DIY: The Best Traveler’s First Aid Kit

If you’ve been here before you know I am a bit of a control freak. Not to the point of being a drag but I find a lot of merit in the motto “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. That way, I can prepare for the important things (health, money, safety) and enjoy the ‘que sera, sera‘ of life, wherever I go!

Part of that is being prepared with a first aid kit both at home and when I travel. Almost nothing can ruin a trip faster than being ill and, if you do get sick on the road, having to converse with the chemist in another language while in the throes of misery can make a bad day worse. So, one of my first packing tasks before each trip is to refresh my travel first aid kit.

Of course, everyone’s kit will be different because every traveler is different but the following is designed to get you started. Your needs will depend on your age, gender, lifestyle, preferences, health, and travel style. This list is in NO WAY comprehensive, but the basic kit, which applies to everyone, should have:

  • Aspirin (pain relief, fever reducer, blood thinner)
  • Pepto-Bismol (diarrhea, gas, heartburn, nausea)
  • Non-aspirin pain relievers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen sodium – for those with aspirin sensitivities)
  • Dramamine (for motion sickness – also work as a sleep aid)
  • Immodium (anti-diarrhea medicine – for more than just a tummy ache)
  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine – for allergic reactions and can reduce swelling)
  • Cipro (heavy duty antibiotic – needs prescription, but may be worth it, depending on your destination)
  • Melatonin (sleep aid)
  • Tetraglycine hydroperiodide (water purification tablets)
  • Destination-specific pills (Diamox for altitude sickness, Chloroquine for malaria prevention)


  • Hydrocortisone cream (insect bites, rashes, etc)
  • Neosporin (contains neomycin for cuts, scratches, abrasions – be sure you aren’t allergic to this)
  • Vaseline (chapped lips, windburn, etc)
  • Antibacterial gel (when you can get a good hand washing)

All The Rest

  • Adhesive bandages (a variety of sizes and shapes including butterfly)
  • Alcohol wipes (for cleaning wounds, wiping off tray tables, etc)
  • Gauze pads (usually two large size pads are enough and can be trimmed to fit smaller cuts)
  • Eye drops (for dry or irritated eyes)
  • Mini sewing kit (for stitches, in an extreme situation)
  • Duct tape (good bandage replacement and so many other uses)
  • FabFeet (anti-friction stick, for blister prevention)
  • Drip Drop hydration powder (for hydration after bout of diarrhea or excessive sweating)
  • Survival Wrap (a foil blanket, just in case)
  • Super Glue (good for wound closure in a pinch)
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins (at least 2 large and 5 small)

Packing Notes

  • Always have printed instructions for every pill you carry and never carry unlabeled pills. You don’t want to have to explain your little white pills to the customs gentleman at the Suvarnabhumi airport. Trust me, it is nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds. 😦
  • Pack in such a way that you can keep this kit in your boarding bag. If you do check it, you may want to add tiny scissors, but don’t try that in carry-on bags.
  • Choose tablets for as many things as possible, like Pepto-Bismol and Immodium for example.
  • Look for blister-packed tablets/capsules. They pack flat and take us way less room than bottles.
  • Save special offer and trial size creams and shop the travel-sized aisle at your local store (like Target). You can find things like:
    • Tiny Vaseline
    • Alcohol swabs
    • Small tubes of hydrocortisone cream
  • When you go get your destination-specific shots, ask for any samples they may have.
  • You don’t need to take piles of pills or caissons of cream – just enough to tide you over for 18-24 hours until you begin to feel better or can seek local medical attention.
  • THE MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are taking ANY prescription medicine, be sure you have the original bottle, the name the drug is known by in your destination country(ies) in case you need more, and ANY interactions it may have. The last thing you want to do is take Benadryl for an itchy rash only to have it counteract with your prescription!

Here is  my kit  ready to be packed into a small zippered pouch and dropped into my bag.
first aid kit

What do you think? Did I miss something in your travel first aid kit? Let me know in the comments!