15 travel emergency kit basics

by Ned Levi on November 5, 2012

LED Flashlight, photo by joelogon, http://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/

Due to Superstorm Sandy, many travelers were stranded and ill-prepared to cope with it. They were prevented from completing their journey, or returning safely home, on time.

Travel has always been a somewhat calculated risk. Many things can go wrong, even when we’ve planned our travels to the nth degree. Planes can suffer mechanical failures. Trains can grind to a halt, suffering signal failures. Ships can run aground, or worse. Revolutions can turn countries upside-down. Hotels can lose reservations, or suffer substantial water pipe failures. Unplanned weather can dash any plans. Planning and packing for possible emergencies makes good sense.

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, but its effects will last for years. Homes and businesses were destroyed. Families have lost their homes and all their possessions, many with little or no insurance. Who knows if there will be enough help for them to rebuild any semblance of their former lives.

You might consider joining the effort to help those less fortunate than you whose lives were literally destroyed by Superstorm Sandy by contributing to organizations like the Red Cross, which is mounting serious efforts to help.

Here are my top 15 Traveler Emergency Kit basics (in no particular order):

Waterproof LED flashlight — They are longer lasting, more reliable, provide powerful light, and have a longer last charge than standard flashlights.

Duct tape — This legendary product can patch tears in luggage, repair fallen hems, or even temporarily bind up just about anything in an emergency. I bring two travel size rolls (2″ wide x 5 yds long) on my trips.

SteriPen and spare water — SteriPens use UV light to purify water. They have been independently tested to produce water exceeding US EPA clean drinking water standards. Have at least a three-day supply of clean drinking water. It can be a life saver in an emergency.

Fingernail clippers — Knives and long scissors aren’t permitted in carry-on luggage. Nail clippers can suffice for scissors, as necessary, in an emergency.

Enough medications to last a week beyond the length of the planned trip — You don’t know how long you could be stranded in an emergency. In Haiti in 2008, for example, some travelers who encountered hurricanes there were stranded for a week or more. Obtaining essential medications during an emergency is often impossible. It’s essential to have your medications available during an emergency, especially prescription medications, which can be extremely difficult to obtain when traveling out of your home country, at any time.

Smartphone — Smartphones enable you to make emergency calls during troubled times to contact family and friends and make plans to deal with emergencies. Moreover, smartphones have the ability to store critical travel documents for instant retrieval, as necessary, such as passports, e-tickets, etc. They can hold and give you access to all kinds of helpful information during emergencies, or any other time, while traveling.

Passport copies and other travel documents — Sometimes essential travel documents can be lost or stolen. Having copies of these documents while traveling can facilitate obtaining replacements, or merely making your way on your journey without them. I keep password protected copies of my passport and other travel documents on my smartphone, and on the Internet cloud, for retrieval as necessary. I no longer carry paper copies of these documents.

ATM/Debit card and cash — There may be times you need unanticipated cash during your travels. Having access to local cash via bank ATMs can be a godsend while traveling. In times of emergency, however, hotels, restaurants, and other locations might not have the ability to accept debit or credit cards. Bank ATMs might be unusable too. Having at least $100–$200 in local cash when electronic systems aren’t functioning may be essential.

First Aid kit — Having first aid supplies to treat common accidents and illnesses while away from home is important, especially in times of emergencies.

Spare batteries and backup power supply for smartphones — Generally, even when your destination has lost power, cell phone systems will work, at least for a while, due to their power backup systems. It’s critical to be able to keep your smartphone charged and other devices (flashlight, etc.) working during emergencies.

Travel toilet paper — Even when there is no emergency, travel toilet paper may come in handy. More than once, I’ve entered an airplane lavatory, on a long flight, to find no toilet paper.

Emergency snacks/food — When you’re stuck in an emergency, and restaurants, food vendors and markets are closed, having some emergency food available is essential. Some healthy snacks, fruit, etc., can be extremely helpful.

Antiseptic soap — While I’m not a regular user of this product, during emergencies using it while washing with water of unknown quality can help keep you safe.

Critical toilet articles — Hygiene items such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc., can prove critical.

Pen and paper — If all else fails when given emergency information, have a pen and paper at hand so you can write down the information.

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