First Aid Kit Basics for Carry On Travelers

Jenn Sutherland-Miller

This week we are pleased to present a guest post by Marci Livingston of Do More Than Exist. Marci and her family are on an open ended world tour and are experts at packing light!

Dopp kit, toiletries, first aid supplies, medical bag……… regardless of your choice of words, most people pack some type of kit for their healthcare needs when traveling. It would be nice to have everything on hand for all possible situations, but if you want to pack light it is important to only include the essentials. And trying to decide what is absolutely necessary is where the questions start.

  • What if I get food poisoning?
  • What if I get a bite or a sting?
  • What if I get a terrible illness?
  • Have I prepared for every possible scenario?

My step-father is a pharmacist and when I was a child his traveling bag included everything we might need to cover all situations. We usually traveled by car and we had the extra space we needed to pack a small duffle full of medical supplies. But when I started traveling internationally, with my husband and our 4 kids, it was necessary to figure out how to scale down to just the first aid basics.

I have learned that in most towns, even the most remote ones, I can find what I need to take care of our family’s medical needs. It may be a little difficult to find, or to correctly communicate, what I am looking for but it is worth it to only pack the essentials and not pack the things that can be easily purchased most everywhere.

The trick that I have learned is that we need to take care of ourselves from when we leave until we reach our destination. And whether we travel by rail, car, boat, or plane, I have a small bag of items that I always carry. I have found that these simple items get us by in most situations.

The Essentials


Peppermint Essential Oil

This is perfect for nausea associated with motion sickness. I rub a little on my wrists or just inhale it whenever I start to feel queasy. Peppermint is also great for tension headaches. It can be rubbed over the temples, the sinuses, and the back of the neck. And for stomach aches from eating too much food (or the wrong food), a drop of peppermint rubbed on the abdomen can help calm everything down. I have also discovered that a little dab of this oil on a bug bite or sting takes the pain away quickly. I have purchased a small bottle to carry with me and I keep a bigger bottle at home for refilling.


I like to carry these with me at all times (not only my travel bag). When eating or hiking in new places there might be a case of food allergy or an allergic reaction to a bite or a plant. Taking an antihistamine can slow the allergic reaction down until you can get to a clinic, if necessary.

Hydrogen Peroxide

In addition to being a great disinfectant you can also use it for stain removal. And, some people like to rinse their mouth with it saying that it helps brighten their teeth. If you are only able to find large bottles of hydrogen peroxide, make sure to transfer it to a smaller bottle that is dark in color (because when it is exposed to light it breaks down and is no longer effective).

Badger Headache Soother

This is one of my favorite rubs for headaches. As soon as I start to feel pressure coming on, I rub it into the painful areas and breathe in deeply. The same company just came out with a stick for application which makes it even better for travel. I not only use it for headaches, but also for any area that is starting to feel tight or sore.


This is the best for deep aches and pains from crummy beds, attempting to sleep on the plane, or long hikes that pushed me father than I expected. I rub it into those deep muscle aches and wait for it to work. It is so effective because it uses menthol to reduce pain in a way similar to using ice. Just remember not to touch the gel and then touch any sensitive parts. It has a strange, tingly feeling that will last a long time. These are available in tiny single-serve packets that are perfect for tucking into a that quart sized liquids bag for the TSA.


For me, this is critical when the temperatures change or when there is very little humidity in the air. I am the one you see that is always moisturizing her lips (and my family member’s lips). And in a pinch, it can double as lotion. I love to make my own chap stick which consists of 2 Tbsp of beeswax, 2 Tbsp coconut oil and 2 Tbsp shea butter. I slowly melt the 3 ingredients and fill all desired containers. You can save your empty tubes and refill them with this recipe.

Vapor Rub

Although the store bought variety will work just fine, I discovered a recipe that I make to carry with me in my travel bag. When I start to feel a cold coming on, I rub it on my chest to help open up nasal passages. It is also great to massage into the soles of the feet and especially under the 4 smallest toes. It will quickly be absorbed into the bloodstream to help the body do its work.

My favorite recipe is:

  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup shea butter
  • ¼ cup beeswax
  • 20 drops each of the following essential oils: Peppermint, Lavender, and Tea Tree.

Baby Wipes & Bandaids

Of course I like to carry a small pack of baby wipes and band aids. They are a temporary help for cleaning up and stop a cut from bleeding everywhere. We use baby wipes constantly when traveling, they are the most used item in our kit. And for small children, I have learned that a band aid stops lots of pain.


When required, prescription medicines must be packed. And there are plenty of websites available to explain the best way to pack those scripts (you can start with your airline’s website or TSA).

Consider taking a few tablets of over the counter pain reliever, anti-diarrheals, or any other medications that you typically use.

It is worth noting that liquid prescription medication is not subject to the TSA rules for liquid carry ons. You can take a bigger bottle if you can demonstrate that it’s medically necessary and in a reasonable amount for your time away.

DSCF8485-2Choosing a Bag

What should you pack it all in? The heavy duty plastic toiletry bags that are designed to meet TSA standards for liquids carry ons work great. As does a zippered makeup pouch. If you’re going super small, you can even use a large sized orange prescription medication bottle. The orange color helps prevent the degradation of medications from light exposure.

We enjoy traveling light, even with a gaggle of kids. Scaling down what we thought was necessary, even in the medical department, has made a huge difference.


Pare your first aid kit down to the basics and buy the more specific items, if you need them, at your destination.

Marci recommends:

  • Peppermint Essential Oil
  • Antihistamines
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Badger Headache Soother
  • BioFreeze
  • Chapstick and Vapor Rub (which you can make yourself)
  • Baby Wipes & Bandaids
  • Basic Medications

Pack them all in a small bag that can be tucked into your carry on.

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