Traveling with contact lenses & glasses: A Quick Guide

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Should you take monthlies or dailies? How much contact lens solution should you take? Should you take your usual glasses?

Before I embarked on my Round The World adventure, I asked my optician what he thought and his advice served me well so I thought I would share it with you:

Monthlies vs. dailies

The first piece of information my optician parted to me was that if you are happy with your lenses, stick with them. Travelling with lenses you’ve never tried or tested before is risky because eyes can be very sensitive, and it could be one or two months before you realise that a new pair is causing problems.

However, if you’re reading this with plenty of time to spare and have the opportunity to try a more travel-friendly lens, definitely consider the following:

  • If you wear monthlies, opt for a pair that you can sleep in. Long days that roll on well into the sociable night, overnight buses, and air conditioning make 8 hour lenses less practical. You want to ensure that if you accidentally fall asleep in your lenses or if you have a long day out, you won’t be left gouging your eyes out.
  • Dailies are great for backpacking trips lasting three to four months, especially where sanitation is poor and quality contact lens solution is difficult to buy. Bottles of solution will only weigh you down, even if they’re travel sized, and dailies are more hygienic than monthlies. Plus, if you lose or damage a lens it’s not as troublesome as you’ll be due a new pair the next day.
  • My optician recommended that for a year-long trip I should continue using my monthlies. He didn’t think that I would want to carry a large expensive box of lenses backpacking. My monthlies took up next to no room, and I carried two bottles of solution to last me four month until I could buy more.
  • Dailies can be almost double the price of monthlies. For me, the bottom line was that I couldn’t justify the extra expense when my monthlies were working just fine.

I wore monthlies for the entirety of my trip. My only regret is that I didn’t upgrade to a pair that could be worn night and day (24hrs).

Buy as many as you need for your trip, plus extra

Between dirty hostel bathrooms and long journeys, lenses can be easily lost or damaged on the road, so make sure that you have a few extra pairs for back up, especially when it comes to monthlies.

Just make sure that you have a copy of your prescription, including the type of lens that you use, in case you need to buy any more.

Tip: If you’re travelling to Australia and/or New Zealand from the UK, and are planning on staying there for longer than a few months, consider purchasing your lenses from Specsavers. Specsavers exists in all three countries, making re-purchasing identical lenses super easy and affordable as you won’t be paying for international delivery. You can order lenses online without attending an eye exam – you only need to know the prescription.

How much solution should you take?

Now, this is contrary to what my optician advised me, but if you want to carry the full-sized bottles of solution that you’ve already bought with your lenses, you need to work out how much you use per month and take no more than this. (Otherwise your bag will weigh a tonne!) For me that works out as one bottle every two to three months.

However, opticians advise that you use a new bottle every month – if you want to do this, take travel sized bottles.

Hygiene

Take it from someone who had an agonising blocked tear duct on the road, eye hygiene is vital.

Either wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you handle your lenses. If you wear monthlies, take the time to ‘wash’ them between your thumb and forefinger with solution every evening.

When travelling it is easier to use a standard pot for storing your lenses in, but it’s actually more hygienic to use a barrel case.

If you are prone to dry eyes it may be worth talking to your optician about switching to dailies, or monthlies that can be worn day and night, as you want optimum hygiene and as maximum oxygen to reach your eyes.

A barrel case is the most hygienic way to store your lenses

A barrel case is the most hygienic way to store your lenses

Store your lenses in a hard plastic container

I didn’t do this and stored mine in a ziplock bag. However, with no hard plastic container to protect them, a number of my lenses were squished and damaged in my backpack. Not only that, but these squished lenses then split open, their solution leaking, soaking and thus ruining many of the other lenses.

Keep your lenses safe from thieves and accidents

Don’t ever store your lenses in your hold luggage on a flight.

On every flight I take, I always keep a travel sized bottle of solution along with all of my contact lenses in my hand luggage. That way, if my hold luggage is lost I won’t lose my lenses.

On other modes of public transport, if you want to be super cautious, store 50% of your lenses in your day bag and 50% in your main backpack so that if one bag is stolen, you’ll still have the other half of your lenses.

Lock them in your locker in hostels, not because people will necessarily want to steal them, but because they may accidentally be stolen if someone runs off with your bag.

Bring a spare pair of specs

I was loving life in my usual glasses until someone thought that it would be fun to throw me into a swimming pool, clothes and all, on a celebratory night in Fiji. The force of the water hitting the side of my face actually bent my glasses slightly and they didn’t sit straight after that.

Luckily I had a spare pair that cost just £25 and I wasn’t left perpetually adjusting my glasses for the remainder of my trip.

If you’re only backpacking for a couple of months and you would be devastated losing/breaking your designer glasses, it may be wise to take a more affordable pair in their place.

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I hope these tips help. Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips when it comes to travelling with either glasses or contact lenses.

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