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Jun 28, 2023
How to pack healthy for a summer vacation
family packing their vehicle for a summer road trip

Quick Take

  • Use these tips as a starting point for the health care items you’ll need.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing.
  • Healthful foods and drinks can fuel the longest day.

You’ve planned a summer trip — perhaps your first in several years. You’ve booked transportation and lodging, you’ve figured out what you want to see and do, and you’ve checked the weather so you’ll have the right clothes for the climate. Before you open a suitcase, however, you need one last list: What you’ll need to stay healthy — and what to pack in case of minor injury or illness.

If you’re traveling by plane or train, you’ll need to pack light, so you might want to plan on buying some necessities after you arrive. Those who are taking a road trip have more leeway (and more space), but you’ll still want to curate what you bring. After all, you’ll probably need room in the car for souvenirs!

Packing list for healthy travels

  • Health, dental, and pharmacy insurance cards — check with your plan to see if you can download virtual versions. Bring the debit card to access your health savings account or flexible spending account, if you have one.
  • Contact info for your doctors and other health care providers, including passwords for patient portals.
  • Prescription medicines.
  • Vitamins or other supplements you and your family take regularly.
  • A pain reliever/fever reducer, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If you have children, make sure you bring the correct dosage for their ages.
  • A digital thermometer, just in case — it takes up almost no room and might prove to be essential. 
  • A variety of bandages, including waterproof ones for swimming.
  • A small tube of antibiotic ointment.
  • If anyone is (or might be) susceptible to motion sickness, ask your doctor which remedies to consider.
  • If you might be exposed to ticks, bring tweezers and individually wrapped alcohol wipes.
  • Single-use sterile saline eye drops.
  • Sunglasses with UV protection for the whole family.
  • SPF 30 or higher sunscreen — you’ll need enough to apply every 2 hours — for everyone 6 months and older. Younger babies should stay out of the sun and/or wear protective clothing.
  • Clothing with UV protection — such as rash guard shirts to wear over swimsuits — when extra protection is needed.
  • Hats that shade the face, ears, and back of the neck.
  • Healthy foods that don’t require refrigeration, such as dried fruits, nuts or nut butters, and whole-grain crackers. If you’re traveling by car, stock up so you have enough for the entire trip.
  • When traveling by car, fill a cooler with washed, ready-to-eat fruit and other chilled healthy foods that your family enjoys, plus cold healthy beverages. You can freeze bottles of water to use as ice packs, then drink the water after the ice melts.

This list is a starting point — you might not want to bring everything, or you might have additional needs. Whatever you pack, and wherever you’re going, have a great trip!

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