Packing – either you love it or hate it.
As a Type A person, I love creating lists and checking them twice, but when it comes to packing, I hate it. I’m the person that is throwing random items in her backpack five minutes before she leaves for the airport.
Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about packing. You never need as much as you think you do, and you probably don’t need a down jacket in Costa Rica.
One item that always goes into my backpack first is a small first aid kit. Perhaps it’s because I’m a former ski patroller and outdoor lover or maybe I’m just over prepared. Either way, I always recommend travelers bring a small first aid kit.
You might think I’m silly for telling you that you need a first aid kit, but after your first fall from the uneven cobblestone streets in Europe or your first Tomorrowland festival, you’ll thank me later.
While you definitely don’t need a Costco-sized first aid kit or a surgical kit, there are a few essential items that every traveler should have in their travel first aid kit.
This is probably a no brainer. If you take prescription medication, then this is obviously number one on your packing list. This is especially important for things like insulin or EpiPens as those can save your life while on the road.
If you are diabetic or have a severe allergy, you should wear a medical alert bracelet or something that identifies your medical condition. It could save your life.
For example, I’m allergic to amoxicillin and thus can’t be given any antibiotic in the penicillin family. When I travel, I wear my RoadID, which has my name, my emergency contact, allergies, and the fact that I’m an organ donor.
I started wearing it while training for triathlons, but I quickly realized RoadIDs are great for traveling too.
You don’t need to bring bottles upon bottles of meds. It just doesn’t make sense. I’ll buy travel size containers of pain meds and put TUMS in little snack size baggies.
For the most part, you can always buy over-the-counter-medications in the country you’re going so you don’t need to take much. You just need enough to tide you over for a few days if you get food poisoning at 2 a.m.
If you’re going to be traveling in a rural area for extended periods of time, I would suggest a bigger supply as some medications are hard to come by in rural villages.
Items to include:
- Advil (Ibuprofen)
- Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
- TUMS or Pepto-Bismol (Antacid)
- Anti-itch Cream
- Motion Sickness Pills
- Valerian Root or Melatonin Pills
Shopping for over-the-counter medication in foreign countries can be hard if you don’t know the active ingredient in each brand name medication.
Chances are you’re not going to see Pepto-Bismol in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Brazil probably has their own brand.
Below is a list of common US-brand named over-the-counter medications with their active ingredients:
- Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
- Bayer (Aspirin)
- Advil or Motrin (Ibuprofen)
- Aleve (Naproxen)
- Pepto-Bismol (Bismuth subsalicylate)
- TUMS (Calcium carbonate)
Let’s face it. We all fall down and cut ourselves at some point in life. Trying to find someone with a Band-Aid in a foreign country can be difficult.
If you’re adventurous and plan to do some trekking during your travels, you might want to consider taking more items, but the basics should suffice for most travelers.
- Band-Aids of varying sizes
- Antiseptic wipes or ointment
- Hand sanitizer
- Gauze pads (or Maxi pads)*
- Medical tape*
- Instant ice pack*
(*) Items recommended for adventure travelers
Other Bonus Items
Moleskin – If you’re doing a lot of trekking or walking, moleskin can save your feet. Blisters are no fun!
Water purification tablets – Iodine or other forms of water purification tablets are nice to have on hand, especially if you’re trekking or traveling in very rural areas. If you’re sticking to primarily cities, don’t bother.
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) – Cipro is commonly prescribed by travel doctors for severe diarrhea. This is something you can generally get in any country, but it’s nice to have on hand if you need it at 3 a.m. Most doctors will prescribe this for you when you go in for travel vaccinations. I carry it just in case but have never needed it.
I had to use my travel first aid kit for the first time in Greece when a friend got whacked in the head by one of the cabin doors of our yacht.
You never know where you or someone could get injured. While it is always good to be prepared, it is also important to know how to get help in any country you are visiting. You can’t just call 911 and get an ambulance.
Hopefully, you will never need it, but be preparing for the worst can save you or someone else’s life. And that is why my travel first aid kit is always the first item in my backpack.