How To Pack The Ultimate Travel Abroad Health Kit

Traveling abroad is very exciting, but sometimes preparing for international travel may be stressful, especially when considering your health. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be. It can be easy to pack a travel abroad health kit in order to stay safe and healthy abroad. Here’s how.

Learn About The Country You Are Traveling To

It’s important to learn about your destination when outlining what will go into your travel health kit. The State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) provides a comprehensive list of country specific health information for every country in the world.

The ACS’s Consular Information Program is also great because it informs the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security. This is a great resource to learn the do’s and don’ts of your travel health kit depending on your destination.

Go Through The Travel Medical Kit Checklist

We’ve compiled tips courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs to help you know what medications and supplies to pack, where and when to get it, and how to pack it. Keep in mind some countries do not allow visitors to bring certain medications into the country.

Traveling With Prescription Medications

Pack your prescription medications in your carry on luggage, along with a copy of all prescriptions including the generic names of the medication. Be sure to bring a note while traveling from your prescribing physician for any controlled substances and injectable medications you may be prescribed. You can always check the ACS’s information or with the American Embassy or Consulate in the country you are traveling to to find out what may or may not be allowed.

Special Prescriptions For Your Trip

In certain countries, we are aware of possible exposure to illness and diseases that have preventive medications.

  • Malaria:  In countries where malaria is a problem, various medicines can be taken in different timeframes and doses. The CDC provides a country-specific table of antimalarial drug as well as a page on various considerations to take into account when choosing your malaria medication.
  • Traveler’s Diarrhea:  It can be helpful to have antibiotics for diarrhea, prescribed by your doctor before you leave, for self-treatment. In India, for example, the risk for traveler’s’ diarrhea is moderate to high for travelers, with an estimated 30%–50% chance of developing diarrhea during a 2-week journey.

Required Vaccinations and Recommendations

Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (aka a Yellow Card) or other proof that they’ve had certain vaccinations or medical tests before entering or leaving their country.

Before you travel, read up on the country specific information on the ACS website for required vaccinations.

Furthermore, the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommendations for vaccinations and other travel health precautions for traveling abroad to certain countries.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Here is a list of several medications that don’t require a prescription that can help keep you healthier when traveling abroad, according to the CDC.

  • Antidiarrheal medication (for example, bismuth subsalicylate, loperamide)
  • Antihistamines and decongestants for allergies
  • Anti-motion sickness medication
  • Medicine for pain or fever (such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen)
  • Mild laxative
  • Cough suppressant/expectorant
  • Cough drops
  • Antacid
  • Antifungal and antibacterial ointments or creams
  • 1% hydrocortisone cream

Preventative Supplies for Illness or Injury

  • Insect repellent containing DEET (30%-50%) or picaridin (up to 15%)
  • Sunscreen (preferably SPF 15 or greater) that has both UVA and UVB protection
  • Antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Water purification tablets
  • Latex Condoms
  • Medicine to prevent altitude sickness
  • First aid quick reference card
  • Basic first-aid items (bandages, gauze, ace bandage, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, cotton-tipped applicators)
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Aloe gel for sunburns
  • Digital thermometer
  • Oral rehydration solution packets

Health Insurance Abroad

Before you go abroad, learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas.

If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the United States, it’s very important to remember to bring both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance AND a claim form.

Covered by Medicare? The Social Security Medicare program has no coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the U.S.

Don’t assume you’re health insurance can fly you back to a U.S. hospital for help. Though many health insurance companies will pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad, few will pay for medical evacuation to the United States. Be sure to check in with your health insurance companies policies.

Traveling With Disabilities and Service Animals

Each country has its own standards of accessibility for persons with disabilities. Many countries do not legally require accommodations for persons with disabilities. Laws such as the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 have no pull overseas. This means not all countries are legally bound to have public transportation and public grounds that accommodate persons with disabilities.

If you have a service animal, be sure to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate of your destination country for information on possible restrictions and cultural norms about service animals. Find out about any quarantine, vaccination, and documentation requirements and be sure to check in with your vet about your travel plans.

Medical Emergency Abroad Preparation

In the case of a medical emergency abroad, leave emergency contact information and a copy of your passport biographic data page, which is the page of your passport with your picture on it, with family and trusted friends, and carry emergency contact information with you when you travel.The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Before you leave, be sure to see if there are any travel warnings or alerts for your destination. 

If you can, try and think about what you will be doing and whether you will have access to health items and supplies where you are traveling. It can be helpful to write down a list before you pack. When you are prepared and pack a health kit, you’ll worry a lot less about your health being compromised by your travels, giving you more time to focus on enjoying your experience abroad. Safe travels!