10 Essentials for Your Travel First Aid Kit

These are the 10 key items to include in your travel first aid kit.

Travel first aid kit next to backpack and small bouquet of lavender on park bench
(Photo: Envato/marowl)

“Be prepared” is a well-known motto for a reason. Whether you’re traveling near or far, it’s a good idea to pack a first aid kit. Because even the small stuff can make a big difference when you’re traveling. Case in point: you don’t want a blister to interrupt an amazing hike or a headache to disrupt a visit to a world-famous museum.

Travel Emergency First Aid Kit Essentials

Here are my top 10 recommendations for things to pack in your travel first aid kit so you’ll be ready for the most common minor injuries and ailments that come with vacation adventures.

1. Bandages

Hand with adhesive plaster that covering a slight injury, close-up
Bandages take up no space and are a must for your travel first aid kit (Photo: Envato/GeorgeRudy)

Skinned knees, paper cuts, shaving nicks, minor cuts, blisters—there are countless reasons why you might need a bandage during your travels. So make sure to have some on hand in a variety of sizes for different purposes and locations of cuts.

Having bandages made from different materials is also a smart idea. Look for some that are made of flexible fabric and others that are waterproof so you’re ready for different scenarios. 

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You can’t go wrong with bandages from Band-AidCuradWellyNexcare, and Tru-Colour. Also, do you know about hydrocolloid blister bandages? They are padded, have a special substance that helps blisters heal more quickly, and have extra adhesion to protect skin as it heals. They’ve become a must-have for my travel first aid kit.

2. Hand Sanitizer/Wipes

It’s important to clean your hands before dealing with a cut or scrape, and if you’re on the move, access to soap and water might not be readily available. That’s why some type of hand-cleaning product is important when you create your travel first aid kit.

You’ll get the best results with hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol. But in a pinch, any kind of hand-cleaning gel, spray, or wipe is better than nothing. Individually packaged wipes take up the least amount of room in your kit, but a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer will also work, and can double as a way to clean your hands on the go.

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For hand wipes, I like the options from PurellHandziesWet Ones, and ALO. For hand sanitizer, Bath & Body WorksGerm-XEOPurell, and Everyone are all good choices.

3. Antiseptic spray and antibiotic cream

Having this dynamic duo in your emergency first aid kits helps keep small cuts from turning into bigger problems. And they’re easy to find in travel-friendly sizes that are easy to tuck into a travel first-aid kit or a day pack.

Cleaning a cut then applying antibiotic ointment or cream can help prevent infection. Find a cream that also relieves pain and/or itching and you’ll take care of even more issues at once.

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Trusty brands for these kinds of products include NeosporinBand-AidBactine, Betadine, and CareAll.

4. Pain relievers

close up of pills
When you’re packing your travel first aid kit, consider which medications you’re likely to need (Photo: Envato/Sandsun)

A throbbing headache or sore back can really ruin a day of sightseeing. Having pain relievers on hand helps you react quickly when problems arise—and get back to enjoying your vacation.

Consider your medical history, pre-existing health issues, and personal preferences when choosing which kinds of pain relievers to include in your emergency first aid kit. A small pill case can hold a few options and help separate the different medicines.

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TylenolAdvilAleve, and Excedrin are big names in pain relief (but generic versions often work just as well).

5. Allergy medicine

You might already know that you’re allergic to ragweed or pet dander. But you never know when something you eat, sniff, or touch might send your immune system haywire.

Having allergy medicine in your travel emergency first aid kit helps you prepare for the unexpected. There are lots of different pill options, including chewable tablets that don’t even require water, and formulations made for adults and just for kids.

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Brands like BenadrylZyrtecClaritin, and Allegra are well-known allergy fighters, and generic options exist as well. They all work a little differently, so it’s a good idea to know ahead of time which meds tend to work best for you.

6. Motion-sickness medication

If a long bus ride or rough day at sea starts making you feel queasy, having motion sickness medication at the ready can be a lifesaver. It’s also a good idea to take ahead of time if you know you’re prone to this kind of thing, so you can stay on top of your travel health.

Medications are available in non- or less-drowsy formulas and in chewable pills for maximum ease on the go. Motion-sickness patches or bands and ginger gum or chews are also helpful alternative options to add to your emergency first aid kit. And if you know you’re prone to motion sickness and are going to be in a situation on a trip that might exacerbate the issue, you can also talk to your doctor about prescription remedies.

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I like the pill options from DramamineBonine, and have also had some luck with wearing Sea-Band acupressure wristbands for dealing with minor motion sickness while traveling. If your motion sickness tends toward severe, there are also prescription medications like Scopolamine.

7. Thermometer

A fever can be associated with lots of different illnesses, and it’s good to have a temperature baseline to figure out next steps for treatment. 

The thermometer you have at home might already be small enough to easily travel with, but you’ll want to consider whether you need some kind of case to protect it. Thermometer strips are another easy, on-the-go alternative that take up almost no room (and you don’t have to worry about breaking them).

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iHealth, and NexTemp offer good options for traveling.

8. Tweezers

Tweezers are must-haves for removing splinters and bee stingers. You can buy tweezers specifically labeled for first aid, but really any stainless-steel ones with slim tips should do the trick. Just make sure to disinfect them before and after use for maximum safety.

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Options from Fox Medical EquipmentTweezerman, and Zizzili Basics are good choices for your emergency first aid kit.

9. Medications for Stomach Troubles

Don’t let nausea, indigestion, an upset stomach, or worse put a damper on your trip. Prepare for the worst by including some medications that tackle stomach issues in your emergency first aid kit.

Antacids help with heartburn or indigestion, while medications like Pepto Bismol help treat nausea, upset stomach, and the dreaded d-word. Include some different options and hope you don’t need them.

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Turn to brands like Pepto BismolNexiumKaopectateImodium, Nauzene, Emetrol, and Tums for dealing with stomach woes.

10. Gauze and Wrap

gauze partially unrolled on a table
If an injury needs more than a bandage, it’s good to have a small roll of gauze in your first aid kit as well (Photo: Envato/vadymvdrobot)

Some injuries might need more than just a bandage, so have some gauze and wrap in your kit too. Gauze doesn’t take up much room, and if you opt for self-adhesive wrap, you don’t need to also pack tape. Gauze pads (rather than rolled gauze) help keep bigger cuts clean and germ-free. And keeping a bandage wrap in your kit comes in handy for travel woes like sore knees and ankles.

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I like brands such as Ever ReadyBand-AidMed Pride, and Curad for these first-aid necessities.

More Things You Might Need

Once you’ve got the basics, you can customize by destination and activities. Treatments for insect bites and travel-sized cold packs for sore muscles or inflammation are among the things you might consider adding to your travel first aid kit.

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Beth Luberecki writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, USA TODAY, FamilyVacationist.com, and The Indianapolis Star. The Florida-based writer shares her travels on her website bethluberecki.com and on Instagram at @bethluberecki and @findingfloridafun.