircon centrally and vents are not always in your control).
  2. I take an instant self heating eye bag for a hot compress on the plane/car (Amazon has loads of them sold as self heating spa eye masks). This also helps to remove ointment towards the end of a flight.
    5. I put ointment in before the plane takes off (usually in the toilet but if I do it at my seat, I will ask my neighbours not to jiggle me while I do it) and I carry a x10 magnifying mirror with LED light which I use to see clearly.


  1. I wear my Ziena on a glasses chain around my neck. I have a pair for normal use and a pair for reading/tv. The chains mean I don’t have to put them down on anything if I am attending to my eyes or using drops.

I swap between them during the flight but if my eyes are particularly dry/sore I use Eyeseals (silicone sleeping mask) as well as ointment.  When I reach my destination, I have Ziena glasses with sunglasses lenses if the sun is intense.

  1. I wipe down the whole area I’m in. This reduces the risk of me inadvertently touching my eyes with dirty hands. I use anti-bacterial hand wipes during the flight. I prefer wipes to gel and I can clean my phone with them or my Ziena if I ever drop them (it happens sometimes despite the glasses chain).

If I go into the toilet I put a hand towel down before placing any drops/mirror/phone on to a surface.

  1. I use drops as well as ointment throughout the flight.
  2. I use special eye wipes (Blephaclean in the UK) to remove migrated ointment from my skin when I land. I use Blephasol liquid and lint free cotton pads during my trip. I use Kleenex Allergy tissues which are safe to clean the eye area and do not drop fibres.

I carry a travel safe pen knife which has scissors (mine is Victorinox Jet setter) in case individual eye wipe packages don’t open easily.  The packaging on Blephaclean wipes can be difficult to get into.

  1. I drink constantly. Lots of water but zero alcohol. I eat melon/watermelon as hydrating food.
  2. I travel with spare Ziena and spare nose pads for Ziena having learnt from experience that things can break while you are away, and it causes anxiety if you can’t get what you need. I wear Ziena when I am outdoors or in a breezy or dry environment indoors.

I always carry a lens cleaner.  When using ointment on the flight the lenses tend to get dirty with migrated ointment.

  1. I take lots of spare medication. I take it in original packaging, unopened and with a prescription where possible. I also carry a copy of my latest ophthalmologist’s letter. Medication can be in a separate clear plastic bag to other liquids and does not count towards your single bag liquids limit.

I have been asked many times to show my passport at the security queue and the security person has checked every box against my name to ensure it is my medication. I take everything I need in hand luggage and more in the hold luggage . I have spare medication for this reason, and I make sure I check all ‘use by’ dates before I travel.  I have never been asked to throw medication away because it goes over one liquids bag but technically that is the rule.  I split medication liquids and other liquids into different bins.

13.I take instant eye bags and an electric heat wand (mine is by Peep Club – but I use it without vibrations) as a hot compress if a microwave for a rice bag compress is not available during my trip (remember to pack the charging cable and adaptor for the heat wand).


  1. I take a decongestant nose spray and anti histamine tablet for emergency use if I need to clear my passages.  These are bad for my dry eyes, so I only use them in an emergency. I suck menthol sweets during take off and landing before resorting to any nasal spray or tablet that will dry my eyes.

– I wear swimming goggles in the shower.  I also do this in the UK but I am extremely careful when travelling to countries where the water is less safe.  I am cautious about dry eyes causing erosions which are exposed to unsafe water. [Closing your eyes when showering has also been suggested as an alternative].

  1. Hotel aircon can be very drying and my eyes need to be managed carefully. I take a travel pillow with a clean case (which I change every 3 nights) so a relatively clean pillow is near to my eyes and against my skin. I put eye drops under my pillow so I know I can find them if I wake with dry eyes. I have also been known to tie string from the bathroom door to the bedside table so I can get up in the night in a very dark hotel room without opening my eyes and risking an erosion from dry eyes! The hotel room environment controls are often on a timer so any changes you make, eg, to turn off the aircon, will revert to the default setting after a set period of time. I always wear Eyeseals with ointment to sleep in a hotel to prevent my eyes drying out overnight.  I place an instant heating eye mask next to the bed so I can use that to melt the ointment and lubricate my eyes if I wake up with dry eyes.

Thanks to Hilary for a comprehensive list of tips.

There are additional challenges when it comes to travelling with scleral lenses or autologous/allogenic serum.

For sclerals, the best source of information is the ‘My Big Fat Scleral Lens’ website from friend of the DEAUK Rebecca Petris. They have a comprehensive guide https://www.mbfsl.org/travel-guide.

A few of the DEAUK committee members have travelled with serum and the biggest challenge is keeping it cold on a long journey including a flight. You can purchase a small medical cool box, but remember to fly with freezer blocks frozen. If they are defrosted, they count as liquid and will likely be confiscated. Another member flies with the serum inside a large ice filled thermos flask, with the flask packed in checked luggage. He has found it stays frozen due to the low temperatures in the planes hold. The slight risk here is if your bag goes missing, so do your drops.

However you store them, if you speak to the administrative staff at NHS Blood and Transplant, they will send you a letter which explains what the drops are and why they need to be stored frozen should you require it for airport security.

Make sure you travel with something to store the drops in when you are out and about on your holidays. Please note Frio wallets, although popular do not keep the drops at the required temperature (i.e. fridge temperature below 4°), they only maintain them at ‘room temperature’. The best thing I have found for hot climates is a small flask designed for insulin pens. The smallest I have found are from Dison Care, and 4allfamily, both available online – links below. Unfortunately, the Dyson care single pen flask is not currently available on their Amazon page which means high shipping costs from the US.  Since the NHS have started using the new design bottles for serum with a wide plastic label, I have found that these need to be trimmed with scissors to get them to fit in either of these small flasks.

Obviously, the freezer block needs to be refrozen and drops stored when you are away. This requires either self-catering accommodation or negotiation with the individual hotel.



(the fact that this has ‘this is my special life’ emblazoned over it is, in my opinion, an added bonus!)

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