I love travelling! Anyone who knows me, knows I’m always trying to find ways to go away more. This season I have several exciting trips planned but no matter where I go, ‘pack light’ is my motto.
I rarely check bags unless I absolutely have to and keeping things to an absolute minimum is the way I like to do it.
When it comes down to it, there are very few essentials you really need. Some may argue a valid passport and a little money is all you really need but I’d go so far as to include the following 10 items to that list.
The selection below covers the widest possible common issues you may encounter on your travels from bug bites, to stomach upsets, to sunburns and jet lag.
These are 10 things you don’t want to leave home without because let’s face it, I certainly don’t want to be the one to silently act out the stomach flu.
1. Oregano Oil
This is one natural remedy I recommend every single person have in their arsenal. Oregano oil has powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
This means that after that long plane ride or crowded bus or train station, putting a few drops of oregano oil in about 1oz of water and drinking it will help to kill any bugs your neighbour may have unintentionally shared.
Oregano oil is not only the perfect cold and flu buster, it can also be used to treat urinary tract infections, respiratory infections and yeast infections. All very common while travelling.
The active ingredient in oregano oil, carvacrol is a potent insect repeller. Dilute a little oregano oil in spray water bottle, shake well and spray over yourself or furniture. Additionally, oregano oil can help heal bug bites. Simply dilute a couple of drops in a little olive oil and apply to bite.
Finally, because of it’s antimicrobial properties, mixing a little oregano oil with water makes a great fruit or veggie wash to help cleanse and disinfect fresh produce.
2. Homemade Hand Sanitizer
Speaking of disinfecting, you can’t know when you’re going to find yourself without water and needing to wash your hands. What you can know is that it will definitely happen.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am not a hand sanitizer devotee. I prefer to wash my hands regularly and strengthen my immune system outside of that.
However, when on the road, having something to quickly and easily cleanse your hands is a must. Regular store-bought hand sanitizers are full of toxic chemicals like triclosan and benzalkonium chloride, and synthetic fragrances.
According to independent studies done by the Environmental Working Group, triclosan, even in very small amounts, have been linked to thyroid disruption as well as liver and inhalation toxicity. Additionally, triclosan leaches into water supplies and into the oceans and is very toxic for aquatic life.
3. Oculoheel Eye Drops
Changing timezones and disrupting sleep patterns is never fun. Combine that with dry, air-conditioned environments and you have a recipe for tired, red and itchy eyes. Not anyone’s idea of a good time.
Eye drops are imperative when travelling but many commercial eye drops are filled with harmful additives. The Oculoheel eye drops come in single serving vials and are the cleanest I have found. You can also make your own with this recipe.
We often forget that the sun is very different in different parts of the world. While you may be use to the strength of the sun in your neck of the woods, 30mins of sun time while on holiday can mean the difference between enjoying your evening with a glass of wine and a beautiful view or spending the night in a loose-fitting gown covered in cool wash clothes and burning agony.
Getting a sunburn, especially while travelling, is not only very painful, it can be dangerous to your health both short-term and long-term.
It is important to always pack and apply sunscreen regularly. I am not a fan of commercial sunblocks which are full of toxic compounds like oxybenzone and homosalate that seep into your skin.
These compounds have been found to act like estrogen in the body causing PMS, ovarian cysts and endometriosis in women, and altering sperm production, thyroid and behaviour in animals.
Instead, I opt for making my own 100% natural mineral sunscreen. It provides excellent protection without all the harmful additives. There are several great recipes on the internet to make your own, or make sure to opt for a natural sunscreen.
5. Aloe Vera Gel
Speaking of sunburns, sometimes before we realize we’ve spent too much time outdoors, it’s too late and the damage is done.
The redness, burning, pain and heat we feel from a sunburn is the body’s inflammatory response to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. While both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and eventually burning, UVB rays do so much more quickly.
Aloe vera gel is an essential natural remedy to pack in your travel case. The gel from the inner part of the leaf contains active compounds that reduce pain and inflammation and stimulate skin growth and repair. Plus, aloe gel is also a good moisturizing agent, helping to keep dry, peel-y skin moisturized.
Don’t rely on commercial sunburn soothers which may only have trace amounts of the real stuff. Instead pack a small bottle of pure Aloe gel. Lily of the Desert is the one I like to use.
6. Traveler’s Probiotics
After having first hand experience of the strength of these little guys, I now swear by travellers probiotics and take them on every trip.
A few years ago I visited Mexico and took traveler’s probiotics diligently. Upon my return, I shared a plate of sushi with a friend. She spent the night over the toilet while I, with a notoriously delicate stomach, didn’t experience a thing.
I entirely attribute my well-being that night to the probiotics since I am typically the person suffering from a small amount of contaminated food while those around me are completely fine.
The difference between traveler’s probiotics and your regular daily probiotics is the strain. The travelling variety is primarily made up of Saccharomyces Boulardii. This particular strain often is used for treating and preventing diarrhea. It is also used for general digestion problems including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.
It has also been shown to help treat and prevent urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, hives, canker sores and teen-age acne.
I like Sisu’s Bon Voyage but there are several other companies that make traveler’s probiotics that are also very good. Pay a visit to your local health food store and the staff will be able to direct you to something that’s right for you.
7. Ginger Tablets
Ginger tablets, or even simply a piece of raw ginger, have many beneficial properties which can be particularly helpful while travelling.
In addition to relieving motion sickness and nausea, ginger capsules encourage digestion and are a godsend when it comes to bloating and bowel discomfort.
Additionally, ginger is incredibly anti-inflammatory. A property that may come in handy when you’re red and inflamed from bug bites and/or a sunburn.
Ginger tablets are also great to have on-hand the morning after enjoying one-to-many cocktails at the bar. They help to relieve the nausea, bloating and inflammation caused by alcohol.
8. Digestive Support
One of the best things about travelling is trying new things, especially when it comes to food. Experimenting and tasting new foods and food combinations is fun and exciting but can wreak havoc on your digestion.
Bloating, heartburn, loose stool and general discomfort can all ensue and there’s no better way to deal with these symptoms than using digestive bitters and/or enzymes.
You can pick both up at your local health food store. Digestive bitters are a tincture, meaning an extracted concentration, of a blend of bitter herbs. Bitters are taken about 15min before a meal by using the included dropper to drop about 10-15 drops on your tongue.
The bitter flavour prepares your body to receive food by encouraging the release of digestive juices like saliva, stomach acid and enzymes needed to break down food.
Digestive enzymes serve a very similar function. The major difference is that rather than promoting and encouraging your body to release the chemicals needed to digest food, the enzymes assist in digestion. This can be very helpful for a bigger, heavier meal. Using them together is fine too.
Enzymes should be taken with the first bite of food. My favourite are Super Enzymes by NOW. They contain an assortment of enzymes needed to break down several different types of food, as well as a little bile to help with fat digestion and absorption, and stomach acid too.
Speaking of food, there may be times while travelling when you’re not able to get a good, solid meal. Sometimes getting enough fresh produce falls to the wayside and snacking on high-carb munchies like tortilla chips or fries seems to take over.
It’s for times like these that I like to pack a little extra nutrition boost. A greens powder and protein powder, or meal replacement sachet, will go a long way to not only provide nutrients that may be lacking during your travels, but also helping to keep you regular and well-fed.
I like to use IronVegan protein powder as it’s the cleanest I’ve found, so I pack a couple of sachets of this along with a few servings of greens powder. Vega Sport is another a great option to pack because of it’s added glutamine content.
Glutamine is an amino acid (small protein) that helps to heal the intestinal lining. This means that while travelling, if you eat something the causes some bowel inflammation or end up drinking a couple too many, glutamine will help to reduce and repair some of the damage done to the intestines.
Lastly, one of the biggest concerns when it comes to travelling is sleep. Not getting enough can leave you exhausted and sleepy, the last thing you want to be on vacation.
Using melatonin to reset you clock and get right into the rhythm of your new locale will go a long way in helping you enjoy your holiday.
Melatonin is a hormone made by your pineal gland, a small gland in your brain. It regulates sleep and awake cycles helping to control the natural rhythm of your sleep. There are some studies that suggest that supplementing with hormones longterm results in the body reducing the amount it makes and releases on its own.
What that means, in essence, is taking melatonin longterm could lead to some dependancy. For this reason, I don’t recommend taking melatonin regularly as a general sleep aid but it is perfect in travelling situations. (Finding the root cause of your sleep disturbances is a must!)
If you’ve never taken melatonin before, start slow. A low dose is all you need to get a good night’s sleep. I recommend Magnesium Glycinate Nighttime by Pure Labs because I like the combination of muscle-relaxing magnesium and 3mg of melatonin in one capsule. The effects vary person to person but this should help you sleep soundly for roughly 5hrs.
Bonus: Curing (Travel-Related) Constipation
With these top 10 natural travel essentials you’ll be covered for most common health issues that arise while travelling. But there’s just one more issue that even the most regular people suffer from while travelling.
At my house, we call it early-morning traveler’s constipation. With the combination of stress, irregular schedule and grab-and-go food, most people experience constipation upon arrival to one degree or another.
There’s no need to suffer through it or wait for it to hopefully pass with this natural, non-herbal, non-dependancy-forming aid. OxyCleanse by Earth’s Bounty or BioOxy Cleanse by Bioquest are two similar products that are the perfect option when you’re travelling.
It won’t give you loose stool and cause you to have to find a bathroom in the most inappropriate times. It will simply help to eliminate any hardened stool that would typically continue to build up.
These pills contain magnesium peroxide, also know as oxygenated magnesium. This is a natural combination of magnesium and oxygen molecules. When the molecules separate, the magnesium helps to relax the bowels while the oxygen bubbles help to ‘scrub’ the nooks and crannies of your intestines where debris has collected.
There are no fibres or herbs so you won’t become dependant like typical laxatives and this supplement is not only helpful while travelling but also fantastic if you suffer from constipation and bloating in day-to-day life.
That’s my list! I better get to packing my bags. I guess there’s only one thing left to say…Have a great trip and bon voyage!