Vacation Survival

How to prepare and protect yourself and your family on this summer's vacation


Last fall I bought a GPS system. I frequently drive out of town to conduct training programs, and I was impressed with what the systems offered. I have not been let down. Although it helps to know your route prior, you can literally jump in the car, plug in an address and speed away. With options like gas station, motel and restaurant locators, the system provides more than a glorified map. Although my unit is one of the less expensive models, there are GPS units that receive updated traffic conditions that could be beneficial around major cities. If you run into detours or road closures or are forced off the route you've preplanned, a GPS can still get you there. These are not cheap, at around $400.00 base price, but in my opinion well worth the cost.

I normally travel with a first aid kit in the back of my 4X4. Although I mostly dip into the Band-Aids(tm) for little scrapes and cuts, I carry hemostatic agents for major cuts and wounds, as well as trauma dressings and a tourniquet. I learned a lot from working with our SWAT medics and medical advisor over the years, and use that knowledge to protect my family. These dressings and agents are available through military supply houses like Brigade Quartermasters®.

In years past I would travel with a citizen's band (CB) radio on to learn of road conditions and the like. I've found that the language has deteriorated to the point that I no longer have one. When traveling with friends, I have cheap FM walkie-talkies or we talk on cell phones. The satellite radio I have provides traffic & weather information for 11 major cities. I like satellite radio as it keeps me from searching for something to listen to on a trip and offers options outside traditional radio.

Remember to take breaks now and again. Most cops I know travel "hell-bent-for-leather" during a road trip and this can lead to fatigue. If you travel at night and are not used to it, monotony can lead to falling asleep at the wheel.

Traveling Armed

Since 2004, when President Bush signed H.R. 218 (the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act) into law, off-duty and retired officers who meet the criteria can carry concealed throughout the U.S. You're pretty much good to go to carry as you travel except for government buildings, liquor establishments and areas that are prohibited by law. Although I don't look for trouble when traveling, like most off-duty encounters, the trouble can come to you. As one of my officer survival mentors, Detroit Sergeant Evan Marshall (ret), has suggested, if possible, don't get involved. Call the on-duty officers and be the best witness you can be. That said, I carry off-duty whether on vacation or not. Traveling in the car for several hours can make normal concealed weapons/holsters uncomfortable. Normally, I carry under a shirt with a gun-side inside the pants holster. Spending 12 hours in the car over two days, I opted for a "fanny pack" (actually a pelvic pack...nobody carries these things with the pack in the back). Some of these holsters look suspiciously like gun-bags, but the one I purchased from Hawke packs is fairly innocuous in appearance. In it I carried a Glock Model 19, spare mag, Surefire flashlight, cell phone and some change. Throughout the trip it never garnered a second glance by anyone and was comfortable in the extreme.

If you are flying and wish to carry armed after arrival at your destination, you can check the handgun in luggage. *Except for traveling on "official business" (prisoner convey, etc.) you are FORBIDDEN from taking weapons aboard an aircraft. To comply with federal law (Title 49 CFR Section 1544.203) you must: declare the firearm at check-in; carry it unloaded in a hard-sided and locked container with ammunition carried separately in a factory or equivalent case. If this container is inside another piece of luggage, be prepared to show the airline employee the empty pistol. They will place a "Firearms Unloaded Declaration Form" inside the case. Exercise some common sense when arming upon arrival at your destination.

Have a Safe and Pleasant Trip!

As I write this I am in our beach home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My family and I are enjoying our vacation thus far. It has been just what the doctor ordered and I hope that the remainder of the trip and our travel back home is as safe and as enjoyable. In order to improve the probability of this a little preparation and planning goes a long way. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Give your family and yourself a welcome break from law enforcement, but maximize the experience by protecting you and your family's safety with a little forethought.

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