Do you carry a travel first aid kit with you? While frequently packing random items, after spending a ridiculous amount on bandaids and Tylenol during my last trip, I created this ultimate travel first aid kit. If you have special needs, please adjust accordingly. I’ve previously written about how to avoid getting sick while traveling but a great first aid kit is essential.
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Unless you are traveling to a remote spot, you’ll find pharmacies all over the world stocked with both over-the-counter medications and helpful pharmacists. Whether in France, Belize, Mexico, or Thailand, whenever I’ve had an ailment, a quick chat with the local pharmacist has helped me find treatment for my frequent ear infections (I always forget to pack something for those!). No kidding – I’ve had to ask pharmacists in all these countries for help.
So while the list could include a million items, here are the top 15 essentials your first aid kit should lead you to enjoy a healthier trip. If you prefer to travel with just a carry-on, opt for the solid version of any item on this list to avoid the TSA 3-1-1 rule.
Top 15 Travel First Aid Kit Essentials
#1 Prescription Medications
This goes without saying but if you take prescription medications, you need to pack sufficient medications for the length of your trip. I generally recommend taking an extra two days’ worth just in case there is a delay of some kind. Whether you’re on a cruise ship that detours because of a hurricane or a snowstorm cancels a bunch of flights, travel delays are inevitable. Plus, if you’re always hoping that your flight is overbooked so that you can earn a travel perk, you don’t want to have to decline a great deal because you didn’t have enough medications for an extra night! The TSA medication rules can be found here.
#2 Over-the-Counter Remedies
Do you suffer from frequent ear infections like me? Or perhaps you get irritated eyes due to the change in time zones or dry airplane air? Don’t forget to pack items like my oft-forgotten ear drops or eye drops. So while you can find them at a local pharmacy upon arrival, why spend extra funds on items you have at home?
Even as an adult, small cuts seem unavoidable. Your first aid kit should include bandages that have an antibiotic built in to avoid both an extra item and anything that could count as a liquid if you’re traveling with a carry-on. And while regular bandages are frequently made of plastic, if you’re trying to be environmentally conscious, try the new Patch bandages made out of bamboo.
Available in both the US and Australia, Patch Bandages are made of 100% organic bamboo fiber. These bandages will not only make you heal faster but also feel less guilty if you or a loved one end up covered in them! They come in four formulations: one for cuts and scratches, one for kids’ abrasions and grazes (with coconut oil), one for burns and blisters (with aloe vera), and one for bites and splinters (with activated charcoal). Using these bandages means you can also avoid packing a topical antibiotic ointment. Plus they’re cute as well as functional!
If you tend to get blisters from all the walking you do while traveling, moleskin is easy to pack since a single sheet can provide lots of relief. You will need a pair of scissors to cut the sheet to your desired size, but most hotel front desks and rental properties have a pair that you can use for this purpose. You can also buy them in pre-cut pieces. It takes up very little room in your bag and can be a lifesaver when you feel like you couldn’t take one more step due to blisters.
#5 Sunscreen and Sun Products
The best way to prevent sunburn is to use sunscreen (I use this one on the sensitive skin on my face). But just in case you accidentally spend too much time in the sun (like I did in Barbados), or whether you’re in a destination where you won’t feel the heat of the scorching sun (like in Aruba where the wind makes the air feel cooler), consider adding an aloe vera product to your first aid kit. As someone who has overspent on sunscreen upon arriving at her destinations, take my advice and pack your preferred brand.
Consider a stick or solid sunscreen (or even powder) to get around the dreaded liquids rule. You can even make your own aloe after sun bar!
#6 Pain Relief
Whether caused by changes in the air, time zone, or stress, headaches, and minor aches seem to go hand-in-hand with travel. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen treat both fevers and minor aches and pains. Ibuprofen also works on inflammation like arthritis and muscle cramps. If you tend to overdo activities while traveling (we do!), ibuprofen may be a better fit. Your doctor can help you pick the best option for you.
#7 Anti-diarrheal and Antacid
Nothing ruins a trip more than getting the dreaded Montezuma’s revenge. While taking steps to avoid it in the first place (frequent hand washing, etc), sometimes it is out of your control. If you’re planning to eat a lot of street food, like we did when visiting China, consider asking your doctor for a prescription like Cipro that you can take at the first signs of impending doom.
Trying new foods may lead you to overindulge. Enter some antacids to the rescue. A product like Pepto Bismol pills may work well in both of these situations.
Unless these are already in your beauty bag, add them to your ultimate travel first aid kit. Splinters really suck, and tweezers make quick work of removing them. Tweezers can also help with removing the occasional tick if you go hiking. If you accidentally drop a glass while on vacation and find yourself stepping on a small piece, your tweezers will help you pull out the tiny shard.
#9 Anti-itch Medication
Bug bites are not dangerous but they can be annoying. A hydrocortisone ointment is a lifesaver. Use a travel stick like Benadryl Itch Relief Stick, though keep in mind that while it provides fast relief, it is considered a liquid by TSA and must satisfy the liquids 3-1-1 rule.
#10 Bug Repellant
Always best to avoid bug bites in the first place. If your travel destination is known for these, consider packing some form of bug spray. While sprays are what many of us grew up with, they are not practical if you’re traveling with a carry-on. Instead, choose a product that comes in a solid form, like the Repel Sportsman Insect Repellent Stick. While there are also bracelets designed to keep mosquitoes at bay – I’ve never found them to be very effective personally.
Experiencing new places can serve as a trigger for new allergies. A few antihistamine pills will make your life less miserable. Whether you have a favorite like Zyrtec, Claritin, or Benadryl, pack it. If you don’t have a favorite, ask your doctor or pharmacist for their recommendation. Suffering from an allergic reaction while traveling is no fun but easily remediated with proper planning.
#12 Nausea Medication
From ginger pills to Dramamine to acupressure bands, if you’re prone to motion sickness, pack a few of these. If at all possible, try them beforehand since not every treatment works on everyone. If you know that you have motion sickness, ask your doctor for a prescription, such as a transdermal patch. Medicines may need to be started before your trip, so plan ahead.
#13 Hand Sanitizer
A small bottle of hand sanitizer attached to any bag you carry with you on a trip is a must. It is invaluable when you find yourself in places like bathrooms with no hand soap. Use it frequently when you’re in public spaces after touching surfaces touched by many people. Think of surfaces like the TSA containers, handrails, elevator buttons, and ATM machines. Having clean hands will avoid many infections in the first place.
#14 Disinfecting Wipes
Some surfaces should be wiped down with a disinfecting wipe before you place products or your hands on them. This applies to tray tables in airplanes and tv remote controls in hotels. Think of surfaces that lots of people touch and that are infrequently disinfected. Instead of disposable disinfecting wipes, consider environmentally-friendly products like those made by Norwex. Place the Norwex in a baggie or other container once it is wet.
#15 Vitamins and Supplements
Do you catch a cold every time you fly on a plane? That re-circulated air carries everyone’s germs! Whether due to lack of sleep, or a change in daily routines, lots of travelers either don’t feel their best or get sick. Keep your immune system working its best by taking a multi-vitamin/mineral combination. There’s a good reason there is a product called “Airborne” which is also popular with teachers!
These ultimate travel first aid kit suggestions are not designed for riskier travel plans – such as hiking, adventure, or off-the-beaten-path exploration. Instead, use a more comprehensive first aid kit for those trips such as those recommended by REI or the American Red Cross. Don’t forget to check with your own doctor about any over-the-counter items you’re considering taking. But preparing your ultimate travel first aid kit with these 15 items will make your recovery smoother should you get any minor ailments while traveling.
What is an essential item that you pack in your travel first aid kit?
Annick, The Common Traveler