You’ve waited all year for your vacation—so why ruin it by getting sick? Adding a few well-chosen products to your packing list can help you fend off germs, protect your skin and avoid common travel discomforts during your next trip. Below are nine must-pack items that will help you stay healthy while traveling.
How to Stay Healthy While Traveling
One thing you won’t see in this list: medicine. You can find our recommended remedies in Medications for Travel.
A small first-aid kit stocked with bandages, antiseptic wipes and other medical necessities is always a wise thing to have on hand, particularly if you’ll be spending much of your vacation outdoors without easy access to a doctor. SadoMedcare offers one affordable, well-stocked kit that won’t take up too much space in your suitcase. An even more compact option is this 60-piece kit, which weighs less than 2.5 ounces.
If you’re flying with a first-aid kit in your carry-on, remember to double-check it for any items that might not make it through airport security. Small tubes of antibiotic cream, for instance, should go into your quart-size plastic bag of liquids and gels, while sharp items such as lancets or large scissors could be confiscated. Small scissors (with blades shorter than four inches) are fine.
Flight Ear Plugs
For fliers who experience ear pain during take-off and landing, ear plugs that help regulate pressure can be a godsend. Many travelers also find them helpful when driving through changing elevations in mountainous regions. EarPlanes and Flite Mate are two popular brands.
It can be tricky enough to keep track of your medication schedule at home; add jet lag, a different daily routine and a new time zone, and having a pill organizer can literally be a lifesaver. Stuff Seniors Need and Ezy Dose offer travel-friendly pill cases that don’t take up too much space.
Sunburn not only causes pain and unsightly lobster skin but can also contribute to heat exhaustion. (The Mayo Clinic says that “having a sunburn reduces your body’s ability to rid itself of heat.”) Banana Boat offers a set of six travel-size bottles that will keep you and your travel companions protected.
Note: If you’re planning on snorkeling, do the environment a favor and choose a reef-safe sunblock; chemicals found in most sunscreen brands, particularly oxybenzone, contribute to coral damage. Here’s one reef-safe option. The bottle is too large for a carry-on, so put it in your checked bag or pour it into a smaller travel-size container if you plan to fly with it.
In Avoiding the Airplane Cold, we reported that the low humidity in airplane cabins can dry out the mucus membranes in your nose, which are essential in preventing illness. Keeping these delicate tissues hydrated with a saline nasal spray during long flights could help you fend off germs from the guy coughing behind you. Ayr and Simply Saline are a couple of choices worth considering.
Antibacterial Hand Gel and Wipes
If you’ve ever been grossed out by those studies of how many germs are all over your airplane tray table (spoiler: a lot), you’ll understand why these made our list. Use an antibacterial wipe before using the TV remote in your hotel room or the seatback movie screen on the plane; use the gel when you’re eating on the go and can’t make it to a sink to wash your hands.
Recommended wipes include those from Wet Ones and Purell, both of which come in convenient travel packs. For travel-size bottles of gel, try L’Autre Peau (these come with carabiner clips so you can attach them to your daypack) or Bath & Body Works.
Back-country hikers and travelers in developing countries where the water isn’t safe to drink will benefit from packing some form of water purifier. Our top pick is the SteriPEN, a UV light that destroys bacteria, viruses and protozoa. We also like the LifeStraw, which is lightweight and effectively filters the vast majority of bacteria and protozoa. (It is not effective against viruses.)
Another interesting option is the GRAYL, a reusable bottle that works a bit like a French press to remove viruses, bacteria, protozoa and some chemicals as you force water through it.
Mosquitoes, ticks and other creepy-crawlies can transmit nasty diseases ranging from malaria to Zika. Traveling to an affected area? Stock up on insect repellent to use during your trip, and consider treating your shoes and clothing with permethrin before you leave.
Travelers on long flights are at greater risk of deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, a potentially dangerous condition in which a blood clot forms within a vein (usually in the leg). If such a clot spreads to the lungs, it could have life-threatening consequences.
Compression socks, which help keep blood circulating to and from the legs, could help prevent DVT. Amazon offers numerous options, including these fun patterned ones. (Note: If you have certain medical conditions, your doctor may recommend custom-fitted compression stockings.)
More from SmarterTravel:
- Hookworm: The Disease That Could Ruin Your Beach Vacation
- Food Safety: How to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling
- The Airlines That Serve the Healthiest (and Unhealthiest) Meals
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.