The Traveler’s Dilemma

October 20, 2011

Current Events, Survival Kits

traveling after teotwawki

My duffle bag lay on the bed stuffed with four days worth of clothes. Socks and undershirts, pants and unmentionables all placed as neatly inside the REI bag. My shaving kit and a few other odds and end round out the space inside. It’s just the right size for nearly a week’s travel.

As I stared down at the bag, I had the internal struggle that most every prepper faces while packing for a trip that involves commercial air travel. “Do I check my bag, or not?”

Traveling Before Prepping

Before I began preparing for the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI), I traveled on a regular basis. I didn’t live out of a suitcase as many young professionals do, however I did spend approximately 10 to 20 percent of my time traveling to remote cities.

In those days, I greatly preferred to “carry on” rather than check my baggage. This was in the days prior to baggage fees, so it wasn’t a cost issue for me but rather a convenience factor. Checking baggage meant spending extra time waiting at the luggage carrousel for my bag to be delivered for me. I was in a hurry and didn’t want to waste a moment’s time waiting for my luggage.

But it wasn’t just the waiting, it was the hoping as well. Hoping that my suitcase made it to my destination. “The plane change in Denver was only 25 minutes, I hope my bag made it; I’ve got to be onsite at 8:00am tomorrow.” Most times it did. Occasionally it didn’t.

Times Have Changed

Today, travel is different. It changed forever just over 10 years ago when three planes crashed into key landmarks of our nation, and a fourth fell into a field in Pennsylvania.

Gone are the days when you quickly move through the airport, carrying most everything you may need. No, today there are scanners and random security checks, long lines and color coded threat advisories. Things are different today.

And so am I.

Traveling as a Prepper

Today I am much more conscious about what I have with me at any moment. I like being prepared.

My vehicle has a well-stocked get-home kit along with some food and water. I always have an EDC (Every Day Carry) kit with me in my pocket or computer bag. And I typically make full use of my Concealed Carry Permit.

These items will be useful for me should it really hit the fan when I’m 20 to 50 miles from my little slice of creation.

No weaponsHowever, these items are not permitted in a carry-on bag. I understand that. I’m not lobbying to have those rules changed, although I do question the effectiveness of some of them.

So, I’m left with a dilemma. I would still prefer to carry everything I need onto the plane, yet I really don’t want to be 1,000 miles from home without at least a good pocket knife and my EDC.

My analytical personality tells me that the likelihood of the airline losing my luggage is far greater than a TEOTWAWKI event occurring while I’m in a remote city. So statistically speaking, it would make more sense to forego checking a bag and leave my EDC at home.

But, I cannot help but factor in the other aspect. If my bag is lost, I can always replace it. But if I’m caught halfway across the country when TEOTWAWKI happens, not having the bare necessities with me to help me make it back home will be dire indeed.

Probability tells me one thing, my gut tells me something else.

My Decision

So, when I was faced once again with this dilemma recently, I choose to err on the more recoverable side. I packed a good pocket knife along with my EDC into my green duffle bag and dutifully checked it at the ticket counter.

When I arrived at my destination, I nervously waited at the baggage claim as felt a great sense of relief as the carousel brought my clothes, my shaving kit, and more importantly the peace of mind knowing that I have at least a resemblance of a get-home bag should something bad happen.

So, what about you? When you travel, do you check a bag? Or do you pack light and hope for the best?

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10 Comments on “The Traveler’s Dilemma”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I Have traveled quite a bit in the past, I would always check the bag with my “equipment” in it, as I have had the good fortune never to have my bags lost this was never an issue.

    At the time when I did travel quite a bit (before becoming a singel father) I also toyed with the idea of a “Travel Kit” that would be FedEx’ed to my hotel and be there waiting for me, thus eliminating the need to worry about ANYTHING that I might run into airport issues.


    • Joe Says:

      Hi Jeff-

      FedEx’ing your EDC to your destination is a very interesting idea that I hadn’t considered. Could get expensive over time I guess, but certainly reduces the chance of having to replace everything due to lost luggage. You can also take more items that you’d be allowed to check.

      Thanks for the idea.



  2. millenniumfly Says:

    Although I don’t travel much anymore, I believe that the most important travel items to have would be items that allow you to function in modern society so that you can get home by other means if need be. This could include items such as additional credit cards, more cash, prepaid calling cards, dc phone charger or extra charged battery… that sort of stuff.


    • Joe Says:

      Absolutely, Millenniumfly, and great point. There are all sorts of events that may cause someone to be stranded in a remote city. It could be as drastic as an EMP where all transportation is down. Or as simply as an airline workers strike where you have to make alternative mass transit plans.

      Thanks for the reminder that being prepared means taking all contingencies into account.



  3. Mark Says:

    I know I am late to this discussion but I have traveled a lot for work since 9/11 although not as much in the last two years. I developed a “TSA-acceptable” kit that I carry in my work computer bag all the time. I have taken it through Japan to Saipan. I have taken it to Europe multiple times. And all around the US. I have had it completely opened and inspected only about 4 or 5 times and, every time, nothing was found to be objectionable. I cannot guarantee that somebody will not object but nobody has so far.

    I started with a small zipup bag that came with some toiletries on a Lufthansa business class flight. It’s cloth and probably a little bigger than the bag you show. Here is what I currently have in it:

    A full size altoids tin that contains: A military signal mirror wrapped in a turkey basting bag for protection and also to provide a possible water container, paper clips,foxpro whistle, dental floss roll out of container, a few feet of green floral wire, army P38 can opener, fresnel lens (from optical section in Walmart – wallet sized), and a small button compass.

    Inside the larger container I also have: an orange space blanket, 3 cotton balls in a jewelers ziploc, small LED flashlight in case with about 5′ of red duct tape wrapped around handle, a chapstick (think vaseline that is not a liquid or gel), firesteel, small piece of steel wool, about 10′ of paracord in a monkey chain sinnet. I have managed to fit a 55 gallon drum liner in here too but currently don’t have one in the kit.

    I figure this gives me 3 ways to make fire (firesteel, steel wool and flashlight batteries, and fresnel lens), shelter, water carrying, multiple ways of signalling (mirror, whistle, fire). And I won’t even get chapped lips. 🙂

    You might notice that, obviously, a blade is missing. I have heard though, from a friend, that a simple swisstech utilikey on a keychain full of other keys helps to get by this problem. And he said that he has only lost 2 to TSA in 12+ years of travel. At $10 a pop, might not be a bad consideration. I know that for me, if I were definitely going to be going somewhere that I might need a more serious blade, then a quick trip to a hardware store upon arrival would get me one relatively inexpensively that would get me by. And if I were returning to the same place several times over a few month period, and didn’t want to ship back the cheap blade, a couple of strong magnets and some adhesive should enable one to cache it simply inside an easily accessible location (like, for example, a guard rail in the parking lot of a hotel where you stay each time you visit).



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