Whether you’re building libraries in Zambia or adventuring around Madrid, any trip warrants a first aid kit. While it’s hardly the sexiest of travel topics, having basic first aid items on hand can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major catastrophe. Here’s how to build a travel first aid kit for maximum health and safety—no matter where you are in the world.

1. Prepare personal medications

If you have a preexisting condition, be sure to pack all medications in their original containers with the labels intact. Pack enough medication for the trip as well as some extra to cover unforeseen circumstances. The CDC recommends bringing along copies of any prescriptions as well as a note from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery—ideally, translate these materials into the language of your destination. In certain countries, some medications are simply not allowed—contact the appropriate embassy or consulate to find out if this is an issue

2. Consider your needs

Take stock of the length of the trip, the destination, and any planned activities. A remote trekker in the Himalayas will face a very different situation than a Berlin tourist, for example. The more remote or physical the trip, the more comprehensive a first aid kit should be (more on that later). Another big consideration is whether you’ll be traveling solo or going on a family trip, as kids are all but guaranteed to have accidents that may result in cuts or bruises (more on this later, as well)

3. Gather documents

In addition to medications and first aid supplies, a quality kit should include a contact card, proof of insurance coverage, and an immunization record (particularly if traveling in areas where infectious diseases are common) for every traveler. The contact card is meant to be used in case of a medical emergency and should include:

  • The name and contact information for an emergency contact back home
  • The name and contact info for your health care provider
  • The address and phone number for wherever you’re staying
  • The address and phone number for your country’s embassy or consulate
  • The emergency contact phone number from your travel health insurance provider, if applicable

Additionally, people with preexisting conditions (such as diabetes or severe allergies) may want to wear an alert bracelet and carry a card in their wallet that explains the condition—ideally, the card will be written in the language of your destination.

4. Select a container(s)

Choose a hard, waterproof, and durable container for the first aid kit so as to ensure the items don’t get ruined in transit or bad weather. Choose a larger container for longer trips, and a smaller container for shorter trips. It’s also a good idea to pack a small first aid kit in a carry-on and a more comprehensive kit in checked baggage. Once you’ve unpacked at a destination, carry the small kit with you at all times and re-supply from the large kit if necessary.

5. Pack the basics

At a minimum, any first aid kit worth its salt should include the following:

  • Band-aids
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Gauze pads
  • Medical tape
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors (keep in mind that these will need to be packed in checked baggage)
  • Painkillers/fever reducers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
  • Ace bandages
  • Digital thermometer
  • Disposable, latex-free gloves
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (make sure it’s less than 3.4 ounces if transporting it in carry-on luggage)

Other handy items include:

  • Antihistamine medication
  • Anti-motion sickness medication
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Mild laxative
  • Cough suppressant/expectorant
  • Cough drops
  • Antacids
  • Sunscreen
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Lubricating eye drops (again, remember the 3.4-ounce rule for liquid carry-ons)
  • Aloe gel for sunburns (ditto the 3.4-ounce rule)
  • Condoms

6. Up the ante where applicable

Remember when you took stock of the trip’s specifics (#2)? Now it’s time to apply that information to your first aid packing list. Anyone traveling to the tropics, for example, should be sure to consider insect bite precautions (such as bed nets) and pack anti-malarial medications. If traveling in a remote area, consider bringing water purification tablets and electrolyte replacements. Spending time in high-altitude areas might warrant packing medication to combat high-altitude sickness. If traveling in a developing country, it’s a good idea to pack oral rehydration salts and medications to treat food poisoning, giardia, and/or amoebic dysentery.

Consult a medical professional to develop the ideal packing list for your needs and destination.

Finally, if traveling with children, consider packing kid-friendly first aid items such as Band-aids featuring popular cartoon characters, kid-sized bandages, a couple of disposable instant cold packs, and a tooth preservation kit. Since children will be exposed to new foods and objects while traveling, read up on how to administer first aid in the event of choking. The ability to respond quickly to any hurts a child experiences may have the added bonus of preventing tantrums on vacation.

A few notes on packing choices

Whenever possible, choose tablets instead of liquids, gels, or creams. If that’s not possible, be sure to adhere to the 3.4-ounces-or-less rule for carry-ons in order to breeze through security.

To save space in baggage, opt for sachets and flat-packed tablets in lieu of bottles and tubes. Also look for travel or sample-size packaging whenever possible (your doctor may be able to help out).

The Takeaway

No matter where in the world you’re traveling, it’s worth taking the time to build a quality first aid kit that’s tailored to your destination and activities. In an ideal scenario, the kit will remain untouched during the entire vacation. But in the unfortunate event that you or a companion needs first aid? It is really, really nice (and potentially life-saving) to have proper supplies on hand.

  This article was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on August 28th.

Published in Travel Tips

Regardless of your thoughts on the TSA, they are here to stay. So we have to deal with long check in lines, bags being scanned and searched and ever changing rules on what you can and cannot take on board flights. There are some things you want to make sure to include for your carry on bag in case things go wrong or so you can have them when needed.

1. Any electronics you don't want to wind up missing or stolen. Thieves still target checked in bags so put cameras, laptops and cell phones in your carry on.

2. Take your medications in your carry on. I am not talking about aspirin or other over the counter drugs but any prescription medication. You don't want to arrive at your destination to find out your luggage is lost and your stuck trying to find a way to get your meds. As a side note be careful with medications, some countries look at certain medications differently so make sure your name is on the bottle. You don't want to be sitting in an interrogation room trying to explain to some customs official why you are smuggling unmarked medicine into the country.

3. Take a small battery operated flashlight. They cost a few dollars at any mega retailer and don't take up any room. Trying to rummage through your stuff late at night in a new place can be a pain, especially if you stay in Hostels or you are just trying to find something in the dark.

4. Pack a change of clothes. This could be a t-shirt, extra shorts or whatever. If you have ever traveled and had lost luggage you know what I mean. A change of clothes in your carry on can be a life saver. At least you won't have to wear the same clothes for 3 days while your luggage catches up to you.

5. Things that should be common sense, but if your like me you always forget one of them. Or instead of your carry on you bury it in your checked bags. Passport for International travel, extra passport photos for getting visas and extensions, Drivers License for extra ID, ATM cards and copies of itineraries and flight confirmations. I usually go to my local bank and get $100 changed into the destination currency before I leave so I can have a little spending money when I get there for taxis, buses or whatever. And my pet peeve, bring a damn pen. Every international flight I am on no one has a pen and you know you are going to have to fill out immigration and custom forms.

Those are my 5 carry on essentials, what do you have to add?

Published in Travel Tips

These are some of the lessons I have learned while traveling.

  1. Pack smart and only take what you need. Then unpack 20% of that.
  2. Expect things to go wrong because they will. Delayed flights, cancelled flights, bad weather and more are all part of traveling. Things are going to go wrong just pack a good book, fire up the computer or have a chat with others at a bar and it will eventually get better.
  3. No matter what, do not follow the pretty girl downstairs to the club in Piccadilly Square London. Just trust me.
  4. There is no real need to pack loads of cash, ATM's are everywhere.
  5. Let your bank know what countries you will be traveling in or they might think your card is being used illegally and cut off the funds.
  6. A group of little kids crowding around you are not always just curious. Sometimes they are skilled pickpockets.
  7. German police don't have much sense of humor.
  8. An extra large t-shirt in the Philippines is only extra large if you are a teenage girl.
  9. In Thailand when they tell you your meal is a little spicy, they lie.
  10. Don't be so aloof. Talk to everyone, the waiter, the hotel clerk, shop keepers and even strangers. You meet some really good people and they can give you insight into the area others will never discover.
  11. Tequila tastes better when you're in Mexico.
  12. Beer tastes better in Munich and Prague.
  13. Bugs, insects and other local delicacies taste like you think they will no matter where you are.
  14. People for the most part are pretty decent but there are a few jerks out there.
  15. Relaxing at an outdoor café drinking a cold beer is a good way to pass the time and do some people watching.
  16. Foregoing the “must see” attractions and exploring the area on your own can be rewarding.
  17. Whether in Mexico, Bangkok or the train station in Frankfurt, street food is pretty tasty.
  18. Japanese Police don't have much sense of humor either.
  19. The pretty Russian female tourist at the bar in Dubai is not a tourist.
  20. Just when I think I have things figured out something new happens and catches me by surprise.

What have you learned?

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Published in Travel Tips

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