A few small items can keep you feeling good, no matter where you travel. (Photo: iStock/adventtr)
Staying healthy on the road is the most important key to a great trip (second only, maybe, to comfortable shoes). Dangers come at you from all sides: germs on the plane, bacteria in the food, bites from bugs, colds, fevers, stomach issues, blisters. Of course, none of these things is enough to keep you from exploring the world in the first place, but they can really put a damper on the fun once you’re traveling. Fortunately, a few essentials are all you need to pack to protect yourself from basic travel ailments. But knowing what those are can take a bit of trial and error. That’s where our Yahoo Travel Explorers come in. These globetrotters have done the research for you. Here are their must-have first-aid items to pack every time you travel.
Vaseline! Good for dried lips, soothing chaffing, or to clot blood when you have a cut. I also bring medicated baby powder. Baby powder = a happy girl. I won’t go into more detail.
— Pamela MacNaughtan, Savoir Faire Abroad
Benadryl. Ever since my daughter had a severe allergic reaction to a jellyfish sting in Haiti — at night, with no doctor — I don’t leave home without it. Also candy and cash — they are great when kids are in pain.
—Kim-Marie Evans, Luxury Travel Mom
My Camelbak filtered water bottle goes everywhere with me. Nothing better than fresh clean water.
—Charles McCool, McCool Travel
(Photo: Cailin O’Neil)
I won’t travel without Zam-Buck Medicated Ointment. I had some bad bug bites on a trip through the jungles of Borneo in search of orangutans, and one of the boat captains treated them with this. I bought some and it does wonders for bites and cuts. No idea what is in it because the ingredients are in Indonesian, but the day I run out of it I might cry. Also, bring Vitamin C with zinc for when everyone in your hostel has a cold, and nasal spray to avoid sinus infections, which cause painful flights.
I swear by Vitamin B supplements when I travel to help get over jet lag and have more energy.
—Matt Long, LandLopers
I always make sure to carry burn gel and sutures. The burn gel is hard to find in the tropics; antibiotics often come in cream form, and that tends to get septic fast in that kind of weather. The gel is light and doesn’t trap humidity, and has been a real savior even for things like blisters that have burst. Butterfly sutures are also quite useful if you’re on an adventure hike or something more remote. They’re easy to use and good to have — and take up very little room.
—Jodi Ettenberg, Legal Nomads
For sensitive eyes like mine in hot, arid or dusty destinations, I always pack Zaditor (antihistamine for your eyes) to bring down the swelling you don’t even know is there, and I pair it with Systane moisturizing eye drops. I put a drop of Zaditor in my eyes before I go to bed (no contacts please), wait a minute or so and follow it with a drop of Systane. Works wonders. In the morning, I follow up with a drop of Systane on my contact lenses and in my eye. For some reason that combo works. Love this stuff. On another note, I always ask my doctor for a fresh prescription of Cipro just in case I come down with something on the road. It saved me in Lima when I was sick as a dog. Also, for countries where water could be compromised, I always stock up on Lomotil (available over-the-counter) to help with diarrhea.
—Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler
My eczema-prone filmmaker and I joke that we are “clobetasol buddies” because we never travel anywhere without a tube of this prescription cream. Weather and other unexpected conditions can make our skin flare up, and this corticosteroid is the only thing that will decrease the immune response. It’s also my secret weapon against bug bite itches!
In addition to the regular stuff — Pepto, Immodium, pocket knife, toenail clippers, tweezers, inhaler, and Tiger Balm — I carry a scalpel in my checked bag. I started carrying it when I was walking the Camino de Santiago trail across Spain. A nurse gave it to me to help me drain my very, very deep blisters! Ever since then I’ve kept it in my first-aid kit; you never know when you are going to have to do surgery!
—Sherry Ott, Ott’s World
Put a few drops of this herbal oil into your drink to fight colds and congestion — it also works as a mosquito repellant. (Photo: Oreganol)
I always travel with Oreganol (it’s an herbal formula that I drink in water). It’s strong stuff, like natural antibiotics, and kicks anything while traveling. I also pack grapefruit seed extract, another natural preventative (for stomach bugs). I use lavender essential oil to relax me during the flight, and bring bedtime tea to help me fall asleep.
—Lindsay Taub, Voyage Vixens
Oregano oil! It’s great for so many things: It wards off Montezuma’s Revenge, and topically, it’s a great disinfectant and mosquito repellant.
—Lanee Lee, Voyage Vixens
I always travel with a small bottle of tea tree oil. It naturally soothes, cleanses, and dries out whatever is ailing you. A small amount goes a long way. I use it for dealing with mosquito bites, cuts, and just regular skin ailments as it both disinfects and dries things out. And, it smells kind of nice too. Although duct tape is normal in most packing lists, we carry it for blisters and other scrapes. It often sticks and protects better than Band-Aids. In fact, a nurse we traveled with while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro abandoned her medical tape for duct tape when she saw how well it worked.
—Audrey Scott, Uncornered Market
I don’t go anywhere without Pepto-Bismol caplets (not the chewable kind, but the pills you can just swallow) and moleskin, which is great for preventing blisters, patching holes in bags, corralling loose earrings, and more. I also bring Benadryl. In addition to helping out with itchy bites and unexpected food allergies, I take it to force myself to sleep so that I can get on local time asap.
—Billie Cohen, Contributing Editor, Yahoo Travel
I always carry a mini first-aid kit in a little plastic bag in my carry-on: a thermometer, Band-Aids, Tylenol, nose drops, anti-diarrhea pills, decongestants, antacid tablets, allergy pills, antibiotics and an inhaler (I used to have asthma).
It’s a really good idea to bring, and take, probiotics. And Dramamine. Prid Drawing Salve also has about 50 uses — everything from healing blisters to zapping zits. Plus, it’s all-natural.
—Leah Ginsberg, Lead Editor, Yahoo Travel
Cactus extract keeps away biting insects you can’t even see — and you can buy a formula with sunblock too. (Photo: Cactus Juice)
Having been a natural physician for 19 years, and now a travel writer, I bring along MyoCalm P.M., a natural blend of minerals and herbs that is designed to provide muscle relaxation and aid in sleeplessness when I find myself in economy (gasp!) on a long-distance flight! Two to four tablets and I am out for the night. The other thing I pack is called Cactus Juice, from Roatan, Honduras. It is cactus extract that has sun protection in it and keeps away the no-see-ums. Works like a charm.
—Cacinda Maloney, Points and Travel
When I was backpacking, I always kept athlete’s foot medication in my first-aid kit. Even with shower flip-flops, I always seem to pick up athletes foot in hostels and public pools. Super gross, but a few nights of cream tends to erase it pretty quickly!
—Christine Amorose, C’est Christine
Tiger Balm is a popular traveler’s secret for keeping mosquitoes away. (Photo: Tiger Balm/Facebook)
Tiger balm — the red kind, not the white! It helps to keep away mozzies and is also really good to use after long hikes, or even after sleeping on uncomfortable hostel beds. Also, I make sure to have Band-Aids, as well as like some sort of peroxide or cream to keep cuts or anything from getting infected. And as a female on a long backpacking trip, I also make sure to have tampons on in my kit. I learned the hard way in rural China.
—Alexandra E. Petri, The Write Way Around
After living in Argentina, rosa mosqueta (rosehip oil) has earned a spot in my first-aid travel kit. The oil is extracted from seeds of rosa moschata and rosa rubiginosa, which grow in the southern Andes, especially in Argentina and Chile. It is commonly used there for skin-care purposes. I apply it to burns or bug bites I’ve scratched until they’ve scabbed to regenerate the skin faster and minimize scarring. It’s also supposed to be a natural remedy for wrinkles and sun spots.
—Nora Walsh, Patchwork Compass
Afterbite. I get eaten alive by mosquitoes even in places that don’t really have mosquitoes. Afterbite is the only thing that works — and Noni fruits, which are not available everywhere. If you can get your hands on them, cut one open and rub it on the bites. It works like magic (as does Windex)!
—Jessica Festa, Jessie on a Journey
A hand-sized SteriPEN will keep your drinking water safe no matter where you are. (Photo: SteriPEN)
We travel with a SteriPEN (a rechargeable water sterilizer) and use it daily. We fill up our aluminum water bottles with tap water, river water, etc., sterilize it, and away we go. The pen cuts down on waste, is good for the environment, and kills 99% of bacteria. Love it!
—Jarryd Salem and Alesha Bradford, Nomadasaurus
I always carry wet wipes to clean off the surfaces and seatbelts on the plane. It may sound a bit OCD but not getting sick on a trip is worth a few odd stares. I always bring a zip-top bag of healthy travel snacks, which include Emergen-C packets and Simply Protein bars. These bars are all-natural, high in protein and low in sugar — the perfect pick-me-up for a jet-lagged traveler and a healthy alternative to plane food.
Related: The Weirdest In-Flight Injuries Ever
Super glue is a decent alternative for closing wounds and works even when we are out hiking or doing anything in the water/rain to keep wounds sealed. It beats having Band-Aids that get soggy and gross and packed with bacteria.
—Lauren Bassart, The Constant Rambler
Effervescent Vitamin C tablets. They take up no space, and if I think I’m on the verge of a cold or flu I’ll pop one into my water bottle.
—Ayngelina Brogan, Bacon is Magic
What about you: What do you pack in your travel first-aid kit?