My general advice for anyone packing for a trip is to only take things that you know you will use or need, but there is one item you should always pack and hope that you never have to use it: A medical kit.
You can buy medical kits from retail stores like Target or adventure stores like REI, but the best medical kit is designed by you to meet your specific health needs, your destination and your type of travel. However, there are some things that every travel medical kit should have, including the following items:
Pills and Medications:
Prescription medication – Because the availability of your prescription is unknown in other parts of the world, you should carry enough of any of your personal medications to last for the duration of your trip. These are supposed to be left in their original containers with your name and dosage clearly labeled on them, but I often mix pills and have never had a problem with it. Nonetheless, this will depend on what countries you are entering, so contact the consulate or embassy of the destination country prior to travel if you think there might be any issues.
Destination-specific medications – Such as anti-malarial pills.
Pain relievers – Everyone has a preferred pain reliever, and not all pain relievers are available overseas, so pack your favorite to keep with you.
Stomach and digestive tract medications – Food is one of the hardest things to adjust to when you travel, so carry a supply of anti-diarrhea medication such as Pepto-Bismol, a mild laxative, antacid and oral rehydration mix.
Cold and throat medication – If you have allergies or are susceptible to colds, take cold medication, throat lozenges and allergy medication. People with asthma or respiratory problems need to plan accordingly.
Anti-motion sickness meds – If this is a problem for you.
First Aid Items:
Band-aids – In a variety of sizes.
Cream medications – This includes anti-bacterial cream such as Neosporin, an anti-fungal cream and anti-itch cream.
Skin glue – If you plan on being somewhere with questionable medical services, skin glue can provide a quick fix for stitches if necessary.
Ace bandage – To wrap sprained or twisted appendages.
Tweezers – Some people say you should check these as they can be confiscated going through security at the airport, but I’ve never had a problem.
Moleskin – If you happen to get blisters.
Sunscreen and aloe vera – To avoid and treat minor burns.
Other Helpful and Related Things:
Anti-bacterial hand wipes or spray
In addition to these items, you should also carry a piece of paper or card with information that includes the following: Full name and home address, address of current lodging, contact information for a friend or family member, medical insurance information and contact information for the local embassy. Before you leave home, translate any medical conditions of note and have them written down in the local language so you can communicate with medical professionals at your destination if necessary.
I carry my medical kit with me on the airplane, and then I carry a pared down version during my day trips when I don’t have my full backpack with me.
Every time I return home from a trip, I restock anything that has run low or run out, just to make sure I always have the most comprehensive kit on hand. The last thing you want to do is get stuck somewhere without any bandages or pain reliever when you need it most.
Now it’s your turn to share: What other items do you include in your travel first aid kit?