Traveling with dry eye and scleral lenses

Heading to Greece

My husband has been in Metsovo, Greece for two weeks visiting his mother and siblings. Today, I'm heading to California to meet our child (Chaidie) and we will fly over together to join the family for about a week.

Many people ask about strategies for traveling with dry eye and/or scleral lenses - and many more seem to be very intimidated at the thought of travel with challenging eye needs.

So, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some of the things I think about and the things I do while traveling.

Please add your experiences and ideas in the comments!

Part 1: Packing

My ulterior motive for writing this blog post is because I thought it would help ensure that I actually do pack the things I need. Seriously. I am a last-minute planner and from a lifetime of business travel before dry eye, I still catch myself thinking in terms of "as long as I have my passport and credit cards I'll be fine". 

So anyway, here is what I am about to pack :) 


  • Saline: Enough Nutrifill vials to last the whole trip, just in case my suitcase gets lost. I had to think about that one, because I hardly ever check baggage. The weather's still cold in Metsovo and I couldn't fit enough warm clothes and shoes in the compact roller I usually take.
  • MPS*: Travel size Unique pH. 
  • Lens case: Full of fresh Unique pH.
  • Plungers: Big and little.
  • Microfiber cloth to spread on my 'tray table' if I need to mess with my sclerals, and some paper towels in a baggy.
  • Lubricant drops.
  • Quartz silicone shield.
  • Ziena glasses? or goggles that I can put over my reading glasses, or both.
  • 7eye glasses for outdoors, just in case the sun comes out
  • Small moist towel in a zip-lock bag
  • Extra zip-lock baggy for ice water (my go-to for burning/pain)
  • Hand sanitizer, general use but also in case of handling lenses at my seat

Geez. I don't think I've ever actually packed that much. Will I still have room for my laptop?

*Note: I never, ever travel with Clear Care (hydrogen peroxide 3%). That's because I hardly ever check baggage, and once in a long while someone gets told by TSA that they can't keep the Clear Care in their carry-on. I figure if it has happened to others, it could happen to me, and I don't want to ever have to worry about it. So I use a multi-purpose solution for cleaning & disinfection while traveling, even though I normally use hydrogen peroxide at home.

Checked bag:

  • Saline: More saline, because I'm a bit paranoid, so I always overpack.
  • Extra plungers and lens case. Just in case.
  • BlinkJoy: That new goggle (sorry, not on our site), tossing in the suitcase in case I feel motivated to try it again while I'm there.

Key chain:

  • Removal plunger in a pill case.

Part 2: Seattle to San Francisco (3:15 to 9:00)

Getting to the airport

Early flights are challenging for me, because I avoid driving in the dark and I live nearly 1.5 hours from the airport, so whenever possible, I carpool. This time, the flight leaves at 7:00 and I'm on my own. I decided to get a door-to-door service from home to the airport. It's not much more expensive than gas and parking for a week. 

Lenses out?

I virtually never leave home without my sclerals in. However... my ride comes at 3:15 and I really have to have at least six hours of sleep before putting in my sclerals or my eyes will be too unhappy to deal with an airport and a flight.

So I'm going to be a little adventurous, leave my lenses out, and don my Zienas for the car ride. 


My tentative plan is to try to keep my lenses out till I get to San Francisco. 

But I'm leaving the door open for three possibilities:

One, the moment I walk into the airport I decide this is truly not for me, and I make a beeline for the nearest family restroom to get my lenses in. Realistically, I'm asking someone to help me find it. 

Two, I get my bag tagged and make it through security and find my eyes feel too roughed up to face a flight without my sclerals. In that case, I'm heading for the restroom nearest to the gate and putting them in there. (Incidentally, those enormous fans at security are... not fun to be around, especially when you get chosen for a spot-check.)

Or three, I make it all the way to San Francisco....

Flight to SFO (7:00 am)

Easy peasy, I do this length flight pretty regularly. If my lenses are in, I'll read. (Note to self: I really need some of those bifocal Zienas.) If they're out, I'll flood them with drops, put on some goggles and take a nap; then, when we land, I'll head for the nearest restroom to put my lenses in.

I'm hanging at SFO for a full day and am planning to do all my last minute work there before vacation, so I'll have my lenses in.

Part 3: San Francisco to Thessaloniki

SFO-IST: 6:30pm to 5:20pm the next day 
IST-SKG: 6:50pm to 8:10pm

Yeah, we got super cheap flights on Istanbul airlines. I paid about as much for these as I did in 1988 when I first went to Greece as a teenager.

San Francisco to Istanbul is almost 13 hours. I have honestly not been on a flight that long in many, many years. (When I went to Australia last year, it was on a similarly cheap deal on Fiji Airlines, so I had a break in Fiji on the way.)

My original intention was "no lenses in flight" - it's an overnight flight, so I want to sleep. I really, really, really dislike handing my sclerals in flight if I can avoid it - it's too crowded to feel safe doing it in economy class, and the lavatories are scary, especially towards the end of a long-haul flight. 

However, writing this narrative in all its gory detail made me realize that I don't think my plan is going to quite work. 13 hours is just way too long. I'm thinking now I'll keep my lenses in for a couple hours, take them out at my seat (that's where the microfiber towel comes in handy), sleep, then maybe a couple hours before landing put them back in. Definitely going to need them in as we have a relatively tight connection in Istanbul that does not leave much room in case the inbound flight is delayed.

After that, it's just an hour or so flight to Thessaloniki, and I'll have my lenses in unless my eyes are too roughed up at that point, then customs and get a shuttle to the hotel and max out on wet compresses and drops on arrival.

Writing this makes me think of all the people who need stands and ample space and time for lens insertion. If that was me, my best resources would be 'family' restrooms at the airport, and begging a flight attendant for access to the first class lavatory - that's where using the language of eye prosthetic devices, rather than contact lenses, comes in handy. Also possible to do at one's seat - though possibly not an aisle seat. I think if I had to I'd ask the person next to me to stand up for a little bit. 

Part 4: Enjoying the time there

It will be great. Have drops, sclerals and 7Eyes, will be fine. 

I'm renting a car, and I'm not quite sure what goggles/sunglasses I'll use. But as long as I have enough sleep and any long drives are in the early part of the day, I should be fine.


We're overnighting in Thessaloniki, then dropping off our rental car.

Monday, May 1 looks like this:

  • Thessaloniki to Istanbul, 1.5 hours
  • 2.5 hr layover
  • Istanbul to San Francisco, 13.5 hours
  • 3 hr layover
  • San Francisco to Seattle, ~2 hours

Honestly, that's going to be a hard day no matter what I do and my main goal will be to just get through it without any corneal erosions. I'm planning to start the day with sclerals in (leaving for airport about 6am), leave them in for the Istanbul flight and the layover and maybe the first three hours or so of the flight to SFO, then put them back in just before or after landing. 

In flight, it's going to be all about either goggles or sealed glasses; lots and lots of drops when my sclerals aren't in; wet rag when I need the relief, or put some ice water in a zip-lock baggy and wrap that in the microfiber cloth. And of course staying hydrated.

Wrapping up

Writing this blog post has been interesting. On the one hand, I'm glad I did because now I'm feeling very motivated to actually pack all those things that I put in the list. But writing this also made me actually think and therefore worry a bit more about the trip... my usual habit being to mostly wing it.

The truth is, I know I'll be fine; I'm glad that I'm doing a bit more planning this time; and I hope there are nuggets in this post for someone who is considering traveling.

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  • Good blog for travellers with dry eyes and scleral lenses. Things to pack and things to get ready. Exceptional work. -Aris Vision CDMX

    Aris Vision CDMX on
  • Thank you for this post and blog in general! I’m a new scleral lens user and this post and blog has relieved a lot of anxiety in the event of travel. I haven’t done so yet with my scleral lenses but this helps immensely to prepare me for any upcoming trips!

    One tip I’d like to share: I have a couple of pairs of premium nurse’s cargo scrub pants that are my go-to for trips. They are comfortable, made for hours of wear, made with anti-bacterial fabric, spill/stain resistant, and have anywhere from 7 to 13 deep, functional pockets depending on the brand. They manage to do all this and still look designed to be worn in public. You don’t need to be a nurse to buy or wear them – well known brands are Figs, Med Couture, Carhartt. I put everything I possibly need for the flight in a large hanging toiletries bag which serves as my workstation, and load up my pockets with what I want to keep on my person at all times just before boarding the plane.

    Elaine on
  • Thank you for such excellent information! I am planning a safari trip in October and feel pretty concerned about the Sclerals. I will continue to think and prep. Your post does a lot to help. Thanks to the folks who took time to add comments!! I usually use hot compresses (10minutes morning and evening) but feel some concern about being able to keep the compress clean…I guess it is all a trial and error process. Again Thank you!!

    Sherry on
  • Thank you for this info. I’m a relatively new scleral lens wearer and all your issues and mine add up to very stressful travel. One question: what is MPS?

    Jean Lawyer on
  • Thank you so much for all the extremely useful information. I too have been wanting to plan a European vacation, but was anxious about flying with scleral lenses. Thank you for being such a great resource of information and providing us scleral users with product. I am so happy that I found the Dry Eye Shop. Keep up the great work and enjoy your trip to Greece.

    Debby on

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