Before we get into the best over-the-counter medicines to pack for travel, let us discuss the very important matter of where to pack said meds. Always pack your medicine in your carry-on bags that will remain with you, never in checked bags. Though checked bags are rarely lost these days, they’re often delayed--a big dilemma for anyone relying on prescriptions to control their health.

To avoid potential mishaps at airport security, confirm that all your medicines are clearly labeled. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a copy of the Rx with the bottles.

Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to get health advisory warnings for your destination, including locations for travel clinics where you can get recommended vaccines.

With the logistics of where and how out of the way, let’s discuss the what.

These are the best over-the-counter (OTC) medicines you need to pack for every trip, so you’re ready to act in the face of these common travel ails.

Over-the-Counter Antacid Medicine

A big part of traveling to foreign places is tasting new foods. For those times when we overindulge or an exotic ingredient disagrees with the system, quickly get back on the tasting train with antacids. Among the most popular are Tums, Mylanta, and Gaviscon, all of which can be found in traveler-friendly pill form.

Over-the-Counter Medicine for Lactose Intolerance

If you’re like most people I know suffering from lactose intolerance you’ve probably already cut out the tall glass of milk for breakfast at home. These normally level-headed folk go on a trip, however, and lose their mind. “Toilet be damned because the cheese fondue, gelato, and pizza is part of the travel experience!” Get back on your stomach’s good side by taking medicines that help your system assimilate lactose. Among the more popular are Lactaid and LactoJoy.

Over-the-Counter Anti-Diarrheal Medicine

You can skirt past all the street food stands, exclusively eat at the finest restaurants, fastidiously wash your hands, and still catch a case of traveler’s diarrhea--among the most common of all travel diseases. Popular over-the-counter solutions to treat common diarrhea and its accompanying symptoms is with Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, or Imodium.

Over-the-Counter Laxatives

And for those times when you have the exact opposite of a problem as is narrated above. Phillips’ and Dulcolax are popular.

Over-the-Counter Contraception: Condoms

For anyone familiar with the struggle that comes with trying to find their preferred brands while on the road, it’s infinitely more challenging with certain products and at certain destinations. Especially condoms, and especially when traveling abroad. In the case of OTC contraception like condoms, packaging is often nondescript, too, making it even harder to spot at a foreign store. Don’t be caught with your pants down without a plan of execution, especially if you rely on specific styles or brands. Condoms are not exactly medicine, but they’re too important not to highlight on a list of the best over-the-counter medicine to pack for travel. Among the top brands are Trojan and Durex.

Over-the-Counter Vitamin C

Stay in peak shape with the help of high doses of vitamin C. A lot of frequent travelers swear by Airborne and Emergen-C and do a round of the supplements before, during, and after their trips.

Over-the-Counter Motion Sickness-Relief Medicine

Motion sickness has vexed me since I can remember. I’ve never been on a cruise because of my affliction. On the plane, aboard the boat, at the theme park, hell, just riding in a regular car will have me revisiting my lunch. While most don’t have such extreme sensitivities to motion sickness, it is best to be prepared for certain scenarios over-the-counter motion-sickness medicine. Dramamine and Bonine do the trick.

Over-the-Counter Cough-Suppressants

Cough-suppressant lozenges like Halls and Ricola may provide quick relief of itchy throats, and are among the easiest to find at U.S. shops.

For peskier coughs, however, have something with a little more power, like recommended cough-suppressant brands Robitussin or Vicks DayQuil/NyQuil. Go with an expectorant like Mucinex for chest-decongestion.

Over-the-Counter Antihistamine Medicine

The world is a vast place. Even if you’re not an allergy-sufferer back home, it’s not uncommon for travelers to stumble upon a setting that gets them feeling sniffly, teary-eyed, and sneezy. Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl, and Allegra are often cited as good over-the-counter options for allergies.

Over-the-Counter Pain-Relief Medicine

Ibuprofens and/or acetaminophens should be a mainstay in every traveler’s packing list. From headaches to common aches and pains to fevers, minor health issues like these are easily relieved with the likes of Tylenol or Advil.

Wellness While Traveling: My Pro Tips

  1. Whenever possible, when selecting over-the-counter medicines for travel, opt for powdered pills over liquid gels to reduce the airport security shuffle.
  2. Unless you want to return home well-rested solely because you snoozed past the entire itinerary, I highly recommend the non-drowsy variety, whenever the option’s available.
  3. Common respiratory masks won’t do much to keep you from inhaling bacteria, but it is recommended those with communicable diseases like the common cold wear them to reduce the risk of contaminating those around them.
  4. As light as we all want to travel these days, leaving medicines out for lack of bag space has the potential to be a perilous exchange. Skimp with your health and you risk a costlier, possibly even deadlier outcome.
  5. While we are very enthusiastic travel editors with your well-being in mind, our research cannot substitute your doctor’s expert advice. See your doctor before taking any medicine, and especially if symptoms persist.
  6. My philosophy with wellness and travel is this: As most would with their vehicle before hitting the open road, so too should we get checked out by a physician whenever possible before or shortly after traveling.

Stay on top of breaking sales, fare drops, and more! Follow us on Twitter @Airfarewatchdog. And make sure to sign up for FREE airfare alerts to be notified when prices drop.

funnyangel / Shutterstock
All products and services mentioned on Airfarewatchdog are independently selected by our team of expert travelers. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

More Stories You'll Love