The Prepper Journal

Road Trip From Hell: SHTF And Your Family Is 1000 Miles Away

Most of us have family that lives in another town or another state from us. I have immediate family that lives over 1000 miles away and as luck would have it we are visiting with them now. We were sitting around having coffee the other day and the subject of a potential of a SHTF type of event came up. These members of my family share many of the same beliefs as I about what to plan for and the growing threats on the horizon so I asked them what they would do if everything went sideways. Their response was “we would come to you.”

That is what I wanted to hear for two reasons. The first is that you want your family close to you especially when chaos is reigning everywhere. The urge to gather everyone around you to try and keep them safe is normal for anyone. Secondly, you want to have as many prepared and like-minded people that you can trust around you if we do have some type of SHTF event or societal collapse. A group of people is simply going to be better able to provide for one another and defend whatever position you are staying in. For example, if I was alone in the house with only my family living with me, I would not easily be able to share any guard duty type of work. Eventually, I would have to sleep and this would leave my family open to attack. With some other family members able to work shifts you can increase the attentiveness and rest of each person standing guard and keep everyone safer in the process.

Knowing they would try to make it back to where we live wasn’t ideal though regardless of my selfish reasons. The route they would have to take isn’t easy just because of the sheer mileage so it got me to thinking about how you would plan to bug out over 1000 miles. I have written about getting back home when you are very far away like 500 miles from home, but that is a little different for one person. Further complicating this issue for them is the fact these particular members of my family have two very small children. So now you have to get a family of 4 with two members who can’t care for themselves or pull any weight of their own, trying to get home over 1000 miles through potentially hostile environments. This is in my opinion much harder than one single person trying to make it back home. Actually, it may not be physically easier, but I worry less about getting myself back home than having small children to care for. I can go a few days without food or sleep if I have to, but a toddler isn’t going to be able to do that. Bugging out is so much more complicated with small children.

So, with this in mind I started to think about some of the considerations you would need to take into account if you were going to manage a trip like this with the potential of mass chaos happening all around you.

Knowing when to bug out

I think second only to making sure you are prepared to make this trip, is knowing when to actually pull the trigger and leave. For each person and in each situation, the triggers may be different. For example, someone who is living with the threat of a hurricane could watch the weather forecast and when the storm track was several days out, see that the path may be heading their way, judge the risk based upon the storm’s strength and make a decision. Once you do, it is at this time you should be heading out the door.

You don’t want to be one of the last to get on the highway because the chances of you getting anywhere far after everyone else is already on the roads are really slim. Traffic snarls to a stop whenever an entire coastal region is running from a big hurricane. Additionally, you won’t have any place to stay along the route unless you are extremely lucky. Most hotels and motels in several states will already be full with people who left just a little bit before you did.

Just like natural events such as Hurricanes, knowing when to get out of dodge is crucial to your survival and will greatly impact your success in getting away quickly. In a SHTF type of scenario I think this is one of the hardest things to know. There are so many variables for each person, in each region.

In discussing what my families triggers for leaving would be we came up with a few quick examples but your mileage may vary.

  • If communications like cell phones and email are taken down
  • If there is a news blackout
  • If the orders given to my family are indicative of a government gone rogue (I’ll explain later).
  • Any type of nuclear attack
  • Final and complete collapse of the dollar
  • Stock market loss of over 50%


The trigger events could be any one of a number that I haven’t mentioned above and some might argue that some of the events have already happened on a minor scale. I guess the thing we are both watching for are some escalation that doesn’t seem ordinary. I fully understand the irony of that last statement because we are living in extraordinary times, but you have your own built-in meter of when it is finally time to go. The problem with this is the creeping change of incremental-ism that sneaks up on you. To counter that, we are preparing while we are waiting for the signs that will clinch the deal.

When I say orders given that indicate a government that has gone rogue, I mean internment camp orders like they did with the Japanese in WWII, nationwide Marshal Law or orders for the confiscation of firearms. If things like this start happening, you better hang on to your hats. My family actively serves in the Armed Forces so they may hear about this before the general public and this would be one of the trigger events that would cause them to head back home to our location.

Planning for a 1000 mile car trip

Even before you have decided to bug out, you will have to have preparations set aside. Some provisions are relatively simple and with a little planning you can anticipate a car trip like this. People make trips like this every day obviously, but with all systems go. Gas is plentiful, fast food restaurants are open for business every few miles on the freeway and people are going about their daily lives. In a SHTF type of scenario, your average car trip could be a very different experience.

You do not want your car to look like this.
You do not want your car to look like this.

For starters, in some TEOTWAWKI scenarios gas may simply not be available leaving you really few options. For a trip of over 1000 miles, the amount of gas you would need to have would be considerable. Now, I know that with the proper vehicle and equipment this would be less of an issue. For instance a diesel truck with extended gas tank could give you almost enough fuel to make it 1000 miles. Having a smaller car built for transporting kids makes storing extra fuel a big problem.

Assuming the average car can get about 400 miles to a tank you would need to fill up 2 and a half times minimum. That is if there is zero traffic, you aren’t stopping a lot and the wind is blowing behind you all of the way. Let’s also say the average fuel tank of this car holds about 15 gallons and that would be 3-5 gallon fuel cans for a single fill-up. To plan for enough fuel on board to make it back to our house with an amount left over for grace they would need 12 – 5 gallon cans. Now, that isn’t a ridiculous amount of fuel to store if you have a big truck or trailer, but if your vehicle doesn’t have enough space to hold those extra containers what do you do?

I have written about selecting the perfect bug out vehicle, but what if that purchase hasn’t happened yet; what do you do? This is when getting out before the gas is gone is vitally important so listening to what is going on with the news and staying in close contact with family members will help you make your decision. There is also the possibility that I could meet them halfway and resupply them with fuel if needed. That isn’t ideal at all because it puts us all at risk, but might be necessary.

If you are packing for the end of the world, a lot of creature comforts will be left behind. This is why having a bug out bag is important if for nothing else than giving you the time to work through a list of everything you would need to bring with you. In this case, you would be packing a car so weight would be less of an issue, but shouldn’t be forgotten entirely. You may have to abandon your car and continue on foot.

Navigating a Route without GPS

Having good maps are crucial.

Knowing how to get to your destination didn’t use to be as complicated as it is now believe it or not. You simply broke out a map, checked the route and if needed, consulted the map as you were driving. Now, it seems maps are going the way of the dinosaur and we have become overly dependent on GPS. This magical little device will cause a lot of people to be lost I think if it ever goes away. I will admit I use GPS too, but I also have maps as backup in both cars. If the GPS goes out, or is flawed, I have an old-fashioned way of knowing how to get to my destination. If that fails, I will break down and actually ask for directions which does still work even in this day and time believe it or not.

Getting back home to your bug out or retreat location shouldn’t require maps though. This is a route you should have committed to memory. Actually it is better to have several alternates mapped out as well and depending on how bad the situation is, avoiding cities and taking back roads might be a better option. This is when having the detailed maps will help you if you have to reroute. That also will deplete more gas though.

Planning for security

Preppers frequently ask me what is the best gun for self-defense and for a road trip like this I imagine you would have all of your guns with you as well as all ammo. If you are forced to choose between food and security, you may have to leave some of your arsenal at home. I would still try to get the most important firearms and as much ammo as you can possibly carry with you in your vehicle. It is very possible that you won’t be coming home again so having all of your ammo and firearms would be the best case scenario.

Traveling via car will present different challenges for security. Could you be faced with roadblocks? Could your car be searched by police at checkpoints? Depending on the crisis, and when you leave anything is possible so again. Getting out before the curtain comes down is crucial.

You may have to sleep in the car.

Planning for Food

For a trip of only two or three days, food shouldn’t be that big of an issue. You should easily be able to pack a few days of simple foods that don’t require cooking or minimal cooking at the side of the road if the situation allows. For times like this, MRE’s while not the most healthy or nutritious option are great stand-ins. Good old Pop-tarts, cans of tuna fish, crackers, fruit-cups all can be quickly packed and will keep everyone fed for a few days. Make sure to bring plenty of water and ideally a filter if you run out and pass over a body of water like a river.

Planning to sleep on the road

Like I said above, depending on the situation hotels may not be an option. If you can pull off the highway down a semi-deserted street and camp that may work. However, if the world is coming to pieces I probably wouldn’t sleep well out in the woods. Rest stops would normally be safe enough usually to grab some shut-eye with the windows and doors locked, but desperate people may be at the rest stop too. If I had firearms, I would try to get as far away from people as possible, but stay in the car. You won’t have quality sleep, but let’s face it you are running away from pretty bad stuff happening. Sleep a few hours and get back on the road. This won’t be a time to sight-see or get ice cream at the local gas station.

Planning on Communications

There may not be any way to communicate with your family once you are on the road. Unless you have a shortwave transceiver (and there are people who do) if the cellular network is down you might not be able to communicate for the entire time you are on the road. Phone booths have been slowly removed from just about every public place so making a call from the corner isn’t going to be possible in a lot of cases.

It is important to stay in touch as much as possible when you start seeing the warning signs. Daily contact might even be necessary so that your family can discuss the situation as it evolves. Communications going down might be one of those triggers you are looking for. If that happens, I will be expecting guests on my doorstep in a few days.

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