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. Brands that are popular with digital nomads and other long term travelers are: Minaal, Tortuga, and Tom Binh.
Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20″ 4 Wheel Upright (Ariadne) This bag holds my clothing and Little Nomad’s. If I’m travelling for less than 6 months, I prefer to go carry on only. This is usually possible if I only need warm weather clothing but sometimes I get stuck carrying around a jacket that is too hot to wear and won’t fit in my suitcase.
Osprey Packs Women’s Sirrus 24 Backpack I need a bag with a hip belt because I have sad and weak shoulders. The 24 litre version of this bag is carry on size if you don’t completely fill it and use the compression straps. I prefer to use a padded laptop sleeve instead of buying a bag with a laptop compartment as I feel they take up too much space and make the bag heavier.
Backpack (Ariadne) 50 liter Continental Journey backpack. I have had this bag for over a decade and it is still in great condition. This bag has to be checked so I only bring it on longer trips.
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.
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.
Deuter Schmusebar Kid’s Backpack Little Nomad’s carryon bag that holds small toys and snacks. I attached a small carabiner to the handle so that when he gets tired of carrying it, I can attach it to my backpack.
4 Set Packing Cubes,Travel Luggage Packing Organizers with Laundry Bag Purple I don’t actually have the packing cubes you see here but I want them because they are purple. I have a cheap set of Ikea packing cubes. They 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 L.N’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.
- Lenovo Ideapad Miix 300 (Ariadne) 10.1 inch tablet with keyboard. I’ve been experimenting with taking this with me on short trips instead of my laptop. It works well for most things. It has Windows 10 so I can run any software I need for work. The battery life is much better than my laptop. The trackpad is a little jerky so I use a wireless mouse. You wouldn’t be able to edit video on this but I can edit photos without a problem.
- Asus X555L, 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 regret this purchase. I downgraded from a DSLR because I thought that I would use a smaller camera more. It is terrible in low light and I miss having a viewfinder.
- Lowepro – Adventura SH 120 II Camera Case – This is bulky and awkward. I’m considering getting a camera wrap and these lens pouches instead.
- 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 burgundy, shades of olive, purple, or black.
- 3 tank tops – 1 black, 2 purple. I usually sleep in one of these.
- 1 fitted t-shirt, black
- Icebreaker Merino Women’s Oasis Long Sleeve Top
- 1 merino wool sweater, black. For chilly buses and planes or cool evenings.
Bottoms and Dresses:
- 1 pair linen trousers, olive. Lightweight and perfect for hot weather. I wish I had figured this out sooner.
- 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 hidden 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.
Skechers Mary Jane Flat A friend gave me these shoes and they are the most comfortable pair of walking shoes that I have ever owned.
Other 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. More sweaters, winter coat, etc.
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 – 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 I have an older version of this kit but any small first aid kit will work. Just take out the stuff that you know you won’t use and add a small amount of the medications you might use.
These are the extras I add to my kit:
- 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 rarely wear 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.
- Bamboo Cutlery 2 spoons, 2 forks, and 1 butter knife. 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.
- Padded pouch holds cutlery, tea bags, coffee sachets, Tabasco sauce, etc.
- Cocoon travel blanket, made of made of 72 % merino wool and 28 % silk. I hate being too hot or too cold. Some hotels don’t provide a top sheet, only a duvet which is too hot in the summer. This packs up very small and is also useful to have on planes or air-conditioned buses. You can probably find something similar in a camping store. Micheal has the Cocoon CoolMax Blanket.
Pre-schooler Packing List
As Little Nomad gets older, he requires less special gear but keeps acquiring more toys and books.
- Clothing: 1 pair cotton shorts, 1 pair jeans, 1 swim trunks, 1 pair trousers, 4 short sleeved t-shirts, 2 long sleeved t-shirts, hoodie (for air conditioned buses), sun hat, socks, underwear, 1 pair sandals, 1 pair runners. This all packs up pretty small in one Ikea cube except for the shoes.
- Warm clothing stored in Europe. Fleece pants, sweaters, hoodie, winter jacket, winter boots, winter hat.
- Toiletries: uses my soap. Has his own comb, toothbrush, baby toothpaste (Alverde) and baby nail clippers.
- Toys Small stuffed toys, cars, trains, washable crayons, etc. He has many more toys and a bike when we are in Europe and travelling by car.
- Books 3-4 books that are replaced every so often.
- BubbleBum Booster Seat
Toddler stuff we don’t use anymore
- Connecta 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.
- 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 slamming the refrigerator door. This is my #1 tip for travelling with a toddler.
- Small square of melamine foam – removes crayon marks from the walls of your hotel room. Parents of toddlers will understand the need for this.
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. I can’t think of anything that we did not have and really 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.
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