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Packing Post- Medication
August 20, 2009, 4:20 am
Filed under: Travel Tip

Hey everyone,

I’ve been traveling for almost two years now: this means that I’ve almost gotten it down to a science on the most important things you need while backpacking and living in various developing areas, whether it be a few days or a few months. I know there are a lot of ‘packing tips’ out there, but I thought I would give my own seasoned advice on what to bring for a long trip (anywhere from a few weeks to forever, excluding restocking for medication). Some of the things I pack are ‘personalized’ (For example, extensive headache medication), and you don’t NEED to bring everything I suggest, what you pack should be to fit YOUR needs. With that being said, I will leave absolutely nothing out of the list on what I am packing for the next four months for South America.

Since the list is so extensive, today I plan to update just on medications/ointments that I am bringing on my trip.

To summarize, the top 5 most critical medical things I use/need:
1. Excedrin Migraine
2. Dramamine
3. Rehydration Salts
4. Cipro (traveller’s diarrhea prescription medication)
5. Tylenol Cold AM/PM

Please feel free to check out the much more extensive list if you’re interested!


Medication is a tricky game. There are some things you can get in any country you travel to (like tissues, cough drops, eye drops, etc.) Then there are things that you CAN’T get, like excedrin migraine, or benadryl- so you want to make sure that you bring enough to last you the amount of time you’ll be gone. In this case, I’ve given an approximate amount of medication I’m bringing for a four month trip, to give you an idea of how much is appropriate. In my opinion, I always like to take more medication than necessary, because it makes me feel comfortable that I have an overabundance, rather than worrying about how I could run out of something (also, friends and fellow travelers like to mooch, so… less is more).
Usually I put pills into plastic bags (they take up less room), or I take them out of the box but keep them in their small containers (such as Tylenol PM). This saves a LOT of space in your bag. Also, there isn’t really much of a rhyme or reason why I bring more pills of one medication than I do of the other- it is really personal preference.
I’d also like to take the opportunity to give a disclaimer that I am not a medic or a doctor, and that these are only suggestions.

– Dramamine (this is a must if you get even slight motion sickness. If you’re traveling on a crazy train or bus ride up winding mountains, this will knock you out good). I am bringing about 24 pills, mostly because I am traveling a lot on bus/train through South America. By the way, DON’T use these if you are traveling alone on a bus or train- you want to be aware of what’s around you to make sure no one steals your things.
– Excedrin Migraine (a personal must-have because I get headaches quite a lot, but getting headaches is quite common when traveling. I also bring Migraine ‘Bo Kool’ soft gel sheets that I put on my forehead when it gets really bad, you can find them at WalGreens- I’m bringing six of them). Generally I bring about 50-75 of these pills- I don’t need them, but since I get headaches a lot, I make sure to bring more than enough so I feel comfortable I’m never on short supply.
– Cough drops (you can always refill these in whatever country you’re in, but I bring them along in my pack because if you wake up with a sore throat and feel sick, it makes a big difference to have them on hand). I’m bringing about 30- last trip I brought 15- but when I get sick I seem to go through them incredibly fast, so I like to have some extra.
– Tylenol Cold AM and PM. I seem to never bring enough of these, whether it’s because I end up sharing half of them with people who are sick, or I get sick myself and have to take them- I would recommend bringing more AM than PM. I have 12 doses of PM and 12 doses of AM.
-Sudafed. I like to have the same kind of medication, just in case one isn’t doing it for me. I only have three doses of sudafed since I have so much Tylenol Cold, but I feel comforted having a back up.
-Benadryl Allergy. I really don’t have many allergy problems (and I’ve never used them since traveling), but they are nice to have just in case. I have six doses.
-Rehydration Salts. They are really handy in case you throw up or have diarrhea. These are packets you mix in with water to get you fully hydrated. I have four packets (and almost any hospital or pharmacy wherever you are will have these).
-Midol. I rarely use these, but if I’m having particularly painful cramps then it’s nice to have. I have two doses.
– Advil. Just in case. 10 tablets.
– Eye Drops, which you can use for pink eye, general dryness, etc. I have Patanol Eye Drops.
– Some kind of sleeping pill. I have some random thing called Panadol NightPain, and I’m not sure whether I got that from a random country or from the US- but Tylenol PM works fine too. Good for overnight flights. Like Dramamine, don’t use if you’re traveling by yourself on a train or bus. I have about 12 doses.
– Ciprofloxacin. This is a prescription medication for traveler’s diarrhea, and it’s also a must-have. If you go to any hospital for traveler’s diarrhea in a developing country, this is basically what they will prescribe you. So save yourself a doctor’s appointment and fee and get Cipro before you leave the US. I’ve used them quite a lot while traveling and they’ve helped a lot. I have about 50 pills. These are the only pills I’ve kept in their container.
– Imodium. If you are having constant diarrhea, this plugs you up for a few hours. It’s ideal for when traveling on a train, bus, etc, but I wouldn’t recommend using them unless absolutely necessary- I still haven’t used them in two years of traveling. Still, like I said better safe than sorry. I have eight doses.
– A few random things I’ve picked up from traveling, such as India’s Himalayan Herbal Healthcare Pure Herbs ‘Tagara’ which is a relaxant I take sometimes while feeling stressed out from school, or Mentholatum Cold Care Ointment that I smell when I feel very congested, or Tiger Balm from Thailand (which is a MUST in my kit because I rub it on my head when I have even minor headaches and it helps monumentally).
– Definitely want to bring some kind of bug bite relief. I have two- Burt’s Bees ‘Outdoor Bug Bite Relief,’ and Afterbite ‘The Itch Eraser.’
– One thing I am bringing especially for the South America trip is a bunch of emergency medical equipment that Passport Health gave me (such as gloves, needles, my own IV, gauze, band-aids, etc.) which, if in an emergency, I can give to medical staff at a hospital in case it is unsanitary there. I didn’t bring this with me on my trip to Asia, and I doubt I will actually need this here either- but I like to feel safe, so even if it means making some extra room for something that could end up being unnecessary, then I will do so. You can get this kind of packet at any Passport Health (they also give vaccinations to all every country, so if you’re going to a developing country you’ll probably make a stop there anyway).
-Neosporin (first aid antibiotic ointment). Small tube.
-Grapefruit Seed Extract. I am told over and over again by people that this is very important to bring. It settles your stomach if it is upset from eating bad food. Or you put a few drops into your food before eating it, and it keeps your stomach settled. I have one of these, but unfortunately I always forget to use it. However, I really suggest bringing this along…and REMEMBERING to use it.
– Icy Hot Pain Relieving Cream. You never know if you accidentally twist an ankle or pull a muscle.
– Mosquito Repellant. Obviously. I have a medium-sized bottle that has 25% DEET in it.

I hold all of my medication (and other things) in a double-sided Eagle Creek cube, which has worked perfectly for me over the past few years.

Eagle Creek Double-Sided Cube

Things I brought on my first trip and realized I didn’t need:
– Steripen. They are used for getting all germs out of your water with an LED light. That way, you can save money by not having to buy bottled water- you can get water from a tap, and then purify it with the steripen.
Well, don’t get me wrong here- the steripen is great, and if you’re trekking a LOT, especially with a community, then I recommend it (for all of you to share). However, it’s expensive, it breaks easily/the battery goes out and its hard to replace, it’s heavy, clumsy to handle, and buying bottled water in any developing country is very cheap anyway. I used this a lot in India and then never used it the past year while traveling, and I sent it home.
– In the beginning, I was WAY more cautious about bringing things I thought were absolutely necessary. I brought two mosquito repellants (now I only have half a bottle, and I’m okay with it), a HUGE bag of malaria medication (yes, it is important if you are traveling to malaria-prone areas; however, I have only taken this medication about three times, and I’ve been completely fine), all kinds of vitamin pills (which I took for the first two days of me traveling the first time, and never did again), and a lot more of EVERYTHING- advil, benadryl, midol, tylenol pm- stuff that I rarely use. Of course traveling is trial and error- but the more things you bring, the heavier your bag will be. Really THINK about what it is you NEED and why. That’s the best advice I can give on packing medication.

That’s the update for today folks. Tomorrow we’ll be going over toiletries and anti-bacterial fun-ness. Stay tuned!

Much love,

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