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.
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
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)
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:
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.
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.
At a minimum, any first aid kit worth its salt should include the following:
Other handy items include:
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
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).
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.
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.