Over the years, we’ve shared some of the unfortunate experiences men and women have had while traveling with firearms, many of them occurring during visits to family over the holidays.

What most of these incidents have in common is a lack of awareness of the often-subtle issues that can create problems. This is especially important when you will be traveling outside your home state.

Know the Rules of Every State You Will Visit

Most states either require concealed carry or they allow open carry, with concealment being an option. In others, you need a license or permit to carry concealed, but you can carry openly without one. It’s your responsibility to find out.

The same goes for carry in bars or restaurants where alcohol is served. Some states allow carry with no restrictions. Others allow carry in restaurants but not in bars. When in a combination bar/restaurant — as many restaurants are — the rules can be murky. If you’re unable to find out, it may be a good idea to leave your gun in the car during dinner.

Reciprocity Is Not a Given

Reciprocity refers to one state accepting another state’s license/permit for carry. Step one is to check which states on your itinerary accept your home state’s permit. But what if one or more states do not?

To deal with this dilemma, many people apply for and receive a non-resident permit from a state that is accepted by the state they expect to visit. This is the reason that people obtained non-resident permits from states like Utah, which up until recently, many states did honor.

This is exactly what happened to a student of mine, who lives in state A, where he has a permit. He frequently went to state B to visit relatives, where his home-state permit was not accepted, but state C’s permit was, so he got one.

When visiting his children in state B a few years later, he dutifully produced his non-resident permit. The officer asked, “Sir, are you aware that this permit is no longer valid in this state?” His vacation took a very serious downturn at that point. Remember, laws change. It is our responsibility to stay informed.

Is Everything Up to Date?

You’d be surprised at the number of people who call me up to renew their permit or license, sheepishly admitting that it had already expired weeks, even months before! Some of them only discovered their carry permits had expired when stopped by a police officer!

But the same goes for things like your vehicle’s license tags, your driver’s license and even your vehicle insurance card. Especially when we are traveling, being current with all of our documentation is simply common sense.

Don’t Forget Vehicle Security

The holidays often mean that you could have gifts in your vehicle. Never leave such tempting items in plain view, such as sitting on the seats. If you have a traditional sedan or coupe, always put such items in the trunk.

If you have an SUV, put everything in the rear compartment. If your SUV does not have a privacy shade, you can use an old bed sheet or blanket. If you have a pickup truck, a lockable bed cover is a great solution. Out of sight is out of mind.

Finally, remember that criminals never take a holiday. Make sure that despite the happy and festive season, you maintain your situational awareness.

What other tips do you have for concealed carriers to make holiday travel merry and bright?

About John Caile

John Caile is an NRA Firearms Instructor Certified in Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm Safety and Personal Protection in the Home. He has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. John was communications director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee and was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John is a contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine and has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and has been frequently published in the press. John lives in Palm Coast, Florida, where he continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights.