top of page

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Light as a Digital Nomad: Tips and Tricks for Minimalist Living

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

As a digital nomad, traveling light can make your life so much easier. The more you carry, the harder it is to move around and the more expensive, limiting the places you can go and the frequency you can travel. It's difficult to know how little you really need when you are accustomed to being able in one place long-term, so most people will overpack. In this blog post, I'll share with you the importance of traveling light as a digital nomad and some ways to minimize.


Traveling Light

Getting Started to Traveling Light

First, it's helpful to decide on a set limit of bags and then to decide what you can fit. This helps when you have to make tough choices on cutting things out. The two main factors limiting how much you can bring and determining what size bags to bring are airline baggage limits and what you can carry.


Airline Limitations and Fees:

In order to maximize your mobility, it's best to consider the most restrictive airline baggage rules. Many airlines, particularly in Europe and Latin America, charge about $50 for every checked bag and the weight limit is usually 22kg (sorry my fellow Americans, time to learn the metric system). For this reason, it's best to try to keep your bags within carry-on size limits (usually 22" x 14" x 9") so you have the option not to check it and save a few bucks. That said, many airlines limit you to 1 carry-on bag and one small personal bag, which generally won't cut it for extended travel.


What You Can Carry

What Jess and I didn't consider when we started our travels was how difficult it would be to navigate trains, buses, and cobblestone streets with multiple rolling bags each. Unlike most leisurely vacations where you're shuttled to the airport, carry your bags 50m, and are then free of your burden, digital nomads are more likely to be staying outside of touristy areas. You're much more likely to use public transportation and walk extended distances with your bags. More than one rolling bag per person is unmanageable on many trains and buses, due to stairs and narrow aisles.


For the above reasons, I recommend one carry-on-sized backpack, one rolling bag (preferably carry-on-sized), and one small laptop bag.


Traveling Light

Planning Ahead

Planning ahead is crucial when traveling as a digital nomad with limited luggage. It's important to research the climate and culture of your upcoming destinations to ensure that you're packing the right items. Consider the activities you want to do and your work attire. Additionally, it's helpful to plan out your outfits and activities ahead of time to avoid overpacking. Making a packing list can also be incredibly helpful, as it allows you to ensure that you don't forget any essentials.


Shipping

During our travels, we often buy mementos and gifts that we don't want to carry throughout our travels. If you have a friend or family member willing to help, you can ship some items to them to hold onto. That said, shipping can be very expensive (about $300 to ship a 30lb box between Europe and the US). Take advantage of trips visiting home to drop off a bag, because it can be cheaper to buy a new suitcase and pay checked bag fees than to pay for the shipping.


Storage

You also might consider using a storage service during portions of your journey. Most train stations and airports have storage lockers, which are reasonably priced for a day or maybe up to a week. Some resorts and stores offer storage for bikes, skis, and snowboards. This requires detailed planning and research but can save you some checked bag fees and let you travel light.


Traveling Light

Clothing

When it comes to clothing, it's important to pack items that can be mixed and matched. Opt for versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down, and consider packing lightweight, quick-drying fabrics that can be easily washed and dried. Bring comfortable walking shoes and one pair of dressier shoes if needed. If you're traveling to a location with colder weather, be sure to bring a warm jacket and appropriate layers. Remember that you can always buy clothing items on the road, so don't feel like you need to pack your entire wardrobe. Keep it simple and focus on the essentials.

  • Dress in layers - large coats take up a lot of room. It's better to have multiple thin layers.

  • Simplify your colors - if all of your clothes match each other, it's far easier to make your outfits last.

  • Do laundry more often - it can be a hassle finding laundry services while on the move, but it's worth it to decrease the amount you have to carry.

  • Replace clothes often - your clothes will wear out quickly, so replace them more often. Just because you're a nomad doesn't mean you have to look like one!

  • Never hesitate to throw out or donate clothes you don't use often. While it may feel wasteful, the savings baggage fees (and chiropractor bills) will be worth it.

By planning ahead and following the tips above, you can travel with ease and avoid the stress of overpacking or forgetting important items.

Traveling Light

Recommended Gear

In another article, I list some essential gear for traveling light while working remotely, so I'll stick to gear that helps you travel light.

  • Compact international converter - there are many options for these, but choose wisely based on size and the countries you plan to visit.

  • Baubax travel jacket - the pockets in this jacket make travel a breeze! Perfect for securing your passport, wallet, and even iPad.

  • Travel Backpack - I have this one from Osprey and have seen countless travelers with the same one. It is small enough to carry on, has a sleek shape, and the straps can all be tucked in if I choose to check the bag.

  • Rugged rolling luggage - Although not great for navigating bumpy streets or stairs, rolling luggage is critical for getting some weight off of your shoulders. I put my laptop bag on here so I only have to carry my backpack. There are endless brands available, but make sure you pick a rugged one.

In another article, I'll talk about how you can keep some of the comforts of home with you throughout your journey.


When in Doubt, Leave it Out

One of the most freeing aspects of traveling light is the ability to shed unnecessary possessions along the way. Even after months on the road, I still find myself realizing that I have things I don't need and tossing them out. It's amazing how satisfying it is when you finally let go and throw items out, considering how much time and money we spend accumulating new things. So don't be afraid to let go of the things that are weighing you down – both literally and figuratively.


It's important to be mindful of the weight of everything else you bring along. Every little item you pack adds up quickly, so it's important to be intentional about what you bring. One tip is to pack multipurpose items, like a scarf that can also be used as a blanket or a sarong that can double as a beach towel.


Leave Some Extra Room

By now, you're probably wondering how this could even be possible, after minimizing the size of your bags and struggling to fit what you want to bring, but trust me, it's possible. During your travels, you'll want to pick up mementos and gifts, so you'll need some space to keep them. It's also important not to overpack because it will make it very time-consuming to pack each time you're ready to move to the next destination. Moving frequently is challenging enough, so you'll want to make it as easy as possible.


Household Goods

You may be wondering, "So what do I do with all the items you told me not to bring?" As a digital nomad, it's important to consider what to do with your furniture and home goods while you're away. One option is to rent a storage unit, but this can be expensive and often comes with hidden fees and rising rates. Instead, it may be better to sell your belongings before you leave and purchase new items when you return. Not only can this save you money in the long run, but it can also be liberating to free yourself from the burden of excess possessions. Selling everything you own may sound like a drastic step, I can't recommend it more highly. The high cost of storage and the extra cash you'll get from disposing of your items, not to mention the freedom it gains you, can offset the cost and effort it will take to replace things when you settle down. Who knows, maybe you'll decide not to go back...

16 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page