Prep for a long trek usually involves strategic clothes packing, checking off the ID and money essentials, and stuffing just the right combination of food-hand cleaner-entertainment in your carryon to make the to-and-fro manageable. But who adds a travel first aid kit to the list? Not many – and that could be a problem.
Shuffling off to foreign soil invariably means dealing with unexpected events, and while you can’t anticipate everything, you can ensure that minor health snafus are addressed posthaste. If you’re wondering how to assemble this magical kit, don’t worry; we’ve highlighted the travel first aid kit essentials for you below so all you have to do is assemble, pack, and travel.
Here’s what we recommend for your indispensable travel first aid kit:
- Band-Aids (10) – A given perhaps, but you’ll definitely need Band-Aids of different sizes. Make sure you get ones that can be used for small cuts as well as awkward joints (like knuckles). Oh, and don’t get cloth Band-Aids; they tend to fray and stick to your skin, making removal painful and difficult.
- Alcohol pads (10) – These are helpful to clean cuts and scrapes, even if they don’t really need a Band-Aid. They’re also a heck of a lot better than a bottle of alcohol.
- Sunscreen – More preventive than anything, sunscreen in your always-on-hand travel first aid kit will ensure you never have to suffer with scorched skin.
- Aloe – Assuming you do forget sunscreen – or just don’t apply enough of it – make sure you have aloe to soothe the burn. Try to get aloe vera creams instead of gels as gels often have an abundance of alcohol that dries out the skin.
- Antibacterial ointment – This is an extra layer of protection for use when you get a pesky cut. While doctors have argued about its antibacterial effectiveness, it does help wounds heal faster.
- Burn spray – For more severe burns, have a litocaine-based spray handy. This can be sprayed on the burn site itself, but doesn’t require a lot to make a difference. Relief is almost instantaneous.
- Rash/sting/bite cream – A small container of corticosteroid cream or other over-the-counter topical steroidal treatment (like Cortizone 10) can help reduce inflammation from stings, bites, and rashes.
- Allergy medication – While it’s always a good idea to pack extra allergy medication if you regularly take sprays/pills to manage your allergies, also be sure you have several Benadryl pills available. These will provide near-instant relief from unexpected, mild to moderate allergy symptoms. Just know that Benadryl makes you drowsy. (Note: If you are prone to allergies, especially severe allergies, consult a doctor so you know exactly what to have on-hand during travel. You may be advised to carry an Epipen.)
- Ibuprofen pills (6-10)– We recommend having a few Ibuprofen pills with you in case of headache or general upset. You don’t need a whole bottle; six to 10 pills should do it.
- Sleeping pills (5) – Not being able to sleep when you’re on a trip is the absolute worst. It throws off your entire schedule, leaves your groggy when you’re supposed to be active, and cuts your adventure time short. To help avoid this catastrophe, pack some melatonin. We prefer this to prescription meds as melatonin is over-the-counter and has minimal side effects.
- Small hot/cold compress – If you strain your back or pull a muscle, this can really come in handy. Try to find one that can be heated or chilled so you can get the best of both worlds (hot for tension relief and cold for inflammation reduction).
- Oral thermometer – Suspect you might have a fever? Keep it in check with a thermometer. This won’t help you feel better, certainly, but it will let you know when you need to see a doctor.
- Backup shades and ear plugs – We recommend carrying these with you wherever you are, as they’ll likely promote restful sleep. If you lose your usual set (or forget them), however, it’s nice to have backups in your travel first aid kit.
- Emergency numbers/contacts – Most of us have these in our phones, but just in case you lose your phone (or you can’t use it abroad), be sure you have critical emergency numbers written on a card in your travel first aid kit.
That’s it! It seems like a lot, but a lot of these elements are compact and can be easily tucked into a small pouch. Makeup bags will certainly do the trick, but you can also make use of the expandable Herschel travel pouches – they’re simple, durable, and can hold a lot more than you think.
One final (and critical) note: Always check with a medical professional if you need specific guidance on what medication to take for your ailments/injuries. This travel first aid kit won’t solve all medical problems, but it will make the occasional nick, snag, and fall less of an impediment to vacation enjoyment.