The traveller’s well-organised medicine bag

My mother is the most organised traveller I know. Everything I learned about packing techniques, what to take, what to leave behind, I learned from her.

The most impressive part of her packing, and the one where I still meticulously follow her lessons, was the family medicine bag. Not only was it full of all the standard toiletries but with two illness-riddled children  (both with severe asthma, one with life-threatening nut allergies) our family trips included antihistamine tablets and ventolin puffers in every bag, as well as a monstrously heavy, buzzing nebuliser for every day emergencies such as a wheezing 5 year old.

When I go overseas, my medicine bag is impressive and designed to ward off any illnesses I may get short of broken bones. And even then, I have bandages for a temporary splint.

This is my guide to a well-organised medicine bag.


If you are travelling from Australia to anywhere in the world that isn’t New Zealand, Western Europe, the United States or Canada, check out the recommended vaccinations and make sure you are up-to-date. Basic good-sense.

However, you are more likely to come down with a fever, infection or good old belly problems before hepatitis. If you have an obliging doctor, they may be happy to write you out scripts for potential illnesses, which you can have made up before you depart. This can get expensive, but depending on where you are going and for how long it can really be worth it. Some basics to cover are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fevers
  • Stomach problems
  • Severe colds
  • Any infections or problems you might be prone to.

Your standard meds, if you take any, such as:

  • Contraceptives
  • Asthma medication
  • Antihistamines if you have allergies
  • EPI pen

Now for my biggest medicine bag trick.

The best way to transport your meds is to open and cut-up the box. Cut out the side of the box that tells you what the med is and how to take it. Put this rectangle of cardboard over the popping side of the medication packets and wrap it all up in clingwrap. Voila! Securely wrapped and taking up a fraction of the space of the box.

A toiletries check-list:

  • a bar of soap – more useful than bodywash. Get a holder for it.
  • toothbrush and toothpaste, with toothbrush head protectors
  • tampons and pads
  • soft-pack tissues
  • shampoo and conditioner (small bottles, they can easily be replaced)
  • face wipes to make you feel fresh
  • anti bacterial hand gel (keep it in your handbag)
  • band-aids
  • safety pins
  • small scissors
  • antiseptic gel or cream such as Betadine
  • deodorant
  • dry shampoo
  • moisturiser
  • sunscreen
  • perfume
  • make-up – unless you have a reason, be sparing. You will never bother to use as much as you think it will.

People have different ways of packing. You can have one huge bag or separates. I have one for emergency medications, one for everyday toiletries and one for my make up and jewellery. It seems like so much, but if I put it all in one bag it would be impossible to find anything!


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