You don’t need expensive gear to travel and you don’t need a brand new MacBook Pro to be a digital nomad or work online. Start with what you have and pack as light as you can. You can always upgrade later.
This is our packing list for trips less than 6 months outside of Europe since we usually travel by car in Europe. We keep a very small storage locker at our home base in the Czech Republic where we store winter clothing, books, camping gear etc.
Bags and Backpacks
If you can keep your main bag to carry-on size, you will save a lot of money with budget airlines. We are not doing this at the moment because we travel for extended periods and we have a 3 year old child and I don’t want to force him to leave his favorite toys behind.
- Backpack (Ariadne) 50 liter Eagle Creek Continental Journey backpack. I have had this bag for over a decade and it is still in great condition. Other brands that are popular with digital nomads and other long term travelers are: Minaal, Tortuga, and Tom Binh. I might buy one of these when I am finally able to go back to carry-on only. The last time I weighed my bag it was 14.8 kg which might be a heavier than normal because I had just bought some new clothes to bring home to Europe.
- 22″ wheeled suitcase Micheal hates backpacks. Nothing will convince him that a backpack is better, not even cobblestone streets in Europe or the lack of sidewalks in Thailand. Micheal’s bag weighs around 10.6 kg.
- 20″ “Swish Navy” carry-on wheeled suitcase bought from market in Thailand. This carries Little Nomad’s clothing, toys, and our household gear. This will be eliminated when L.N. needs less gear. Last time we checked, this bag weighed 12.5 kg.
- Daypack (Ariadne) Samsonite GUARDIT Laptop Backpack This was a last minute replacement for the Eagle Creek daypack that took years of abuse before the straps finally broke. It is okay. It has a padded sleeve for a 15″-17″ laptop and a sleeve for a tablet. I like the small pocket on the top of the bag as it is a convenient place to keep my phone and keys. I am still looking for the perfect carry-on bag that has a section for my laptop and my camera.
- Small daypack (Micheal) Cheap, replaceable, bought from local market. Micheal carries his laptop in a padded sleeve in this bag. This is his carry on bag. Micheal claims that he could travel with just this bag for months at a time but I have yet to see this happen.
- Ikea packing cubes (both) These were € 6.00 for the set and work okay. I use the double sided cube (35×25 cm) for my clothing and the regular cube (35×25 cm) for the baby’s clothing. The smaller cube (25×16 cm) is perfect for cables and chargers. The large (43×23 cm) bag holds my shoes. Lots of people recommend the Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes as well.
- Tiny shopping bag that fits on a keychain. € 2.00 Plastic bags are an environmental scourge.
- Laptop (Ariadne) Asus X555L laptop, 15 inch in protective sleeve. Sure, I would like to have a more expensive laptop but constantly babysitting expensive equipment just causes me stress that I don’t need. My laptop would be cheap to replace and I keep all my data backed up online so I don’t have to worry.
- Laptop (Micheal) HP Pavilion 15-ac018na, 15.6 inch
- Phone We both have an unlocked iPhone 4s in an Otterbox Defender case. Best case I’ve found. I’ve dropped my phone hundreds of times. My child has even thrown it against the wall when he was a toddler and it is still okay.
- GP Powerbank Portable USB Charger – recharges iPhone quickly. The model I have does not have an on/off switch so it won’t accidently switch on in your bag.
- Olympus E-PL5 Mirrorless Digital Camera. I “downgraded” from a Canon 550D DSLR for several reasons. The Olympus is much smaller and can fit in my handbag. This means that I am more likely to take it everywhere with me and use it more often. Second, I really had no idea what I was doing with the DSLR so it was really a waste of time and space. Technical skill is much more important than which camera you use and my photography skills really need to be improved in 2017.
- Lowepro – Adventura SH 120 II Camera Case
- selfie stick – available everywhere. Yes, you will feel a bit silly but how else are you going to get photos of yourself if you travel solo?
- waterproof pouch for iPhone – less than 10 euro and saved my phone when I was Rafting in Český Krumlov.
- chargers for the above – packed in a small packing cube.
- Worldwide Adaptor – You need this. It wouldn’t be crazy to carry two. Sometimes you will see these for sale in the duty free catalog on planes but they will be more expensive.
- Stuff you can usually buy when you get there (and give away afterward): dry bags, snorkel mask, beach towels, etc.
Clothing and Accessories
Most travellers will not need specialized travel clothing unless they are actually going trekking or hiking. In my opinion, it is only worth spending more money on two items: A lightweight but warm jacket and comfortable shoes. If you travel long term, you will get sick of your clothing after 6 months anyway and clothing wears out faster when you are wearing the same things every week.
If you do plan on hiking or spending a lot of time in the outdoors, you will want to invest in clothing made from merino wool.
If you are going to be spending a lot of time in very hot countries, consider a packing a few items made of linen.
Most of my clothing is either black, shades of olive, or shades of burgundy.
- 3 tank tops – 1 black, 2 purple. I usually sleep in one of these.
- 1 fitted t-shirt, black
- 1 long sleeved top, burgundy
- 1 merino wool sweater, black. For chilly buses and planes or cool evenings.
Bottoms and Dresses:
- 1 pair linen trousers, olive. So nice and cool in the heat!
- 1 pair nylon hiking trousers, olive.
- 1 pair of thin, cotton shorts. Mostly worn around the hotel room while complaining about the heat.
- 1 really long, hippie skirt that takes up too much space in my bag but it has a really big pocket and I love it.
- 1 pair black leggings with pockets from Clever Travel Companion
- 2-3 lightweight, cotton sundresses.
Swimwear and Underclothing
- Swimwear long sleeved rash guard (Ripcurl) and swim shorts. Much better sun protection and really cute. Provides some jellyfish protection, at least on your arms and chest.
- 9 pairs of underwear. Ain’t nobody got time for washing underwear in a hotel sink.
- 2 bras
- 1 pair SmartWool socks that I never wear since I am always in sandals.
Accessories and Shoes
- Sunhat Just a cheap sun hat I picked up in Spain. It survives being scrunched up in my bag pretty well.
- Shoes I almost always wear sandals or flip-flops. I really like Merrel sandals. Winter boots are stored in Europe.
- Warm clothing stored in Europe. black leggings, lightweight sweater, cardigan, hoodie
Micheal is a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy most of the time. I don’t keep track of how many he has in his bag. He also carries a pair of cargo shorts, a nice pair of trousers and 2 dress shirts. Micheal foolishly refuses to wear a sun hat no matter how much I nag.
For short trips, I keep my toiletries in these 2 oz Gotoob travel bottles. I’ve never had one leak yet.
- Jojoba Oil used as a moisturizer and to tame flyaway hair. Some people prefer coconut oil because you can also use it as a deodorant if you mix it with a little baking soda. Coconut oil makes my face break out and it is a pain to deal with in cold weather.
- Dr. Bronner’s Baby-Mild Castile Liquid Soap I actually prefer the peppermint one but I use this since I share with Little Nomad.
- tooth powder and toothbrush and floss. Eco-Dent Toothpowder is really nice and if it runs out while you are travelling, you can use the container to hold your own homemade baking soda tooth powder without looking really suspicious to airline security by carrying an unlabeled white powder in a ziploc bag.
- comb and brush, razor, nail clippers, tweezers
- Contact lens solution and 6 months of lenses
- glasses and case
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios 45 Ultra Light Sunscreen – Very light, non-greasy, and works under makeup as well.
- Mad Hippie vitamin c serum (US/UK only) – Most skincare products are just “smoothums” and bullshit. Vitamin C serum, applied at night, really makes a difference in your skin. You don’t have to buy this exact product. There are lots of recipes on the internet for making your own vitamin C serum that are also just as effective. This one is just handy for travel.
- BB powder and lip balm – I rarely wear much makeup. There are lots of expensive BB powders out there but the best ones I have used were just purchased at 7-11 in Thailand.
- dozens of hair ties and clips
- Homemade shampoo
small bottle of shampoo, toothbrush, small toothpaste, deodorant, razor and shaving cream, pocket comb, sunscreen/moisturizer (currently Nivea), aftershave (Armani)
Health and Safety
- Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight first aid kit. Just take out the stuff that you know you won’t use.
- tea tree oil
- Magnesium Citrate 125mg tablets – helps you sleep and helps anxiety
- Multivitamin, vitamin C tablets, liquid multivitamin for Little Nomad (the gummy ones melt in hot weather)
- Allergy medicine for Ariadne
The extra bits
- Eagle Creek Undercover Hidden Pocket It is the perfect size to hold 2 passports, my address book, cash, and a pen. My sim cards are also in this, in a small plastic sleeve. I have never actually worn this as a hidden pocket. It is just a convenient size to hold all my important bits.
Books – I always have too many. I should probably buy a Kindle but most of the books I want are not available in ebook format.I gave in and bought a Kindle Fire Kids Edition for all of us to share. This will also replace the small netbook we had been keeping for Little Nomad to watch the occasional cartoon.
- Sea to Summit Tek Towel Large 24″ x 48″
- 1 large, mesh laundry bag.
Because we travel for several months at a time, it is often convenient to carry some extra items that a normal traveller may not need.
- Small travel kettle dual voltage. You can buy one of these from Amazon or in an airport. Allows you to make instant coffee or noodles in a hotel room or sterilize a baby bottle.
- Stainless steel mug, the kind sold for camping. Allows you to drink instant coffee, eat cereal, etc. Can be used to boil water over a small, backpacking, canister stove. Some people think this is a waste of space but I use mine every single day for instant coffee.
- Cutlery 2 spoons, 2 forks, and 1 butter knife. Could be replaced by plastic sporks if you are concerned about weight. If you don’t at least carry a spoon, how are you going to be able to eat yogurt or cereal? Bring a spoon. It doesn’t take up that much space. You might also want a butter knife to make sandwiches.
- Plate or bowl for eating takeout or making sandwiches. If you are staying in a hotel and want to buy some yummy curry from a street food vendor (usually sold in a plastic bag in SE Asia), how are you going to eat it without a plate or bowl? This collapsible, silicone plate from Sea to Summit solves that problem nicely.
- Misc. kitchen stuff multi-tool with corkscrew and bottle opener. Never accidently leave this in your checked bag or it will be seized by security.
- small Tupperware box holds cutlery, tea bags, coffee sachets, Tabasco sauce, etc.
- Lightweight fleece blanket – I hate being too hot or too cold. The blankets in most budget hotels look like they have never been washed and I can’t deal with that. I bought this blanket in Thailand for 180 baht and it is perfect. Micheal has one too. Still have these. Best thing ever if you have dust mite allergies and yucky hotel blankets make you sick.
- Pillow (Ariadne) small, flat ÄRENPRIS pillow from Ikea. Stored in a roll-up compression bag. Did I mention that I have dust mite allergies? Yeah, I was not joking. If I use a hotel pillow, I wake up with my eyes swollen and half-shut. This is my only annoying travel quirk, I hope.
Toddler Pre-schooler Packing List
As Little Nomad gets older, he requires less special gear but keeps acquiring more toys.
- Clothing: 2 pairs cotton shorts, 1 pair jeans, 5 short sleeved t-shirts, 1 long sleeved t-shirt (for air conditioned buses), full coverage swim suit (short sleeves), sun hat, assorted socks that are always getting lost, 1 pair sandals, 1 pair runners. This all packs up pretty small in one Ikea cube.
- Warm clothing stored in Europe. Fleece pants, 2 sweaters, hoodie, winter jacket, winter boots, winter hat.
- Toiletries: uses my soap. Has his own comb, toothbrush, baby toothpaste (Alverde) and baby nail clippers.
Carrier/SlingConnecta baby carrier – some type of carrier or sling is essential. It really helps in airports or train stations when your hands are full carrying luggage or in places where you can’t use a stroller/pushchair. Used this all the time. He finally outgrew this. It was such a useful piece of gear for exploring while keeping him safely contained.
- Mosquito Net that fits over the stroller. I bought this one at in the main department store in Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Centre in Chiang Mai. I did not see these for sale anywhere in SE Asia but Thailand and you must have one. You know those magical evenings where your kid falls asleep in the stroller and you get to sit outside at a restaurant and maybe even enjoy a margarita? Yeah, your kid is going to get eaten alive by mosquitoes and when you see all the mosquito bites on his face the next day, you will feel like the worst parent in the world.
Bungee cords– We bought 3 bungee cords to keep Little Nomad out of cabinets and to stop him from constantly opening the refrigerator door. This is my #1 tip for travelling with a toddler. He is old enough to open the frig now but this was really useful when he was 1-2 years old.
- Small square of melamine foam – removes crayon marks from the walls of your hotel room. Parents of toddlers will understand the need for this.
- Toys Small stuffed toys, cars, trains, washable crayons, etc. These toys fit in a small Spiderman backpack which is then packed in my suitcase. He has many more toys and a bike when we are in Europe and travelling by car.
- This small, Ikea rug with printed roads and train tracks gives him a clean, familiar place to play and a place to put his toys.
- Books 3-4 books that are replaced every so often.
But wait, I hear you saying, what about travel cots and booster seats and all the other travel stuff for babies? We never needed any of it. There have been times that some of these items could have been useful but we have always found a way to do without them. Can’t think of anything that we did not have and needed. There were times that a booster seat could have been useful in restaurants but I am not sure if it would have been worth the weight/space.
Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links on this page. That means if you purchase something from my link, I get a small commission at no additional cost to you. I never recommend anything that I do not personally own and use.