Six weeks ago, I embarked on a two-month trip to Peru with my daughter and boyfriend. We would be spending one month in the jungle, and another month on the beach. For this trip, I packed a very complete first aid kit ever.
Heck, even I was impressed with how prepared I was. I thought of everything that could go wrong! 😮
Now that we are almost done with the trip, I can confirm that I did a really good job building the first aid kit. So, I’m going to tell you exactly what was in the kit, how much of each item, and which items we used and which ones we didn’t. Hopefully this will help you if you are planning a trip too.
Why Not Buy First Aid Supplies As You Need Them?
Even though we’d mostly be in cities, I didn’t want to rely on local pharmacies for first aid supplies.
Like that time I got sick while camping in Bulgaria. I went to the nearest city and pharmacy there. I had to use charades to act out “vomiting” and “diarrhea” so the pharmacist could understand what I needed. In retrospect, it was fun – but not something I want to do again. Waiting in line at a pharmacist while you have diarrhea is stressful!
I also didn’t want to (heaven forbid) run out looking for a 24 hour pharmacy in a strange city. On this Peru trip, Isabel actually DID get super sick with fever one night. Since my first aid kit had children’s ibuprofen in it (for fever), I didn’t have to make a 3 am run to a pharmacy.
What I Packed in the First Aid Kit
I find it helpful to break first aid items into categories based on what could go wrong. Then you can make sure you’ve got everything. So, I’ll list the items by category.
*Our trip was 2 months long and for 3 people (two adults, one child). For shorter trips, you’ll still need the same items – just probably not as many.
- Antiseptic gel for cuts: Used a bunch of times
- Balm for burns and damaged skin: Used several times
- Wad of cotton and 5 q-tips
- 30 Band-Aids: We actually used them all up while in the jungle and had to buy another 20.
- 4 alcohol cleansing prep pads: Used one for disinfecting toilet seat, not wounds
- 1 iodine prep pad
- 4 mini tubes of sodium chloride 0.9% saline solution
- 10 sterile gauze pads in three sizes: Used one
- Triangle bandage
- Sterile roller bandage (5cm x 4.5m)
- Larger roller bandage
- Vinyl gloves
- Medical tape: Used a lot of it to hang Christmas decorations and once to adhere a gauze dressing over a wound I got
- 30 tablets ibuprofen: Used 4
- 6 tablets aspirin with vitamin C
- 12 tablets cold/flu medication
- Itch cream for insect bites: Used almost the entire tube while in the jungle
- 1 bottle liquid Ibuprofen for children: Used one feverish night
- 20 capsules of anti-diarrhea medication: Used 6 capsules
- 24 probiotic capsules: Almost ALL of these were used! I had to buy more.
- 7 packets of electrolytes: 3 of these were used. (aka oral rehydration salts – buy here)
- Tweezers: Used for removing thorns (got a bunch while eating prickly pears) and also for plucking my eyebrows 😉
- Two safety pins
- Mini cold pack
- Ace Bandage
Things Which I DIDN’T Pack but Wish I Did
- Activated charcoal. I could only find this in gelatin capsules (which I don’t use because I’m vegan) so didn’t pack this. They would have been nice to take right when our food poisoning started.
- Berberine: This is a natural antibiotic with many other medicinal uses. Also would have been nice to take while combating our food poisoning. You can buy berberine here.
- Aloe vera: Where I live, I could only find this in a giant bottle, so I didn’t bring it. However, you can buy packets of aloe vera gel online. We needed this when my hubby got sunburnt. I climbed into someone’s garden and stole a piece of a real aloe plant instead 😉
Tips for Building a Travel First Aid Kit
When I go backpacking, I usually don’t bring this much stuff in my first aid kit. But I’m really glad that I brought all of this. It could have been devastating if I didn’t have that bottle of children’s Ibuprofen when Isabel got a temperature at 3am. Since I don’t think there was even a 24 hour pharmacy in the town, we probably wouldn’t have ended up in the hospital!
- Keep It Organized: As you can see from the pics, the first aid kit is pretty well organized. Each “type” of items are in a specific pocket. The meds and small items are in plastic baggies. This makes it easy to find things quickly – which might be crucial if you are dealing with a major injury.
- Think “Worst Case Scenario.” Those sterile gauze pads and roller bandages? They are for serious wounds and injuries. I feel good knowing that I’ve got clean dressings to prevent infection until we get to the hospital.
- Learn How to Actually Use the Stuff: If you don’t know how to use it, there is no point in having it in your first aid kit.
- Be Prepared for Traveler’s Diarrhea: No, your stomach is not as tough as you think it is! After dealing with this in Albania last summer, I was prepared with anti-diarrhea meds, probiotics, and lots of electrolytes.
- Consider Traveler’s Health Insurance: I had never gotten traveler’s health insurance before this trip. But, when going to the jungle where there are venomous snakes and crazy ants, you get insurance! Having insurance also made me more swift about going to the doctor when Isabel got sick.
Pre-Made Travel First Aid Kits
If you are looking for a pre-made travel first aid kit, be warned that most are really crappy.
I once bought a cheap first aid kit online for $12. The medical tape in it didn’t stick. The scissors didn’t cut… I did end up using the bag though. 🙂
So, be prepared to pay a bit more for a quality pre-made first aid kit. Even then you will still need to buy some of your own items like anti-itch creams and electrolytes. With that in mind, make sure the pre-made kit you buy has some room for extra items!
This World Traveler Kit by Adventure Medical Kit is one of the best pre-made first aid kits I’ve found. It is a bit pricier but actually has most of the stuff you need, like stomach ailment medications. You can buy it here.
What’s in your traveler’s medical kit? Connect on Facebook to join the discussion!