Plan Now: Getting Home from the Holidays


Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Bobcat-Prepper. In just a few days, millions of us will be loading down the family vehicles and hitting the highway or  heading to the airport for one of the busiest travel periods each year. As you are packing your clothes and belongings, Bobcat reminds us that you could find yourself stranded and what you have prepared ahead of time will be all you can depend on for getting home in a crisis. Will you be prepared?

Most of us have imagined having to get ourselves home after SHTF; books such as “Going Home” detail how a well-equipped prepper might do it. The Prepper Journal did a great job last year of How to Build a Get Home Bag. I strongly recommend you keep your car stocked with the equipment and supplies described there, and print and pack a list of get home bag contents.

But that scenario seems easy compared to the following:

You and your family are visiting your parents for Thanksgiving, and all the families of your brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles are there.  After dinner, the football game is on TV, folks are relaxing, when suddenly – the power goes out!  It doesn’t come on for several hours. Your cell phones power up, but you can’t call out, due to overuse of the lines, you suspect.  A battery-powered radio is hauled out of storage, and the first news story you hear is about a terrorist attack causing a power outage along the entire Eastern Seaboard. No other details are available. A look around town shows you that gas stations can’t pump gas, and the traffic signals and ATMs don’t work.


Liberty generator

What do you do?

As a prepper, we train ourselves to prepare for the worst – and this situation is about as bad as it can get:

  • You have a group of people you care about that are not prepared mentally, physically, in skills, or in resources for anything bad to happen.
  • There are children and elderly folks who have special needs.
  • You are far from home, with little to help you get back home.


Questions, questions, questions….

1) How likely is it that the grid is down for the long-term? Is there a chance that the story is incorrect, and the outage is a typical power-line-touching-a-tree variety? The answer to this question will determine your reaction. If it is a “vanilla” power outage lasting a couple of days, it may be time to break out the flashlights, blankets and camp stove.

2) Do the cars run normally, and how far away is home for each family? If the cars are OK and the cell phones power up normally, we can probably rule out an X-class solar flare or EMP.

With the power out along the route home, the odds that each family arrives safely drops as the distance increases. Every unlit intersection and defunct stop light brings a higher chance for a fatal car collision, every unlit curve a chance to run off the road with no AAA or 911 to call for help. A route through or to a big city may encounter rioting, carjacking or worse.

3) Since the gas stations are out-of-order, does each car have enough gas to get its owner back home? You have to allow a few gallons extra to account for awful traffic jams, and detours to avoid them.q

4) How many days of food and water do your parents have stocked? Your average American has about a week’s worth of food in their pantry, although folks that lived through WWII or other lean times can have quite a bit stored up. Mom and Dad may have a month’s worth of food for themselves, but if it is shared with the 18 family members present it will only last about a day and a half – a good indication that the families have to go home soon. Mom and Dad may decide they are fine with Uncle Otto and Aunt Edna riding it out with them, since they are getting up in years, and that is their decision to make, who stays if they ask?

5) For yourself only: who knows you are a prepper? If they think you have barrels of freeze-dried yummies hidden away, guess what everyone will want to do – that’s right, go to your house! But very few of us have the resources to store food for more than our immediate family long-term. Will this be a long-term emergency? If you offer to take in Mom and Dad, won’t your brothers and sisters want to come too? It may seem cold-hearted, but you’ve got to say “no” to somebody. These are really tough calls, and the reason every family should prepare themselves for emergencies.

Read More: Are you prepared with the basic Winter Car Survival Kit?

Decision Time

Now is the time to keep the kids entertained elsewhere, while the adults get down to brass tacks – time to discuss the answers to 1 through 4, to walk through with each family the hazards they may experience, and to discuss what supplies they need to make it home safely, like those listed in the TPJ post. For longer trips I would add:

  • a few day’s ready-to-eat food,
  • a $20 water filter like this one
  • a can opener like this tiny P51 I keep on my key chain.
  • A school-book sized backpack for each family member.
  • A toilet kit – an empty and clean milk jug, a flexible oil-change funnel, a bed pan/similar, a 5 pound bag of kitty litter, and several garbage bags. This will ensure that you or the kids can “go” on the go, when stopping for a bathroom break is dangerous or impossible.

Help each family make a list of missing items, based on your printed get-home list.


Note: If the cars are not working normally, or cell phones are dead too, then we may have experienced a solar storm or EMP. This will obviously impact how or if you try to get home. I am determined to get my family home, so I am familiar with the bike shop closest to my parent’s house. Renting or buying bikes may be possible, but not likely in this situation, and that is when bolt cutters and a pry bar would come in handy.

It would be important to discuss survival basics post-SHTF with everyone now. It’s a balancing act, informing non-prepping family members of a new situation without freaking them out. Safe water and food collection, security concerns, and the importance of hygiene/sanitation “for the duration” should be covered in a hopeful manner.

Shopping Time

After all this talking, it’s time to shop like it’s Black Friday!

1) Take all your cash (you did bring extra for the trip, right?) and valuables on hand like jewelry, gold watches or iWhatevers to barter, and hit the Mom & Pop stores nearby with your shopping lists in hands. My neighborhood shop was open after the 2012 mega-storm, but the Mall-Wart was closed the minute the power stopped. Besides, you do not want to go through the panicking crowds of a big box store.

2) Only buy what you can carry, whether in an operating car or in backpacks. Consider if each item is worth the room it takes up. Having a water filter instead of many gallons of water is a good trade [although in the late fall/winter you have to remember that any fresh water found en route may be frozen].

3) Get in and out fast, before the whole neighborhood gets the same idea.


On The Road Again…

Having a paper map is vital to making it back home on a potentially multi-day trip. Your GPS may not work, and your normal routes may be blocked or dangerous. Where are the bottlenecks? Should you try to stop at night, or take shifts? Should you travel at night and sleep during the day? Sleep In the car for warmth, or under the tarp, away from the car for safety? All these choices will depend on the circumstances when SHTF, and what you encounter along the way.

Once everyone is packed, it is time to say good-bye. Keep it short and cheerful, and that you’ll be seeing them at Christmas.

I wish you all safe travels, by being prepared.

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