Spring is fully here and summertime is just around the corner. That means different things to different people, but one of the things it means is that a lot of people will be taking off on vacation; traveling far from home. For most, it will be a time of rest and rejuvenation, but there will always be some who will find that their vacation plans are interrupted by some calamity. The question is, if that’s you, are you ready for it.
In most cases, I’d have to say that the answer is no, even for experienced preppers. The fact of the matter is that most of our survival plans start with the premise that we’ll be home when a disaster hits. While that might be true, we really can’t count on it happening.
I spend a fair amount of time, traveling south of the border. Because of that, I’ve become accustomed to preparing for the potential mishaps that can happen along the way. It’s fortunate that I am accustomed to it, because I’ve had my fair share. Just this last weekend, my car quit on me, in the middle of nowhere, leaving my wife and I stranded.
Mexico has a wonderful service for foreign travelers called the “Angeles Verdes” (green angels). These teams travel all the country’s highways, offering service to foreign motorists who find themselves stranded. Supposedly, they cover every inch of highway in Mexico, at least once every 24 hours.
However, they never seem to be there when I need them. Oh, I’ve seen their trucks along the road and even stopped to chat with the guys in a rest area. But I’ve never had one come along when I was in need. I guess I just didn’t wait long enough. But then, waiting for someone else to help me just isn’t my style. Like you, I’m much more likely to take situations in my own hands and take care of them myself.
Traveling by car isn’t the only time you have to be concerned though. Traveling by air can leave you with just as much likelihood of a problem, as traveling by car. The people who were traveling outside the United States when 9-11 happened were all stranded wherever they were, as all air travel in the USA was cancelled for two days. But it doesn’t take anything like a major terrorist attack to leave you stranded in an airport, all it takes is bad weather.
The other danger with air travel is having your luggage lost. We all travel with the expectation that our luggage is going to get there with us. But what if it doesn’t? What do you do then? I’ve had bags take three days or more to catch up with me, especially when traveling overseas.
Start with Some Research
It doesn’t matter where you’re going or how long you are going to be gone, you need to start your trip preparation with some research. You’re probably already doing that, but I want to direct your research a bit. While you’re taking time to find out all the attractions and what you want to visit on your trip, take some time to scope out the area from a survival point of view too. What do I mean by that?
- Check what types of natural disasters hit that area, what time of year they hit and what the likelihood is that there might be a disaster while you’re there.
- Check on the temperature and the weather in general. Is there something you should be ready for, just in case it happens? A rain poncho doesn’t take up much room in a bag, and it can make your trip a whole lot more comfortable, if you end up caught in the rain.
- Find out what the crime rate is and if there are any areas that you should make an effort to avoid.
- Check into weapons laws, especially concealed carry laws, if you have a license to carry. Can you bring weapons with you and if you can, can you carry them? What does the local law say about hurting or killing someone in self-defense?
- Is there a problem with terrorism, including domestic terrorism where you’re going?
- Get some maps of the area you’re going to and figure out at least a couple of good escape routes you can take, in case you have to evacuate the area.
- Find someplace that you can use as a rallying point, in case your family or party gets separated and a disaster strikes.
- Look for potential places to go, if you are forced to bug out from your vacation spot.
It really won’t take much time to do all this research, and it can easily be folded into the rest of your vacation planning. The Department of State maintains a fair amount of information about traveling abroad on their website. That’s a good starting point, as it will give you all the travel advisories that the government has currently issued. It will also tell you our government’s current stance in regard to those countries.
Make sure you print out the information you find, so that you can take it with you, just in case you need it. Don’t depend on your memory; it’s too easy to forget. Besides, you might need to show it to some forgetful official somewhere.
Packing For Travel
One of the key precepts of prepping is making sure that you have what you need, before you need it. That’s why we all stockpile food and other supplies, as well as preparing bug out bags and survival kits. Don’t let this precept go on vacation, just because you are going to.
Regardless of whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, you’re going to be leaving pretty much all your survival gear and supplies at home. But that doesn’t mean that you have to leave all of it. You should always keep room in your luggage for some basic survival gear. While you may not use it, I’ve had too many times when I needed at least some of that gear to take care of a problem that occurred.
While TSA regulations limit what you can carry aboard an airplane, there is little limitation on what you can carry in your checked bags. If you’re driving, there’s even less limitation, although you do have to be careful about carrying firearms with you into some of the most liberal states in our nation. You also have to be careful about carrying them into Mexico, where possession of one bullet will land you in jail for 20 years.
But while weapons are part of what you should be carrying, they really aren’t the bulk of what you need to take with you. Let’s look at some of the things you should make sure get into your luggage.
The first thing I always pack is a good survival kit. How good that kit is, will depend a lot on how much space I have that I can dedicate to survival. Long trips overseas make this difficult, as you need to take more clothes. But I still try to take a fairly complete survival kit with me, rather than just a pocket sized one.
When my wife and I travel in our car, I carry what is essentially a bug out bag as a survival kit. It has everything we need for wilderness survival, including five days worth of dried food, a survival tent and a survival sleeping bag. Should we end up stranded along the road, we’re going to be in good shape.
I’ve had countless times when I was glad I had packed some food along with me. While I expect to be able to eat in restaurants, there are always times when you can’t find one that’s open. Or, if you’re traveling overseas, you may not be able to find one that you feel safe eating in.
My favorite travel foods to pack are jerky, dried fruit, granola bars and nuts. It’s lightweight and I can live off of that for several days. It also gives me something to munch on, in case I’m caught between meals somewhere. Since I’m often traveling overseas to speak somewhere, I am dependent upon whoever invited me to feed me; but sometimes their idea of mealtimes and my idea aren’t in the same ball park.
I always have at least a gallon of water in my car, for emergency drinking. When I’m traveling by air, I always stop and buy water, as soon as I go through security. Water is so critical to survival, that I make sure I’ve got some with me. When traveling overseas, some of my hosts have thought my constant buying of water to be humorous. That’s okay, at least I have it.
Of course, I’ve got a good straw-type water filter in my survival kit as well, so I can get drinkable water no matter where I am. But with a bottle of water as my constant companion, I rarely need to use it.
I never travel without at least some sort of first-aid kit, even if it is less than what I’d like. These are kits that I make myself, not commercial ones. The commercial first-aid kits are all but useless, unless you just need an adhesive band-aid to cover a cut from shaving.
When I use the term “first-aid kit” I’m thinking two things. The first is a trauma kit. My smallest trauma kit would equate to a military IFAK, which gives you enough to treat a gunshot wound. For me, that’s the standard. I figure if I can take care of a gunshot wound, I’m ready for just about anything.
But that’s not all I carry. I also carry an assortment of over the counter medicines, such as Benadryl and Ibuprofen, to treat all the common things. In addition to those, I have my personal medications, something I buy in Mexico for diarrhea which works incredibly well, and a good general antibiotic for use in treatment of infections from injuries.
If we assume that there’s a possibility of a problem happening while we’re away from home, then it’s also reasonable to assume that we might need to get out of that location quickly. After all, there are none of the advantages in staying in a hotel in another city, that there would be in staying home, other than it is providing shelter. While that is valuable in and of itself, getting out of Dodge… or Paris might be better.
A good set of maps that covers the area we’re going to doesn’t cost a lot or take up a lot of room. That makes it an ideal addition to our luggage, and one that could pay off in big benefits. Make sure you take both topographical and road maps with you.
This can be one of the trickiest things to deal with when traveling. For those of us who carry concealed, the big question is whether your destination has a reciprocity agreement with your state. Of course, if you’re traveling overseas, that’s immaterial. However, some foreign destinations do allow you to take firearms with you. You might have to get a permit for it, but you can take it.
Again, this is an area you need to check into carefully. But don’t just limit your thinking to guns. While they are your best choice for self-defense, they aren’t the only thing. Any weapon, even an ineffective one, improves your chances at survival.
Mexico has very strict gun control laws, so I can’t carry there. However, there are other weapons which are not controlled at all, like knives. Granted, a knife isn’t going to do much good against a gun, except in the hands of a true expert, but if you’re being robbed, rather than facing someone from one of the drug cartels, you probably won’t face anything worse than a knife.
I have a can sword that I use when I’m in Mexico. I’m old enough, that using a cane doesn’t appear to be all that odd. So nobody’s likely to think that there’s a sword hiding inside. But if someone tries to jump me with a knife in their hand, they’ll find a big surprise awaiting them.
Clothes may seem a bit obvious to have on this list, as that’s usually the main thing found in our suitcases. But I’m not talking about the clothing you’ll need for your trip’s activities here, I’m talking about appropriate clothing to use in an emergency.
I’ve done a fair amount of business traveling, most of which required me to wear a suit. But those business suits are totally impractical for the purpose of survival. Not only will they not keep you warm, but they aren’t rugged enough to survive the hardships associated with survival. I had a very nice suit destroyed in a roadside incident to prove that.
So, it’s a good idea to take along at least one set of rugged clothing, which is appropriate for survival and other dirty tasks. You should also take along some warm clothing, including hats and gloves, unless, of course, it’s the middle of summer.
Small Solar Charger
Power outages are on the rise across the United States, especially major ones. While some parts of the world may not be dealing with this, many countries have it even worse than the U.S. does, with power outages being the norm, not something unusual. With that being the case, and with our dependency on our smartphones, doesn’t it just make sense to have a small solar charger to charge up your phone, when the power is out?
Finally, always bring along a good supply of cash. In our modern electronic world, many of us hardly use cash at all, preferring the convenience of plastic. But in an emergency, when power, phone lines and the internet are down, your access to electronic money will often be eliminated. In such cases, the only thing you can pay with is cash.
Don’t just limit yourself to big bills either, even though they are easier to carry around. You can’t assume they’ll have change if you’re forced to use cash in an emergency situation. That may place you in the position of having to pay way too much for something, simply because the only bill you have is a large one. Something about paying $100 for a five-gallon can of gas just rankles me.
When You Get Where You’re Going
As anyone who has been a prepper for any time will tell you, being prepared is half the battle. Taking along the things I’ve mentioned above may make your luggage a bit heavier, but it will also make it much easier for you to deal with an emergency.
For me personally, the things mentioned above take up somewhere between 1/4 to 1/3 of my luggage, when I’m traveling. It has never caused me to use a bigger suitcase than my wife does, nor has it caused me to go over on the weight restrictions. But it has helped me in numerous small ways.
But bringing along the right gear isn’t the only thing necessary. It’s also necessary to maintain the necessary mental attitude to be able to deal with problems that might occur. While this may not seem like the number one thing on your vacation list, it actually should be. Your vacation will only be enjoyable if it is free of problems, and that only happens when we maintain our vigilance.
Be Ready to Leave
With that in mind, the first thing you and I need to do when we get to our destination is check for potential escape routes. I don’t care if you’re talking about a terrorist shooting or a fire, the best thing you can do is get out of there quickly. Knowing how to get out can save you precious seconds or even minutes when the time comes.
Don’t just stop with finding the exits though. You need to know how to get from the exit to wherever you parked your car. Hotels can be extremely confusing, especially large hotels. You might think you’re exiting near your car, only to find that you’re on the other side of the building.
Scout out a good route for escaping on foot, as well, just in case you need to. This should be a route that will take you to a place of safety, such as a public place with a lot of people. That’s better than looking for someplace where you can hide.
Do a Safety Check
Once you’ve established your escape routes, take a good look at your surroundings, especially the security features of your hotel room. Do the locks work? Is there any way that someone can get into your room? Is your window in danger of breaking from a falling tree, in the case of a storm? Just how safe is your room and the place where you are staying. You can tell a lot, just by looking around.
Every time you leave the safety of your hotel room, take the time to look for potential danger spots in the neighborhood. While hotels are normally built in areas where they are fairly safe from crime, the area can change around the hotel, making what was a safe location into one that is rife with crime.
Keep Your Head on a Swivel
Many tourist destinations are also crime destinations. Some classes of criminals, such as pickpockets and petty thieves, know that where there are tourists, the pickings are good. So, they’ll be looking for potential victims that they can take to the cleaners.
The best protection against these sorts of criminals is to keep your head on a swivel. You’ve got to see what’s going on around you, in order to identify potential threats. But there’s another reason to look around a lot, that’s because criminals will avoid people who are looking. They don’t want to have their face remembered by their victims. So, seeing who is around you is the best possible protection against having to defend yourself or make a police report of stolen goods.
Don’t just limit your self-defense measures to keeping your head on a swivel though. Make sure that you keep up on your information intake, so that you know what’s going on. Check the weather every day, as well as the local news. National and international news might not affect your vacation all that much, but if something is happening in the area where you are, you need to know about it, so that you can avoid it.
Another way you can keep your head on a swivel is with a camera, either a separate one or your phone’s built in camera. The only thing worse for a criminal, than having you see their face, is you taking their picture. If you’re taking a lot of pictures of the places you are, they’re going to want to avoid you.
One nice thing about this is that you might just happen to capture an amazing picture of something that didn’t really stand out at the moment. At the same time, when you get back home you can erase all the dull, boring pictures, and just hang on to the good ones. With digital photography, you’re not limited by the number of photos in a roll of film.
Don’t Leave Everything Behind
Of course, you’re going to be going out and seeing the sights, not just staying in your hotel room. Even so, you don’t want to lose your mind and forget your training. Bring your survival gear along in something that you can use as an EDC and carry it with you. That way, you won’t find yourself away from the hotel and in need of something that you left behind in your luggage.
I realize that might sound a bit inconvenient, but it’s really not. A lot of people carry a backpack or butt pack with them, when they’re out seeing the sights. There’s no reason you can’t too, using it as a means of carrying along your emergency equipment.
Remember, the idea here isn’t just to be ready to survive a catastrophe, but also to survive the everyday vagrancies of life. You could have trouble finding drinkable water or something safe to eat, especially when traveling abroad. Another common occurrence is for a family member to get injured. Having that first aid kit along with you will make all the difference, and quite possibly make it possible for your family to enjoy the rest of your excursion, rather than having to spend the rest of the day waiting in the hospital.
When You Return Home
I firmly believe in the idea of using my EDC when I need to, rather than just carrying it to save me when that big disaster comes. It’s not uncommon for me to return home from a trip abroad, having used up almost all the food and water I brought along (I have to watch my blood sugar), as well as band-aids, Ibuprofen, Benadryl and antacids.
Many times I find myself getting into my fire starters, either for a barbecue or a bonfire. The antibacterial hand cleaner almost always ends up nearly empty and the pocket-sized Kleenex packs I carry for emergency toilet paper are usually gone.
This means that my kit can become at least partially depleted every time I take a trip. That’s okay in my book, as it means that I had less problems to deal with while away. Better than that, it means that things which would be problems for others, weren’t a problem for me. I was prepared, so I was able to take care of it.But it also means that I have to do something about that depleted kit. Since I usually bring the EDC kit and first-aid kit from my car with me, that means I have to restock them, before leaving home the next day. In fact, I put restocking my kits before any of my other unpacking needs. Dirty clothing can wait, being ready to survive can’t.