9 Essential Medications to Pack for your Next Trip to Avoid Feeling Miserable

When planning for a trip, getting sick is hardly something you want to include.  However, packing a handful of over-the-counter medications can make traveling a far more pleasant experience should the worst happen.

The CDC has a long list of items recommended for international travelers, as not all the same medications are available for purchase abroad.  Additionally, depending on the region of travel, counterfeit medications can be a significant concern, as up to 30% of the world's drugs don't meet quality and safety standards.  

Foreign travelers aren't the only ones who can benefit from packing some OTC medications in their suitcases since our habits often change when away from home which can cause a number of bodily discomforts.

The following list contains the most frequently needed medications for the ailments affecting travelers.  Not all may pertain to you, so adjust accordingly to what you commonly suffer from. (And for those of you who don't suffer from motion sickness, I'm super jealous of you.) 

1. Anti-diarrheal medication:

Not to start out with the most uncomfortable topic, but diarrhea happens to all of us. Loperamide (Imodium) or Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) help get one of the more uncomfortable and embarrassing digestive tract issues under control.  Taking one of these medications along can save you from being too attached to your hotel room bathroom. 


2. Antacid medication:

Fast acting Tums or Rolaids, along with longer acting ranitidine (Zantac) or famotidine (Pepcid) can help make enjoying meals possible.  Heartburn affects almost 15% of the world's population and is triggered by numerous foods enjoyed by travelers, including alcohol, tomatoes, spicy food, caffeine, and carbonated beverages. 

heart burn med to pack for travel

3.  Pain and fever medication:

Ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) are mainstays of treatment for the common travel annoyances such as a headache, back pain, or achy feet.  Make sure you pay close attention to the amount taken, as these are the most common accidental overdose medications. 

pain and fever med to pack for travel

4. Antihistamine medication:

If traveling to a different climate, allergies may sneak up on you. Packing an antihistamine such as fexofenadine (Allegra) or loratadine (Claritin) can help travelers avoid those unpleasant allergy symptoms while exploring their destination.

allergy med to pack for travel

5. Sleep aid medication: 

Whether it's jet lag or just being in a different bed, sleep can be elusive when away from home. Packing a sleep aid such as melatonin or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help the weary traveler fall asleep.  Avoid combination pain and sleep products unless you are suffering from both pain and sleeplessness, as they most likely contain acetaminophen which is the most common unintentionally overdosed medication. 

sleep med to pack for travel

6. Laxative medication: 

Changes in diet and activity can have uncomfortable effects on the digestive tract. Packing a mild laxative such as senna (Senokot) or bisacodyl (Dulcolax) can ease this discomfort quickly, but not too quickly. 

stool softener med to pack for travel

7. Anti-motion sickness medication:

Opt for a less-drowsy formulation such as meclizine (Dramamine All Day) to enjoy all the train, bus, car, and boat rides of traveling without passing out on the unsuspecting person next to you.

dramamine motion sickness med to pack for travel

8. Decongestant medication:

If you aren't buying the behind the counter pseudoephedrine (Sudafed,) then you aren't getting the most effective product and when suffering from congestion, you deserve a medication that works.  

sudafed decongestant med to pack for travel

9. Cough suppressant medication:

Nobody wants to be that annoying person coughing every 5 seconds.  Packing some cough drops is the best way to combat this, as most other cough suppressant medications come in liquid form that create more hassle than benefit. 

cough drops for traveling


This simple list of medications should prevent any traveler from experiencing too much downtime due to feeling unwell while away from home. 



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