First aid kit: Packing tips for Families

When you travel you want to feel GOOD! No, you want to feel GREAT!

But new food, jet lag, and pushing your body to climb/hike/stay up late, etc. can have anyone feeling less than 100% at times on a trip. Right?  Feeling under the weather is bad enough when you are at home but can be even more uncomfortable on the road or in an enclosed space like an airplane or car.

All parents know that illnesses in the kids tend to show up on the middle of the night on a weekend  or on a holiday or at 30,000 feet or when you are stuck on a highway that has been closed for 2 hours due to road construction, etc., etc. soooo….. the best defense is a great offense!


Right! You need a first aid kit.

First Aid Kit: Packing Tips

First Aid Kit –  Do NOT buy over the counter kits in the cute little bag.

These little cutesy first aid kits (and I use the term ‘first aid kit’ very loosely) do NOT have what you need. Have you ever looked in one of these? They have a couple of bandaids, an antibacterial wipe and maybe neosporin if you are lucky. One I looked at had safety pins. Really? How is that going to help you at midnight when you have a kid throwing up or crying in pain from an earache?

At midnight when a kid is sick you need some REAL first aid stuff – no bandaids and safety pins. To be sure you are covered – you need to build your own! (Feel free to put it in a cute little bag!!)

first aid kit,

First Aid Kit – Look in your own medicine cabinet first.

What sorts of medicine does your family need? Do you have someone with an easily upset tummy? Headaches? Allergies?  Those are the things you are most likely to encounter and the things you need to plan for. What you reach for at home is what you’ll most likely reach for on vacation.

For example, I never go anywhere without a plethora of allergy medicine because I have all sorts of weird allergies that show up at the WORST possible times. Not too long ago, I woke up from a good night’s sleep in a hotel covered in a horrible rash. Turns out they used a little more bleach than usual and my allergy skin couldn’t handle it. My go-to allergy medicine is Benadryl but you can’t take that and stay awake! Thank you Benadryl cream. It totally saved the day as it calmed down my skin AND let me stay awake for the day’s activities.

If you, too,  are unlucky in the allergy department, learn from my experiences by reading my post How to Travel with Allergies. 

First Aid Kit – Take LESS than entire packages or bottles.

When you start packing your personal first aid kit open all the packages and toss in just a few doses of each. You do not need an entire box of bandaids….Or an entire bottle of tums…or an entire box of …anything!  If you need 80 bandaids you either have a toddler that likes to wear them as stripes (I’ve been there!) or a problem you need more than bandaids to cure!

First Aid Kit – Use ziploc bags.

Here is a photo of my own personal high tech, fancy shmancy first aid kit. OOOOH! Ahhhh!! I know you are swooning from being so impressed!

medicine, first aid kit,

I love the zip-loc baggie so I can see what is inside. I’m a big believer in taking things out of the original package for 2 reasons: 1) I only carry a few doses of each thing. 2) Pack light, pack light, pack light.

Write doses on ziploc baggies in Sharpie. I always include kids’ dose vs adult dose on the baggie, too. When I’m in the middle of jet lag fog I’m always glad I took this extra step.

Read more about why ziploc baggies are a MUST pack item!

First Aid Kit – Choose chewables over liquids.

Medicine comes in a variety of forms; caplet, tablet, liquid, chewable.  If there is a choice, I go with chewables and single dose packaging. Then, no worries about spillage in the suitcase. Also, no worries about getting through airport security with liquids.

Anything you can do to avoid worrying on vacation is worth the trouble to prepare. When in doubt, choose dry!

First Aid Kit – Plan for the usual suspects.

What types of illnesses are you most likely to encounter while traveling? Probably tummy issues from unusual food, a virus like a cold, and pain like a headache are the main problems you will encounter. Plan ahead for these.

These things will keep you up and running till you can get more specific medicines. If you often need prescription medications like like things for migraines or yeast infections (see the lady business section below for more info) ask your dr for some extra to take with you on vacation. While you are using the first few doses of the medicine you brought, you’ll have time to find the local pharmacist if you think you’ll need more.

Great choices for upset tummy, diarrhea, and vomiting:

Consider these for pain:

My personal choices for stuffy nose issues from allergies or a cold:

medicine, first aid kit,

Often in Europe, a pharmacist can give you things you would need a doctor’s visit to get here in the states. Usually, you can find a pharmacy nearby with a big GREEN cross sign.

Green Pharmacy sign in Europe, first aid kit,

Visiting a pharmacy in another country is an adventure. The staff is helpful and friendly and usually at least one person speaks English. This is the lovely lady who helped us in Madrid when we had a few stuffy noses. Thankfully I brought a few doses of stuff for colds, but with 3 of us sniffling and sneezing at the same time, we needed more medicine and fast.

Young woman with dark hair Pharmacist in Madrid, first aid kit,

***I have found that even the people that ‘don’t speak English’ speak much more English than I speak of their language. Be happy and appreciative of their effort.

!!!!!!  WARNING  !!!!!


First Aid Kit – Information on Lady ‘Stuff’

Infections: Ladies, in Europe, you visit the pharmacist and not the dr for medicine for bladder and yeast infections. That is good because you don’t need to find a dr, but….if your foreign language skills aren’t really good with this specific vocabulary (Don’t you remember chapter 17 in French class on vaginal infections? Neither do I!) then you’ll be reduced to your best charades. So…if you are prone to such issues then you might want to pack your own or at the very least try google translate for the vocabulary you need.

How do I know this valuable tidbit you ask? From personal experience of course! Yes, there I was, a very, very long time ago, in a lovely little quaint town in France in need of some medicine for a yeast infection. That is when I found out you can get pretty much anything you need at the pharmacy without a dr’s prescription, (which is great because neither my budget for time nor my budget for money allowed for a doctor’s visit) BUT… have to ask for it. Of course my French does not include vocabulary for yeast infections AND the pharmacist was a young and very handsome guy which made charades a game I didn’t really want to play.  The experience of getting the medicine I needed was right out of a comedy skit! LOL! Even the ‘bad’ parts of travel make for great memories later.

Periods: BYOT – Bring your own tampons. If your cycle is rock solid on schedule, I hate you. No wait, what I mean is I’m so jealous and Yeah, you! 😉 If you are a regular schedule girl you’ll know just whether or not you need to bring your own tampons or not and how many to bring. For those of us whom Aunt Flo hates….it is a little more complicated. Bring your own – it is just easier.

Yes, women all over the world have periods and yes you can get lady business paraphernalia in most places. BUT again…this can be a very, very interesting experiences. Once, I needed tampons in a very small town in Italy. This led to a very interesting visit to a tiny, teeny, itty, bitty corner store. In this tiny store was a MAN (of course) who was behind the counter and you had to ask him for what you wanted. So, in order to study the boxes (all in Italian and different than what I was used to) meant asking for several….suffice to say it was embarrassing AND I came away with something more like full size mattress pads than what I had in mind. NOT fun and NOT pleasant…though a great story later. Even though it is a great story…I don’t want to have any more like it!!

Consider a menstrual cup like the Diva Cup. To be honest…there is nothing like a new product on the menu like this to make me feel older than dirt. Just thinking about changing this cup in a bathroom that is moving because you are on a boat, or in a bathroom that is just a hole in the ground…makes me cringe. I’ve heard young ladies swearing up and down about how easy and clean it is and how it changed their life and stuff….but I’m just not so sure it is for me. If you are braver that I – go for it!! Try it at home first..just to make sure you have the hang of it before you are trying to deal with it in the backwoods while hiking. 😉

How about Period Panties? Ok, this is another one that just sounds…a little gross. These panties soak up blood and you can wear them ALL day long. Hmmmm….really? I’ve read they are comfortable, feel dry, and comfortable. Then, you wash them, hang to dry, and use again. The good news is that styles made by Thinx are really nice looking!

Leaks: For those ladies who have had babies and/or haven’t seen your 20s in a might lose a little urine when you sneeze, laugh, breath, or just exist, there is a new kid on the block and this one promises to PREVENT leaks. Yes, you read that correctly – stop leaking. I saw a photo of the Finess product on Pinterest and frankly, thought it was a joke. It looks a little like a plug for a drain which is….just what it is!! The testimonials for Finess are impressive so if leaks are a part of your life (and they are for 1 in 3 women) this product is worth trying out and taking with you on vacation!

Period Panties but for Urine Leaks: If you rather not plug up the leak but want to catch the drips instead…there is a sister brand to the period panties for leaks – Icon! They say “Urine Luck!” and you can wear them all day. Wash, dry, rewear.

But, if you don’t want memories of being embarrassed at the pharmacist, plan ahead.

Help your fellow travelers and SHARE this message!

Uchisar Castle near Goreme, First Aid Kit,

If you have any fantastic first aid tips, please leave them in the comment section!

Happy and healthy travels!

Natalie, The Educational Tourist The Educational Tourist logo, first aid kit,

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14 Responses

  1. Kristi Hynes says:

    Great tips! It’s often overlooked but should be one of the first things to pack! I also have a thermometer in my kit! I love your idea of ziplock bags! It would save me time on digging for items!!!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      A thermometer is a great addition! We had to buy on in Madrid. I also got a lesson from the pharmacist on what is ‘fever’ in celcius!

  2. Susan says:

    Many years ago, I read that the best single med to take was codeine — being Canadian, I can buy aspirin or tylenol with codeine in the drugstore. It is good for headaches, tooth and period pain, etc. And it works on diarrhea. Plus it is a cough suppressant. Pick some up on your next visit to Canada — or visit Canada and take some home as a souvenir!

  3. Larry Weaver says:

    Thanks for the recommendation to get chewables over liquids when making first aid kits. Being able to not have to worry about liquids when going through airport security is a nice plus for choosing chewable medicine. Using Ziploc bags is also a good idea for organizing a kit that I’ll have to check out.

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