Packing a “Traveling Pharmacy”

Written by: Stephanie on July 27, 2023

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Between my Type A personality and a general desire to face any situation as prepared as possible, about 15 years ago I assembled a “traveling pharmacy” to remain packed and ready to go so I can grab it on my way out the door. Whether the outing is a morning spent at the local beach or a 3-day trip to Riviera Maya, I toss my medicine bag into my beach tote, mini backpack purse, or personal item.  

In this post, I’ll address packing your own traveling pharmacy so you’re prepared for any situation, whether you’re close to home or out exploring the world. 

Items to Include 

Medication needs vary from traveler to traveler, but I always pack a few doses of the basics, usually in their generic form: 

  • Pepto Bismol 
  • Imodium 
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Sudafed
  • Benedryl
  • Tums
  • Cold medicine
  • Children’s medications (Ibuprofen and Tylenol)
  • Prescription medications (in their original packaging)
  • Anti-itch cream
  • A few band-aids

Other items for consideration? Cough medicine, hemorrhoid relief, menstrual relief, aloe vera, pain relief cream, and motion sickness medication. 

Storage System 

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I have been storing my travel meds in a cosmetics bag I received with a Bath and Body Works purchase about 15 years ago, but any zippered bag (preferably waterproof!) works nicely for a small medicine bag. I prefer a fabric bag because I like to avoid packing plastic and I can toss it in the washing machine as needed. 

Longer Trips 

We recently returned from a month spent in Portugal, and the duration of this trip required reevaluating the bag’s contents before departure. I stashed my usual (smaller) bag and opted for a larger cosmetics bag (shown here) to carry larger quantities of medication. Yes, pharmacies in Portugal could have supplied us with what we needed while traveling, but language barriers and meds wasn’t something we wanted to contend with during travel. 

*I tear off the directions from the boxes and only pack those to save space.

First Aid Needs 

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I don’t pack first aid care in my medicine bag because we keep a full first aid kit in our car (fine for outings around home) and for longer trips I take a separate first aid kit with me. 

For our long Portugal trip, my mom thoughtfully and carefully curated a kit for us to take overseas. She even purchased a couple of different storage containers to see which one we would prefer as we packed our medium-sized luggage for our month away. (I opted for the fabric cosmetics case for reasons previously mentioned!) Fortunately, we didn’t need to use this kit during our travels, but I was glad to have it on hand and will continue to pack it for our family’s adventures. 

Check Bag Before Traveling 

Before traveling, I go through the medicine bag to check the dates and replenish my supply.  

For Further Reading 

Cleveland Clinic: What First-Aid Items Do You Need When You Travel? 

CDC: Pack for a Healthy Trip

Staying Healthy During Travel

Do you carry a “traveling pharmacy” with you? Which items do you consider must-haves?

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