From time to time, my job requires that I travel for meetings with vendors or clients and to attend conferences. Some of these trips require air travel, which brings unique challenges over automobile travel. You can’t carry many common prepping items on an airplane. Also, legal restrictions and lack of reciprocity create challenges when it comes to firearms. For a decade or so, I have carried various prepping items with me on trips, but have not spent a great deal of time planning what that kit should look like. During my most recent trip, I decided to plan better and make this trip a sort of planning dry run for a scenario in which everything went sideways.
My scenario is a three-night trip to a conference in the downtown area of a major city. I have a bias against checking baggage, so I limited myself to a wheel aboard suitcase and a briefcase, considering TSA restrictions. You can view the carry on restrictions on the TSA website. Historically, the TSA gate screeners have been sporadic in enforcing various restrictions and sometimes make up their own rules. At one point, I had been carrying a tactical pen with me on a routine basis. At the time it was not specifically listed on the prohibited list and many times it made it through the checkpoint, however after having a couple of them taken from me, I gave up on that. I now see that tactical pens are specifically listed as a prohibited item.
I took a ride share from the airport rather than renting a car because my travel was limited to the hotel and convention center which are very close to each other. The daily car rental and the hotel parking fee would have been unnecessary expenses which my employer would not appreciate.
In addition to accumulating prepping stuff and learning how to use it, I believe that it is extremely important to hone your resourcefulness skills to learn how to think quickly and clearly to develop strategies for situations and events for which you haven’t previously considered.
When all the Covid stuff started to happen, I was in an airport and overheard a couple of bankers from different institutions say that their companies were implementing a travel ban for their employees. This was before the shutdowns and other draconian measures that the local, state and federal governments would later implement. I knew something very weird was about to happen. I was traveling to California the following week, so I started to make alternative return travel plans, in case I couldn’t get home by air. I determined it would be a long trip, but I could travel home by rental car or train if needed. Luckily, those alternative plans were not needed.
My planning consisted of five phases:
- Determine what items are appropriate to bring with me given space and TSA constraints.
- Recon the area around the hotel to determine what items I could buy after reaching my destination.
- Evaluate what additional materials I could get from the airport, hotel and convention center if everything went sideways.
- Conduct a mental dry run of getting home in various scenarios and the challenges that I might face.
- Conduct a post-dry run evaluation to determine what I could have done to prepare better.
Phase One – What I Brought With Me:
- Nalgene water bottle filled with the following items:
- Life straw, carabiner, flashlight, small amount of duct tape, cable ties, ink pen, 3×5 cards, partial roll of quarters, two granola bars, flash drive with key information on it, USB car charger, USB wall charger, ear plugs and binder clips
- Small first aid kit which includes the following items:
- Various size bandages, gauze, various pain relievers in travel packets, cold and flu medicine packet, bleed stop, moleskine, aloe vera packets, sunscreen packets, antacid, small sewing kit and potassium iodine tablets
- Packable rain jacket
- Solar powered Citizen Eco-Drive watch (doesn’t need battery replacement or re-charging)
- Convertible briefcase that can also function as a backpack
- Ziplock bag of snacks that I keep in by briefcase
- Credit and debit cards, $528 cash (various denominations), 4 cull silver dollars, 1/10 oz gold coin – graded and slabbed, ¼ oz gold coin – graded and slabbed
- Small notepad and pen that I keep in my briefcase
- United States road atlas
- Cell phone, power charger, wall plug, car accessory plug with offline apps downloaded including a Bible App, Red Cross first aid app and Google Maps with local area map downloaded. Also have various airline, Amtrak and car rental apps.
- Charged power bank
- Toiletry kit which includes more bandages, another sewing kit, safety pins, scissors, ziplock bags, thermometer and typical hygiene items.
- Plastic shopping bags
- Small packable umbrella
- Two small luggage locks
- Non-business clothing including shorts, t-shirts, and athletic socks
- Business clothing including light and breathable dress slacks and dress shirts, sport coat, underwear, t-shirts, dress socks, comfortable dress shoes with foam soles
- Various business related items including laptop and power cord, earpods and a few files
Phase Two – Local Area Resources:
Most of the businesses in the area were restaurants and office buildings with security. The restaurants could be a source of food and beverages, but that’s about it.
- I did find a chain drug store about 3 blocks away. Items available there included hammers, pliers, screw drivers, WD-40, super glue, bungee cords, nylon cable ties, nails, duct tape, work gloves, candles, rain ponchos, water bottles, bottled water and batteries in addition to all the typical medicines and health and beauty care items.
- I also found a chain convenience store about 1 block away. Items available there included lighters, rain ponchos, waterproof phone bags, baseball caps, t-shirts, obedience masks, collapsible water bottles and pocket knives (swiss army style, but low quality – and they were kept under lock and key) and typical convenience store food and beverages.
Phase Three – Hotel, Conference Center and Other Resources:
I found very little in my hotel room or the public areas of the hotel that would be useful.
- I found a few things in my room including a laundry bag, pillow cases and toilet paper that might be useful if things go sideways
- There were a couple of things in the small lobby bar/restaurant – cutlery (the knife was very pointy for a butter knife, but the edge wouldn’t be useful) and some bottled water
- I found very little at the conference other than a few things that vendors were giving out – water bottles, lanyards, flashlights, fabric grocery bags, granola bars and bottled juice. I gladly accepted those items.
- I also reconnoitered the shops in the airport when I arrived and found day packs, fleece jackets (in the summer), sunglasses, OTC medications and lots of snack food and beverages.
Phase Four – Mental Dry Run – Various Get Home Scenarios:
Scenario One – Riots:
The city I was in had riots in 2020.In the event of riots during my stay, and given the fact that I was staying in the downtown area, my plan was to cut my trip short, pack my belongings, change my flight departure to a flight that left that same day and take a taxi or rideshare to the airport and depart. If I could not get a taxi or rideshare to come to my hotel, I planned to stand by the front door and offer departing guests cash to take me to the airport. If I could not get a flight then I would try to rent a car or get a seat on an Amtrak train or Greyhound bus as soon as possible. If I couldn’t get out of dodge any earlier than my scheduled flight, then I would stay in the hotel and in my room with the door locked until my departure time.
Scenario Two – Weather Emergency:
In the event of a weather emergency such as a hurricane, I would only plan to leave early if the electricity in the hotel was off. If that was the case, I would evaluate the road conditions between the hotel and the airport, as best I could. If flights were going out of the airport, and the roads were passable, I would reschedule my flight to an earlier departure and follow the same rideshare, taxi or cash to an individual strategy listed above to get to the airport. If flights were not going out of the airport, and it appeared that it would be that way for some time, then I would follow the same rental car, Amtrak or Greyhound strategy listed above. Assuming that I could still obtain food, am allowed to stay in my hotel room and not feel physically in danger, then I would stay in the hotel for however long it took me to get transportation out. I would not be shy about calling friends and family to travel to this city and come take me home. If I am not allowed to stay in the hotel, feel in danger and am not able to obtain any transportation, then I would implement my walking strategy as a last ditch effort. That is covered below.
Scenario Three – Apparent Long-Term Grid Down situation:
The causes of possible long-term grid down situations are numerous and have been discussed many times on this website, so I won’t list them here. My basic strategy is to get out of dodge ASAP in the event of any obvious disaster event or an unexplained widespread power outage. I would start with all of the steps listed in scenario two above. In the event that none of them were successful and it seemed unlikely that I could leave by plane, train, bus or car then I would make plans to walk.
If I were forced to walk home, it would be a multi-day trip. The mapping app tells me that it would take 6 days. However I suspect it would take several additional days, as it is likely that I would run into hiccups along the way and I am pretty sure that the mapping app does not account for breaks and sleep. My trip would have been in the summer so my plans reflect that. I would do the following:
- Convert my briefcase to a backpack and load it with the following:
- The Nalgene bottle contents transferred to a ziplock bag
- The Nalgene bottle filled with water
- The water bottle I got at the conference filled with water
- The extra flashlights I got at the conference
- First Aid kit
- Toiletry kit
- Toilet paper
- Rain jacket
- The bag of snacks in my briefcase
- As many additional granola bars, beef jerky and other packable foods that I can buy from local stores, if available
- A change of clothes including as many pairs of socks and underwear that I can fit in the bag
- The credit and debit cards, gold and silver
- My cell phone, the charged power bank and the phone charging cord,
- Extra ziplock bags and shopping bags
- Extra shoes, if they will fit in the bag
- A butter knife from the hotel, since I have nothing else to use for self-defense
- The road atlas
- The other items that I got at the conference that would fit
- Anything that I could not fit in the backpack and I deemed critical would be placed in the fabric grocery bag that I got at the conference
- I would then take everything that is not in the backpack or grocery bag, place it in my suitcase, lock it with a luggage lock, and leave it with the hotel front desk, indicating that I will retrieve it in the future.
- Whether or not cell service was up, I would then send texts to family and friends indicating my plans and indicating that my cell phone will only be on for a few minutes at 10 AM, 2 PM and 6 PM, for a few minutes each day to conserve the battery. I would also indicate that they should communicate by text rather than voice.
- I would then dress in shorts, t-shirt and sneakers and start my trek, attempting to purchase a knife, lighter, pepper spray and food at any open shops I pass.
During my journey if I had the opportunity to pay someone cash, silver or gold for transportation, I would do so. I would also attempt to avoid anyone that looks sketchy even if it means detouring off of my selected route. Whenever I had an opportunity to refill my water supply I would do so, as hydration would likely be a significant challenge. I would also attempt to find areas that are hidden from other people when I sleep. I would attempt to preserve my cell phone battery as long as possible. In my kit, there are several items that I hope I will not need to use including the lifestraw and contents of my first aid kit.
Since the challenges that I would face would be difficult to predict, I would try to be flexible, maintain a positive attitude and adopt a problem solving mindset during my journey. I would also pray to the Lord for wisdom and travel mercies.
Phase Five – Things That I Could Have Done to Prepare Better:
- Drive my own automobile rather than fly – This was possible on the trip, though it may not be plausible on longer trips. However, it would have increased my travel time as it would have been a long drive. By having my own automobile, I would have much better control of my transportation needs. I could also have stocked the car with a much larger supply of prepping items.
- Rent a car rather than taking the rideshare from the airport. This would afford me more control over my transportation needs. If needed, I would contact the rental car company and change the return location. It would cost my company more when considering the rental fees, parking fees and gas. I would have to beg for forgiveness if my expense report was questioned or maybe I would just pay for it myself.
- Check a bag that contained prepping items that I could not carry on the plane, including personal protection items, additional food, water bottles and a larger backpack.
- Add the following items to my carry on kit – Book of safety matches or disposable lighter (check the TSA approved list), medical tape, a second water bottle, a lightweight sleeping bag, paracord, sunglasses, a cap and a dust mask,
- Buy a knife, lighter, bottled water, and packable snacks shortly after my arrival. If no events occurred during the event, I would then throw away the knife and bottled water before my departure (though I hate to waste money).
Going through this exercise was helpful to me in thinking through this scenario and will help me to continue to improve my prepping skills and strategies. I hope you found something helpful in this article.
Unrelated to my prepping exercise, as I walked around the town, I noticed an uncomfortable number of empty storefronts, many vagrants, and a significant police and security guard presence. I also noticed that many of the shops and restaurants that were open were keeping abbreviated hours. This city is one of the faster growing cities in the country, so my observations were a surprise to me. This tells me that our country has a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic economic conditions.