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Travel first aid kit essentials

First aid kits are often overlooked by travellers, mainly because most minor ailments only occur when you’re surrounded by other people or medical supplies are readily at hand.

But when the biting ants gnaw between your toes on a secluded beach, believe me, you’ll wish you packed a travel first aid kit. 

So, check out our advice below on organising and buying your kit, as well as what items to include.

Organising your travel first aid kit like your life depends on it

Organising your first aid kit is an important part of packing for any trip. After all, you’re bringing it in case you need it.

And in the event you need it, you really want to know it’s organised and fit for purpose. Otherwise, there’s little point. So here’s our top tips on organising your medical kit:

  • Have a dedicated home for it in your van, backpack or luggage and always know exactly where it is. In the event of an emergency, you need to go straight to it. Not start fumbling around looking for it.
  • Know exactly what your first aid kit contains and how to use the contents. There’s not much point otherwise.
  • Make sure you stock your first aid kit to suit your own needs and the type of trip. The contents of your kit will look different for a hiking trip in Scottish Highlands than a road trip across America.
  • Keep a copy of your travel insurance policy and claims line in your first aid kit along with any emergency contact number.

Check this out: packing essentials for your road trip

Buying your travel first aid kit

The easiest way to get one, is to buy a travel first aid kit at your local chemist. Take care though because there’s a tendency to think you’re sorted for any medical eventuality.

Perhaps this is true but do make sure an off the shelf travel first aid kit contains everything you may need. And make sure to consider your personal health needs an off the shelf kit won’t cater for, such as any prescription medication.

If like us you prefer to save a little money, find a suitable storage bag and fill it with the contents you need. It’s way cheaper to buy a good quality toiletry bag and fill it with the items specific to your own needs.

Sure it’s not as convenient but it’ll certainly be bespoke to you.

Essential contents for any travel first aid kit

For dressings (cuts, bruises and sprains)

  • 1 x roll of medical tape
  • 1 x box of plasters in different sizes
  • Non-adherent dressings
  • 2 x bandages (1 large, 1 small)
  • 1 x small scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Latex gloves (to protect you from someone else’s blood)

Top tips for dressings:

Cling film is fantastic for burns and other abrasions and as you can see through it, you can keep an eye on a wound without tampering with the dressing.

You don’t really need to carry safety pins – just tie a knot in the dressing and avoid stabbing someone :-)


  • Antiseptic (You can buy bottles or sprays of standard antiseptic, or get ready-prepared antiseptic wipes.)
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-diarrhoea drugs

 Other items that may be useful in certain circumstances

  • Medicine to prevent altitude sickness (white ibuprofen)
  • Water purification tablets
  • Commercial suture/syringe kits to be used by local healthcare provider
  • Your personal prescription medications
  • A spare pair of reading/driving glasses
  • Thermometer

Travel first aid kit packing tips

Some countries have extremely strict rules about both over the counter medications and prescribed drugs entering their borders. Check before you travel that you are not breaching any of those rules.

A first aid quick reference card is really useful in the event of needing to use the contents of the first aid kit. Read it before you need it and keep it in your first aid kit for future reference.

Make sure you keep the dosage information leaflets with your medications. If you don’t know how to use the contents of your travel first aid kit, you are almost better off without it.

Think about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. What are the more likely accidents you may need to pack for? Go going to desert? You might need to think about heat exhaustion or sunburn. Going to the Arctic? Maybe you need to think about hypothermia treatment.

First aid training

Having a well stocked and organised first aid kit is great but knowing how to use it is as important. If possible attend a first aid training course before your trip. It’ll give you piece of mind on what to do in the event of some injuries and who knows, you may even save somebody’s life one day.

Travel insurance

We bang on about it a lot but please make sure you’re covered with a good travel insurance policy. You can’t afford to travel without one. We’ve heard stories of people who have had to use ALL their money (and then some) because they didn’t have travel insurance. You can get a free quote in the widget in the sidebar.

This may seem a lot of medical kit, but it’s surprisingly light and compact. Keep it well stocked, make sure the medications remain in date and always have it handy. You never know when you might need it.

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