The Essential Items Doctors Never Travel Without

From eye masks to neck pillows, here's what health experts keep in their bags when they take a trip.
Don't leave home without these travel essentials recommended by health experts.
Phngs Ya Lim Pa Khm / EyeEm via Getty Images
Don't leave home without these travel essentials recommended by health experts.

Whether you’re getting on a plane for work or hitting the road for a quick getaway, traveling to your destination is about to get a lot better — and healthier.

You may pack the key necessities for avoiding COVID-19 ― like hand sanitizer and face masks, for example ― but there are a few basic items you shouldn’t forget to bring as well. These essentials will not only make your stay a little easier, but also support your health and mental well-being.

What items should you keep on hand while traveling? We spoke to several physicians about the everyday products they carry while on the go. Keep scrolling to find out what you should stock up on.

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A toothbrush and toothpaste
Brushing daily is essential for good dental hygiene, which is why Hunter Cherwek, vice president of eye care nonprofit Orbis International, always makes sure he has a toothpaste and toothbrush packed while traveling.

“Much like vision, dental health can be made less painful with routine care. That’s why whenever I set out to travel, I carry my toothbrush and a supply of extreme clean toothpaste,” he told HuffPost.

This travel pack from Dr. Fresh is TSA compliant, so you can stow it in your carry on.
A neck pillow
“I always bring a sturdy neck pillow with me when I travel. It prevents any jaw or neck pain that may come from sleeping on planes, cars, or buses, and helps me wake up more refreshed,” said Bradley Katz, a neuro-ophthalmologist and chief executive officer at Axon Optics.

This neck pillow from Dot & Dot is made of memory foam and is bendable to provide neck, chin and lumbar support.
"Sun protection is nonnegotiable for me, so I don't leave the house without my sunscreen,” said Neela Sethi Young, a pediatrician and co-founder of the scrubs brand JAANUU. "It’s perfect to have on for any climate when I travel — whether I’m going to the beach or skiing.”

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97% of the sun's UVB rays. This sunscreen by EltaMD is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for daily use.
Compression socks
Ashley Lee, a podiatrist at Northern Illinois Foot and Ankle Specialists, always makes sure she has compression socks on while traveling.

“This prevents any foot swelling that may occur when traveling for long hours with inactivity and little legroom, like on a flight,” she said.
An eye mask
“Good sleep is the starting point for every other aspect of well-being for me, so I always make sure to travel with a sleep mask,” said Nina Vasan, the chief medical officer of the digital therapy and mental health platform Real. “Sound and light can be really distracting while traveling and blocking them out is essential for good sleep hygiene.”

This silky eye mask comes in multiple colors and is designed to block out all light. It's also made with memory foam so it fits your eyes comfortably.
Fresh fruit
“I always bring fresh fruits to snack on so I don't need to depend on limited fast food options when I’m on the go,” said Anthony Kaveh, an anesthesiologist and integrative medicine specialist.

Bring some fruit from home and pack it in a reusable container and you'll save yourself a decent amount at the airport.
Neha Chaudhary, the chief medical officer at BeMe Health, said she always makes sure to keep her favorite music playlist downloaded before travel so she’ll have it even if she loses cell service.

“Listening to music while traveling keeps me grounded and boosts my mood,” she said.

If music isn't your jam (no pun intended), try an audiobook or a podcast. “I enjoy listening to podcasts while traveling as it not only gets my brain thinking but also relaxes me,” said Mahek A. Shah, a physician in Philadelphia and an associate faculty member at Ariadne Labs.

For optimal listening, you'll want a really good set of headphones. "I never travel without my noise-canceling headphones to listen to my stress-reducing music and to block out stress-inducing travel distractions while staying in unfamiliar surroundings,” said Gary Blick, the chief medical officer at Health Care Advocates International.
A notebook and pen
“I never travel without my notebook and favorite pen,” said Jordan Frey, a plastic surgeon at Erie County Medical Center. “These items allow me to be intentional and consistent when practicing mindfulness and gratitude exercises for mental health and well-being.”

Get a notebook and pen that are alluring so you're more likely to use them, like this cute option from Kate Spade.
A reusable water bottle
When you’re on the go, you never know when you’ll feel thirsty, so Arunima Agarwal, a pediatrician based in New York City, always keeps a water bottle on hand.

“I always take a water bottle with me when I’m traveling to make sure I stay hydrated,” she said. “When I fly, I bring an empty water bottle with me through security and fill it at a fountain in the airport or with a cup of water from the flight attendant when I’m on board.”

A 32-ounce water bottle from Hydro Flask is vacuum-insulated to keep water cold or hot for hours.
Pain relievers
“Medication, such as Tylenol or Advil, is an absolute must for me when traveling,” said Jaclyn Tomsic, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Ohio’s Center for Oral, Facial and Implant Surgery. “You can never predict when a headache, migraine, or any minor injury will pop up and finding common over-the-counter medications can be harder to find than you’d expect, especially when traveling abroad.”

These travel-sized pain reliever packs are perfect to bring when you're on the go.
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