Fifteen Essential Ingredients Perfect For Any DIY Travel Medicine Kit

Have you been traveling in unfamiliar territory, perhaps on foreign soil, when that dreaded head cold hits you? Were you prepared to tackle that cold? Or did you spend your evening in search of a local pharmacy, hoping they stock your favorite cold medicine?

Make Your Own Travel Medicine Kit

Don’t lose precious vacation time wandering the aisles of an unfamiliar pharmacy! Pack a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) travel medicine kit with the medications you need to handle minor aches and pains, or that unexpected stuffy nose. You’ll be glad you did!

Don’t know where to start? Take a walk through my DIY travel medicine kit, and the fifteen essential items I always pack. Use this list as a guideline for your own DIY travel medicine kit tailored to your specific medical needs and your brand preferences.

15 Essential OTC Items In My Travel Medicine Kit

My travel medicine kit is an essential component of my “must have” travel gear. No matter my luggage limitation, I always make space for a small travel medicine kit stocked with these fifteen Over-The-Counter (OTC) items. They’re just what I need to keep my family healthy and to treat minor ailments that might afflict us along our travels.

I don’t pack the whole medicine cabinet. I only bring those OTC medication I use for the more likely ailments to occur while traveling.

  • Pain medications
  • Allergy medications
  • DIY Travel MedicineCold and sinus medications
  • Antacids and acid reflux medication
  • Motion sickness medication
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Lactose intolerance medication
  • Probiotics
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Anti-fungal and antibacterial ointment

I also pack these “just in case” items and the family vitamins. Gotta keep us healthy on the road!

  • A thermometer
  • Lip balm
  • Rehydrating salts
  • Sun burn ointment
  • Melatonin

I stick with our family’s favorite OTC brands. Travel time is not the time to introduce a new, unproven brand that might not work as well as the tried-and-true brand.

Don’t Forget The Prescription Medications!

My medicine kit also includes our prescription medications, including both daily use medications and the “only-when-needed” medications.

  • DIY Travel KitsRoutinely used prescriptions medications
  • Situational prescription medications – Inhalers, EpiPens, ect.

I don’t leave home without those “only-when-needed” meds! One never knows when that inhaler that hasn’t been used in six months, might suddenly be needed.

Three Questions To Ask Yourself

A DIY travel medicine kit should be tailored to your own specific needs. Here’s three questions to ask yourself when finalizing what to include in yours.

1. Traveling with children? I make sure my medicine kit includes children’s versions of pain, allergy and cold medications.

2. Specialized medical needs? I check with our family doctor to ensure prescriptions are up-to-date and refillable, as well as any special considerations while traveling.

3. Traveling to a region with special medical precautions? I check with our family doctor the month before departure for specific OTC and prescription medications I might want to add to my essential medicines.

Tips to Packing A DIY Travel Medicine Kit

All right! Preferred travel medication inventory completed. Now it’s time to condense and consolidate everything into a travel medicine bag.

OTC Medications: Here’s how I prepare OTC medications for more efficient packing.

  • I prefer medication packaged in either individual blister packs or travel size bottles. Easy to pack, easy to dose, easy to place in a day bag for on-the-go needs.

DIY Health Kit

  • I avoid liquid medications when possible. Easier to get through TSA.
  • I don’t bring the whole box. I only take what’s needed for my travel window.
  • I place OTC medication removed from it’s original box into a zip-lock bag.
  • I include the box’s medication dosing instructions in the zip-lock bag.

Travel Medicine

  • I also include an additional label on the outer zip-lock bag, just in case the instructions are misplaced along the way.

Travel Medicine Kits

Prescription Medications: Here’s how I prepare our prescription medications.

  • I take enough prescription medication for the travel window, with an additional two to five days’ supply for those “just in case” situations.
  • I use last month’s prescription pill bottle if I need to split pills into “travel pills” and “leave at home” medication.
  • I pack a copy of the prescription medication refill information, including doctor contact information, in case of an emergency refill need.

The Travel Medicine Bag: And here’s my own DIY bag, and how I organize it.

  • I use a bag with multiple zippered pockets so I can separate my medicines.
  • I organize OTC medicines by ailment – stomach, motion sickness, colds and allergies.
  • I label individual pockets with the medicines inside. It helps me quickly find exactly what I need, without having to dump everything out.

Medicine Kits

Travel Gear Tip: Labels not only provide an on-the-go inventory of your medicine kit, they are also great as a restocking list for your next trip.

Do You Have A Travel Medicine Kit?

And there you have it. A walk through my DIY travel medicine kit. It’s not too big, and it’s not too complex, but it sure is handy! My kit has saved me from that dreaded hunt for a pharmacy at 7:00pm. It has eased the sniffles from too much pollen in the air. And it has soothed stomach pains because of too much ice cream on a lactose intolerant stomach.  

Do you travel with a DIY medicine kit, customized to your particular needs and preferences? What’s the “must have essential” in your kit? Let us know in the Comments section below.

Check out my other essential DIY travel gear – Twenty Essential Items Every DIY Travel First Aid Kit Must Have.


NOTE: This information is meant only as a guideline to help in making your own travel medicine kit. You should always follow your doctor’s recommendations for travel medications.

Images from C.Biederman, Flickr (Ismo – Pharmacia), Wikipedia Commons (Rx).


  1. says

    Hi Carol, Great explanation of your travel medicine kit! You’re right, I’ve been stuck before because I haven’t been prepared. Pharmacies in other countries may not have the medication you want or it might be called something different. You don’t want language barriers to cause you getting the wrong medication!

    I like how you show your packing strategy. Very helpful!
    Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently posted..4 Easy Tools for Finding Group Boards on Pinterest!My Profile

    • carolbiederman says

      Thanks Carolyn! Call it my own voice of experience … been there, forgot that, had to spend an evening locating the local pharmacy instead of having dinner with the family. And like you mentioned, I’ve also been in a foreign country, miles from any store, when I needed an OTC antihistamine that I forgot to bring. Thankfully someone we were traveling with had what I needed, but I decided then that I’d be better prepared “next time.” And so my DIY travel medicine kit was “born.”

    • carolbiederman says

      Thanks! I’m big on organization so labeling was key to me. It’s also helpful when I’m not around and my hubby who rarely gives the kids meds, has to. No guesswork in how much to give.

    • carolbiederman says

      Thanks Amy! I hear you on the hours in hunt of a foreign pharmacy. It was exactly that scenario several years ago that prompted me to build my own travel medicine kit. Granted, it took several “rebuilds” before I got it to where it is today. And yes, Benadryl was one key ingredient I completely forgot to put in on that fateful foreign trip!

  2. Nancie Lee says

    I’ve had a kit in the past, but this is a good reminder to update it. Like the Melatonin addition and labeling. I’ve looked back at bubble packs of meds, going what was this for? haha Thanks for the great info!!

    • carolbiederman says

      Hi Nancie. glad I could help with the reminder. And sorry for the confusion on bubble packs vs. blister packs. I’ve always called them blister packs, not realizing they had another name! :)

  3. says

    This is a pretty useful guide because when traveling we cannot take risk with our health. One must carry the medicines to avoid any hassle for getting first aid.

    • carolbiederman says

      Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by! And you are so right. We’ve saved a few trips to the local pharmacy by having our medicine kit with us. Happy travels!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge