Vacation traveling and bugout bags: How do you pack to stay prepared?

So I’m about to travel back to the US for the first time in almost three years to visit my family. I’ve got all the paperwork in order, checked and tripled checked every detail and cleaned the house, I’ve even got everything laid out in order to pack my bags days ahead of schedule. But while doing that, the same question that I ask (and answer) every time I travel pops into my head: “Should I take my Bugout Bag?”

Usually the answer is always yes, and I find myself making room for a BOB taken apart and placed in a suitcase and carry-on, only for it to be reassembled at the destination. This takes time, space, and weight, all of it I end up paying for one way or another. And even though I am asking for advice in this forum, I know that my need to keep telling myself to stay prepared will eventually result in my mind rambling on and on. “But what if you need it? It’s crazy out there, you never know what might happen…that’s why you keep this thing!…”

So, here’s my question and plea for advice: How would you pack your Bugout Bag for travel via commercial airlines? Do you have a bag that is already perfect for checking, and it only needs you to remove any sharp objects or other contraband? Or do you just take it apart and put it all into your checked bag and carry-on. Or, do you have another system all together. Do you just leave it at home and travel light, or do you opt to not travel at all? Or am I just crazy and paranoid? That might actually be the case. 

Any advice would be much appreciated! Even if you’re just telling me I’m crazy and need to calm down. 😉 



  • Comments (12)

    • 3

      Probably when travelling, a useful item is cash/credit cards – compact and versatile.  Beyond that, much depends upon the situation you will encounter.

      my carry on bag is almost always a medium-sized backpack, suitable for a BOB and my EDC items work for emergencies.  Beyond that, all else depends on circumstances and the amount of time you will be away.

      Now retired, I don’t fly nearly as much as I used to.  Flying used to be a pleasurable pursuit, but not so much now.  It is often more practical to drive.

      • 3

        Crysis, Bob has much good advice. I too traveled extensively a few years ago. Like Bob, those days are over for now, although I am not retired yet. I would rather drive 1,500 miles than fly.

        My assumption has been that if the plane goes down anywhere other than my destination (however…) I will have to bailout without my carry on bag. I wear a light jacket with several pockets on the flight, a shirt with pockets and relaxed-fit khakis,

        When I fly I wear light hiking boots loosely laced. Aside from my latptop I take a fully-charged 10K battery with (2) cables for my phone, a small MiniMag flashlight, corded earbuds to act as an antenna for my phone’s radio, a small notebook with contact information & important data for use if my phone is gone, a copy of travel docs and passport on my person, aspirin, ibuprofen, Tums, gum, spare eyeglasses, (3) handkerchiefs, Mechanix work gloves, hat & gloves (season appropriate), very small 1st aid, water bottle, granola, extra car & house keys, a good real book and a small package of anti-bacterial wipes.

        I have not needed any of this except the water and granola, although once, a woman in front of me with a newborn needed help; her son had explosive diarrhea and I gave her many bacterial wipes which she was very grateful for.

      • 2

        Definitely going to be focusing on what I wear on the trip. Didn’t even think of that before. Thanks!

    • 3

      Good afternoon Crysis,

      My comments are to use Hikermor’s post nearby for a foundation.

      I used to fly ~ 90 -95 % for job; now retired and so glad to avoid the aluminum tubes.

      My travel items – garments, packed stuff were components of a BOB since I modify my travel garments.

      My car coat (3/4 length raincoat type) had 2 clothespin bags sewn inside bottom of coat.  One had wool sock cap, Other had 2 wool scarves. Gloves in regular pocket. This coat also had served as a blanket since it had a warm liner added.

      Convert your IFAK from setup for wilderness use to medical stuff in a thin nylon bag that goes in your regular suitcase with other stuff. Definitely pack some of your paracord. The ideal thin nylon bag has both shoulder strap and also back pack harness of this same thin nylon. Extra socks for boots but no need for sleeping bag, tent, related.

      When I traveled, regardless of origin and destination, always dressed wearing extra garments eg a rainproof cargo vest with attached hood.

      Avoid traveling with matches and other fire-starting stuff. Avoid the cutlery less Swiss Army Knife level. 

      I once slept on my makeshift bed of 1 suitcase, 1 wheeled duffel and car coat for blanket. It wasn’t for the 5 star hotel trade but arrangements worked.  I’m still here.

      I carried a Sony AMFMSW radio.  Highly recommend NOT to also carry the extra antenna wire. Don’t look for trouble. It will be morning soonest anyway.


      There was a great article in the Wall Street Journal some decades ago. Believe it was about founder of Honda vehicle company. He said to avoid costs when he was trying to get his new company going, he carried onboard the aircraft the max he could carry that was allowed. He had a thick hat, an umbrella, etc. Instead of shoes, it’s usually OK to travel in boots (not usually MILSPEC).


      Always remember key prepper word: improvise. 


      I am now in the mood for a quality hotel breakfast.

      They surely left the scene along with pleasant flights.

      Have a safe trip …………..

      • 2

        Will do! Thanks for the in-depth reply. 

    • 5

      Hi Crysis Persists, I travel a lot by plane but I don’t usually break down my BOB, nor do I carry my whole BOB with me. I often travel just with a carry on and even if I wanted to bring a small version of a Level 1 bag, it would take too much space and weight (been there, done that).

      So right now my travel preps usually consist of:

      • Battery bank and charging cables
      • Download offline maps and any relevent apps (as an example, I have the app version of the SAS Survival Handbook. But also weather and hazard apps.)
      • Cash, credit cards
      • Travel toilet paper, hand sanitizer
      • Disposable respirators
      • Snacks
      • Wide mouth water bottle and a few purification tablets
      • Lighter
      • Medications: usually painkillers, antihistamines, Pepto Bismol pills. Also plasters.
      • A nail clipper, nail file, pocket mirror, tweezers
      • Prescription glasses
      • Eye mask and earplug

      But most of these items are what I also carry on an everyday basis so I usally have them either laying around, or in one of my handbags or daypack.

      Having said that, maybe there’s some wisdom in these other forum convos, too:

      Airline travel, what carry on preps do you all include?

      ✈️ Flying with preparedness in mind

      Preparation for flying?

      A bug out bag that is constantly in use…organization tips

      • 4

        Thanks for the list and other Forums! I’m definitely going to be downsizing this time around!

      • 1

        I didn’t know that you could carry a lighter on a plane.

      • 3

        You can’t, but I always stash it in my toiletry bag (which goes into the carry on while the toiletries are in the plastic bag etc) and nobody ever bothered me 🤷

    • 3

      no BOB for your particular circumstances >> traveling to the US with no REAL current problems – relatives handling domestic travel & stay – retail available to compose ad hoc BOB …

      have your basic survival kit stored within your carry-on – usual travel comforts also – “loose your luggage” cover ur butt basics …

      what you do as a prepper once you arrive will differ with your experience and what you perceive as the current SHTF situation …

    • 3

      The good bits of your BOB are likely to be hold luggage and difficult to access,  if you are returning to the Us could you not have a relative meet  you with an enhanced EDC loadout to carry whilst in the US.

      I always prefer to drive or go by train rather than fly, but when I do have to fly I often post a concentrated or enhanced EDC kit to the hotel, or a friend or a post restante, rather than risk having my goodies confiscated.

    • 4

      Pre-pandemic I used to travel for business to all parts of the world constantly, never checking luggage unless forced to by the airline. I developed a simple system for my business EDC which was to keep all sharps in my business backpack in a bright orange Klein tool bag and take them out before any flight.

      Some of the things I learned to always travel with: small bottle of doctor bronners soap, a pair of Lems boots (these pack flat and are way better than sneakers or business dress shoes for any serious walking, but take way less space than regular hikers, sewing kit, flat pack duck tape, 550 cord and a half dozen chrome binder clips to use as clothesline, Grayl water bottle/filter, eye mask, PFAK,  ear plugs, travel power converters,  leather gloves and wool liners, wool cap, rain shell, strong travel umbrella, headlamp, flashlight. Sleeping attire. Portable hair dryer: not for hair as much as drying socks washed in the sink. In addition to the Grayl I carry a foldable 2 liter platypus. 

      Always pack a plastic shoehorn in an outside pocket if wearing shoes that are hard to get in and out of security. Nail clipper and pencil sharpener with blade that can be unscrewed because these are the only cutting implements that TSA doesn’t take away. 

      Also I have learned that any power banks and wires/cables should be in a see through pouch that comes out with the laptop at security unless you want to get pulled aside for manual check and possibly miss your flight. 

      my travel carryon (Delsey rollaway, on the recommendation of flight attendants— I finally replaced my first one after at least 1m miles, and not because it was worn out but because newer Airbus equipment it was too big for) is always packed with the basics, I just add appropriate clothes for the trip. Ditto my business backpack, which just gets stripped of the sharps bag. The orange Klein bag is easy to find and hard to forget to take out.

      unless the trip requires suits, I pack two or three linen shirts that you can’t tell if they are wrinkled and dry overnight after a sink wash. Also quick dry underwear. 3 of each and you can go indefinitely from one carryon.