Picture this.

You’re on a trip of a lifetime, having a blast. You’re seeing phenomenal sites, experiencing amazing things, and chowing down on every delicious thing in sight.

Suddenly, your stomach starts to feel a little funny, your head starts to be a little achy, or your nose starts to be a little stuffy.

Then BOOM: full-fledged illness takes over and next thing you know, you’re confined to your hotel room!

You frantically search your belongings before you remember you did not pack any medicines! Save space, you had thought. I can buy it if I need it, you had reasoned. I’ll be fine, you insisted.

If you’re lucky, you started to get sick before you went out to the middle of the ocean…

But as you wallow in your misery in the hotel room, all you can think is, why did I think I would want to hunt down a pharmacy when sick??

Hopefully, that will never happen to you but the point is – you never know when illness will strike. I’ve gotten sick on New Year’s Day in Mexico City when everything was closed, in the middle of the night in rural Spain, during an extended stay in a remote village in Guyana, and the day of a flight in Trinidad. And let me tell you, was I ever glad to be prepared.

On the flip side, many travellers I’ve come across aren’t prepared – the amount of times I’ve given away tissues, pain killers, anti-nausea pills, etc, I’ve lost count. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to share what I have. But don’t you think it makes sense to have your own stuff rather than hoping you’ll find someone with what you need or trying to find a pharmacy that is open? Or sitting there feeling sorry for yourself, wishing your mom were with you?

To ensure that you’re prepared in the event of illness, there are several things that should be in your bag to help you get through it. Or at least, tide you over until you find a pharmacy or doctor. This list may sound like a lot but many of these items you probably already have at home. And once packed properly, you can fit all of this into a small pouch!

What to Pack in Your amazing Medical Kit – The Basics

Travel insurance information

Small pack of tissues

Cold/Flu medication

Allergy medication, such as an antihistamine and eye drops – especially if you’re going to a new place, you never know what kind of previously unknown allergy will say hi! (e.g., Benadryl)

Pain and fever medication, such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), acetylsalicylic acid (e.g., Aspirin), or ibuprofen (e.g., Advil).

Anti-nausea medication (e.g., Gravol – pink [drowsy] and green ones [non-drowsy])

Anti-diarrheal medication (e.g., Imodium)

1% Hydrocortisone cream/ointment to treat skin irritations and itchiness caused by bug bites, etc.

Standard strip bandages in various sizes (e.g., Band-Aids)

Antibiotic ointment/cream to prevent infections (e.g., Polysporin)

Any prescription or over-the-counter medication you normally use

Destination-specific medication: anti-malarial medication, high-altitude sickness medication, etc.

Medications if your body has certain…shall we say, “habits” (e.g., laxatives, antacids, antifungals, anti-motion sickness, sleep-aids, prophylactics, aloe vera gel [for sunburns], etc)

If an active holiday, take a small first aid kit Basic first-aid items (antiseptic, bandages, gauze, ace bandage and safety pins, scissors. tweezers)

Nail care travel kit (clean, short nails are very important for a happy stomach)

Tips to Prepare your amazing Travel Medical Kit

  • Your medication bag should be durable so that it can be jammed into your backpack or luggage without fear of breakage. It should also be leak/water proof.
  • To pack all of this into a small bag, buy the medication in pill form as well as remove them from their respective cardboard boxes.
  • If medication comes in little bottles AND the pills are easily recognizable, consider putting them into a little pill box to conserve more space.
  • To remember the dosage of a particular medication, write it on the blister pack itself. Please note that this only applies to over the counter medication – prescription medications should remain in the bottle that has your doctor’s information as well as dosage information on it.
  • To keep costs down, look for the no-name brand or store brand for all the listed medications

This is my medical kit in a waterproof bag.  It has lasted over ten trips so far and has come in handy almost every time!

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