What to Take in a Travel First Aid Kit

The key to a good travel first aid kit is that it’s versatile, accomplishes what you need it to, but also isn’t overboard – after all, you have to carry it with you. Thus the core question for a travel first aid kit is “what is the minimum viable first aid kit you can or should take?”

The answer to that question does depend somewhat on you, your health situation, and of course – where you’re going to go and what you plan to do. A first aid kit for India is almost always going to be different from what you’d take to Paris. But a few things will always be in common.

Personally, I don’t recommend taking one of the prepackaged “travel first aid kits” you can get on Amazon or at Walmart/Target. These tend to be packed with cheap band-aids in weird sizes, and ointments and things I don’t ever find myself using. Making my own kit of just the things I use tends to be more catered to what I really need, is cheaper, and is smaller for packing.

One thing to remember is the proximity of where you’re going to finding first aid supplies when you’re traveling. When you’re traveling in urban areas virtually anywhere in the world, you can find triple antibiotic ointment, bandages, over the counter painkillers, etc. And generally when you need these, it’s not a true emergency – so you can go to the corner store and get what you need.

A key note – I’m not a doctor or medical professional, so this isn’t medical advice. This is simply first aid kit advice that’s worked for me when I’ve traveled.

Things to Always Have in a Travel First Aid Kit – No Matter Where You’re Going

There are some things that, basically anywhere in the world, you’ll be happy to have on hand. The goal here is the absolute bare minimum set of stuff. After all, packing space is at a premium, and weight is always to be kept down for bags!

A Very Small Bottle of Your Preferred Over the Counter Painkiller

Whether it’s Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Aspirin, a tiny vial with a few doses is always a great idea. These painkillers are easy to find just about anywhere in the world, so unless you’re trekking long distances from stores, there’s no reason to take a big bottle.

Find Small Advil

Your Prescription Medications (In Their Prescription Packages)

Of course – you should always travel with your prescription medications. It’s a good idea (even though it takes up way too much space) to travel with these in their original packaging, with pharmacy labels and prescription information. Different medications are controlled different throughout the world, so make sure that you’re not taking a controlled substance that needs special documentation.

Over The Counter Anti-Diarrheal

Remember the great vacation that included getting diarrhea? Yep, said no one ever. Diarrhea is one of the fastest ways to ruin a trip, and most people find their stomachs to be more susceptible when traveling. Even if you’re traveling in a country with strong food safety protocols, simply changing your diet can trigger your stomach to be off. The good news here is that these are generally really cheap (right now, you can get a 24-pack for under $2 on Amazon!), but they’re also individually packaged so you can take just a few without taking a large bottle.

Find a Cheap, Effective Anti-Diarrheal on Amazon

Antihistamines for Allergies

Like stomachaches, being in a new place can trigger new and different allergies. So it’s always a good idea to have some Benadryl or other antihistamine when you’re traveling. These are also (like the anti-diarrheals) frequently packaged in separate blister packs, which makes it easier to take just a few. As an added bonus, this is a great option to make you drowsy on a long flight without totally knocking you out.

Get Individually-Packaged Antihistamine So You Can Pack Just a Few

A Few Select Bandages

Pick these carefully, but put at least a few in! You’ll likely be walking more than you’re used to, so packing some blister bandaids is probably a good idea. A few small bandages for cuts and scrapes are also a good plan. A couple of the big bandages are also a great idea, as these can be somewhat harder to find (both at home and abroad!).

Find a Good Pack of Options for Blister BandagesThe Harder-to-Find Good Big Bandages

A Few Doses of Cold Medicine

Nothing like flying and traveling to end up with a case of the sniffles. If you’re going to be near convenience stores, you can buy more when you’re there. But bringing the first few doses can be a great way to get relief fast while you’re finding a place to buy cold medicine.

Mix Pack of Cold Medicine

New Skin Sprayable Bandage

Again, for minor cuts and scrapes, a small bottle of this is a disinfectant and a wound barrier. It’s great for areas where bandages won’t stick, and it’s small and cheap.

Find Sprayable Skin Bandage

Really Good Tweezers

These are always useful. A stray eyebrow that needs plucking? Great tweezers. A splinter that’s hard to get out? Really good tweezers. They’re small and light and useful in a few situations, so worth carrying along.

Find a Selection of Good Tweezers

Things to Have in a Travel First Aid Kit if You’re Going Trekking or to Rural Areas

When you’re further away from easy access to convenience stores, it can be useful to have a little bit more in your first aid kit.

Moleskin or Something to Prevent Blisters

If you’re walking long distances, in addition to the healing blister bandaids, it’s a good idea to have things to prevent blisters in the first place. Consider moleskin or some other type of material to prevent getting blisters, or stop one if you feel it start to form.

Find Moleskin Options on a Lightweight Sheet

Silver Anti Microbial Wound Gel

I love this stuff! This is like Neosporin, or your normal “triple antibiotic wound gel” however, with the antimicrobial added, you get a broader spectrum of protection. Turns out – if something is anti-microbial, it’s also antibacterial. However, if something is just antibacterial, that doesn’t mean it’s anti-microbial.

This is especially useful if you’re going to be trekking near rivers, near beaches, or near other areas where microbes tend to be more prevalent.

Get Silver Antimicrobial Wound Gel

Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream

If you’re in rural areas, or you’re out hiking or trekking, you’re more likely to get bitten by something that’s going to itch. Make sure you’re ready to handle that!

Get a 3-Pack of Small Hydrocortisone Creams

Tiger Balm

If you’re trekking, you might be more sore at the end of the day. Tiger Balm is a great solution for aches and pains (and is also great for colds and sinus issues when you rub it on your chest). Again, a small thing of this is light, easy to carry, and goes a long way.

Find Tiger Balm on Amazon

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