Travel First-Aid Essentials – don’t get caught out!

Travel First-Aid Essentials – don’t get caught out!

So it’s summertime, you’re going away soon and you’re really excited! Maybe it’s just for a quick business jaunt or for that luxury three-week holiday that you’ve been saving for. But you don’t want to overlook the basics and end up trekking around some foreign land trying to find paracetemol or a plaster instead of getting on with your plans, so make sure you pack a basic travel first-aid kit!

Don’t get caught out abroad – it’s not always straightforward to buy first-aid essentials in an unfamiliar setting.

Having been travelling quite regularly for the past couple of years and having been caught out more than once during my travels, I now always take a travel first-aid kit. This prepares me for most (small) eventualities overseas and keeps me happy and healthy. Everyone will be different, particularly if you have your own medication you need to take with you, but here are my suggestions based on what I’ve needed when I’ve been abroad. If there’s anything you can think of that I’ve missed, please feel free to comment below!

  1. Paracetemol/ibuprofen/any other painkillers. Of all the illnesses likely to strike, a headache is right up there. If you’re crossing several time zones, you’re likely to suffer from some degree of jet lag which can cause headaches. I always carry painkillers in my travel first-aid kit just in case.
  2. Plasters. I handle a lot of paper and cardboard boxes when I’m travelling for work so these are always handy in case of paper cuts. I also sometimes use a standard plaster if I’m walking a lot and my shoes might rub.
  3. Blister plasters. These are so helpful if you’re walking long distances sightseeing or at the end of a trip when you’re hiking through international airports; sometimes I feel like I can be walking for hours on a travel day.

    View from wing of plane over the UK with storm clouds in the distance
    Major international airports sometimes have you walking for what seems like miles
  4. Mosquito repellent (50% deet). This is a critical part of my personal travel first-aid kit. I get really badly bitten by mosquitoes and get a severe allergic reaction. Regardless of the dangerous diseases mosquitoes often carry, I’m mainly concerned about avoiding an allergic reaction. Just make sure you avoid breathing this stuff in when you’re spraying yourself!
  5. Antihistamine tablets. For those times when you are unlucky enough to get bitten. Despite copious amounts of mosquito repellent, there have been times when I’ve been bitten by other lovely little creatures that aren’t deterred by repellent, such as fire ants in Jamaica. An antihistamine tablet is the most efficient way of reducing swelling, pain and itching.
  6. Antihistamine cream. A topical version of the above tablet. I find this is really soothing and is a good double-whammy when used with the tablets.

    Hills outside Kingston with luscious green foliage and houses
    The beautiful hills outside Kingston, Jamaica are also home to fire ants who leave a nasty bite
  7. Bonjela/ulcer gel. On longer work trips (1 week +) I often travel to different cities every other day. I just know I’m inevitably going to get at least one mouth ulcer on these trips. It’s basically just a sign that I’m run down but a little bit of Bonjela goes a long way to ease the pain during long days full of meetings.
  8. Suncream. Necessary not only for the obvious tropical paradise visit, but also in the winter if you’re going anywhere up a mountain or near a lot of snow!
  9. Aftersun lotion. For when you started out with good intentions as above but were then having too much fun and didn’t get around to applying anymore for the rest of the day…

    View of turquoise sea, white sandy beach with rocks and palm tree
    Don’t let the weather and wildlife ruin your tropical paradise
  10. Wet wipes. Pretty good for a whole range of things. You can use them in the absence of soap in the bathroom, before you eat, as a refreshing face wipe or even to clean surfaces; those plane tray tables are pretty filthy. I’ve also used these to wipe plane windows before when you can see someone’s been resting their face on the window… gross.
  11. Hand sanitiser. I think this is particularly relevant for business travellers; a lot of the time I’m working on the road, I have to shake a lot of hands. Sometimes it could be around 30 a day (maximum although I do try to avoid handshaking as much as possible!). At the end of a long day, you may then find yourself whisked off to a fabulous local restaurant… where you’re then expected to eat with your hands. Even if it’s not as good as washing properly with soap and water, it does help give you some peace of mind!
  12. Immodium. Fortunately, I’ve never had any real stomach issues on my travels (touch wood!). However, it’s definitely worth having a stash of this. In the moment, you may inadvertently go overboard with all that delicious local cuisine and yummy food on every street corner.

    Mixed seafood and meat platter including fries, ribs, prawn skewers, lemon wedges and dips
    It’s easy to overdo it when you’re travelling solo…
  13. Bandages. The only reason I really have these is in case of a real emergency. To be honest, I think it’s highly unlikely you would need to use these during the normal course of travel, but better safe than sorry.
  14. Safety pins. Highly useful for loads of different things. You could use them to pin bandages in case of an emergency, but I’ve found they’ve come in handy for me at other times too. I’ve used them when the hem came down on my skirt once when working or for pinning a scarf around my head/shoulders when out and about in certain countries.
  15. Scissors. At the end of a long travel day, I’m somewhat of a recluse. Certain airports in some countries will put plastic ties on the zips of your checked luggage, which is a nightmare. I often arrive past midnight in a hotel, desperately drag my luggage to my room, get into my pyjamas and then to my dismay realise I can’t get anything out of my case because I forgot to ask reception to cut the ties off. I’ve yet to come across any scissors (or anything sharp) in hotel rooms, so bring your own. Just make sure you put them in an outside pocket of your checked suitcase as you can’t take these in hand luggage.

Hopefully this will help you make sure you’ve got a great travel first-aid kit for when you’re away. Also remember to check if you need any vaccinations before you travel; I usually use the NHS Fit For Travel website.

If you’re interested in more packing tips before you travel, take a look at my in-flight essentials that I squeeze into that tiny plastic bag!