Nothing ruins a trip more than trying to handle jet-lag and the flu at the same time – especially if you have important business meetings or a speaking gig.   The only thing worse is to be on a romantic trip with your special someone and end up sick from having ice in your drink the night before.   Oh yeah – been there and done all of that!

As a result, I have two medicine kits that I keep up to date on a regular basis.  All you need is one experience of trying to find the right cough medicine in a country where you can’t read the packaging to get this drill down quite well.  One kit is for traveling domestically, and I have a second kit with all the special meds I take along when going outside the United States.  This doesn’t mean that you will cover every need, or indeed have the correct medicine with you, but it will take care of most of the basic issues that may come your way.

I take the small pouches that I get with the Free Gift with Purchase when I buy my cosmetics at the department store.  They’re usually vinyl, which makes them leak-resistant, and are large enough to carry what I need, and small enough to fit in any size suitcase without taking up too much room.

The kit that always travels with me, whether I’m going to New York City or Hong Kong is filled with 5 days worth of:

  1. cold medicine – whatever you usually take.
  2. cough medicine – the liquagels tend to travel better than liquid.
  3. menthol rub in a very small jar.  It helps decongest you at night, and also works on very sore muscles.
  4. band-aids – be sure to bring a bunch of blister band-aids just in case.
  5. antibiotic cream such as neosporin or bactine.
  6. thermometer.
  7. stomach-meds such as pepto-bismol or pepsid.  Take the pill forms, since liquid bottles tend to explode during flights.  The last thing you want is pink clothing that smells of wintergreen.
  8. analgesics such as aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofen or naprocin in a small bottle- whatever you usually use for headache or muscle ache.
  9. any prescription medications you use.  Be sure to take any urgent medications in your quart-size ziploc in your carry-on rather than pack it in your suitcase.  Suitcases do go astray, and you need to keep your urgent meds with you at all times.

For your overseas kit, here’s what I usually bring in a separate pouch:

  1. lomotil – all water is not created equal.  Don’t leave the US without this stuff.  The over the counter version does NOT WORK when faced with the awesome might of Las Touristas.
  2. antibiotics - talk to your doctor about which antibiotics you should take with you, or if you should take them at all.  Be aware that not all antibiotics treat all problems.  If you get sick overseas and what you brought isn’t working, get to a doctor immediately.  Your hotel concierge will be able to refer you to a physician or an urgent care clinic.
  3. tamiflu - This is a must if you’re traveling to Asia, or have respiratory problems.  Warning – do not leave this in your suitcase, since it may well be stolen by the security staff at the airport – be sure to put it in your quart-size ziploc in your purse or carry-on. (yes, I do have a story about this…)
  4. sleeping medication – it really DOES makes a difference.  I find that having something to take at 3 in the morning when you wake up in a strange hotel and can’t go back to sleep makes the difference between a good day and a really, really bad day.  Many people take sleeping pills such as ambien or lunesta and just use it as a preventative the first few nights in a new place.   That stuff is too strong for me, so I take a low-level, low dose tranquilizer with me for when I can’t go to sleep.   It relaxes me enough that I can go back to sleep for a few more hours, and there are no side effects.  Talk to your doctor before you leave about what will be the best for you.  Be sure to follow instructions regarding alcohol use (and yes, that’s another story!)

I hope this helps you in your packing process.  Travel healthy and happy, and if you can’t, be prepared!

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