I am often asked what I pack when I travel. When there is not a pandemic going on I might travel for about 3 months of the year and 138,000 miles so I do have some experience. Here is what is in my bag. As a rule, I pack for no more than 10 days. If I am on the road for longer than that I plan on doing some laundry just like I do at home. This might mean washing some things out in a sink or it might mean laundry in a hotel or a launderette. On the rare occasion, when I am someplace that is inexpensive it might mean a laundry service. But I find the inconvenience of a little washing is made up for in the extra mobility that packing light gives me.
Table of contents: ()
- What’s In My Backpack
- Laptop – MacBook
- Tablet – iPad Mini
- External Battery Wi-fi / Hard Drive Thingy
- Noise Canceling Headphones
- Travel Surge protector
- Binder Pencil Case – Cables
- Things for Flights
- Small Electronic Things
- Things for International Travel
- Journalist Things
- Things for Weather
- Things for being Prepared
What’s In My Backpack
My backpack itself is a Pacsafe Ultimatesafe 22L anti-theft backpack. I did some work for PacSafe last year. I don’t use all the gear they gave me, but I really like this backpack. It is smaller than my old one but big enough for what I carry. The anti-theft part of the backpack doesn’t hurt either.
Laptop – MacBook Pro
I never go anywhere without my MacBook, which I use to work on the road both as a software developer/entrepreneur as well as a blogger and podcaster. I have switched from a MacBook Air (which I still love) to the Mac Book Pro 13″. I love how a machine this powerful is also so darn light, and once you have gone to a solid-state drive, you will never go back. Now I feel the same way about a Mac with Apple Silicon.
Tablet – iPad Mini
iPad Mini – When I am done working for the day, I often switch to my iPad Mini which has videos, eBooks, games, and more on it. I still have the 1st version but my wife just got the 4th edition. I will upgrade when mine stops working great. See Best iOS Apps Ever – What I have on my iPhone and iPad for more info. Before you get on the plane make sure that you have the latest version of the airline app on your iPad if the airline has a wi-fi-based entertainment system as United Airlines has.
I am currently carrying a Canon T5i DSLR Camera. I am looking at mirrorless cameras but might also switch to a Canon SX70 or a Nikon Coolpix without interchangeable lenses but with an amazing zoom lens. I take the majority of my photos on my iPhone, but I still need that zoom lens for some shots. (read more at Finding The Best Camera for Travel Photography). But the SLR takes a lot of space.
External Battery / Wi-fi / Hard Drive Thingy
I carry a device that I can use to recharge my electronics when I am on the road. The HooToo Wireless Hard Drive Companion Wireless Router, Access Point, 6000mAh External Battery Pack Dual USB Charger. This versatile device can be used to extend the wi-fi range in the hotel room and store files as it is a solid-state hard drive.
Noise Canceling Headphones
Travel Surge protector
A Travel Surge protector is a compact power strip that will make you some friends in the airport when outlets are scarce. I just recently replaced my K-century Travel Power Strip Surge Protector and am hoping this one is more durable. A travel surge protector also comes in handy in many hotel rooms with not enough outlets to re-charge my electronics.
Binder Pencil Case – Cables
This may seem like a strange thing to carry.. especially since it does not contain pencils. This small flat cloth pencil case has a couple of zippered pockets. This keeps cords untangled. It contains:
- extra wired Apple EarPods
- USB to lightning cable
- USB cable
Things for Flights
I take a small cloth case with a zipper when I am flying. It contains:
- soft foam earplugs
- small pillbox with (ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea, mild sleeping pills, Aleve D, Mucus Relief DM, and Zync tablets)
- CLEAR card – like a FastPass for TSA and Immigration
Small Electronic Things
I recently started carrying a WD 1TB My Passport SSD Portable External Solid State Drive, which is large enough to hold my entire photo library but also solid state so it can survive life in my backpack.
I have a small drawstring bag that contains some of my smaller electronic items to make it harder to lose them in the depths of my backpack.
- 16 Gb thumb drive
- iPhone power plug
Things for International Travel
- Passport – Make sure before your trip that your passport is not about to expire. Some countries won’t let you enter if your passport has less than 6 months of use left.
- universal plug converter (international)
- business cards and card case
- small Moleskine notebook (optional)
- pen (remember those custom forms)
Things for Weather
- small umbrella
Things for being Prepared
- Reusable Water Bottle (I had a Camelbak All Clear – Water Purifier / Water Bottle, which is a better solution for destinations where you can’t drink the water)
- small first-aid kit (optional)
- printed directions, boarding passes, hotel confirmations (optional)
What’s In My Suitcase
I usually take a carry-on suitcase (See my guide on buying a carry-on suitcase). Sometimes for longer trips, I will use an American Tourister Luggage Splash 21″ Upright Suitcase, which is not quite a carry-on size. But I have done 5 weeks in one carry-on and prefer to pack lighter. My American Tourister suitcase is red, but I still have a ribbon or something so they can be spotted on a luggage carousel if I have to gate check.
I currently am using the Carry-on by Away without the backup battery.
- Blue jeans – They dry slowly so they are not ideal for travel, but I still like jeans. On trips to warm climates where shorts are not culturally acceptable, I replace my jeans with lightweight travel pants.
- Travel pants – These pack in less space than a pair of jeans and look dressier. (See best Travel Pants for Men)
- cotton/polyester blend button-down shirts – You will usually find me in Amateur Traveler branded shirts
- underwear – I have a pair of Ex-Officio briefs that backpackers swear by, but they are more expensive. I switched from cotton boxers to 5Mayi Men’s Underwear Boxer Brief which last longer and still can dry overnight if washed in the sink
- no extra shoes – I get by with only one pair of sneakers because shoes take up so much space
- hiking sandals / water shoes – I will break the no extra shoes rule if I will need water shoes for a rafting or beach vacation
- workout shorts
- swimshirt – getting sunburn can ruin a vacation so I bring a swimshirt for snorkeling or beach vacations
- hat – I have what looks most like a foldable cotton cowboy hat (see Amateur Traveler home page), with a brim for good shade, although have recently switched to a more compact baseball-style cap.
- jacket (usually worn on the plane)
- wide brimmed foldable hat
- Amateur Traveler branded baseball cap
- laundry bag
- shaving kit
- stick deodorant
- toothbrush/toothbrush case
- nail clippers
- small scissors
- clear plastic Ziploc bag
- shaving cream
- capsaicin cream (good for a sore back)
Things for International Travel
- money pouch (I use one with a felt back, which is more comfortable)
Things for Domestic Travel in the USA
- U.S. National Park Passport (USA only)
Travel Podcaster / Blogger Things
- Blue Yeti Microphone and cables – my standard podcasting microphone but very heavy for a trip
- Samson Technologies Q2U USB/XLR Dynamic Microphone Recording and Podcasting Pack – mobile microphone
What’s In My Pockets
- iPhone 12 Pro. See Best iOS Apps Ever – What I have on my iPhone and iPad for more info. I have T-Mobile One Plus International because it has the best data roaming (free) for travelers.
- iPhone 8 Battery Case iPhone Charging Case
- Apple Airpod Bluetooth wireless earbuds