When are you most vulnerable to disaster?
When you’re away from home.
All that time and money spent building your stockpile does little good when it’s 1,000 miles away…and you suddenly need it.
Because as we know, disasters don’t care about our convenience and they sure as heck don’t care about vacation plans. They’ll strike anywhere, anytime.
With PREPAREDNESS MONTH NOW HERE and Labor Day upon us, we’re going to help you stay ready for a disaster no matter where you go.
Here’s our list of the top 5 ways to disaster-proof your vacation or road trip
1. Pack Your Suitcase Like a Bug-out Bag
You should be able to fit shelter, water, food, and one of two pieces of critical survival gear into your suitcase with plenty of room to spare.
Would it be awesome if you could haul a bug-out bag along for each person you’re traveling with?
Is that an especially realistic expectation?
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t pack lots of the essentials you need into your luggage.
Here are some tips that will help you select—and fit—what you need.
Prioritize the Essentials – Remember the preparedness “rule of three”:
- Humans can survive for only three minutes without air.
- Humans can survive for only three hours without shelter.
- Humans can survive for only three days without water.
- Humans can survive for only three weeks without food.
The rule of three should guide your priorities as you plan and pack. Beginning with shelter, some of the best emergency blankets we’ve seen take up the space of a couple handkerchiefs. They can be used for sleeping, staying warm, and shelter.
As for water, pouches are a much easier to fit than bottles. They don’t leak, either. You can cram them into suitcase pockets and purses; you’ll hardly notice they’re there. Pack away a few of those along with a hand filter, and you’re set.
As for food…you’ll probably want some calorie bars and/or MREs. Like the water, these will fit almost anywhere. If you’re in a position to heat your meals, you should also pack a 72-hour food kit. It’s a little bulky, but worth the extra space.
Pack Gear that Does Double Duty (Or More) – And then there’s gear for light, power, etc. The good news here is that if you do your homework, you’ll find some excellent pieces of emergency gear that do multiple jobs. For example: a flashlight that charges a phone, cuts rope, breaks glass, and gives directions.
2. Learn about the Hidden Survival Tools in Your Car
A car can be a great source of survival resources like shelter, light, fire, water, power, and more.
In an emergency, your car can do so much more than just get you from point A to point B.
Here are some ways to use your car as a survival tool:
Shelter – This is obvious, but it’s important. Your car is a quality emergency shelter— second only to a temperature-controlled building. With some grit and a little craftiness, people have survived in their cars for months on end.
Light – You know you need light in an emergency, and your car is a big, reliable source of it. You can use your headlights to illuminate your environment, signal for help, and more.
Fire – Fire keeps you warm, fed, and alive in a disaster. And your car has everything you need to start a fire. You can siphon gas from the tank for fuel, use the cigarette lighter as a fire starter, and even tear off upholstery for kindling.
Water – If you’re in a moist environment, your car provides tools for collecting rain or melting snow into drinkable water. Your hubcaps, steering wheel cover, or cupholders (if they can be removed) are all effective water-collection receptacles.
Power – Your car, of course, is one of the best phone chargers around. With a tank of gas and a functioning battery, it can power up multiple phones or even laptops, no problem.
Radio – Information from a radio is probably the most underrated resource in an emergency. Some experts say it’s more important than food and water. Make use of your car’s powerful, built-in radio to monitor disaster conditions and rescue response.
3. Get the Preparedness Profile of Your Hotel
Some hotels take preparedness more seriously than others. Do your research in advance to find one that is well protected against disaster.
Most hotels have procedures and plans in place for emergencies. These can include:
Fire/Gas Leak Evacuation Plans – Nearly all hotels have a fire and gas-leak escape plan. They should also have special evacuation accommodations for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Many establishments keep an evacuation map near the door of each room. Make a note of this. You may even want to take a picture of it.
Active Shooter Response Plans – It’s sad that it’s necessary, but good hotels also have active shooter response plans. Some even install panic buttons to help expedite emergency response in case of a room invasion.
A hotel’s active shooter plan may not be the same as the fire evacuation plan; the last thing management wants in a shooting scenario are guests walking out into the common areas.
Power Outage Response Plans – Hotels are very much tied to the power grid—even more so than our homes. Doors are powered. Elevators are powered. Locks are powered. In a blackout, all of this can go down, with potentially catastrophic results.
Because of this, you would think most hotels would have generators. But the cost of installing and maintaining massive generators is very high, so many hotel administrators opt not to install them.
If you’re serious about your safety, it’s worth shopping around for a hotel with generators, especially if you’re planning a long vacation in a disaster-prone region.
4. Share Your Location and Plans with at Least One Other Person
Keep at least one trusted person updated on your travel plans and locations. DO NOT share these details publicly on social media.
This is a lesson we’ve learned again and again from people who are injured, stranded, or even go missing on vacation:
Stay in contact with at least one person you trust. Choose someone you’d be sharing photos and news with anyway—a son or daughter, a neighbor, etc. Let them know:
- Your travel itinerary
- The places you plan to visit, and approximately when you plan to be there
- The places you will be staying
- When you’ve arrived safely to far-away destinations
On top of this, be sure to let them know when plans change.
If you don’t want to be bothered keeping in touch with loved ones on vacation, a location-sharing app can be a good option. These include:
Zenly – A real-time location-sharing app that lets you send messages. There’s also a stealth mode, for when you just want to be alone.
Life 360 – This app lets small groups of people automatically share some the information we’ve been discussing: your current location, safe arrivals, etc. It’s especially helpful if you’re in a group on vacation, as it lets you track each other for a short time so you get separated.
MamaBear Family Safety – As the name implies, this app is more for families with kids, but has some features that can be useful for anyone away from home. You can keep loved ones up to date on your location without having to call or text. There’s even a panic button if you need it.
There is one caveat to location sharing, and it’s a big one. DO NOT use public social media posts or check ins to let your family know where you are or to advertise that you’re on vacation. Thieves use social media to discover who’s at home and who’s away.
5. Set Yourself up for Safety
When you're away from home and traveling by car, take special steps to protect your privacy, valuables, and safety.
When you travel, maintain habits that keep you safe from disasters and from people who mean you harm:
Invest in a car phone charger – When you’re out on the open road, the phone can be your lifeline to help. Take a car charger with you everywhere you go. Keep a backup in the glove box, too.
Get a screen or tint for car windows – Taking a nap in your car? Pull-down screens and window tint help make sure that bad guys can’t see in.
Move wallets to your front pocket – Pick pocketing is a big problem, especially in large cities and foreign countries. Being stranded without a wallet isn’t only a massive hassle, it also puts you in danger if there is a disaster. That’s why we recommend keeping your wallet in your front pocket when you’re on vacation. It may look a little weird, but picking a front is almost impossible.
Don’t tempt thieves! This is less about disaster safety and more about protecting what’s yours. Do not keep sunglasses, phones, purses, or other valuables in plain sight in your car. It’s an invitation for thieves.