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DIY first aid kit: hacks and packing tips from travel industry experts

Feb 15, 2022 by Emily Houston

If you’ve ever found yourself digging through your luggage for a loose Band-Aid or a face mask, you’re not alone. The solution? Building your own travel first aid kit. See what our experts recommend you pack in yours before you head out on tour.

How to make a travel first aid kit

From tips for picking the right bag for your travel-size first aid kit, to the benefits of having one in the first place, here’s what you should keep in mind as you pack up for tour.

  • Keep it compact. The best travel first aid kit is small enough to throw in your daily bag so you can have it with you while you’re out exploring. Those are the times it’ll come in the handiest! You’ll be glad you have it if you need a Band-Aid to cover a blister after a long afternoon of exploring on foot during your free time—we call that the traveler’s badge of honor.
  • Make it carry-on approved. It’s an added bonus if all of the supplies in your travel-size first aid kit meet the carry-on requirements, in case you need to use during your flight. You could even toss in a few self-care essentials, like under-eye patches, to pamper yourself on the plane.
  • Customize it to your destination. By opting for a DIY first aid kit over a pre-packed one from the drugstore, you can fill it with supplies you likely already have in your medicine cabinet. Hello, saving money! And, since you’re the one making it, you’ll also know everything in it is A-OK by TSA standards and the security agencies in the destinations you’ll be visiting. For example, codeine, commonly found in headache medications, is banned in Greece. Better to build your travel first aid kit with entry requirements like this in mind, than to get stopped by security.
  • Select an eco-friendly option. Don’t throw that old Altoid tin in the trash—it can be repurposed to fit all your fist aid essentials. (Don’t believe us? Just watch the video above!) If you need a bit more space for extra bottles of hand sanitizer and face masks, opt for a small cloth toiletry bag or a silicone Stasher bag. These reusable options are more durable and help you respect plastic bag bans in places like Kenya and Tanzania.

See more eco-friendly travel essentials for your next trip →


What to include in a travel first aid kit

Now that you know the perks of having a DIY first aid kit, here’s our essential list of what to pack in your travel first aid kit.

  • Hand sanitizer and lotion. Fill one side of a contact case with each. Need extra? Toss in travel-size bottles that are 100ml or less to meet domestic and international security guidelines, or bring wipes. “Hand sanitizer wipes are a must on any wellness travel packing list,” said staffer Jamie. “They’re perfect for wiping down the seat and tray table on your flight (imagine how many people touch those things!), and come in handy if you’re in an off-the-beaten-path destination where bathroom amenities are scarce,” she said.
  • Daily medicine. While we recommend keeping any prescribed medication in their original bottles, an empty lip balm tube is the perfect place to store over-the-counter headache, pain relief, or allergy pills.
  • Face masks. Some airlines only allow passengers to wear medical-approved face masks. We recommend you stash a few of those (like the standard blue ones, KN95, or N95) in your bag to wear on the plane and during your daily activities on tour.
  • Alcohol wipes and bandages. Packing these makes cleaning up any small cuts, scrapes, or blisters a breeze.
  • Cotton swabs. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of sometimes using these to clean out your ears. In a pinch, they get to job done, but are also great to clean up any makeup smudges.
  • Floss and mints. Having bad breath and food stuck in your teeth is a faux pas no matter where you are in the world.
  • Lozenges. When you have a busy day of chatting and laughing with new friends on tour, these will help you say sayonara to an oncoming scratchy throat.
  • Hair elastics and bobby pins. Hair blowing in your face during a boat ride in Costa Rica? Looking up at iconic sites like the Duomo? These come in handy in case you want to pull your hair out of your face… or securely close your first aid kit!

Want more packing tips? Check out our carry-on packing guide →

Additional tips from our experts

Do you have some extra room in your travel first aid kit after packing the essentials? Our travel experts recommend bringing these helpful bits to round out your first aid kit.

  • Motion sickness bracelets. “They’re super cheap and absolutely help with all kinds of motion sickness—especially bus tours,” said staffer Greta. Check out these affordable ones on Amazon →.
  • Emergen-C powder. “I try and drink Emergen-C mixed with water every few days while traveling and definitely whenever I have to be on a bus, in a train station, or at an airport,” said staffer Shannon. This tablet, which dissolves when you drop it into your drink, is great for staving off a cold.
  • Sleep mask and ear plugs. “These are wellness travel products I don’t leave home without,” said staffer Courtney. “Having a sleep mask and ear plugs ensures that I always have a dark and quiet place to get some sleep even if the world around me is bright and loud,” she said.

Read our wellness travel essentials article to see what else our team members can’t travel without→

Browse all of our tours and get inspired to pack your bags for your next great getaway!

Packing tips
About the author | Emily Houston
Emily loves the simple travel moments—like watching hours pass by in minutes while sharing a meal and a laugh (or many) with her friends and family. Outside the office, you'll find Emily listening to anything and everything John Mayer, attempting to cook a New York Times recipe, or dreaming up her next trip.

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