I’m incredibly accident and illness prone. I trip over things easily, my feet develop blisters very quickly and I don’t think I’ve ever gone overseas without getting sick at least once.
I’ve spent a miserable ride home from Brittany, France vomiting my guts up in my host family’s car.
I’ve split my eyebrow open by running into a glass door right before getting on an overnight train in Sapa, Vietnam.
I’ve woken up with the worst stomach cramps on the morning I was due to do a cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I’ve had to have my ankle strapped from smashing it into the metal part of a bus, and done debates while pretty much doped out on Cold and Flu Tablets in South Korea.
Disaster always seems to follow me and I doubt it is going to be any different for my upcoming 15 month trip. In fact, my sister is a bit worried that I’m not even going to make it back in one piece!
However in each of these situations I’ve been extremely grateful for my personal first aid kit that I take with me on any trip- big or small.
Whilst medical assistance and pharmacies should be accessible for most of your trip, I often find it easier for me to pack my own supplies.
Firstly, it saves me the pain of finding a pharmacy and in many cases trying to navigate the language barrier that exists.
Secondly, most of the injuries or illnesses I have sustained haven’t required the cost or hassle of actual medical assistance.
So what do I pack in my first aid kit?
Other people’s first aid kits often seem to carry every type of bandage, patch, cream and bandaid(plaster) available. In contrast my first aid kit is around 90% medication- I am definitely in the ‘medicate’ everything camp when it comes to solving most illnesses and injuries.
So in terms of medication I pack:
Two types of painkillers- panadol (panadeine) and nurofean (ibuprofen). These can be taken together and help with everything from headaches and migraines to period pain.
Antihistamines– allergic reactions and hayfever are common when experiencing a new climate or environment.
Antibiotics- your doctor is usually able to prescribe you some antibiotics in case of anything that feels like an infection. I’m a lot more likely to get something viral than an infection though so I use these rarely.
Immodium– travellers diarrhoea is very difficult to avoid while on the road. Chances are you will get it at some point. Immodium only pauses the inevitable but has saved my ass (quite literally) when I’ve had to jump on a long bus ride somewhere. Only really use is this for those kinds of situations- otherwise you are better off riding out the pain.
Buscopan– helps to relieve stomach ache and cramps which are inevitable when trying new foods and even I find, when changing climates rapidly.
Cold and Flu Tablets– if you ask for the over the counter ones you get the ones with codeine and there is literally nothing better when you have a terrible cold. The night tablets in particular have helped me survive overnight flights when I’ve been sick as a dog.
Strepsils/Lozenges- A sore throat is one of the most common things I get whenever I get sick.
Malarials– while I haven’t packed these since my trip to Africa, they will be coming along with me on my RTW trip as I’ll need them for when I’m exploring the Amazon. Whether you need these or not will depend on where you are travelling to and you’ll need to consult your doctor.
Contraceptive Pill- No explanation needed on this one really. Although I do also pack condoms as STIs scare me just as much as unwanted pregnancy! Ladies- you need to be really careful with this one when changing time zones otherwise you might not find yourself protected.
Creams and Supplements
Vicks VapoRub–Vicks has multiple benefits and I wouldn’t leave home without ig. It’s great to rub on your chest or soak in hot water for inhaling when you have a cold. It’s amazing on bruises, aches and pains. It’s also an awesome way to deal with smelly toilets (rub some of this on your noise and you won’t smell much else).
Hydralyte satches– hydralyte is an electrolyte in powdered form that can be dissolved in water to help rehydrate you. I always have a hydralyte half way through a long flight as flights will always dehydrate you. It’s also an essential for when you are travelling in hot climates and might not be hydrating properly.
It’s saved me from countless bouts of food poisoning and even more hangovers. Hydralyte comes in both liquid and powder form but the more compact powdered satchels are the way to go for long trips where you need to pack light.
First Aid Cream– I pack an antiseptic cream whenever I travel to put on blisters, cuts, bruises, mosquito bites and grazes. I used to use betadine but got annoyed with the way it stains my skin and anything it touches so I’ve made the shift to bepanthen.
Iron Tablets– I’ve got an iron deficiency so I need to take regular supplements.
Lucas’ Papaw Ointment– This Aussie product might not be known to those of you abroad but it is great for cracked lips, dry skin, cuts, bites and pretty much everything.
Sunscreen– It’s hard to find good quality SPF 30 or SPF 50 sunscreen abroad so I always take my cancer council accredited sunscreen/sunblock with me. In my opinion not having skin cancer is much better than having a tan.
Aloe Vera– For the times when I stupidly forget to apply sunscreen. This stuff is magical on sunburn.
Alcohol Wipes– for disinfecting wounds etc.
Hand Sanitizer– I use this often to try and prevent illness.
Bandaids/Plasters– I carry these in a variety of sizes. Given my propensity for blisters I always seem to run out though and need to restock regularly. I like the fabric ones as they stay on.
Medical Tape– After countless days without bandaids for my blisters I’ve added this item to my first aid kit. In comes in handy for strapping ankles, covering blisters and securing gauze.
Tweezers– super important not just cosmetically for maintaining my brows but getting out splinters.
Gauze– This is awesome for larger surface area wounds. i.e. when I split my eyebrow open.
Tissues– Other than their obvious use these can also be makeshift bandages in an emergency.
How I Pack All of It
Whilst this might seem like an extensive list, by pulling the medicine out of its cardboard boxes and just leaving them in their sealed strips, I can fit all of this into one compartment of my Eagle Creek Travel Toiletry Bag.
I am not a doctor. I didn’t even do science past year 10. I’m just an accident prone person with lots of experience of self medicating and I used to work in the first aid office of a high school.
You must see your doctor at least a month before you leave to ensure you are properly vaccinated, have the appropriate subscriptions and to check on your general health.
The Most Important Thing
Not every illness or injury is going to be able to be treated by this little first aid kit. Invest in Travel Insurance.
It’s a small cost that could turn out to be essential if the worst happens. You can never predict what is going to happen. So don’t risk travelling without it!
Please note: Some of the links provided in this article are affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I get a small commission from these sales that helps with the costs associated with running this site.