When you travel, organize so you are prepared to evacuate. I’m in Los Angeles right now. Last Thursday, a wildfire broke out 1.5 miles away from my son’s house. While smoke billowed, I watched the news and packed a go bag as I prepared for the possibility of evacuation. I didn’t want to carry a large bag, but I wanted the essentials for a couple of days. No matter where you travel, you could encounter tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or other unexpected difficulties that require you to leave quickly for safety.
Swiftly changing conditions can mean the necessity of relocation without much notice. In some cases, preparation time is a matter of minutes. An advance plan can assure that you’ll have what you need in the event you must leave immediately.
Here’s a simple plan you can follow:
Carry a 2nd bag.
If you’re traveling with a large suitcase that is cumbersome, make sure you have a second bag that will hold clothes, toiletries, water, and snacks for a couple of days. If I only carry a purse on the plane, I throw a soft duffel bag in the bottom of my checked bag. This trip, I have a small cloth bag as well as an under-seat carryon that is quite spacious. A backpack is another great choice.
Set your phone to receive weather and emergency alerts.
Although I’m 1600 miles from home, I received an emergency alert from the LAFD about 20-30 minutes after the fire started. The alert contained a link to a website where I could monitor alerts.
Create a list of critical items.
It can be hard to think clearly when you’re under duress. Having a note on your phone with a list of essentials allows you to be mechanical about the packing process. Knowing you have prepared for this possibility can help reduce anxiety.
Your list may surprise you. I removed my laptop and its charger from my go bag yesterday. I have a backup of everything essential and I can access most anything else I need from my phone. The laptop adds weight and takes up space.
I also left out my yoga mat, yoga clothes, extra shoes, swimsuit, jewelry, and jacket. I included cash, phone charger, underwear, socks, sleepwear, and a couple of changes of clothes as well as toiletries and makeup. If space were tight, I would have foregone the makeup.
Other items I considered essential were: a package of hand wipes, a zip top bag of snacks, and all of the bottled water and tea I had on hand. I used my cloth bag for these.
If you have prescription medications, you’ll want to put them in your go bag along with any written instructions you need. At times I have carried an EpiPen. Thursday, I kept the BENEDRYL® that was in my purse, but that was it for meds. I’d probably leave supplements that are not prescribed behind unless there’s only one or two or they are already sorted into daily doses in a small container.
My final critical items are my ID, credit cards, and keys. I keep those in my purse. When I can fit that purse in my go bag, I am especially pleased. If that doesn’t happen, it’s not a big deal because I typically travel with a crossbody bag that is easy to carry. I sit the purse on top of the go bag in my hotel room or AirBnB so in one grab I have everything I need.
Know where you are.
You don’t have to spend your vacation time planning extensive escape routes, but it can be helpful to review the hotel evacuation map on arrival and know what major highways or streets are nearby.
Store needed information.
Record reservation numbers; padlock codes; passwords for apps like AirBnB, VRBO, Lyft, Uber, Postmates, GrubHub or DoorDash; links to emergency alert websites; airline or event tickets; and addresses on your phone or paper. The phone is most convenient, but will render these inaccessible if you are without power until the battery dies. You also may not want to store passwords on your phone.
I know you’re probably thinking you don’t need passwords with you because you’ve told your apps to remember you or keep you logged in. On a recent trip to pick up groceries, I couldn’t check-in from such an app because it asked for my password and I did not know it or have it available. I also didn’t want to reset it. In the event of emergency, this can be nerve racking.
Knowing and noting where you are in relation to major highways can reduce the time it takes to choose an escape route and decide on the best mode of transportation.
Bring extra zip top or silicone stashable bags.
Zip tops are less bulky and weigh less, but silicone bags work as well. Having a few in multiple sizes allows you to reorganize or pare down quickly. These also keep hastily packed toiletries from accidentally leaking on your clothes in a tightly packed go bag.
Wear comfortable shoes.
Thursday, the TV news interviewed a woman pushing a child in a stroller to escape the fires. Her family was en route to pick them up, but the roads were blocked. While you may not anticipate walking, you may have to, so choose your most comfortable shoes.
You may also want to pack some kind of slip-on shoe in preparation for a night evacuation. My most comfortable shoes have laces. If I need to leave in the middle of the night, I want those in my bag and something easy to slip into by my bed.
Consider a flashlight.
Power outages are common in weather events. If your phone ties your hands too much or you want to preserve its battery, consider carrying a small flashlight.
Bring an emergency phone charger.
An emergency phone charger is a great idea for travel, especially here in California where the power company may preventatively turn off the power.
Review the diaper bag.
Most of us have a routine with the diaper bag. That means it’s always packed with anything appropriate for our everyday activities. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s packed with everything required for a couple of days.
Obviously, you’ll want ample diapers, wipes, formula, and bottles along with clothes. For breastfed babies, a baby sling that is also a nursing cover can take the place of a stroller.
Don’t forget comfort items like pacifiers, blankets, or stuffed toys (only if your child requires one to feel safe or sleep). I like to include at least one burp cloth, and a changing pad or blanket makes diaper changes more sanitary and comfortable. I also throw in small plastic bags for diaper disposal.
Toddler bags may need additional items like toddler friendly snacks, a sippy cup, a couple of small toys, or a book. Food pouches are easy to carry and don’t require a spoon. Oatmeal packets are filling and can be mixed with a packet of peanut or almond butter, or a pouch of applesauce for added nutrition and staying power.
My thinking on car seats, car seat carriers, and strollers is to leave them in the car. This gets you out the door and on the road faster. You can buckle the kids in once you’re in the car.
Carry special equipment.
If you are traveling with the elderly or those with special needs, pack essential equipment so it’s easy to access once you’re on the move.
In addition to medications, include any needed special food; feeding tubes; syringes; oxygen delivery devices; braces, canes, wheelchairs, or other walking aids; power cords and even a portable generator if one is needed for equipment and it’s possible to carry. You’ll need an ice chest for medication that must be refrigerated.
Don’t forget your pet.
If you travel with a service dog, emotional support animal, or pet, keep them with you. Last Friday, I was greeted by a small dog in a toy store. The owner of the store had brought him to work because of the fire danger. It was the only way to keep him safe.
Hopefully, you’re already carrying a travel container with food and bowls that are easy to carry. Bring a leash or harness, any required medications, and a roll of poop bags.
If space allows, include other useful items.
A travel pack of facial tissue or a travel roll of toilet paper can be helpful. If you don’t have either of those handy, you can tightly roll some toilet paper and put it in a zip top snack bag. Without a cardboard tube, you’ll be amazed how much will fit in a small bag.
In my bag, there’s almost always a package of plasticware that includes salt, pepper, and a napkin in addition to fork, knife, and spoon.
On any trip, I pack a trash bag in my suitcase for dirty clothes. It can easily be moved to my go bag. A large trash bag is light weight, easy to pack, and can function as a poncho in rainy conditions.
When fire threatens, it’s handy to have a mask to block the smoke should you end up downwind.
If you don’t want to carry the weight of water, carry an empty bottle that you can fill along the way.
I don’t carry surface disinfecting wipes, but they can be helpful in some situations and are available in convenient travel packs.
For toddlers who are potty training, including several pull-up disposable diapers will take the pressure off by preventing the necessity of finding facilities at the last minute. This is true for the elderly as well. Although your loved one may still be able to use the toilet under normal circumstances, adult diapers can prevent embarrassing situations and are often an appropriate addition to a go bag.
A baby carrier for children too large for a sling is more compact than a bulky stroller.
You may want to throw in the children’s Tylenol and a couple of band aids just in case.
Bottles with clearly marked volume indicators for measuring, a bottle brush, and extra feeding tube tips can all come in handy.
Of course you’ll want to create a list that works for your particular trip and your particular needs, but hopefully this plan will get you started. This morning, I was awakened at 4:40am by news of another fire nearby. That one closed part of the 405 freeway. Road closures like this can affect your route to an airport so be sure to allow extra time.
Go, go, go, and have a wonderful trip just be prepared to evacuate when a dangerous situation arises!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”