September 10th, 2014

10 Top Survival Skills Every Traveler Should Learn

10 Top Survival Skills Every Traveler Should Learn

Whether you're camping in a forest, partying all night at clubs in Buenos Aires, or museum-hopping throughout Europe, here's what you need to know to stay safe and have fun during your getaway.

Before you book your next trip, ask yourself one important question: If something were to go terribly wrong on your journey, would you have what it takes to make it home safely? If you're not sure, don't worry! Every traveler can become more prepared for unexpected mishaps and scary on-the-road scenarios: Prepare for what whatever may come your way by adopting these tried-and-tested travel “survival” techniques.

Scenario #1: If You’re Traveling in the Wilderness...

Carry Food and Water: You never know when you're going to get lost in a new place so be sure to carry a bottle filled with water and a few pre-packaged snacks that contain fiber, protein, and/or unsaturated fat (think granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit).  

Know How to Build a Fire: If you're stuck in the woods with no warmth, you'll need to know how to build a fire. You should keep a matchbox in your backpack at all times or you can learn some of these techniques to get a fire going that don't require matches.

Pack a First-Aid Kit: Be prepared to treat minor scrapes, splinters, allergies, and altitude sickness by carrying a small bag of essential medical supplies. Make sure to include tissues, scissors, medical gloves, tweezers, bandages, gauze, medical tape, pain relievers (like ibuprofen), allergy medications (like Benadryl), and anti-bacterial ointment (like bacitracin).

Bring a Map and Compass: Be honest: How long is your smartphone battery really going to last without a charge? As a "plan b," always have a hard-copy map and compass in your survival gear kit so you know how to get back to your home base.

Scenario #2: If You’re Heading to Unfamiliar Destination...

Avoid Becoming a Target: If you put your wallet in your back pocket or hang your purse behind you while traveling, you're making yourself more vulnerable to muggers and pickpockets. Ward off thieves by placing your valuables (cash, identification, and credit cards) in a zippered compartment that's tucked underneath your clothes, such as in a neck wallet or money belt.

Learn Self-Defense: This doesn't just mean knowing how to punch or kick. Practicing good self defense also means becoming aware of your surroundings (i.e. not staring at your phone 24/7) and knowing how to use your body language, your voice, and your facial expressions to make it clear to strangers that you're not going to tolerate harassment. Pick up some life-saving tricks by watching these videos or take a self-defense course in your local area before traveling.

Buy Travel Insurance: Before traveling, buy trip investment insurance (which covers cancellation or interruption), personal health insurance (which helps fill any gaps that your U.S. health insurance won't cover abroad), and personal belongings insurance (that covers baggage loss and car rental damage). The most important of these is personal health insurance, which will can cover the cost of air lifting you to a major hospital should you get into a serious accident.

Scenario #3: If You’re Taking a Multi-Day Getaway

Take "Me" Time: When you're constantly on the go in an exciting new place, it's all too easy to overschedule activities and live on four hours of sleep a night. But don't forget to leave time to recharge your batteries. Letting yourself become physically and mentally run-down means that you're more likely to get sick or injured. Take a 20-minute nap each afternoon, read a book, or listen to calming music while walking around town; these are all helpful ways to squeeze in some downtime during your travels—and with plenty of rest you’ll remain alert.

Stay Positive and Flexible: Let's face it: When you’re traveling, something will always go wrong or not according to plan. Your train will be late or the line for your rental car will wrap around the building. The hotel may tack on a sneaky "resort fee" that will suddenly set you back an extra $30. Rather than getting frustrated, try adjusting your state of mind. Try to view your journey as a challenge or adventure with guaranteed obstacles: Managing your expectations will ensure those minor setbacks won't rattle you quite as much.

Make Copies of Important Info: Xerox your driver's license, passport, and credit card information before you leave. If you stow the originals in a neck wallet or money belt, put the copies in a separate location. That way, if the originals get lost or stolen, you'll have an easier time preventing fraud and getting replacements. Keep the copies flat (and not wrinkled) by packing them in a Pack-It Specter folder—this will also prevent them from getting wet or dirty by rubbing up against other items in your bag. You may also want to scan a copy of these important documents prior to takeoff and email them to yourself and a friend or family member. That way, you’ll always have an electronic copy available via a computer.

Now that you've studied these top 10 tips, you'll have a better chance of staying safe and surviving any trip! Have additional advice to share? Let us know in the comments below!

While Eagle Creek is here to provide tips and insights on travel, we cannot accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information. Always conduct your own research, talk to local guides, and use your best judgment.

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Jane Bianchi is a freelance writer who has worked for a variety of national magazines, including Seventeen, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping.

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