updated on January 6th, 2023
Even if you have premium hotel stays and first class airfare planned for an epic adventure, things can go wrong on any type of trip. This is even more likely if you’re planning to get hike, scuba, and generally be active. A travel first aid kit is a fundamental item to pack. However, commercial first aid kits are bulky and usually have way too much stuff.
Since I’m a registered nurse when I’m not traveling the world, I put together this list of things to pack in a travel first aid kit.
Travel First Aid Kit List
The most basic and essential of a first aid kit of any kind. Minor scrapes or cuts will be the most common injury you will see either for yourself or handing a couple out to travel companions or passersby. Stock several band-aid bandages in an assortment of sizes. If you’re planning on hiking or even just doing a lot of walking, it would be a great idea to pack some blister bandages. We’ve noticed that some countries don’t carry these, so make sure you put these in your first aid kit for international travel.
An all around go-to, a roll of gauze should be in every first aid kit you pack. It’s perfect for dressing small or medium wounds, soaking up blood and stopping bleeding while pressure is applied. If you can wrap some gauze on a wound, you should have some time to make your way to a medical facility.
In the unfortunate event you find yourself dealing with something bigger than a basic cut, elastic bandages are perfect for keeping a dressing in place and clean until you can get yourself or someone else off to proper medical attention. You won’t be working military triage, so one or two at most should do you just fine. Also useful to wrap sprained wrists and ankles.
In order to secure a bandage or dressing, surgical tape comes in handy. I’ve improvised with bandaids and duct tape before, as well.
Tweezers are standard issue in a first aid kit. Good for removing slivers, cleaning a wound, or just cleaning up bushy eyebrows.
Antiseptic wipes and ointment
Condoms & a Maxi Pad
Aside from keeping safe when an amorous mood strikes, condoms can do double-duty by filling with ice for an emergency ice pack, or for some improvised water proofing around a bandage. Maxi pads are great if you’re a female or traveling with one- perfect for surprise periods. Alternatively, they can hold a LOT of blood, in case of a serious wound. I’m a big fan of multi-tasking! Obviously, if you’re injured enough to double-purpose a condom or maxi pad, you should be heading towards medical attention.
Pain relief medication
A few pills of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and/or ibuprofen (Motrin) are a common need for some minor pain relief if you have a headache or basic pain. Go with the generic brand, no sense in spending unneeded money.
Upset stomach medication
Priceless when the situation hits, anti-diarrhea medication can be a godsend in situations where you might not be near a bathroom. Keep in mind, use this medication only when absolutely necessary. They won’t actually cure your diarrhea, the best way to do that is to just let everything naturally pass through your system (drink lots of water to replace lost fluids!). Use them sparingly and as directed and these can be lifesavers should the event ever strike. A couple bismuth tablets (Pepto Bismol) should take care of upset tummies that aren’t quite at the explosive stage.
It’s inevitable. It will happen to everyone. You will be bit by some insect or another and wind up with a rash or bump on your skin that’s either crazy itchy or possibly painful. Usually, stings and bites aren’t anything to worry yourself about, but my god are they annoying. Packing some antihistamine cream/ointment will greatly help in controlling any swelling or itching.
If you’ve ever had a stint of seasonal allergies or not, being brought down by some strange fauna can leave you sidelined. Loratidine (Claritin) or cetirizine (Zyrtec) should clear the symptoms right up. Couple this with some Benadryl (which can also help if you’re struggling to get some sleep due to jet lag) and your sinuses should be ready to take on any outdoor excursion.
Your usual medications
Don’t forget to pack any prescribed medications! I also take some random meds that apply to our situation- for example, I had a UTI on a vacation once so I now pack AZO tablets just in case. I found a small pill organizer that looks like this one and I use that instead of carrying big bottles. Note- depending on the country you’re visiting, sometimes you do need to have medication in original packaging. This is especially true if bringing prescription-only medications- they might not be available everywhere you go! Be sure to bring the medicine you (literally) can’t live without when packing a first aid kit for traveling abroad.
Perhaps not a physical item to pack in your kit, but we never leave home without Travel Insurance. Your normal health insurance WILL NOT cover you on an international vacation! Our favorite company is World Nomads. Check them out!
Chances are you’ll never have to open your travel first aid kit, but if nothing else you’ll have peace of mind.