How to Build a Travel Emergency Kit

You can only be a victim if you haven’t been warned, after that you are a volunteer.
— Unknown

While I’m a big believer in traveling light, I’m an even bigger believer in self-reliance. You don’t have to be a field medic or Jason Bourne to learn how to handle medical and safety scenarios that you may encounter in your travels. While common sense plays a big role (see post on Situational Awareness), building a lightweight kit to handle the most likely travel emergency scenarios is prudent. At the most basic level, do you want to have to run to a store if you cut your finger, or would you like to have a Band-Aid with you? If that cut won’t stop bleeding, do you want to have to go to a local hospital (possibly in a third world country) or would you like to have the supplies/skills to stop the bleeding, clean the wound, and apply a skin adhesive (rather than stiches)? Do you want to bet your life on a fire truck getting you out of your 4th floor hotel room, or would you like to have a Personal Urban Repelling Kit (PURK) handy to be able to save you and your family? In this post, I’ll share the details of my personal kit (kept in my laptop bag at all times) and how to get free medical / disaster training. 


Travel Emergency Preparedness Strategy

The strategy for developing your travel emergency self-reliance is to think through likely scenarios, make a plan, get some training, and the best part…buy some cool gear. I’ve listed a few scenarios to get you started on thinking through how you would handle various situations. It’s important that you own this and get into the mindset that YOU are the first responder. Start with the most likely (and addressable) scenarios and expand out from there. If you start packing your own parachute, you’ve probably gone too far.

Safety Scenarios

  • Getting lost or separated from companions
  • Getting mugged / robbed (losing passport, phone, etc.)
  • Fire in hotel
  • Civil unrest / protests

Medical Scenarios

  • Blisters
  • Back / joint pain
  • Cuts / scrapes
  • Minor burns (including sunburn)
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Food poisoning
  • Loss of prescription meds / glasses

All of the above examples have different aspects that should be broken down further. They should all start with prevention/avoidance, what to do during, what to do after, and any tools that could help. It is paramount to discuss and prepare for these scenarios in advance. Here is an example of a scenario breakdown. 

Mugging / Robbery Breakdown

  • Prevention / Avoidance
    • Practice Situational Awareness
    • Understand scams / types of crimes in area (look up before trip / ask at hotel)
    • Stay under radar (minimize displaying fancy camera gear, iPhones, watches, etc)
    • Use money belt, but carry dummy wallet with a little money
  • During
    • Use your Run Fu…get the heck outta there (they don’t want to chase you down the street and risk getting caught)
    • Variation on above…toss dummy wallet near them and then run
    • Unleash your fury…know when you have no other option and what you will do
  • After
    • Report to authorities / embassy
    • Cancel cards
    • Deal with passport
    • Have someone buy you a beer
  • Tools
    • Tactical Pen
    • Flashlight
    • Whistle
    • Locks
    • Thumb drive (images of credit cards, passport, id)
    • Self – defense training
Analytical Traveler_CERT Training


Just thinking / talking through the scenarios above and building an emergency kit will make you more prepared than 90% of people. However, training and regular practice are invaluable, and could save your life. While nothing replaces hands-on training, there are fantastic videos on YouTube that are at least great refreshers, and often from military field medics who put these skills into practice daily. I also recommend joining your company’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) if available. You will typically receive free first aid, CPR, evacuation, and fire extinguisher training annually. You can also see if you have a local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). This provided 30-hours of free disaster response training including live simulation of triaging a multi-victim response, with continuing education beyond that. 


Travel Emergency Kit


Safety / Miscellaneous

Medical Kit

Food / Water


Personal Urban Repelling Kit (PURK)*

  • 50 feet of 6mm cord – I don’t suggest rappelling with paracord unless no other option
  • Lightweight harness or 15' of webbing to make swami harness
  • Carabiners x2 (pre-attach one to harness the other to end of cordage for quick attachment to anchor point)
  • Figure 8 descender
  • Gloves (for sliding down rope – also useful for moving building debris from explosion or earthquake damage)

Suggest discussing / building your setup with a climbing store and completing basic training.

I hope this helps get you started down the path towards being better prepared for handling travel emergencies. For those who are already prepared, I hope it gave you a couple new ideas. As always, if you have anything to add, please share. 

If you liked this post, please join the Analytical Traveler community. Check out my other travel safety post below.

Safe travels! 

Related Posts: