Worried about travelling with contact lenses? We bring you the latest tips and advice on how to travel abroad as a contact lens wearer, based on insights from Brendan O’Brien, head optician at Vision Direct.
Pack your eye-care essentials
Whether you are jetting off to another country or hitting the road for a stay-cation, you’ll need to pack some eye essentials to ensure that you have everything with you for your travels. Wearing daily disposable contact lenses from a reputable brand minimises the need for extra solutions and so on, as they are pre-packaged in solution and can simply be thrown away when you are finished with them. That said, being prepared with a few extras in your bag doesn’t do any harm. All contact lens wearers should pack:
- Enough lenses from a trusted retailer for the trip, and a couple of extra pairs as spares
- A copy of your prescription
- A lens case (crucial if you are wearing fortnightly or monthly lenses)
- Glasses and your glasses case
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Eye drops for dry eyes
- A bar of soap (to wash your hands with before handling your lenses)
Don’t wear contact lenses on long-haul flights
Although it may be tempting, your eyes will thank you for it if you keep your lenses out during (any) flight. Because the air in a plane at high altitude is very dry and pressurised, your contact lenses will dry out very quickly during your flight, making your eyes very uncomfortable. It is strongly advised to take your lenses out if you are on a flight that is over two hours in duration.
If your flight is under two hours, be sure to have plenty of contact lens solution that you can use to re-moisten your eyes pre-flight to prevent your lenses from becoming too dry and sore to wear. Make sure your eye drops or solutions are in a container that doesn’t leak, and that they comply with airline liquid regulations.
If you tend to fall asleep on a plane and take a nap, make sure you remove your contact lenses before you board the plane and wear your glasses instead. If you are on a long haul flight, unless your optician has said that you are wearing lenses that are suitable for many hours on a plane, do not wear your contacts and stick to your glasses instead. Not only will your eyes be able to breathe more easily, but you also won’t have the hassle of taking lenses in and out during the flight.
Be aware of liquid restrictions
If you’re taking solutions through security at the airport, make sure they comply with carry-on liquid restrictions and are no more than 100ml. You can’t bring liquids that are more than 100ml on board a plane. Many airports have trusted retailers like well-being and health shops located after security where you can purchase liquids such as eye drops, etc.
Wear UV protection lenses
Whether you’re planning on going to a hot and sunny destination such as a tropical island so that you can hit the beach, or you’re hitting the ski slopes in winter, make sure that you pack special contact lenses that have UV protection built in. There are many good UV lenses available. Did you know that UV sunlight can reflect off of snow? Because UV light can be so damaging to the eyes, wearing protection against it is essential to protect your eyesight. Another protection option is to wear UV sunglasses to shield your eyes from UV damage. Wearing contact lenses with built-in UV protection can also help reduce the risk of you developing cataracts and other eye issues.
Never wear your contact lenses if you decide to go swimming in the sea or in a swimming pool. Although it contains salt, seawater isn’t sterile, and there could be harmful bacteria in either sea or pool water that could cause an eye infection. If you do need to swim with your contact lenses in, opt for a disposable (daily) pair and replace them as soon as you get out of the water. It’s also worth wearing swimming goggles to stop water contact with your eyes.
It is very important to maintain good hygiene when wearing contact lenses, but especially when you are travelling. Carrying a bar of soap and some disinfectant wipes will ensure that your hands are always clean before handling your lenses. If you’re travelling in some countries where water hygiene isn’t great, using a hand gel sanitiser or an antibacterial hand wipe after washing your hands with soap and water will keep bacteria at bay.
Always wash your lenses with saline solution, not water. Washing your lenses in water could put harmful bacteria onto your lenses that could damage or infect your eyes. Finally, always wash your contact lens case every day, and discard saline solution within it. Never re-use saline solution multiple times.