Friday 5: My Over-the-Counter Medication Essentials for Travel

No one likes to be sick on the road, but it happens. It only takes one bad experience away from home without your favourite OTC medications to realize you must never make the same mistake again.

 I'd much rather spend my vacation exploring than playing Where's Waldo for that little green pharmacy cross. 

I'd much rather spend my vacation exploring than playing Where's Waldo for that little green pharmacy cross. 

It’s not very fun to visit foreign pharmacies, try to describe your problem in a differnet language and leave with medication you’ve never heard of, don’t know how to use, and sometimes doesn’t work. A little preparation and a few basics can make a huge difference. Even the CDC recommends having some basic OTC medication when you travel. They have some good advice too, go take a look. Here's the link again

With all of that in mind, today’s Friday 5 is a quick list of the OTC basics I take on every trip.*

1. Cold Medication

I’ve gotten a cold on my last two big trips. Both times they were from sick people on the plane. On the first flight, a woman sneezed on my head. Ugh! On the second flight, I sat next to a man who was so sick that he just kind of huddled against the window sneezing and coughing for 7 hours. So I know a thing or two about the nuisance a cold on the road. I also know how utterly terrible British cold medication is for me and how French cold medication makes me feel like I’m on a different planet. Lesson learned! I take a fresh pack of my tried and true favorite now. 

2. Imodium/anti-diarrheal   

Time to get real! I rarely leave the house without some Imodium in my purse. There is a special kind of terror and panic associated with the first rumble in your stomach that signifies gastro-intestinal distress. Immodium is a like a safety blanket and insurance policy against all the the worst disasters. I like the Imodium Complete because it has an anti-gas ingredient. It's like the Rolls Royce of anti-diarrheals. I mean that in the kindest way, Rolls.

Bonus: if a traveling companion happens to need some and you have it, you will be their hero, if only just for one day. Cue David Bowie.

3. Benadryl/antihistamine

Benadryl is my go-to choice if I can only take one antihistamine with me. In my experience, it works extremely well for so many different allergic reactions. The only downside is that it makes me very drowsy. So if I can, I take Benadryl and something like Reactine, which helps with my seasonal allergies and doesn’t make me sleepy.  

4. Antibiotic ointment

Neosporin or polysporin or whatever your favourite is. It comes in handy for cuts, nicks, and blisters—all the small annoying things that can become bigger annoying things fairly quickly if left untreated. I took a tiny tube of this stuff to a music festival a few years ago. I felt a little silly and lame for tossing it my bag, but when one of  my friends got a sliver of metal in her finger (don’t ask me how, I don’t know), my annoying mom-level of preparedness saved the day. 

5. Pain reliever and fever reducer

These might be one in the same for you. I find Advil helps with muscles aches and pain for me, but it has no fever reducing qualities. Tylenol, on the other hand, helps with fevers but does nothing when I have pain. So I travel with both if I know they might be hard to find at my destination. I also know that NSAIDs can be tricky for a lot of people, so be sure you know what is safe for you and talk to your doctor. 

*Note: It should go without saying that I’m not a doctor and I have no interest telling you what medications to take. Be sure to discuss any medications you take or plan on taking with your doctor. Do your own research and do what is best and safe for you. I’m sharing my basics because it could be a good starting point for you to figure out what you need to be prepared for travel. 

It’s also important to know the rules and regulations of the country you are traveling to. Be sure to check that the ingredients are allowed in your destination. Some countries can be surprisingly strict about certain medications and ingredients. 


That's it for this week! We might be stopping by the Niagara on the Lake Icewine Festival this weekend, so I'll try to take pictures and post on Monday or Tuesday. Next week might be quiet on the blog, I'm going to take some time to plan for February and do a lot of editing for the guide!

I hope you have a great weekend. If you have any OTC basics that you always travel with, let me know in the comments.