What Happens If TSHTF While You’re Flying On A Business Trip?

Not long ago I received a comment on the SHTF Facebook page asking what to do if you’re flying on business or vacation and something happens.  Many of the items in your BOB would be illegal on an airplane, so what’s a prepper to do?

As it turns out I used to be a business traveler back in the early 2000’s.  Most weeks I was away from home from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening (5 1/2 days) and I flew anywhere from two to four times a week depending on where they needed me.  One day I’d be in Toronto, Canada and the next day they might fly me off to Jacksonville, Florida, or any and all points in between.  As a matter of fact I was stranded in Louisville, Kentucky after 9/11 for a couple of weeks.

So… I know a little bit about flying.

I think flying is even more difficult today than it was then because in addition to the enhanced security they came out with after 9/11 they also have the airlines nickel and diming every move you make once you hit the airport.  An extra GHB (Get Home Bag) could really run the price of traveling up for you.

One of my big fears back then came true when I was grounded after 9/11.  My next big job was in Indianapolis, but what would I have done if I needed to get home to Maine?  Cell phone service was spotty at best and flying was next to impossible in the days following the attack.  I managed to rent a car and could have driven home if I needed to, but what if traffic was shut down and I had to go on foot?

So let’s assume for a minute that there’s been a traffic lockdown, or maybe the grid is down, and now I’ve got to walk home.  Or at least find a place I can hole up because now I’m on my own.  I have very little in the way of a BOB because security won’t let me travel with much of anything that might prove useful in the way of survival.  No knife, no gun, no fuel for a stove… you get the picture.  Remember, this was a way of life for me.  There’s no way I would be able to financially make it feasible to have a firearm at every destination I went to.

A Plan


The best thing to have is plan.  “Chance favors the prepared mind,” right?

The first thing I’d want is a large reserve of cash on my person at all times.  At least $500.  Why?  I think that shortly after TSHTF people are going to be buying things in a frenzy such as food and other items from supermarkets and hardware stores.  Even if currency is about to become extinct if you have some cash on you people will be accepting it over credit or debit cards.  Why?  Because people love to make money off emergencies.  Ever notice how gas goes out of sight after a storm knocks the power out?  People get greedy and want to make as much money as they can off the disaster.



If I have $500 on me I’d gladly trade it all for a good pair of boots, a sleeping bag, pack, mat, knife, stove and a few other items as well as dehydrated food, gorp, or whatever else they might have for hiking food.  In a true large scale emergency money won’t mean as much as the stuff you can buy with it in the first few hours.  The key is to know when to buy.  As soon as you think there’s an issue don’t hesitate.  Get to a sporting goods store, a Walmart, a hardware store, or whatever and trade that cash in for stuff that will likely be much more useful than pretty bills.  Hell, if you’re lucky you might even be able to pick up a shot gun and some shells.  That depends on how much money you have of course.  $500 won’t get you all the things I listed above, so you’ll have to pick and choose carefully.  People will wise up eventually, but if you get in quick you might catch them while they’re still thinking the dollars are worth something.

You might also want to carry gold and silver, but I’m not sure how powerful the attraction will be to those with goods to sell.  Whether it be cash or gold make sure you have enough to get what you need if TSHTF.

You could save yourself some headache by wearing your hiking shoes and making sure you have a


set of hiking clothes in your luggage.  I have some 5.11 tactical pants that I wear at work and can away with because they look semi-professional.  Combine these with a good pair of boots and you’ve got the beginning of a bug out kit.  A backpack filled with goodies is always a good idea if you can get away with it, but even a computer bag with a few essentials can be useful.

My computer bag has a small bug-out kit in it.  Some of the items it contains are a small knife, cordage, firesteel, canteen cup, head lamp, whistle/compass/match case, a real compass, and a small stove.  They sit nestled right in my computer bag inside of a little water proof bag and nobody is the wiser.  (Shhhhh.)  You could also add a garbage bag or even a small poncho to help keep rain off in case of an emergency if you don’t always carry a rain jacket with you.

The Long Walk

But how are you going to get home?  There’s the real kicker.  If you’ve traveled to where you are on a plane there’s a pretty good chance you’re at least hundreds of miles from home.  Now you’ve got to figure out a way to get back.

If there are no cars on the road or planes in the air you might try seeing if there are any railroads nearby that you might catch a ride on.  Be prepared though because RR personnel don’t look kindly on people hitching free rides on their trains.  Normally I wouldn’t suggest something like this; however, in the event of an emergency like the one I’m describing all bets are off.  “Do no evil to others,” would be one of the rules of the road, unless they do evil to you first.

If there’s a river nearby heading in the right direction you might look into catching a ride on a boat or buying a canoe or kayak.  If you’re on the coast it’s possible a boat heading in your direction might get you at least partially there.  Maybe you could trade work for safe passage.  Look around and think creatively.

But no matter what you do you can rest assured that you’ll be hoofing it at least part way.  That’s why a good pair of shoes and a pack will be so important.  I hope your camping and survival skills are up to par because you might be doing a lot of it.

With a pack you can pick stuff up as you go if you have to.  I like to play a game when I’m out running or walking along side the road.  I keep looking to see what I could use in a survival situation if it ever came down to it.  The roads here in Maine are kept pretty clean, but there are always things like sheets of plastic that could be used for shelter, bottles and cans for storing and disinfecting water, various tools, lighters, paper, and on one occasion I even found an axe!  There are plenty of ways you can survive on the move if you’re resourceful enough to look around as you move.

What About the Family?

First, let’s assume you have a family.  If you’re traveling on business this probably means that your family is at home, which is likely to motivate you to want to get there as quick as you can.  Before leaving make sure they know what the drill is for emergencies and know what to do.  For example, does your wife know how to start the generator if needed?  Can she shoot a gun if it comes down to it?  How about your kids?  Do they know what to do if you’re not around?  Do you have a plan on what they should do if you can’t communicate.

If not it might be time to start bringing them up to speed.

If you’re on vacation then your family is likely with you.  In my mind this is a much tougher scenario because you not only have to move yourself, but now you’re responsible for getting your family home safely through who knows what kind of trouble.

Again, have a plan.  In some cases it might make sense to try and stay where you are until the emergency blows over.  Or if you have older kids and a wife who is willing and able maybe you can try to make it home.  Either way is fraught with danger and there will be some very tough decisions to make for the leader.  It all depends on the situation and capability of each family member.

Once more, having extra cash or gold on hand will likely benefit you at least in the short term.

I’m going to wrap it up here, but I’m sure there are many other things you can do to prepare for traveling by air.  How about ya’ll coming back with a few ideas for your fellow travelers?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor



36 comments… add one
  • irishdutchuncle September 15, 2013, 11:00 pm

    yeh, cash is king.

    my first ever comments on the internet, were on a related subject:
    GetHomeItis. this is mostly an affliction of low time airplane pilots, but I felt compelled to counsel another preparedness blogger about it.
    taking off on a trip of any type is optional. once you make the takeoff, however, a landing of some sort is unavoidable. (and it may not be the one you were planning on) You know this yourself from the time you broke your leg hiking the AT. that is exactly the type of thing I was envisioning for that other blogger. in my mind his GHB was a little sparse on warmth, and first-aid items. (despite his superior level of fitness and expertise)
    making sure your family can do without you for a few days is key. it is much better for them, than trying to collect your life insurance in the middle of a SHTF.

    • irishdutchuncle September 16, 2013, 1:37 pm

      …and if you are thinking about a long walk or bike ride, you need something in your kit for chafing and blisters. (prevent and or treat) every step will be agonizing, otherwise.

    • irishdutchuncle September 17, 2013, 2:14 am

      what I’ve been trying to say, all this time is: don’t turn your trip home into a suicide mission.

  • Ray September 16, 2013, 9:21 am

    The last time I flew on an “air liner” was a MATS ( C-141) flight in 1980. I won’t even drive passed the airport if I don’t have to. As long as the TSA goons are at the airfield I’ll never board another flight

    • Jarhead Survivor September 16, 2013, 2:52 pm

      I rode one of the C-141’s to Norway. We left from Canada and I didn’t think we were ever going to land.

  • Steve September 16, 2013, 10:07 am

    I only travel once or twice a year. And it’s only been in the last year I’ve come to believe something is going to happen soon.

    It takes a bit of research to travel with checked firearms. One must learn the rules of the states you are traveling to, the TSA rules and the airline rules. A NV2000 Nanovault Gunvault can hold a 40 cal pistol and an AR-7 receiver, so it cost me less than $40 to travel.

    A couple of firearms, a few hundred rounds of ammo, a pack, and a few GHB supplies cost less than 10# of the 50# checked bag limit.

    And federal law makes it illegal to purchase a weapon in a state not your residence. And the fact you can have it shipped to a gun dealer back home when you need it where you are in an emergency is worthless.

    • T2green September 16, 2013, 3:39 pm

      Since when is it illegal to purchase a gun out of state? When did that law change? I think it has more to do with the state? Over the years I have purchased guns in multiple states.

    • FloridaN8tive September 17, 2013, 7:24 am

      In most states, you do not have to be a resident to purchase a firearm.I am sure that some states(California,New York,etc.) that have liberal anti gun laws, the laws are different.

  • UmbrellaMan September 16, 2013, 11:31 am

    All good information, a couple extra points — immediately prior to checking into a hotel, scope the area out for places/stores you would want to get to right after realizing what was happening. You don’t want to waste time searching all over an unknown area.
    Second, if you’re more than a couple hundred miles from home, esp. with family you might be better “hunkering down” where you’re
    at. At least you’d have a roof over your head and getting home safely under SHTF circumstances is minimal and just hope things
    will improve after a while.

    • Jarhead Survivor September 16, 2013, 2:54 pm

      Good idea about the scouting. This is something I usually did just a routine. Another thing to do, which I usually didn’t, is get a good map of the area you’re in.

  • ThatguyinCA September 16, 2013, 12:06 pm

    Most airlines still give you one checked bag. You can travel with a gun in your checked bag but it must be in a locked hardsided case. You can also travel with ammo but I would check your airlines rules on that. It’s possible to just put it in your bag and not claim it but there could be problems if you get caught. Make sure the gun is compliant to the state laws where you are traveling. Aside from that a decent well thought out GHB would take up less than half of your checked bag limit.
    It’s good to be prepared and have plans, however I am not going to let it stop me from enjoying a vacation every now and then. Unfortunately, that usually means flying which is fine. My “prepper mentality” does not get in the way of me living my life. If I get stuck somewhere away from my preps, well then . . . I guess I’m stuck away from my preps. Time to be resourceful and resilient.
    I like the cash idea; gonna have that one as part as my travel preps along with knowing where the nearest sporting goods store is.

  • GoneWithTheWind September 16, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Good article, good points. It is important to know the city you are in. Some cities have really dangerous neighborhoods and in others the entire city is dangerous. This is important to know if you are going to try to walk away. Another point is the importance of acting quickly. The difference between rental cars still being available (or hotel rooms, food and water, etc.) and everything being scooped up could be minutes to half an hour once people discover something is wrong. He who hesitates is lost.

    • ThatguyinCA September 16, 2013, 1:01 pm

      Excellent point on knowing “the lay of the land” regarding neighborhoods, etc.

      • irishdutchuncle September 16, 2013, 1:10 pm

        that also includes knowing two ways out of the hotel, before you go to bed.

  • Novice September 16, 2013, 12:40 pm

    I like the idea of cash on hand (I need to be more diligent about that when I travel) but I never hear anyone mention using that money to help them get home. You could use the money to entice someone to give you a lift on a working transportation system. You could also use it to buy a bicycle. That is the crux of my get home plan. If the stores are closed up I may even go door to door in the suburbs (in the early hours after a collapse) to see if someone will sell me “the bike in the shed that no one ever uses anymore”. Even if you later choose to walk (or are forced to) getting 20 to 50 miles a day under your belt certainly beats 10-15.

    • irishdutchuncle September 16, 2013, 1:18 pm

      very creative way to get a bike. I’ve gotten some good ones from thrift stores also.

  • ThatguyinCA September 16, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Distance from home and the nature of the emergency will really determine what one should do. If a temporary thing (natural disaster, etc.) to hunker down might be best. If something long lasting it might be good to head for home as fast as possible to get a head start on the panic.
    I like the rail idea but lets remember that your average person can do about 70 miles per day on average on a bike (terrain would make some days less and some days further) even with a pack. That would take a lot of calories though. That said, your average person could bike accross the US in less than 50 days (using the correct routes). Again, food and water would be a litte bit of an issue. However, the information you’ve gained on your travels would be decent barter for a little food and water.

  • TomNV September 16, 2013, 1:42 pm

    I took a trip to Colorado from Nevada for Labor Day Weekend just as all the Syria media hype was going on and I was a bit worried about SHTF while away. I packed a Baby Glock with 70 rounds of JHP ammo and a Ruger 10/22 breakdown rifle with two 30 round magazines and 500 rounds of 22LR ammo in my checked luggage. I brought the receipt for the 30 round magazines so I could prove I bought them before July 1, 2013. I never took these items out of my luggage while in Colorado, but I figured if I needed to walk 800 miles home or ride a bike that far it’d be useful to have those items in a small backpack. I also brought $1500 cash and figured as was mentioned getting survival items would be well worth trading in the cash for. Nothing happened, but I felt just a bit more reassured being just a little more prepared than not being prepared at all.

  • Master of the obvious September 16, 2013, 1:53 pm

    If you’re on a plane when TSHTF all you are gonna be able to do is sit there…..

  • JL September 16, 2013, 2:04 pm

    I went to Arizona from Tennessee this past July. I was staying with my parents so I only brought clothes and good hiking shoes. I made sure I had cash and snacks for the kids and myself. If something were to have happened we would have started the 1600 mile trek to my house in my dads International. It’s old enough to be EMP proof and will drive through almost anything. My husband was given instructions of what to do if he was home without us. Depending on what crisis happened, I did make a get home bag for my husband to keep in his car. He travels for work normally going no more then 60 miles away.

    • Ray September 18, 2013, 2:49 pm

      JL, If it all go’s so bad that you need an “EMP PROOF” truck , you and the kid will have just enough gas to put you firmly in into the “middle of nowhere– walking”. At the mercy of the starving, the crazy, and the dog packs If you really need to get home to Arizona ,wait six months or a year till the die-off subsides. And for my Info- how do you plan to cross the North Texas planes, Eastern New Mexico , and The Sangre De Christos to GET to AZ? That was almost impossible in 1870 without wagons loaded with water . The Spanish called it “El Comino Del Diablo” (The highway to hell or the Devils highway)

  • UmbrellaMan September 16, 2013, 2:16 pm

    J.L. is my kind’a gal. Wonder if she’s got a sister.s

  • UmbrellaMan September 16, 2013, 2:17 pm

    J.L. is my kind’a gal. Wonder if she’s got a sister.

  • Pineslayer September 16, 2013, 4:37 pm

    I always check a bag and hope it makes it there too. If where I am going is gun friendly then I ship one or two in my luggage along with BOB plus. Leaving DIA for MO one time, the airlines clerk asked if I had any firearms to declare ( post 9/11 ) the lady in the line next to me laughed and quickly went blank when I said, “Yes”. The clerk was cool, which I thought was cool too. My checked bag is my original duffel bag from the service, it has never been messed with. My hope is that airlines personnel give it a little more TLC.

    Gosh I miss the days when I could have a lighter and SAK in my pocket and fly anywhere.

  • T.R. September 16, 2013, 7:06 pm

    All I can say is that would REALLY suck !!!

  • Jarhead Survivor September 16, 2013, 7:26 pm

    Great idea about the bicycle. I hadn’t even considered that. I’d want a mountain bike though… those road bikes are too flimsy for a long journey like that. You’d have more flat tires that you could shake a stick at.

    • Neil TheSane September 16, 2013, 11:46 pm

      Actually I must disagree. A good road bike is not flimsy and it will get to your destination quickly providing the road are decent. You actually would spend less energy over the same distance versus the mountain bike on the same terrain. True I can’t blaze my own path either. There are pros and cons to either type of bike. I personally have a Raleigh Route 4.0 hybrid I convinced my company to send with me on my field service calls when they let me drive. They would never cover it’s airfare. I see people suggest just grabbing a bike and going. Not wise but That’s a rant for another time.

      • Jarhead Survivor September 17, 2013, 8:12 am

        Maybe it’s just been my experience with them. I tried to take a road bike onto a sandy side road once and nearly killed myself. The tires were just too thin. A mountain bike, while requiring more work as you note, would be able to go off road in case of emergency, cut cross country if necessary, or just go down side dirt roads without an issue. Personally, and this is one of those truly personal choices, I’d take a mountain bike.

        • ThatguyinCA September 17, 2013, 3:52 pm

          Jarhead. You would prefer a mountain bike, but you would make do with what you had, I’m sure. I’d prefer a mountain bike as well but would take a road bike over a BMX bike (prefer the gearing over the off-road capabilities). Also, you’d be traveling by road for the most part anyways. If you’re gonna cross country it. Best to be on foot. However, just thinking on it, the bike could be used to help you carry more gear, just sling some plastic grocery bags over it.

  • Outlive The Outbreak September 16, 2013, 7:30 pm

    I think about that sometimes when im flying and i dont know what to say. I guess anything can happen i just hope it doesnt

    Check us out over at http://outlivetheoutbreak.com/

  • ready rooikat September 16, 2013, 7:37 pm

    I have often thought about this scenario.
    I do not travel by plane, unless forced to by work. When it happens, I wear non-metallic hiking boots, hiking pants, and carry ‘survival’ stuff dispersed in my bag and shave gear. So far, no problems. I also use a backpack as my carry-on.
    I also carry a jacket of some sort, even if not exactly jacket weather. Either a fleece, or a Gore-Tex shell (if summer). Just in case I end up outdoors.
    Small first aid kit, small survival kit, sewing kit, etc.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. September 17, 2013, 8:02 am

    An empty string bag (back pack), a pair of soft drink bottles (one full, the other empty to save weight) some coffee filters (water filter – TP – dry food container) and a bandana would take up little room and offer everyday utility for the traveler. A Witz type of container can carry many little items as well.

  • MorrisB September 17, 2013, 9:02 am

    Maybe mentioning the obvious, but writers talking bout hoping to
    “find” a bike after the SHTF may want to carry a small lock and cable with them. We wouldn’t want to be in a store or someplace
    trying to secure supplies and find the bike missing when we went

    • Jarhead Survivor September 18, 2013, 3:40 pm

      Ha! Good point, MorrisB. There will be a lot of jackals running around after an event like that.

  • DinaD. September 22, 2013, 10:13 am

    Great article (as usual). I’ll be going on a cruise from Miami to the Carribean in a few months. I follow the suggestions on the cruise line’s website, but I’d appreciate a fellow prepper’s advice!

    • irishdutchuncle September 22, 2013, 2:57 pm

      hi, DinaD.
      the inside of a ship with no lights, is about as dark as any coal mine. keep a small working flashlight with you at all times.
      be sure to scout out two, (or more) ways from your compartment to the “weather deck”, in case your preferred routes through the ship become blocked.


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