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10 Things I Always Bring On International Trips

Here are ten things I bring when I travel internationally for general health and safety; as a part-time traveler, I try to minimize disruptions to my trip and maximize relaxation–a day lost to sickness or stress is a day less of vacation. While my first-aid kit (not covered below) does change some depending on my destination (i.e. on safari or to a European city), these health & safety items are constant in my packing regimen.

1. Wet-wipes

Yes, I'm a self-diagnosed germaphobe. It's also my area of professional expertise, which doesn't help. In this case, I think ignorance seriously may be blissful. Anyway, I bring at least 2 packages of wet-wipes. I do, generally, also have hand-sanitizer, but wet-wipes are way more useful because you can actually wipe the dirt/organic matter/whatever off of your hands instead of just smearing it around. In a pinch, they can also double as toilet paper. Win!

Where to find? Almost anywhere! I'm preferential to the original Wet Ones brand because they smell good. And not like baby-wipes.

2. RFID blockers

Yup, I put my credit cards in these. I may be a bit paranoid, but this reduces the chances of an unpleasant surprise. Even if your plastic is in your possession, it doesn't mean your credit card number still is. This is an easy way to further protect yourself. I particularly rely on these in big cities. Probably not so important on a deserted beach, but it's habit for me to have/use them all the time now.

Where to find? Amazon is my go-to. I like the Safet Sleeves, but there are lots of options. These have held up for 2 years now and still haven't ripped.

3. My medical bracelet

Do you have allergies or other medical conditions? Will the people you travel with be confident to accurately communicate those to hospital staff (or medivac staff) in the midst of a serious emergency? For people who wear them at home, I think this is probably a no-brainer. But when I went to Cambodia with a close friend, I realized that she probably didn't have any idea about my myriad of allergies to commonly used medications in the ER. Sure, providers may ignore it when providing care, but being proactive is worth a shot.

Where to find? I use American Medical ID, because they had the cheapest options and lots of sales. It looks nice, and hasn't tarnished.

4. Extra luggage lock

I always carry an extra. These puppies seem like they just want to be lost. Or misplaced. Or fall to the very bottom of your bag at inopportune moments. Sometimes I've used the lock to lock my carry-on tote to my Patagonia duffel, if I was concerned about security. I do use the TSA approved locks, because that way I don't have to worry about what lock is on my bag if some grumpy gate agent makes me check it (despite the fact I've had things stolen out of bags locked with locked TSA locks, while bags were in transit…grrr).

Where to find? Amazon. I have a Samsonite one that has held up well, but there are lots of options. I generally prefer metal to plastic.

5. Appropriate antibiotics for stomach ailments

If I had months to spend somewhere, I'd probably be more into the "let it run its course" style of treatment, and try to wait things out as much as possible. But as a part-time traveler, with a limited amount of time, I want to know that I can be up and back in action as soon as possible. Yes, I use them sparingly. And yes, I realize that overuse of antibiotics is a serious issue. So it's important to talk to your doctor and take antibiotics that are appropriate for the area in which you are traveling. Nope, cipro isn't always the right answer. And yes, you can get sick anywhere.

Where to find? Your doctor. Please don't order these online. Alibaba is not your friend in this case.

6. Antifungal cream

Do I really have to explain this one? This is an easy fix for things like athlete's foot. If its hot, if its humid, if you don't obsessively wear flip-flops in the shower like me (and even if you do), this is a must. All those temples you have to take your shoes off to enter? Yeaaaa. Fungal ailments flourish in such environments. Sure, you might be able to find it wherever you are going, but a small tube doesn't take much room in my ziploc bag. I'm also completely paranoid about getting jungle fungus (not a real thing, I know), so it's sort of a security blanket (albeit useful).

Where to find? CVS/Walgreens/Wal-Mart. For what it's worth, I don't think the brand-name stuff works better than the generic.

7. A cross-body bag

If I'm going to be walking where there are lots of people, I bring a smaller cross-body to carry along (rather than my usual tote or a backpack). It will be in front of me when I'm walking, and that way I won't be scrounging for money in an enormous bag either. I also can sit down and just leave it on, and in my lap, so it won't be forgotten somewhere or lifted while my attention drifts. The size and style of the cross-body will depend based on the trip (lightweight, room for water/camera, stylish, etc).

Where to find? Depends on what you want. I have a lightweight, stuffable one from Patagonia, a dressy one from Tory Burch, and an armored ninja one from PacSafe (that I bought on Amazon). I love them all for different reasons. Shop around (no crazy eyes, I never said I was a budget traveler), but there are often great deals to be had.

8. Rehydration salts/electrolyte powder

This is a new one for me, but if you are active (or have a propensity to get sick), I think it's worth the tiny bit of space they take up. It's easy to get dehydrated, particularly at higher altitudes and in hotter climates. This is magnified if you are hiking, running, etc. I.e. when I was trying to keep up marathon training while in Uganda, electrolytes were most welcome. Sometimes, despite best intentions, you run out of clean water or realize you don't have what you need until it's too late. Plus, if you do get sick, drinking something fruity with electrolytes is way better than water.

Where to find? Amazon. Of course. Find something you like.

9. A tiny travel wallet

There is nothing worse than a giant purse or even a cross-body when you don't need it, or when you are in very crowded conditions. Even when I do carry the cross-body, I use a teeny tiny travel wallet inside of it, that fits my must haves (cash, few credit cards) and nothing more. It can go anywhere, including tiny little shirt pockets, and is much more inconspicuous and easier to conceal than a normal-sized woman's wallet. I've also used it when it was easier to say "I'm not carrying any money" than try to explain why I didn't want to buy another scarf.

Where to find? I love mine from Rick Steves. It's leather, it's tiny, it's inexpensive, and it's durable. I did not leave the pickpocket note in. For real? (Read product description to find what I'm talking about. Ridiculous). Dagne Dover bags also come with a super cute card case.

10. Compression socks

Yea, I know, I'm an 80-year old lady. But women are predisposed to blood clots. Plus, check with your doctor to see if any medication you are on raises your risk. I also like to sleep/not move on planes, so I'm not one of those go-getters that is up and walking around every 2 hours. And I don't think I twitch enough in my sleep to make up for my lack of activity, so I put these on. And no, I don't then walk to the bathroom without shoes, ever. See my germophobic tendencies above? I'm still careful about watching for signs and symptoms, even with this extra sock of protection.

Where to find? Amazon. They are impossible to get on, so I leave them on for the duration of my travel day for any flight 5+ hours.

And…you can now see why I we have Amazon Prime…sigh. I have a container (or maybe two) that are specifically devoted to travel stuff, so I don't have to play hide and seek each time I go somewhere. I just pull out the container, and poof, everything is there.

What do you travel with to keep you healthy & safety (besides purely first-aid type items)? Any suggestions of what I've missed?

Profile photo of Heather Allen

Hi, I'm Heather! I'm a part-time traveler with a love for Africa, warthogs, archaeological sites, carry-ons, and studying disease outbreaks. Err on the side of luxury travel, and always want to look somewhat fashionable while been totally comfortable. With just a short amount of time to travel each year, I try to make the most of it! Beaches, cities, jungles, and the bush--I enjoy it all. Always planning the next trip, exploring the near, and destination lusting.

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