Traveling can be a fun, relaxing way to explore the world. Traveling can also be stressful and nerve-racking. Whether I am traveling for work or for pleasure, being prepared is one of my concerns. I work hard to make my home resilient to small emergencies, but then I leave it all behind when I travel.
Travel: Before You Go
- Before you go on your trip look up the local weather and the extreme weather options. Research your options if a storm were to hit unexpectedly. In your own home, you know the types of storms you could expect. You likely already have systems in place to handle those types of events. When traveling, it requires a little bit more research to find options for riding out the storm or evacuating.
Maps and Navigation
- Paper Maps and GPS Maps
- Before you go into unknown territory, take a map! While it seems obvious, I am often guilty of not having a map.
- If you are taking a stand-alone GPS unit then be sure the maps are updated. New roads get built and old roads get closed for construction. GPS units that do not have internet connections will need to be updated before major trips to be sure they have the most accurate information.
Emergency Number – 911
When traveling internationally determine what number is their equivalent 9-1-1 for police or medical services. Also check with your cell phone provider that you will have coverage at your destination. I have included a list of emergency numbers for a handful of popular regions. Wikipedia has a larger list of the emergency numbers for all major countries:
- USA and Canada – 911
- Mexico – 066, 060, or 080
- China – 999 in most large cities. Elsewhere, 120
- Hong Kong – 999
- India – 102
- Japan and Korea – 119
- United Kingdom – 999 or 112
- European Union and many other European nations – 112
- Australia – 000
- New Zealand – 111
- Fiji – 911
Central America and Caribbean:
- Guatemala – 120
- Barbados – 511
- Jamaica – 110
- Nicaragua – 118
- What would you do if you were traveling abroad and lost your passport? While your passport is a proof of age to buy alcohol, it is also your proof of citizenship to return to the United States. Before you go, create multiple photocopies your passport.
- Send a copy of your passport to yourself electronically so you have access to it. Also keep a paper copy of your passport with you but separate from your actual passport.
- If you lose your passport: Contact the nearest US embassy or consulate. They will help you to get a new passport or an emergency replacement if you need to leave the country quickly.
- 21 Important Pieces of Information to Gather for Your Family's Reference
Travel: What to Pack
#1 Carry-On Backpack: There are two components of my standard carry-on essentials. I have a small cosmetic bag that is filled with my survival supplies and I do not change its contents. (TSA-approved pack) It is always ready for me to fly with at a moment’s notice. Then I have the rest of the backpack that I use as my carry-on for other items that I pack special for each trip.
#2 Carry-On Rollerbag: First, assume your checked bag will be late or lost. Everything you will need when you land and for the next few days should be in carry-on bag. I travel with a backpack that contains my pack and all I need on the plane. If I need a second bag, in the overhead bin I consider that as separate and similar to my checked-bag since it is largely in-accessible during the flight.
- Protein bars/portable food
- Change of clothes
- Cell phone + chargers
- Wallet + keys
- Large water bottle
- Filled at the airport after going through TSA checkpoint with it empty.
- Entertainment is never overrated.
- Airplanes tend to keep the heat low and the air blasting.
Small Survival Kit
This small kit was designed to be in a cosmetic bag and I like it for the clear plastic see-through panels. I have been stopped only once by TSA about it, but they could quickly see the contents without going through it. They approved it and I moved through the line. I also can see what I want and retrieve it quickly. When you finger is bleeding, you don’t want to be rummaging around getting blood over everything.
All packaged, it weighs 1 lb and 5 oz, and fits in the bottom of my carry-on backpack that I stuff under the seat in front of me. Don’t put it in the overhead bin, it’s too hard to access mid-flight.
What’s in my kit:
- In Case of Emergency (ICE) Card
- Small First Aid Kit
- Alcoholic hand cleaner
- Dust mask
- Water bottle
- Plastic trash bag
- Rain poncho
- Sun screen
- Safety pins
Before surrendering your bag to the airline counter, clearly mark the bag with your name and phone number. This will give the airline the ability to call you about your bag if it is lost or left behind.
Your checked bag is for larger items, and those items that would not get approved by TSA to be in the cabin of the aircraft. The best question is; what are you nervous about leaving behind? What would make you feel unsafe if you didn’t have it?
Some ideas of survival items you may want:
- larger water filter
- camp stove
- fishing supplies
- snow gear
- hunting gear
- pepper spray
- serrated blades (saw)
- extensive first aid kit
For some, the idea of leaving their Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag at home makes them nervous. Packing a small version of your standard 72-hr bag into your checked bag could provide some insurance and peace of mind. This bag would contain all you need to survive 72 hours (or more) if you had to evacuate with it alone. They generally contain water, food, first aid, shelter, hygiene, and basic survival items such as lighters, duct tape, para-cord, and an all-purpose knife.
Travel: While in Transit
I am not a seasoned business traveler who goes back and forth to various cities every week for two hours meetings. However, I do fly about six times a year, for business and pleasure. Along the way, I have picked up some tips and hacks for comfortable and safe travel. Some of these can also be adapted for trains and buses.
- Pack an empty water bottle. Your water bottle must be empty before going through the TSA check point. Once on the other side, I fill my bottle with water from a water fountain. Airports are starting to put in the dedicated filtered water bottle filling stations that make this quite easy.
- If at all possible, don’t check a bag. For me, the checked bag is an added stress. There is always the worry that it will be lost, transferred to the wrong plane, damaged, or stolen. Try to pack in such a way as to only bring the allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item that fits under the seat in front of you.
- Prepare for the TSA checkpoint while waiting in line.
- Unlace your hiking boots and tuck the laces in your shoes. This will make taking them off quicker when you are close but you still wear them while you wait.
- Take off and stow in a carry-on pocket the items you need to remove. Belt, watches, sweaters, jewelry, empty pockets, wallet, keys, etc.
- While you could take it all off and directly put it into the bins, you will then need to stand on the other side, stuffing it all back into your pockets. You risk leaving a small item behind and may feel rushed by others waiting for you to finish. If it’s all in your carry-on you can grab your bag and walk away, putting your belt back on away from the TSA congested line.
- Have your passport/ID and boarding pass ready, it makes it quicker.
- After the check-point, if you are not in danger of missing your flight find a quiet spot and put everything back where it belongs. Put your license back in your wallet where it belongs and return your laptop to it’s original case. Put your watch on, belt on, and lace up your shoes. This will make things easier to find and less likely to get misplaced.
- Pack a Sweater for the plane. Airplanes tend to be cold to keep bacterial growth low, so plan for a sweater on the plane if you are prone to being cold.
- Protein bars. Ready to eat bars provide quick calories and tasty snack. Whether your plane gets delayed and you have to run to meet your connecting flight without time for a meal or you are stuck in-plane on the runway; having extra food with you is a safe and easy to pack precaution. Travel can be unpredictable and readily available food can make your journey smoother.
- I travel with earplugs for while I am on the plane. The ear plugs reduce the underlying engine noise and reduce all other noises. They will not remove voices or screaming babies. You will still be able to hear the safety orientation and directions from the crew members. I find earplugs help me to relax and enjoy the flight a little bit better, so I always pack a few.
- While I will re-use a pair for a connecting flight the same day these earplugs get compressed and don’t work as well over time. I will get a new pair of earplugs for each new day of travelling. I buy in bulk and grab a handful before I travel.
- I recommend the yellow foam 3M EARsoft SuperFit brand with an orange stripe.
Bonus Airport Hack:
- Alcohol. Per TSA regulations you are allowed to bring liquids less than 3 ounces in a quart sized bag. While those liquids they intent to be shampoo, they could also be whiskey. Order a coke from the flight attendant and you have yourself a relaxing flight without paying the sky-high in-flight alcohol fee. Just a friendly tip, not related to anything else.
My biggest pet-peeve about people in airports are those who wear ridiculous footwear. For the sake of protection for your feet and cleanliness, please wear sneakers or at least closed toe shoes to airports. I understand it’s a pain to take off your shoes for the TSA line, I know. I routinely wear my hiking boots while flying. But please don't wear high heels or flip flops.
Travel: When You Arrive
Check Your Bags
- Check you bag for missing or broken items. It’s all well and good if you packed an extra water filter in your checked bag, only to find when you need it that it was damaged by the flight.
- An accurate inventory (even in your head) will help you when deciding your course of action quickly in an emergency. When you are confident nothing got lost, stolen or broken in your luggage you can proceed on to the rest of your vacation relaxed and confident about your preparedness supplies.
Before you head out for your vacation, is there anything you felt nervous about leaving at home that you could purchase on destination? Are there items you could not bring on the plane or train that you would like? Are there items you just didn’t have space for?
Supplies You Could Consider Buying on Arrival:
- Bottled water
- Ready-to-eat foods (granola bars, jerky, etc)
- Extra blanket
- Pepper spray/self-defense items
- Liquids over 3 ounces:
- Liquid soap
At Modern Self-Reliance we believe that thinking about preparedness is not about worrying about all the future potential problems and stressing about them. We view our actions as insurance against an uncertain future. Much like we all keep fire extinguishers in our homes but never hope to need them, we also keep extra food, water, and preparedness supplies.
We find that by planning ahead, we have greater peace of mind about the future. We know that we have skills to augment our supplies and have developed a self-reliant spirit to face new challenges we haven’t prepared for.
FREE Bonus: A checklist is available in an easy to print format. Download your copy today and be prepared for your next adventure!