Packing Lists

Over-the-counter medical kit | Packing List

When planning a long trip, it can be tempting to load up on a big medical kit and carry it with you everywhere. Nothing scarier than the unknown!

However, unless you’re going into extremely rural areas, doing big mountain hikes or otherwise putting yourself into high risk situations, you can most likely find whatever you need at your destination. Everyone gets sick, and everyone needs medicine. If you’re in a decent-sized city, you will be able to find whatever you need as far as basic medications go.

The key to packing light is to ONLY take what you need, not what you THINK you may want at some point in the future. Here’s specifically what to pack in your travel medicine kit when you’re going on a long trip.

Be forwarned: it’s all American brands because I’m American and that’s what I’m familiar with, but there’s equivalents in all other countries because it’s just standard stuff everyone has everywhere.

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Travel medicine kit

Assuming you don’t have specific needs for certain kinds of medicines, you should carry just enough to get you through until you can get to a pharmacy– or just enough to last until you can get to a refill.

Go for tablets and powders over liquids, and be sure to check for restrictions about what you can bring into the countries you’re planning on visiting. Some places like Japan don’t let you take in certain medicines, or only in certain quantities. Usually, if it’s 3 months worth of meds, you’re good to go. I’ve had no issue with small bottles of 100 count pills, myself, but no way I’d be able to get away carrying in a gigantic 500 count bottles like we can get in the US.

My kit is kept in a small pouch I bought at Daiso in Japan earlier this year, about the size of my hand. I also keep a few things in my purse for when I’m away from my hotel during the day.

Very basic list of things you’ll want: a painkiller, an antihistamine, an anti-diarrhea, something for burns, bandaids.

More in-depth list of suggested things:

  • Pepto-Bismol [Bismuth subsalicylate] tablets — for indigestion/diarrhea.
  • Tylenol [Acetaminophen/Paracetamol] — for headaches, body aches, etc.
  • Ibuprofen — for very bad headaches, inflamed injuries.
  • Benadryl [Diphenhydramine] — for allergies.
  • Claritin [Loratadine] — for hay fever/pollen allergies.
  • Neosporin [antibiotic ointment] — for burns and small cuts.
  • White Tiger Balm — for itchy mosquito bites.
  • Bandaids — in a few different sizes.
  • Electrolyte powders — for dehydration.
  • Throat lozenges
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer

These are all American brands, but there’s something similar in every country. I’ve listed the proper names in brackets so you can find a brand more familiar to you.

I also suggest bringing a bug bite zapper; it heats up and breaks up the proteins in a bug bite to make it way less itchy and disappear fast.

Other things to carry

Some items for further consideration:

  • Alcohol wipes — handy if you can’t get to a sink with soap fast enough.
  • ACE bandage — for sprained ankles or feet.
  • Moleskin — for blisters. Actually, this is the one thing I had trouble finding in Malaysia.
  • A sleep aid like melatonin
  • Anti-nausea pills — if you get motion sick on buses or boats.
  • Red Tiger Balm — for sore muscles.
  • Water sterilization pen — you probably won’t need this! BUT! I’ve been in the situation where I’ve run out of clean drinking water, all the stores are closed and the hotel doesn’t have any water available for guests. Having one of these pens would’ve been helpful in that specific situation. Is it absolutely necessity? Probably not, especially if you plan well enough. But if you’re forgetful…

Big ticket items like malaria pills can be bought in the country you’ll need them for, probably for cheaper than you’d find in the US.

Basically: pack enough to help your future self get to a pharmacy or doctor, but don’t pack for your fears!


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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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