Traveling as a digital nomad is an amazing way to see the world, but it can be challenging to know what exactly to bring. When I set off for my remote work adventure in 2017, I wanted to keep things light. I traveled with just a carry-on bag for most trips, so I needed simple tools that would allow me to get things done without blowing my budget on bag fees.
Over the years, I experimented with all kinds of different gear before landing on my go-to digital nomad setup. Then in 2021, I moved full-time to Portugal. I still work remotely, but now I’ve traded my backpack for a desk in my own apartment, complete with some friendly houseplants and a lego bonsai tree.
In this guide, I’ll share my current digital nomad office setup that I use while traveling, as well as some suggestions for permanent home office items that I’ve been enjoying. Whether you’re passing through a new city for a few weeks or moving somewhere long-term, I hope these tips help you feel prepared and comfortable wherever you go.
Quick Look: Remote work essentials for your traveling office
Here’s a quick rundown of my recommendations for a portable office setup and some alternatives depending on what operating systems you prefer. I’ll talk about each item more in depth below.
- MacBook Pro (Refurbished options on Amazon)
- MacBook Air (Refurbished options on Amazon)
- Logitech C920 Webcam
- Apple Magic Mouse
- Bluetooth Wireless Mouse
- Apple Magic Keyboard
- Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard
- Belkin multi-device charging station
- Foldable device charging station
- Adapter dongle
- Roost Laptop Stand
- Airpods or earbuds
- Portable external hard drive
- Travel cord organizer bag
- Universal Travel Adapter
- Portable Monitor
- Laptop zipper case (Amazon)
My digital nomad office setup (for home and on the go)
Even though I’ve got a slightly more permanent digital nomad desk setup at home, a lot of the gear I use on a daily basis is the same gear I bring with me while traveling.
At home, I use this adjustable standing desk from IKEA and this HP monitor for a bigger screen size. Otherwise, the rest of my equipment is pretty much the same. Here’s what’s in my bag:
Everyone has different laptop preferences, but no matter what operating system you prefer, you should pick something relatively modern. If your laptop starts to wear down on the road, buying a replacement can be a massive unexpected expense.
Because I use a Macbook laptop, some of my other devices like my keyboard and mouse are also Apple, but there are plenty of wireless Bluetooth alternatives you can use with other devices if you’re not an Apple user.
I recently house sat for a friend and worked from her dedicated office space, which came with a fluffy, wonderful dog friend and an amazing webcam. I’d been using my built-in laptop webcam up until that point, but after hearing my coworkers comment on the improved video quality, I decided it was time to upgrade.
So far, I’ve been super happy with the Logitech C920 webcam. It mounts to the top of my monitor when I’m home and connects to my laptop through a USB port while on the go.
The Apple Magic Mouse is my day-to-day mouse. It took me a while to warm up to the Apple mouse, but now that I’m used to it, I really like it. You can drag your finger across the top of the mouse to use it somewhat like a trackpad, and even though it takes some time to adjust to not having a defined “left” and “right” click, I found that it has the smoothest connection with my computer.
If you’re not an Apple mouse fan, this Bluetooth mouse also has great reviews.
I love a low profile keyboard, so Apple’s external keyboard was an easy yes for me. Because of its size, I usually use the Magic Keyboard when I’m working from home – it’s a little too big to pack for most trips.
When I’m traveling, I have a compact foldable keyboard that I sometimes bring instead. It folds down small so it doesn’t take up a ton of space, and it’s easy to connect through Bluetooth or USB.
Multi-device charging station
I grabbed this Belkin docking station when my desk cord and cable situation started getting out of control. The charging pad has a space for your phone, AirPods, and Apple watch all with just a single plug. There’s also a foldable version that works well if you need to save space in your bag while traveling.
Since some newer Apple devices don’t have HDMI or USB ports, an adapter docking station allows me to connect my webcam to my computer. My keyboard and mouse are Bluetooth so they communicate with my laptop automatically, but anything else that doesn’t have matching plugs can go through this handy little tool. (But check first! You might not need one depending on the ports your laptop has.)
Roost Laptop Stand
A laptop stand is great for preventing hunching if you work on the computer all day. It puts your laptop in a slightly higher position at eye level and works best if you also have a portable keyboard and mouse.
I’ve had the Roost Laptop Stand for years and I love it. It’s collapsable so it takes up almost no room in your bag, and it has three different heights that you can adjust how your laptop is placed. Mine has been around the world with me and is still holding up great.
Airpods or noise-canceling headphones
AirPods or Bluetooth earbuds are great for traveling since they’re compact and can connect to your computer automatically. I like earbuds because they’re easier to pack, but you can also grab a good pair of noise-canceling headphones if you prefer the over-ear style.
A good set of headphones was game-changing gear when I was teaching English online, and I can imagine the same is true for any job where you’re meeting over Zoom or video chat.
Have a lot of calls? Here are some of my top headset recommendations for teaching online that would also work well for meetings.
Portable external hard drive
Whether I’m home or on the move, I like to back everything up to my external hard drive from time to time. Hard drives work like a backup storage area where you can save your most important documents, pictures, and files. This ScanDisk Portable SSD hard drive has a lot of storage and is unbelievably tiny, so it’s easy to pack for extra peace of mind before a trip.
Travel electronics organizer bag
I’ve been using this BUBM travel electronics organizer bag since 2018, and I still love it. There are plenty of pockets and pouches inside for cords, it holds way more than expected, and it still somehow maintains a slim profile that never seems to take up too much real estate in my backpack. For me, a cord organizer bag is a must for keeping small tech pieces and essential cords easy to find.
Universal travel adapter
Just like the organizer bag, I’ve been using this multi-country travel adapter for years and it’s still holding up great. It has two regular plugs and two USB slots so you can charge a lot of things, and there are different attachments for different countries. Easy, compact, and still works well even after years of use.
When I’m home, I use an HP monitor to have a bigger work screen. I’ve never traveled with a portable external monitor, but I know that some of my digital nomad friends swear by it. For me, having the elevation from the laptop stand is fine for getting things done, but if you do want to try out a portable monitor, this one has great reviews on Amazon.
You can also use an iPad or tablet as a second monitor. You can either have it open with another screen pulled up for more space, or use the Duet app to turn your device into an external monitor.
Even if my bag has a laptop pocket, I prefer to have a laptop case as well for double protection. This one from Amazon is simple and gets the job done.
Tips for improving your digital nomad setup while traveling
Now that you’ve got the gear, here are a few bits of advice for how to make the most of your remote work setup.
Use a mobile hotspot as backup WiFi: If you’re traveling outside of your home country, you can get a local SIM card at your destination once you arrive. Usually, there are kiosks in the airport where you can grab a travel SIM for the length of your trip, or you can stop by a cell carrier’s store.
If you swap this out with your normal phone SIM (or bring an old phone and use it as your travel phone), you can hotspot from this device to your laptop if you run into issues with WiFi. This is a great way to give yourself some extra peace of mind, especially if you’re going further off the beaten path.
Mix up your environment with coworking spaces and cafes: At home or on the road, it’s nice to mix it up by working from different locations. Most coworking spaces offer day passes or weekly or monthly options if you’re staying in town for a while.
There are also local coffee shops and cafes that are laptop friendly, but I try to avoid working remotely from a cafe on weekends when the demand for tables is higher. Just make sure to bring your SIM card hotspot as a backup because cafe WiFi can sometimes be hit or miss.
Pay attention to different time zones: If you’re going to a different country or state, you might be in a different time zone than normal. It’s always a good idea to double-check all your meeting times so you don’t miss anything while on your adventure.
Do you have any digital nomad office gear you swear by? Let me know in the comments!
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