I am often asked what I pack when I travel. In 2023 I traveled 55K miles with at least 75 days away from home. Here is what is in my bag. As a rule, I pack for no more than 7 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.
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- What’s In My Backpack
What’s In My Backpack
My backpack itself is a Pacsafe Ultimatesafe 22L anti-theft backpack. I did some work for PacSafe in the past. 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.
I also now carry a small portable laptop keyboard brush that helps me keep the Cheetos dust out of my keyboard on a long road trip.
I also carry a pair of computer glasses, and yes I travel with regular glasses, sunglasses, and computer glasses. I also have prescription swim goggles.
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 awesome 6th edition. 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.
I am currently carrying either a Canon T5i DSLR Camera or a Canon SX70 which does not have interchangeable lenses but has 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 up a lot of space.
Depending on the trip I may also carry an extra battery that I can use to power electronics like my laptop. I am currently using a Mini Portable Charger Power Bank 5000mAh Capacity External. This sort of battery can be in your backpack or your carry-on luggage but cannot be in your checked bag.
External iPhone Battery
I recently bought two Magnetic Wireless Portable Charger,2-Pack MagSafe Batteries. I take the majority of my photos on my iPhone and also use it to navigate, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, check email, and post to social media. Because of that, the battery on my iPhone can run out before the travel day is done. I find this solution works better than carrying an external battery and a cable. I can have this on my phone in my pocket or my hand and still be using the phone. I also have a MagSafe case for my iPhone that helps this to connect better.
Smartphone Camera Grip
Another new gadget that I use some of the time is a CapGrip II Smartphone Camera Grip. This handle attaches onto my iPhone to make it easier to take pictures with one hand just as if the iPhone were a small camera. I found this quite useful on my recent trip to Malta when I took a harbor cruise around the city of Valetta. I was constantly reaching my hand out of the boat and it made it feel more secure in my hand and less likely to end up in the water.
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 am currently using the Anker 20W USB C Power Strip which is smaller than some of the other ones I have tried and also works with 220v outside the US. This surge protector supports USB-A and USB-C in addition to US-style electric plugs. A travel surge protector also comes in handy in many hotel rooms with not enough outlets to recharge 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 cables (I have a combination of USB-C and USB-A cables these days. I have largely switched to nylon braided cables which don’t tangle as easily.
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 Road Trips
When I will be spending a significant amount of time in the car, I make sure to pack a car charger. I have updated my old car charger which only had a USB A slot to a new Dual Port USB A & C Plug Cargador Carro Lighter Adapter. If you are going to want to plug in your laptop or other consumer electronics then you will need something with a 110V plug like the HomeJayde 150W Car Power Inverter DC 12v to 110v.
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
- Sunglasses – These days I wear my Shady Rays from a former Amateur Traveler podcast sponsor, especially when I am in the tropics.
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.
I have an Apple AirTag in my suitcase in case I ever need to check it so that I can find it again when the airline can’t.
- 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 Mayi Men’s Underwear Boxer Briefs 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
- swim shirt – getting sunburned can ruin a vacation so I bring a swim shirt 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
- Recently I have switched to carrying the Shure MV88 Portable Microphone as my recording setup when I am on the road. This is much smaller than the Yeti and has the added advantage that it does not look like a pipebomb in airport security. When I carry the Yeti I have about a 50/50 chance of being stopped by the TSA.
- GoPro HERO9 Black Waterproof Action Camera is my go-to camera for underwater photography like snorkeling in Caye Caulker.
- Waterproof Floating Hand Grip Compatible with GoPro Hero
- Zoom H2 Handy Portable Stereo Recorder. This device is good for recording audio when I am not just on the road, but away from my computer. The best example of this was Botswana Safari – Amateur Traveler Episode 639 which was the only episode of the Amateur Traveler podcast where an interview was interrupted by a lion.
What’s In My Pockets or on My Wrist
- iPhone 15 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.
- Apple Airpod Bluetooth wireless earbuds
- Apple Watch Series 9