Cheap flip flops make for fickle friends. $3 at the night market seemed so reasonable until my big toe was skinned, and I was standing knee deep in a Chiang Mai sewer. Wet paint, a broken guard rail, and the snap of flimsy plastic was all it took for a once brave mind to explore the worst possible outcomes — Worms? Sepsis? Tetanus?
I had survived 6 months alone in Southeast Asia without sustaining so much as a mosquito bite. At the time of most menacing injury, however, I was accompanied by the most useful of guests — my R.N. mother. The very woman who fished me out of the ditch and drowned my toe in rubbing alcohol by the roadside was the same one that had insisted I include some basic first aid kit items in my luggage from the get go. As I discarded even cotton t-shirts to shed weight from my backpack, she was handing me rolls of gauze and alcohol wipes; “Just trust me on this,” she said.
The moral? Mom is usually right, and you should really never leave home without her.
Ok, ok, but perhaps we can draw a more practical conclusion as well. For those times when your feet blister in the Annapurnas, or your stomach churns on a Swedish bus, or your Bolivian bite just won’t stop itching, you’ll want to be prepared. Not over-prepared, but adequately prepared. You’re going to want a perfectly curated first aid kit for travel. A first aid kit with all the essentials, in a compact and organized bag — and you’re going to make it yourself. Ready to find out what goes in this DIY first aid kit for travel? Let’s get started!:
how to make a DIY first aid kit for travel
- First Aid Kit Bag: A well packed travel backpack should be lightweight and well-organized. Your first aid kit is no exception! The Pack-it Specter Sac Set from Eagle Creek makes for the perfect first aid kit bag. The sacs are small enough that you can easily slip them into your day bag. Also, they are made of a lightweight ripstop silnylon, and are both water-resistant and stain-resistant. That means no grease spots on your clothes if something in your kit explodes!
- Pill Organizer: We use day of the week pill organizers to save space on things we’d rather not bring a whole bottle of — this can be anything from rarely needed prescriptions to multi-vitamins. The days need not apply! IMPORTANT NOTE: If you do take your prescription medication out of the bottle, be sure to bring along a paper copy of the prescription.
- Prescriptions: Be sure to stock up on any prescriptions you require before leaving the country! This could be anything from daily medicine, to sleeping pills, to birth control. While it’s often possible to get these items on the road, you have the most control over quality and price when you bring them from home.
- Specialty Medications: If your doctor recommends specialty medications (malaria, anti-diarrheals, etc.) be sure to bring a large enough supply for the duration of your trip.
- Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen can cure a variety of ills from fever, to body aches, to hangovers. You can definitely buy this overseas, but we’d recommend bringing a small stash along so that you can treat any small pains without having to run to the pharmacy. I’ve been known to get migraines, so I never go anywhere without a [full] bottle of Excederin too!
- Bandages + Gauze + Tape + Moleskin: You get where we’re going here, right? Bring along the necessary equipment to cover up a range of wounds if you’ll be traveling outside of cities. Bandages and gauze are compact to pack, and will save you a lot of trouble if anything happens.
- Antiseptic Wipes + Neosporin: Cleaning a wound is the most important step before bandaging! Be sure to bring along an antiseptic wipe so that you can quickly clean any little cuts or scrapes (ex. if you fall in a sewer), and an antibiotic ointment, like Neosporin, to prevent infection.
- Cold Medicine (Antihistamine + Decongestant): Do yourself a favor and bring along a couple of cold tabs in your first aid kit. If you feel something coming on, take the opportunity to medicate and sleep it off. While we’re all for waiting something out at home, early prevention is the best way to knock out a cold while you’re traveling!
- Anti-Itch: Because mosquitos are pretty much everywhere, and they can really make you miserable, packing a small tube of anti-itch cream can save you a lot of struggle.
- Motion Sickness Medication: While you may not be prone to sickness of car or sea, we bet there are some South American bus drivers that could make your stomach churn. Packing a few tabs of Dramamine to take before long bus or ferry rides (especially those without bathrooms) isn’t a terrible idea!
- Oral Rehydration Salts: If you’re an adventurous eater, you’ve likely experienced the consequences once or twice. If you happen to get travelers-diarrhea on your trip, treat it with antibiotics first, but don’t forget to rehydrate. Mix oral rehydration salts into your water to help you retain all of those lost fluids.
- Tiger Balm: What can’t Tiger Balm heal? I use it for headaches, sore feet, congested chest, achey back, etc. It also covers a variety of smells and can keep nausea at bay if you’re feeling car sick.
- International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis: If you’re traveling to a country where yellow fever vaccine is required, or have recently traveled through one, you may be required to show proof of vaccination. Throw this in with your passport so that you have it if you ever need it!
- Certificate of Immunization: While many of us have a shot record without recent update, I bring mine along just in case. It’s helpful to know exactly when you had all your basic vaccines, and it can be used as a point of reference if you need to get a new vaccine (ex. tetanus) in response to an incident.
- Prescriptions: As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to bring along your paper prescription as proof that the medications you’re carrying are prescribed to you. While we’ve never really heard of confiscation, it’s a good way to ensure you have record in case you’re asked.
like it? pin it!
Thanks again to Eagle Creek for the Pack-it Specter Sac! We’re huge fans of their gear and would have bought it ourself. If you’re in the market for packing cubes or other luggage organization equipment, they’re one of our favorite travel brands. If you’d like to pick up the Pack-it Specter Sac featured in today’s post, you can find the set on Amazon. Everything else in this post you can pick up at a local grocery or drugstore.