Even five-star hotels can have power outages sometimes.
No matter if I'm traveling in first class or taking the bus across Eastern Turkey, my ex-military dad raised me to always be prepared to handle the unexpected. After spending 9 years in the Marines and Air Force, combined with 30 more years of firefighting, he has been trained to survive almost any situation.
I've been fortunate enough to have him teach me some of the invaluable survival strategies he learned in his adventurous career. Not only have they saved my life a few times while living and traveling abroad; they've also helped me salvage dozens of great business trips that might have otherwise been disasters.
Here are the 10 items my dad has taught me to always take with me anywhere in the world so that I'm always ready:
Survival Item #1: Head Lamp
Whether you're going hiking up a volcanic mountain in Bali at the crack of dawn or you need to escape through a dark tunnel at night, it's good to have a head lamp with you.
Phones can die, and you want to conserve your phone battery in the worst situations, so I always have a head lamp with a few spare batteries.
This came in especially handy in the Middle East when there were waves of power outages during my time working in Post-Revolutionary Egypt, but blackouts can still happen in the US too.
Survival Item #2: Sewing Kit
I might not be the best at sewing, but no one wants to ruin a business suit or outfit because they lost a button and don't have time to go to the tailor.
For any major sewing, I'm probably hopeless, but I can at least give myself emergency stitches if I have to.
However, if you ever are in an emergency situation where you or your colleagues are wounded, it's useful to note that dental floss actually makes better and stronger sutures than most sewing thread, and you can even temporarily close a wound with duct tape if you have to.
Survival Item #3: Nail Clippers Or Other Multi-tools
Yes, broken nails and "hangnails," are annoying, but you can also use nail clippers as makeshift scissors. These come in handy when you need to cut off tags or the zip ties TSA sometimes leaves on your bags when they open your locks. You can also use a nail file to pry open things or puncture holes.
I actually prefer to carry a multi-tool that has clippers, a bottle opener, screwdriver, and other tools to just nail clippers, but you could carry both.
Survival Item #4: Ziploc Bags
These are actually one of my favorite and most used items.
Ziploc bags aren't just great for keeping your liquids secure--they're also really useful for keeping valuable items safe from water damage. I always put my USBs and other small electronics inside a quart or gallon Ziploc bag to protect them from rain or messy liquids that could leak or explode in my bag.
You can also use Ziplocs to organize small items that otherwise might get loose or lost.
I often store receipts, keepsakes, or other important papers inside a gallon Ziploc bag.
Survival Item #5: A Silver Or Gold Sharpie
As a writer, I always have a pen and a notebook to write ideas in, but the sharpie is great for labeling your Ziploc bags or anything else that you might need to mark for organization or security.
A gold or silver sharpie is better than a black one because it will actually show up on more things, whereas a black one will fade away on anything dark or black.
Survival Item #6: Hair Ties
Not only for tying your hair back, you can use hair ties to secure things and compress your clothes and other items when packing.
I pack items into my luggage using the "rolling method" because it lets me fit more in my carry-on, and I also find it helps keep my clothes from getting too wrinkled. After I've rolled a few items up, I'll secure them with hair ties so they stay together in one place, which helps me stay more organized too.
Survival Item #7: Duct Tape
Duct tape has been a staple in my life since I can remember.
The stuff is practically magical.
I've used duct tape to do makeshift repairs to everything; from shoes and luggage; to stopping leaks and preventing water damage; to securing things. It's not always the prettiest thing, and it doesn't hold forever, but it can keep things workable just long enough to get you home.
It can also make a makeshift label or luggage tag as well.
If you cut your foot out hiking or adventuring in a moist tropical environment you can also temporarily use duct tape to keep potentially deadly bacteria from entering your wound. Likewise, my dad has used duct tape to keep deep wounds closed long enough until he could go to the hospital when he was hiking or in the field. Duct tape can also make a temporary splint that holds things in place if you break or dislocate a bone.
Survival Item #8: Toilet Paper Or Tissues
You'll especially appreciate having a little bit of extra toilet paper or tissue when traveling in Asia or the Middle East where bathrooms don't always carry it.
Even if you don't mind using the water hose or bucket instead of toilet paper when in Egypt or even Japan, it's good to have tissues to clean up unexpected messes from yourself or the person sitting next to you. You never know when someone will spill a drink on you in line at the airport.
Survival Item #9: Universal Power Adapter
For a while it seemed like I had a dozen different power converters for Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Then I got a universal power adapter with surge protection that has 4 international plugs that work for more than 150 different countries.
I actually always carry 2 power converters because I've had a few times in Turkey and Egypt where my converter got fried since the wiring was too shabby.
Besides, you never know when you might forget or lose one of them, and there's nothing worse than having no way to charge your phone and laptop for all of Chinese New Years during a business trip in Hong Kong.
Survival Item #10: Medical Kit
My makeup bag doubles as my medical kit, and it always has Neosporin (antibiotic ointment) and Hydrocortisone (anti-itch cream) in case I cut myself or get bug bites.
I also make sure to antihistamine because I'm allergic to MSG and a number of tropical fruits, and you never know when a language barrier might result in you mildly poisoning yourself in another country. Then I carry pain killers and even a special prescription for antibiotics that my doctor gave me in case of emergencies.
And if more rugged travel isn't your style, you can learn more about how to travel around the world in first-class without buying tickets in my previous post.