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Conceal Carry On Vacation: The Complete Do’s and Don’ts

Carrying a concealed firearm can sometimes be a complicated matter due to the many laws governing it and how much they vary from state to state.

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When carrying on vacation, things get even trickier because there are extra considerations besides the usual carry regulations. So, it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts of carrying a concealed firearm safely and lawfully while on vacation.

In a nutshell, the do’s of concealed carry on vacation include knowing the gun laws in your destination, planning for gun storage when you’re not carrying, and using minimalist carry, among others. The don’ts include looking for trouble, carrying when drunk, not securing your gun, more.

In the rest of this article, we’ll delve into the above and many more do’s and don’ts of concealed carry on vacation to help you stay safe and on the right side of the law. We’ll also take at the most critical gun retention techniques later, so be sure to read to the very end. 

The Do’s of Concealed Carry On Vacation

Here are some of the best practices for carrying a concealed weapon on vacation:

Know the Concealed Carry Gun Laws in your Destination

This is arguably the most critical thing you’ll need to do when carrying a concealed weapon on vacation, whether you’re touring a domestic vacation destination or an international one (good luck abroad). Sure, gun regulations can be confusing, but ignorance is never an excuse for breaking the law. 

If you’re traveling to a US destination, understand that state concealed carry laws vary greatly. While concealed carry may be legal in your state, it may amount to run-ins with law enforcement agencies in a different state.

Thus, you’ll want to thoroughly review the gun laws of the state you’re touring beforehand because if you’re arrested within its borders, you’ll be subject to its laws and penalties (and not those of your home state).

When reviewing the gun laws in your destination state, be sure to learn more than just the legality of concealed carry.

Even in a state that allows concealed carry, you need to know the protocols for declaring that you’re legally carrying a concealed weapon when you get pulled over by a law enforcement officer.

You also need to understand the local gun restrictions because these can sometimes vary from state regulations.

Traveling Internationally

For international travelers, the stakes for knowing the gun laws are equally high, if not higher.

Each year, hundreds of Americans are arrested on foreign soil for carrying firearms or ammo that they could legally possess in their home country. Most people are arrested on the Mexican and Canadian borders.

There are several reasons for this, the main being the misconception that the gun laws in these two countries (Mexico in particular) are less restrictive than those of the US. In reality, the opposite is true. 

Suppose you’re arrested on foreign soil for carrying a concealed firearm in a foreign country. In that case, the penalties can range from paying hefty fines and having your gun confiscated to a serving prison sentence and getting a lifetime ban from touring that country.

To avoid such problems, here’s what you need to do before you travel abroad with a concealed weapon:

  • Research the gun laws of the country you’re visiting. Doing this will help you understand the legal status of concealed carry in your destination and any specific requirements that may apply. When doing your research, it may be a good idea to check with the US embassy in that country, whose contacts you can find here.
  • Review the ICE FAQs for persons looking to travel beyond US borders with firearms and ammunition. While you’re at it, go through the TSA regulations for transporting firearms and ammunition.
  • Know the route to the nearest border crossing. Missing an exit can mean ending up at the wrong border crossing, which could land you in trouble. Let’s say you meant to enter Mexico and have researched and ensured compliance with all their gun laws but have inadvertently crossed into their country on a remote road. An honest mistake can quickly escalate into significant trouble.
  • Check your vehicle and luggage for stray firearms or ammunition. If you own other types of guns apart from the one you intend to travel with, check your vehicle and luggage before leaving home to ensure that you don’t mistakenly carry them. While you’re at it, inspect for stray rounds that may be lingering from your last hunting or shooting range trip.

Plan for How You’ll Store Your Gun When You’re Not Carrying It

When on vacation, chances are your fun activities will make it challenging to have your gun on you at all times. As such, you need to think carefully about where you’ll leave your gun when you’re unable to carry it.

Storing Your Gun at the Hotel

If you’re staying in a hotel, this could be an option for storing your gun when it’s not on your person. However, you’ll want to consider the hotel gun policy (not law, just policy) before settling on leaving your gun in your hotel.

Even if guns are permitted in the hotel you’re staying in, you’ll want to avoid leaving yours unattended because you never know who may be looking to get their hands on it.

To avoid unauthorized access to your gun, ensure that it’s locked up in a safe location that’s not readily accessible to potential intruders. You can secure it inside a lockbox or even bring a small hand safe with a locking cable. Using the room safe is generally not recommended.

Whichever you choose, you’ll want to cable it to a heavy object inside the room, such as fixed furniture. It would also be a great idea to hide it.

Even though this may not be easy if you’re attaching the lockbox or safe to a hard-to-move object, you don’t want to leave it in plain sight where hotel workers can see it.

If the lockbox or safe can’t be concealed and still be cabled to a heavy object, hiding it in your luggage can be an alternative. If this is the case, you may feel more comfortable disassembling the weapon and hiding parts in different locations.

If the hotel policy is against guns, your other option may be to secure the gun in your vehicle when you cannot carry it. But even then, you’ll want to be careful with how you store it. That’s because when thieves smash car windows, they often grab whatever items are easily accessible. 

Storing Your Gun in Your Vehicle

Should you choose to leave your firearm in a vehicle, ensure that it’s housed in a locked compartment that requires a code or a key to unlock. Again, a small hand safe with a resilient cable would come in handy.

The cable should be fastened to a rigid part of the vehicle with the safe hidden from plain sight (this could be under one of the car seats or in the trunk).

While a very determined thief may still be able to get their hands on a gun stored this way, it’ll be harder to walk off with than a firearm stored unsecured in a glove compartment or a bag. 

Permanently mounted gun vaults may be a better option if you have the time and finances to plan ahead.

Other Storage Options

Keep in mind that the hotel and the vehicle aren’t the only places you can store your gun on vacation. Depending on your situation, there may be other viable options.

Wherever you store your firearm, the most important thing is to keep it locked up. That’s pretty much the standard for storing a gun anywhere (including your home), but it’s more critical when on vacation because there’s a higher risk of the firearm ending up in the wrong hands.

If you don’t own a portable gun safe, consider this SentrySafe Gun Safe, which can be an excellent option for safely storing your firearm, whether at home or on vacation.

It comes with a biometric lock for extra protection and a manual keypad, and an override key for backup.

The construction is solid steel for utmost strength, and a gas strut is included to allow instant, quiet, single-handed access to your weapon.

It’s also California DOJ certified, a bonus if you reside or often vacation in the state.

Consider a Minimalist Carry

If your vacation will involve lounging on the beach or anywhere else where you’ll need to wear minimal clothing, you might want to dial down your normal carry. What this means is that you need to keep your gun and holster size at the bare minimum (for most folks). Others may carry their normal full loadout (you know who you are).

Regarding the gun, a full-sized pistol may not be ideal for the beach, where you’ll likely be wearing only your beach shorts because it requires good concealment and a sturdy belt. If you have options, consider ditching full-sized handguns for a smaller option that’s easy to carry and conceal even without much clothing. 

Remember, it’s better to have a smaller gun you’ll always have on you than a full-sized option that won’t be there when you need it because it wasn’t possible to carry with your vacation clothing. There are plenty of options in this category. For me, it’s often the Glock 43.

As for the holster, you’ll want one that’s easy to manage with less bulky clothing. This is not always easy, but there are options.

You can also consider using something like the PHLster Enigma Concealment Chassis. I’ve been using it for quite a while now and it’s a game changer in situations like this.

If you plan on wearing shorts most of the time, outside the waistband holsters with intricate designs aren’t what you want to be carrying on vacation because these types are often bulky in profile. Additionally, they usually require a belt, which you likely won’t wear with your beach shorts. 

When waist carry isn’t ideal, pocket carry can be an alternative for ensuring minimalism. As long as you aren’t taking a big gun, you might be able to comfortably carry it in a small pocket holster, where it’ll be readily accessible when you need it.

Be AWARE

In the context of today’s discussion, this means more than just being conscious of what’s happening around you. Instead, AWARE is an acronym for five essential traits you need to have when carrying a gun on vacation and pretty much anywhere else. 

These traits include:

  • Alertness. Being alert means having good situational awareness. This way, you’ll be in a better position to figure out your next move in advance, which sometimes can mean merely walking away. This is extremely important because you often find yourself in a lot of transitional spaces while on vacation.
  • Willingness. While it’s always recommended to avoid trouble whenever possible, a gun owner should be willing to do whatever it takes to survive when confronted with lethal force. You shouldn’t shy away from deploying deadly force to protect yourself or those under your mantle of protection from any immediate, unavoidable danger of bodily harm or death. 
  • Attitude. Carrying a gun doesn’t mean you should stop being humble, thoughtful, and reasonably friendly. You need to have a decent attitude which can go a long way in avoiding trouble.
  • Readiness. In this context, being ready means having your firearm readily accessible in case you need it. While the law may dictate that you carry concealed, you need to balance hiding the weapon from plain sight and ensuring it’s easy to deploy.
  • Even temper. Being even-tempered can prevent arguments from turning fatal. Regardless of what’s going on, you want to avoid being impulsive or acting out of anger. You need to keep a cool head and assess the situation rationally. Remember, the whole point of carrying a concealed weapon is to defend yourself, not intimidate or look for trouble.

The Don’ts of Concealed Carry On Vacation

Having covered the best practices for intelligent and responsible concealed carry on vacation, let’s take a look at what you’ll want to avoid.

Don’t Advertise That You’re Carrying a Gun

As a concealed carrier, you don’t want to make it evident that you’re carrying a gun. Doing this defeats the whole purpose of concealed carry and can land you in trouble with law enforcement if you do it in a state that doesn’t allow open carry.

One way to avoid making it obvious that you’re carrying a gun is to avoid wildly printing. Put otherwise, avoid walking around with your firearm’s outline clearly showing through your clothing. 

Since you’ll likely be wearing light clothing on vacation, a little printing such as a slight bulge may not be a big deal.

But if you’re walking around with your firearm’s grip showing through your shirt, you might want to reassess a few things. In some non-open carry states, this can amount to an improper exhibition or, worse still, brandishing.

Don’t Look for Trouble

Avoid developing what’s known as “gun courage” because nothing good ever comes out of it. Unless you’re left with no choice, don’t go anywhere you wouldn’t go without a gun.

It would also do you good to avoid confrontation “hot spots” (AKA places where hot-tempered individuals usually frequent). Typical examples include questionable gatherings and some late-night bars. 

Also, avoid making a habit of bringing your gun into every little disagreement. People disagree all the time, sometimes over minor things like traffic.

As an individual trusted by the state to wield a weapon that can end a life in seconds, it’s your responsibility to keep it out of minor disputes. If you often find yourself doing that, learn to avoid conflicts altogether or walk away when you get caught up in one.

The purpose of carrying a gun is to defend yourself or others. Using it to intimidate others can land you in trouble with law enforcement. It can also escalate things, and you never know whether the person you’re intimidating with your gun is carrying, too.

As a general rule, never draw your firearm unless you’re left with no choice and intend to use it.

Don’t Carry Under the Influence

Understandably, you may want to indulge yourself with a few drinks while being on vacation. Nothing wrong with that. But do yourself a big favor; on such occasions, leave your gun elsewhere, preferably where it’s not readily accessible. 

People almost always make mistakes when under the influence, and one involving a gun can be fatal, either for you or someone else.

You’re much more likely to be impulsive when you are intoxicated. Your chances of losing your cool are higher, and you don’t want that to happen when your gun is within reach because that can quickly turn you into a news headline.

Worse still, if you use your gun to defend yourself while intoxicated, that action will be suspected and may be used against you in court regardless of whether it was justified. 

Even if you avoid all these potential pitfalls, the sheer act of getting caught carrying a firearm under the influence is enough to get your license suspended in most states. In states like Tennessee, that may also be accompanied by hefty fines and possible jail time.

Keep Track of Your Gun

Whether it’s misplacing it, having it stolen, or being dispossessed by a snatcher, you cannot afford to let your gun end up in the wrong hands. 

Since the first two scenarios can easily be avoided by being careful, let’s focus on how to avoid losing your gun to a snatcher. One half of doing that is to carry on your body.

Avoid carrying in bags or other means that can easily be left unattended. Either way, the idea is to make it harder for someone looking to snatch your gun. 

The other half is to know and practice sound gun retention skills. Generally, there are three basic scenarios, and each requires a specific set of techniques. 

Final Thoughts

That does it for today’s discussion. Hopefully, what we’ve covered will help you stay safe and on the right side of the law as you carry concealed on your vacation. Remember to pack all the necessary gun carry paperwork before you leave and, most importantly, carry and use your gun responsibly.

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