Flying: Plan for your travel EDC Kit

The first of our two-part series on traveling domestically via air, we take a look at why it's important to plan ahead for the unexpected. The goal of everyday carry is to be prepared, aware and intentional. Let's look at how to apply your mental EDC by planning ahead of time for the restrictive environment of airplane travel.
EDC kit for travel

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travel edc

Be sure to check out our entire series on domestic travel:

  1. Part 1: Why it’s important to plan for your travel EDC (current article)
  2. Part 2: How to build a TSA-Friendly EDC Kit

Your mind is the most important part of your EDC. With the heavy restrictions on what you can take for airline travel, it becomes even more important.

You are likely alone, without your usual gear, and need to have an attitude of preparedness and awareness so you can successfully navigate the different events that can happen. To know what to bring, you first need to know what you’re planning for. There are many unknowns and there is no way to plan for them all, but with some forethought, you can give yourself a much higher likelihood of having a successful trip.

Let’s take a look at why it’s so important to plan out your EDC for travel.

You are without key pieces of your EDC gear

Whether you are without your concealed firearm, pocket knife or any other gear that you’re used to, travel means a departure from what you usually have available. You can check luggage (with some limitations) but in addition to the $25 (on average) fee both coming and going, you run the risk of your valuables getting lost or stolen.

Assess what you will take and how you will get it there. (In Part 2 of our series, we’ll cover Secondary EDC gear that is TSA-friendly.)

Laws and culture differ from state to state and city to city

Traveling means leaving the local laws, customs, and culture of your hometown and surrounding areas. Different attitudes towards who you are, how you dress, how you speak, the mannerisms you use, your gender, your ethnicity … All factor into the changes that come with travel. 

For example, here in Texas, having a knife pocket clip showing is not a big deal. In most places, you could pull out a large knife to cut an apple at lunch and no one would bat an eye. This is not the case in other places. If you show up to one of our small towns and try to connect with the locals wearing a 3-piece suit, they probably wouldn’t be quite as willing to open up. 

Being a gray man, or blending in with those around you, can be even harder when you travel. Preemptive research and a little awareness of how others are acting can prevent you from sticking out in a crowd. We’ll cover more on the gray man mentality later, but understanding local culture is a key aspect of it.

Research local knife and gun laws, local culture, and even typical clothing. Have a quick conversation with a friend or co-worker that is familiar with where you are going. Make a phone call to the local police department with any questions you may have. This can ensure you start off your trip on the right foot.

You don’t have your usual network of people

It’s even more difficult to plan for the unexpected when you are outside the network of people you rely on during emergencies. We have family, friends, neighbors, church members, coworkers … all who make up the people that support us during a crisis. Traveling can leave you without this network and much more vulnerable and exposed.

Get contact information of anyone you may know in the area, even if it’s your brother’s old college roommate or a coworker’s sister. A friend of a friend is a great resource if you find yourself in need of assistance. Whether it’s something small like a flat tire or something more important like a trip to the ER or a terrorist/biological attack, a contact can help. Download an app like Uber or Lyft and have it ready to go if you find yourself stranded. (Hint: many of these apps may require additional verification before it’s set up, so plan accordingly.)

Unforeseen events can happen

There are so many things that can happen in day-to-day life. You don’t want to be paranoid because interacting with people, going to crowded places, and travel are realities for almost everyone. The goal with everyday carry is to be prepared, aware, and intentional. This is so you CAN enjoy these day-to-day events and activities BECAUSE you are prepared. It should make you more confident, not more paranoid. 

Canceled, delayed, or re-routed flights 

Airline travel means that you are no longer in control. Unlike driving where you are physically in control when you leave, how you get there, and even ensuring maintenance and repair work is done, a successful airline trip takes countless people to pull off. Everyone from the IT professionals that keep the computer systems up and running, air traffic controllers, maintenance crews that inspect every aircraft, the pilot to the most unknown … weather. It takes just one thing to go wrong and your entire trip can be canceled, delayed, or re-routed.

Here at Option Gray, we had a flight delayed due to the water in the airplane bathroom not working, another flight delay due to thunderstorms rolling through North Texas (which means immediate grounding of flights), and even a flight crew hitting their maximum hours of flight time resulting in an unexpected overnight stay at a connecting airport.

Back in 2007, JetBlue famously had passengers stranded on the tarmac for 8 hours. Making sure you have what you need for at least 24 hours can help get you past these delays. Consider bringing with you:

  1. Food/water (make it a habit to buy a large bottle of water as soon as you get through security)
  2. Medications
  3. Toothbrush/toothpaste
  4. Change of underwear
  5. Comfortable clothing (if you’re a woman traveling in high heels, bring a small lightweight pair of flip flops)
  6. Contacts, glasses
  7. Spare electronics batteries
  8. Paper copies of all your flight information

Be thoughtful of what you pack and how you pack it. We’ll go over more in Part 2 of this series the gear that you should consider bringing, but planning for the unexpected can make a huge difference in how you emotionally and physically handle these delays. Don’t be “that guy” who screams at flight attendants. 

Terrorist attack

Unfortunately, in today’s world, this is something that we have to take into consideration. As we look at both past and recent events, terrorist attacks are a real threat, either from extremist groups or just crazy people with no agenda. And, you don’t have to be directly in the crosshairs to be impacted. It could happen near you, in the same general area or even impact you from across the country. When 9/11 occurred in New York City, ALL flights in the United States were canceled. It took people days to get home.

Preparedness can allow you to provide:

  1. Medical care, especially if you have first aid, CPR, AED, medic, EMT or paramedic training. Whether you are stabilizing yourself or assisting those around you, investing in private training, if you don’t already have vocational training, can make yourself valuable
  2. Transportation, to get yourself or others to medical care or away from the incident
  3. Food or water
  4. Physical help, anything from actively helping people or just to support first responder instructions to get everyone back
  5. Navigation, if cell phone towers are down or overloaded, a back-up navigation method is needed

Being able to first take care of yourself can aid in an effort to help others. You are one less person that needs assistance and by default are helping, not hurting, first responders.

Take your first aid kit beyond just band-aids and pain killers. Carry a tourniquet and other medical supplies and know how to use them. Ensure you can first provide for yourself (first aid, food, water, etc.) so you can then provide assistance to others Have a “Plan B” to get home in case your flight home has been canceled. What are the surrounding airports? Rental car facilities near where you will be saying?

Biological or chemical terrorist attack

With an unknown impact, a biological or chemical attack can leave you very, very vulnerable as you are at the mercy of hotel staff, without your family/neighbor/community support system and any precautions you’ve taken at home. The National Guard or other military entity can quickly enact measures to contain the attack (and therefore containing you) and hospitals will likely be overrun with patients. Doctors, nurses, and staff are likely to be victims themselves.

If you’re lucky enough to not be affected, you may be able to get out of the area quickly so you can get home. If you are stuck, you could find yourself confined to your hotel room for an extended period of time. Being prepared can give you access to:

  1. Cash, by having cash already on your person, be ready to add to it by maxing out your debit card withdrawal and credit card cash advance as soon as you hear that something has happened. Cash may be the only thing that gets you what you need
  2. A quick exit, by having documents (like a copy of your car insurance) you could access a rental car so you can get out as quickly as possible. Consider a membership to car-sharing programs like Zipcar or Car2Go as getting home via the local airport is NOT a good option
  3. Preventive care, have simple measures to give you a better chance at escaping the attack, like gloves, medical masks and additional options like Potassium Iodate (amongst many, many other options)

Pay attention to the local news. At the first sign of any widespread sickness, get out. Make sure your “Plan B” to get home allows you to come into contact with as few people as possible. Consider carrying certain antibiotics (do your homework and talk to your doctor) available from pet stores or overseas and know how to use them. Know the pin number to get a cash advance off any credit cards you carry.

Civil unrest or crime

Civil unrest covers a widespread event that triggers protesting, which can quickly get out of hand (like what happened in Ferguson, Missouri), but it could also be an isolated incident where you are mugged or carjacked.

Know where you are going. If you’re headed to a convention or business meeting or sales conference, it’s easy to take the destination provided without question. But in many cities, large convention halls or conference centers are next to higher crime areas.

Do a quick internet search on the area next to where you are going and plan ahead. If protests are planned in the area, switch hotels or cancel your trip. Ensure you have back-up cash on your person so you can get to a safe place and keep a copy of your driver’s license, credit cards and additional cash hidden in your hotel room (or even better, the hotel safe).

Medical problem

If you have something as simple as a urinary tract infection or something more serious like appendicitis or heart attack, being away from home can have a huge impact on how these medical emergencies are handled.

Have a copy of your health insurance card with you so you can receive treatment. Know any allergy information and have a way to communicate emergency contacts. A piece of paper kept in your wallet with your spouse’s phone number can give first responders the information they need to contact your family.

Loss or theft of critical gear

We had a situation while traveling in Chicago where a laptop was left in a rental car downtown during lunch. The Loop, the downtown Chicago area, is full of mostly business people during work hours but within 10 minutes the bag and laptop were gone. Even with the “find” feature on, Chicago Police were unable to assist. Luckily, a laptop stolen during “normal” rule of law is replaceable, but if you are traveling and an unforeseen situation happens like a terrorist, biological or chemical attack, or isolated civil unrest, losing your gear can be detrimental, especially if it’s something much more important than a laptop.

We rely heavily on our cell phone during travel. A hard copy of your travel itinerary and hotel information, in case your phone is stolen, and a hard copy map can get you to safety.

Make sure you are practicing situational awareness, common sense and don’t put yourself in potentially bad situations. Take extra precautions and consider back-ups stored in your hotel room or anywhere else you are visiting. The mental EDC that you take with you when traveling can make all the difference.


For Part 2 of our series on preparing your EDC for airline travel, we’ve built out an EDC Kit that is TSA-friendly while addresses many of these unknowns.

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