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Best Medications to Take With You While Traveling

cartoon woman packing for vacation

Packing for a trip can be both stressful and exciting, especially if you’re headed overseas. But while it’s fun to pick out sundresses and board shorts to wear on vacation, you can’t afford to forget a medical kit. This article will talk about some of the best travel medications that can help you enjoy a healthy trip.

First…Evaluate Your Travel Style

The medicines you pack in your travel kit will largely depend on the type of trip you’re taking and your destination. 

Medications to Bring for Travel Within the US

Say you’re going on a road trip across major cities in the US — it’s unlikely you’ll need to carry many medicines since you’ll always have access to a doctor’s office and pharmacies. 

On the other hand, if you’re going on a physically active trip, such as hiking and camping in the wilderness for several days, you’ll need a well-stocked medical kit with first aid items to ensure you can take care of common travel ailments.

Headed on a cruise ship vacation? There’s usually a medical clinic on board, but it’s helpful to have common over-the-counter medicines like pain, nausea, and fever medicine in your medical kit. 

Medications to Bring for International Travel

If you’ve got a longer international trip coming up, you might just have to bring a mini pharmacy with you, depending on where you're headed. When you travel to other countries where hygiene measures contrast your usual preference, your germ exposure skyrockets, especially if you’re using public transport and visiting a busy major city. 

While abroad, you are at increased risk of infections like traveler’s diarrhea from contaminated food or unfamiliar diets. Also, it’s possible you won’t have access to healthcare like the US in a remote country. Moreover, medicines and medical treatment may be less regulated, and English may not be widely spoken. Carefully packing your medical kit is especially important if you’re going away for an extended period.

Lastly, what travel medication you bring varies greatly from person to person. If you’re traveling solo and are generally healthy and hardy, you might get away with bringing only the bare minimum of travel meds. On the other hand, if you’ve got kids or older people in your party, it makes sense to bring medicine for most common ailments. 

The medications you carry can help bring temporary relief from an uncomfortable sickness until you return home. Your past few trips can tell you what kind of medications to pack in your travel medical kit, but here are the essentials. 

Prescription Medications

Always take enough prescription medicines with you on any trip, whether your destination is in the US or overseas. It’s a good idea to carry sufficient medicine for the duration of your trip plus a few extra days since finding a replacement of the exact brand and dosage can sometimes be challenging. Plus, you might need to see a doctor before getting your prescription filled in a new destination. 

Make sure you pack your prescription medications in your carry-on bag. If that’s not possible, keep at least 2-3 days’ worth of medicines in your carry-on just in case your checked bag gets lost. 

Keep your doctors’ phone numbers and a copy of your prescriptions on you in case you need a refill while away. Always carry prescription meds in their original packaging with your name clearly legible. 

Lastly, if you’re headed overseas, visit a travel clinic to get any required shots and prescriptions for travel medication such as malaria tablets.

Over The Counter Medicines

Here are some medications you won’t regret packing in your bag for your next trip.

Anti-Diarrheal Medication

Given all the new food you’re going to try, it’s important to have an OTC anti-diarrheal medication such as loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol). Also, carry some electrolyte tablets in your medical kit to prevent dehydration if you do get diarrhea. Since it’s practically impossible to avoid unhealthy habits or adventorous foods while on vacation, it’s worthwhile to carry antacids for relief from acid reflux after big meals. If acid reflux is a common problem, avoiding meals before bed can minimize symptoms in comparison to taking antacids. 


Traveler’s diarrhea can be a nightmare, but the changes in your diet and routine can also cause the opposite problem, i.e., causing you to get blocked up. Drinking water and eating a fiber-rich diet should help, but a mild laxative like bisacodyl (Dulcolax) is worth including in your medical kit for relief from constipation.

Pain and Fever Medicine

Jet lag-induced headaches, backache from lifting luggage, achy feet from walking, and sleeping in beds that aren’t your own can all cause aches and pains that can suck the fun out of your vacation. An over-the-counter pain and fever medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin) can effectively treat minor aches and pains. It’s worth noting that these drugs are usually easily available at a local pharmacy. 

Motion Sickness Medicine

When you’re on the move in planes, trains, and automobiles, and of course, on boat rides, you can get shaken about, leaving you feeling nauseous and queasy. If you or someone in the family suffers from motion sickness, carry some motion sickness medicine like dimenhydrinate (Dramamine). Scopolamine is another option and may work better for some, but dimenhydrinate has been reported to be more effective.


When you’re traveling, various things in your new environment can trigger allergies. If you don’t want to suffer and ruin your trip with constant sniffling, include an over-the-counter antihistamine in your medical kit packing list. OTC antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can effectively relieve allergy symptoms. Warning: If you’re driving, make sure the antihistamine is a non-drowsy generation. 

Cold Remedies,Cough Drops, and Congestion

Common colds are usually self-resolving; however, the symptoms of a cold or a sore or ticklish throat can be very uncomfortable when you’re traveling. A cough suppressant or OTC cold remedy can help to keep you more comfortable. It is common for throat irritation to be caused by sinus drainage. In situations such as these, medications designed to relieve congestion, stuffy nose, and watery and itchy eyes are preferred. Examples include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and guaifenesin (Mucinex).

Sleep Aids

Long flights can leave you jet-lagged and unable to enjoy your trip. A sleep aid such as melatonin can help to reset your body clock. Melatonin is a natural hormone in the body and is available in supplement form. It is not habit-forming, and you can take it for a few nights to regulate your sleep cycle. Melatonin can help you sleep on flights or if you want to catch a nap in a noisy place. Just take it about 30 minutes before you want to sleep. 

Ointments and Creams

Minor cuts and scrapes can happen anytime, more so when you’re on the move. Keep an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin or bacitracin in your first aid kit when you’re traveling. Also, OTC hydrocortisone cream is a must, especially if you’ll be spending time outdoors. It can relieve redness and itching from poison ivy, insect bites, and other rashes. 

So, that’s our list of essential medicines for your travel kit. Pack these for your next trip, and keep your fingers crossed that you won’t need them!