4 Doctors and Nurses Share How They Pack for Missions Around the World

All the time, doctors and nurses travel the world to help where it’s needed the most.

But how do you pack and prepare for a mission in some farway region of the world?

To find out, we have talked with 4 experienced doctors and nurses and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all the doctors and nurses have years of travel experience, so they know what they are talking about!).

Temporary hospital in a tent


The 4 Experts


Andrew Peacock
I’m an Australian Expedition and Wilderness Medicine doctor and Professional Adventure Travel Photographer. I’ve just finished a month onboard the ship National Geographic Explorer as a photo instructor around Iceland and I’m currently in Copenhagen making my way to Kenya for a photography project.

I became an Expedition Doctor after volunteering as a doctor in the mountains of Nepal and India and because I was looking to find a way to combine medicine with my love of travelling to remote and adventurous places.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travel nurses/doctors bring?

A skin stapler so I can close wounds quickly in the field especially scalp wounds. I am often working in high altitude environments so I take with me medications like acetazolamide that are useful for treating altitude illness. I also bring a pragmatic and flexible approach to dealing with problems in the remote austere environment where I can’t carry large amounts of medical equipment. I need to make do with minimal equipment in the field to the point of improvising splints from materials we have with us like trekking poles for instance.

How do you bring things with you?

The way I transport a medical kit varies from trip to trip. I don’t have just one bag because it all depends on how many people I am responsible for and where we are headed. The method of transportation is different from trip to trip as well. In Nepal, it could be a Yak or a Sherpa carrying the medical kit, I rarely carry anything more than a small first aid kit on the trail because usually I am carrying climbing equipment and photography equipment as well.

What are your top tips for other travel doctors?

Travel and expedition medicine is all about Prevention and Preparation, NOT about carrying a ton of stuff in order to treat every medical possibility you can think of. I take the essentials and make do and improvise with everything else. The main attribute a doctor brings to situations when travelling is the ability to understand the relative importance and urgency of any situation and then make the right decision about management based on the context of the problem. I’ve managed a significant cardiac condition on a ship in the middle of the southern ocean, 5 days sail from the nearest land, by NOT treating the problem in the same way I would when surrounded by all the resources of a hospital emergency room.

A good expedition doctor is someone who has done a lot of personal travel and adventures where they weren’t ‘working’, so focus on gaining personal experience first and then bring your medical skill and knowledge into the field once you are a confident and experienced traveller in remote environments.

Visit Andrew Peacock’s website


Ronald A. Primas
I am from New York City. I am in Manhattan currently. I became a travel doctor after I was a HIV director in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of NYC, a community with a large immigrant population. I was treating many HIV patients from the developing world who were also co infected with other diseases acquired in their homeland. In addition, I happened to also be the doctor for many hotels and tourists staying in private residences in NYC who also had many illnesses that were acquired abroad. I had to become an expert in the field in order to better treat my patients. Lastly, I had many local residents who travel internationally on a regular basis and I had to prepare them for whatever risks they were potentially exposed to during their travel.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travel doctors bring?

Preparation H wipes. They have witch hazel and aloe and are less irritating than the conventional cottonelle, etc. wipes. They also come in handy single foil packs for travel. Many underdeveloped places do not have adequate facilities, so these are great.

Mouthwash, to ensure that you keep your mouth closed while showering to avoid contaminated water from going in your mouth and getting infections.

A Steri Pen or a hand held pump that filters below .02 microns in case there is limited access to purified or bottled water.

One thing that is semi useless is chlorine and iodine tablets. They are mostly effective but will not kill Giardia spores or viruses as these can encapsulate/encyst and be heat stable and chemically stable. It does work for most bacteria and parasites.

How do you bring things with you?

Suitcase or backpack. I always have too little room in my bag. 🙂

Also, I try to start my packing two weeks before so as to not miss anything.

What are your top tips for other travel doctors?

First, in addition to the above items, if you are not a travel specialist, get a full proper consult before you travel. Second, bring condoms and dental dams as the second most travel-related illness that I see are sexually transmitted, especially when there is alcohol involved. Third, take along individual packets of a good prebiotic like BiMuno. Clinical studies show a protective benefit. Lastly, packing some protein bars in case there are limits on safe food.

Visit Ronald A. Primas’s website


Sophia Khawly
I am a nurse practitioner from Miami, Florida. I am currently in Maine for the summer. I decided to become a traveling nurse practitioner after working in a permanent job for three years. I was looking for something more adventurous and flexible. I also wanted to continue challenging myself. I haven’t looked back ever since.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travel nurses bring?

  • Steamer: when you live out of a suitcase this is a quick way to get your work clothes freshened up and wrinkle free.
  • Carry on: make sure to bring a carry-on with an extra day of clothes. One time, my luggage didn’t make it to my destination and I was forced to start work a date late because I had nothing to wear! I learned my lesson and always bring a carry-on with me with a change of clothes for work.
  • I use an app called, style book, which helps me plan my outfits for the assignment. This way I don’t overpack and know what clothes I have back home in case I want to switch them out when I return.

I think we are all guilty of overpacking sometimes. I used to bring more clothes than I really needed.

How do you bring things with you?

I bring one large suitcase and one carry-on for a three-month assignment. I use Samsung lightweight. Since housing comes furnished and with bed linen and kitchenware, etc, I don’t have to bring those things. I try to buy toiletries once I get there since these often weigh a lot.

What are your top tips for other travel nurses?

When it comes to packing, I like to make a list. Then often I will decrease that list by half. Honestly, you do not even use every single item you bring. And if you ever need more things you can buy then as you go along. I try to practice being a minimalist. Meaning, if I buy something new I have to give one of my older belongs away.

I have some friends that are travel nurses that pack up their entire car with each assignment. I think this can be quite tiresome to load and unload the car every assignment. I prefer just to travel as light as possible. It might be intimidating at first, but often you surprise yourself with how little you actually need.

Tips for nurse practitioners considering travel, as long as you are open minded you should jump in and start an adventure of a lifetime! Worse case scenario you can always go back to a permanent job.

Visit Sophia Khawly’s website


Cheryl Roby
I am from Alabama but lived for 30 years in California and then two years in Arizona before returning back to Alabama.

Most of my travel nursing experience was with the Army nurse corps as a reserve member. I have worked in most of the 50 states. Travel gave me the opportunity to meet other nurses and see how they practiced in different states.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travel nurses bring?

My favorite pillow, which allows me to rest and sleep between shifts. Photos of kids and grand children to remember the family I have at home. My favorite toiletries, soap, shampoo, etc. you never know what they have in the hotels or other housing accommodations.

The most useless thing is when people bring too many pairs of shoes. Basically, you need a pair for work, a good pair of tennis shoes and lastly a pair for going out or to church.

How do you bring things with you?

Depending on the assignment determines what bags to carry. If traveling by air, I carry a hard-side suitcase since the airlines employees do not care about how they handle your luggage. I carry Travel Joy luggage set by air.

When driving, I use a duffel bag since it easier to load into the vehicle and pack around it. I use an Olympia 29″ 8 pocket rolling duffel.

To organize my things, I use packing cubes. The best ones I have found were YAMIU 7-piece travel organizer. Perfect for the duffle for sure.

I have found that the bags I use provide the perfect amount of room for my things. I tend to buy clothes that are made for travel. They can be rolled up and do not wrinkle.

What are your top tips for other travel nurses?

Do not over think what to take when you travel. Bring the basics and something from the comforts of home. Use a light weight luggage on wheels to save the back. Some try to bring everything but the kitchen sink. I pack based on the accommodations. Depending on the work assignment and the place where I will live.

Driving to the location definitely allows for bringing more “things”. Just remember to pack light, you can always buy anything you might not have room to bring.

Visit Cheryl Roby’s website


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