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What’s In Your Travel Medicine Cabinet?

We’ve all been there. We’re in the middle of our dream vacation, and all of a sudden we’ve got a killer sore throat. Or a kid suddenly and without warning throws up in the hotel room. Or your nose is so stuffy that you can’t breathe or sleep.

Let’s be honest. Getting sick on vacation sucks. And being sick on vacation really zaps the pleasure out of any trip and makes it hard to enjoy the moment.

For my family, it’s rare that we have a vacation where none of my family gets sick. Usually it’s me and at least one kid. Between the germy airplane and crowded places and getting less sleep, it’s bound to happen.

I remember coughing my way through my family’s first 7-night cruise on the Disney Fantasy. I kept everyone in our room awake, and the lack of sleep put us all in bad moods. Then there was the time just over a year ago, while staying at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, that my ears were so stuffed I could barely hear. What?

Well, every experience makes us smarter. I continue to change our pre-trip health routine and our medicine while on vacation. My family got into a groove in 2017 and miraculously we didn’t have any major sickies on any of our vacations. Woohoo!

I always travel with a gallon-size Ziploc bag of medicine on our trips which serves as our travel medicine cabinet. I do this because usually it’s way cheaper and much more convenient to pack our own medicine instead of trying to find what we need in a strange city.

So here is what works for me. Note: This is not a sponsored post. I was not paid to mention any of the brands listed below.

What's In Your Travel Medicine Cabinet?

Airborne Effervescents

Airborne is my go-to before, during and after a trip. I took one or two tablets a day during my Alaska cruise last summer and also during our recent winter getaway. Whenever my throat started to feel scratchy, I soon felt better after having a drink with Airborne in it. I’m convinced that Airborne is the most responsible for me not getting sick on our vacations in 2017.

Airborne effervescents come in a small tube that’s very easy to transport. I prefer the effervescents over the chewable tablets because the tablets are very concentrated and tart.

Afrin Nose Spray

Afrin clears a stuffy nose with just a few squirts. But in December 2016, I discovered that Afrin is good for more than just a stuffy nose. It’s also great for clogged ears.

Alka Seltzer Plus Cold Night Effervescents

When I do get a cold, I prefer Alka Seltzer Plus Cold Night Effervescents over Nyquil. They are easier to transport than liquid Nyquil, and they take effect quickly.

Aspirin and Vicks Vapo Rub

My husband and I each have our own preferred headache medicine (Bayer Aspirin and Advil Migraine). Sure, hotel gift shops usually at least have Tylenol, but I find the stuff we bring to be more effective.

I also throw in a small jar of Vicks VapoRub for coughs.

Children’s Medicine

Since I’ve got kids that still can’t take all adult medicine, I always throw in some children’s versions of a few medicines. We bring Children’s Tylenol or Ibuprofen, Children’s Benadryl and some Children’s Pepto tablets. One of my kids develops reactions to different foods when we least expect it, so having the Benadryl gives me peace of mind.

Longer Trips: NeilMed Sinus Rinse Bottle and Refill Packets

If I’m going to be gone for more than a few days, I’ll bring my NeilMed sinus rinse bottle with some refill packets. People usually fall into one of two categories for sinus rinses: Best Thing Ever, or EWWWWW.

I’m in the “best thing ever” category. I’m convinced that keeping junk out of my sinuses helps me ward off illnesses. Many hotels and cruise ships have distilled water available if you ask.

Bottom Line

It sounds like we take a lot of medicine with us when we travel. However, all of it is fairly small and fits neatly in our suitcase. If I know ahead of time that our hotel will be next door to a pharmacy, I might take less.

We put so much time, effort and heart into our vacation plans. It really is a shame when sickness puts a damper on our plans. I hope to keep my trend of warding of illnesses on our future vacations (knock on wood!)

Readers, what about you? What routines do you have in place to prevent sickness on vacation? What do you bring with you in your travel medicine cabinet? Tell me about your worst experience you’ve ever had being sick on a trip.

Note: This post is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your physician.

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Author: Nancy

Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.

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25 thoughts on “What’s In Your Travel Medicine Cabinet?

  1. Recently we’ve added a mini first aid kit and my personal favorite, KT tape. I got stung by a bee on the bottom of my foot on a weekend trip in the middle of NO WHERE and the small hotel had nothing to offer me for it.

  2. Nancy travel preparedness level: Expert.

    I guess I just never really thought of being this prepared. Thankfully, we’ve never had any major sicknesses while traveling but have ran to the pharmacy for cough or allergy meds on occasion. I have a big trip coming up in a week and with the flu everywhere, I’ve been drinking Airborne everyday. I think I’ll take your advice and pack some for the duration of the trip since we’ll be on long flights. Before the next family trip, I’ll definitely be making up a medicine bag like yours.

    • @Jennifer You are lucky to have no major sicknesses on vacations! I mainly started my medicine bag for our cruises, because the ships carry such a limited supply of offerings. But it’s also been useful at Disney World because when we stay onsite it’s a real chore to get to a real pharmacy.

  3. This is what my husband and I carry for our trips (on my insistence.. haha), doesn’t include bandaids, gauze, tapes (we carry a bit more than avg travelers because of my allergies and our passion for rock climbing):
    – Aspirin/Ibuprofen
    – Zyrtec
    – Flonase nasal spray
    – Benadryl
    – ZZquil
    – Eyedrops
    – Travelan (anti-diarrhea med)
    – a Thai brand of gentle herbal constipation med that works the BEST (for me)
    – Neosporin
    – cortizone cream
    – insect repellant
    – sun screen
    – bandaid, gauze, tapes
    I’m working on including an Adrenaclick (affordable epi-pen alternative) soon. 😀

  4. Here’s my bag:

    – thermometer
    – ibuprofen (chewable & regular)
    – Kirkland nasal spray
    – multi-cold symptom reliever for kids
    – robitussen for adults if someone has a bad cough before we leave
    – inhaler
    – Nyquil/Dayquil pills
    – eyedrops
    – cortisone cream (youngest and I will break out with a leg rash in the heat)
    – aloe vera
    – bandaids
    – I just bought 2 pairs of ear planes for myself & my youngest since we always seem to have ear issues on the plane – I’m hoping to try them out during Spring Break

  5. This is great Nancy! As a follow-up, am I the only one whose gallon bag not only has medicine but also has some random things – detergent packets, sharpie, flashlight, duct tape, etc? What other random things do you bring?

    • @Kelly I’ll be bringing detergent packets on our next trip for sure! My kids’ backpacks have enough random things to cover our entire family. 🙂

  6. I bring ibuprofen, bandaids, Neosporin, and for tropical or exotic vacations, several stomach medicines: activated charcoal for mild food poisoning/traveler’s diarrhea, Imodium for more serious cases, plus some oral rehydration packets (add to water and drink to recover liquids and nutrients when you’ve lost a lot in a short time). I or my husband have been struck with some stomach thing at least half of such trips. In fact we just got back from Cambodia a few days ago, and I needed to take some of the charcoal at the end of it, and it really helped limit whatever I got. It’s great to have that stuff on hand and not need you or others to go looking for in exotic places (though I’ve had to do that too).

    • @Debra Sorry to hear you get sick on some of your trips! My family doesn’t usually get stomach issues on trips, it’s usually more upper respiratory stuff. Wow, Cambodia! I’d love to hear more about your trip.

  7. I have had a blast on every trip even if I get a bit sick sometimes. In fact, the one time I got REALLY sick was during one of my favorite trips of all time, in Bagan, Myanmar! Fortunately, I had allotted several days in a nice hotel there, and after a day spent in my room, I was able to get on an electric scooter and rode around the marvelous temples, stopping to climb them and just lounge around atop them. It was so beautiful and relaxing, I barely noticed I was sick while I was out! So many of the temples were nearly empty (this was the summer off-season four years ago, I bet they’re gotten more crowded now), it was just wonderful. Anyway, as far as “high digestive risk” destinations I / we have also made trips to Bali, India, Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines, Java, and now Cambodia, and I have adored them all, in spite of any digestive issues.

    Anyway, on our last trip, from Jan. 2 to 8 we flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia and visited the ruins of Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom, and many others in the surrounding area. It was amazing! The temples are gorgeous, 1000+ year old architectural marvels, many with trees growing in and around the building stones, both slowly destroying and holding them together! We also visited Kampung Phluk, a poor but lovely village of houses on stilts literally on the river much of the year, surrounded by picturesque flooded forests. Siem Reap itself is a bustling down with nice and cheap restaurants, bars and spas everywhere you look–it’s all a bit chaotic yet somehow remains a laid-back, friendly place. We had such a great time. 😀

    • @Debra I’m glad you enjoy every trip even when you get sick. When I get sick on vacation I tend to dwell on it and let it take over, LOL. Wow! Your trip sounds amazing! Thanks for telling us more about it. I would love to see those ancient temples someday.

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