In November of 2019 I decided that I would sell my belongings, give up my apartment, and travel Europe solo indefinitely. Well, not entirely solo – I brought my dog, Andre, along for the adventure. I had long dreamed of a life of location-independence.
In January 2020, I took the plunge. Andre and I flew from Boston to Rome with just a small(ish) backpack and a carryon suitcase. I had no idea what things I’d need along the way, what I could or couldn’t find in the countries I’d visit, or what I’d regret not bringing.
Now, nine months later, I’m finally ready to sit down and write a post on what I deem long-term travel essentials.
If you’re thinking of transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle, be sure to check out these top jobs for digital nomads in 2021 as well as the best cities for digital nomads! While you’re at it, here are the best laptops for digital nomads as well!
Table of Contents
Long-term Travel Essentials
The amount of clothes you take will vary depending on your luggage situation and whether or not you’re traveling alone. Lugging around a large suitcase, backpack, and a DOG was not ideal for one person.
Not to mention, since I work remotely, I also have two laptops (and chargers and other tech-y equipment) with me. That stuff can weigh you down quickly!
I’d recommend to bring one or two articles for each type of weather so that you can layer. Plan on doing a lot of laundry (but don’t count on dryers always being available – sometimes your clothes will take a long time to dry!). Worst-case scenario, buy things you need along the way.
Three easily-rollable tank tops, three t-shirts, two light sweaters were all I brought with me for shirts.
A lightweight tank top can double for yoga and wearing under a denim jacket in warmer months, and roll up smaller than the size of your fist, a definite long-term travel essential. They’re soft, breathable, and currently on sale for only $14!
I’m a sucker for a good, oversized band graphic tee. I like wearing them with jeans, leggings, and sometimes even skirts for a more eclectic look (feminine while still keeping my ‘edge’). Urban Outfitters is my go-to for band shirts – they’re soft, cozy, and last forever.
You’ll definitely need a long-sleeved shirt and/or hoodie to bring with you regardless of where you’re headed. Cool nights can happen in any climate, and you can get a heavier or lighter-weight sweatshirt based on your personal needs. My FAVORITE shirt I brought with me ended up being this lightweight knit shirt from H&M.
There’s nothing more versatile than good leggings. My all-time favorites are the Align II by Lululemon. They feel like being naked, yet somehow still are keeping me warm during the cold season in Transilvania, where I’m currently posted-up. I brought four pairs with me (two full-length black, one full-length plum, one capri-length black). Sadly, my newly adopted puppy, Misi, decided he wanted the capris for a snack. They come in soooo many different colors and are great to wear alone, under a long skirt during colder months, or under ripped jeans to stay warm. And of course, yoga! They’re thin, but super-high quality and ultra-soft.
I adore American Eagle jeans, as they’re really the only ones that fit me properly. I have a smaller waist and thicker thighs, and the AE jeans just fit me better than anything else I’ve tried. ‘Mom jeans’ are really popular right now in Europe, and these (pictured below) are my favorite pair at the moment. Definitely bring a pair you love, whether they’re Gap or Target, because lemme tell you – jeans fit differently in different parts of the world!
Depending on where in the world you’re going (and when), you may need something suitable for winter. Of course, I chose the easiest – I left for Europe in January, beginning in central Italy. My tentative itinerary was on to Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Lithuania, and then…..? Needless to say, when COVID hit in March, I was in Romania and decided to stay put. Now, I have a second dog (Andre’s new best friend) and am living with my fiancé. Who knew? Anyway, Romania is so cold in winter!
A light denim jacket was perfect for me, and versatile enough to wear with everything I brought. Warm it up by adding layers and a scarf.
underwear & pajamas
For sleep shirts, I just use one of the tank tops I packed, or a long-sleeved shirt if it’s too cold. The washing machines abroad are generally not as large as in the US anyhow, so you’ll be doing laundry more frequently than if you’re coming from the States.
These pants. I cannot say enough about these pants (by Stars Above for Target). They are buttery soft, make your ass look phenomenal, and are comfy for both lounging and sleeping. I usually can’t sleep in pants because I feel too constricted, but these are heaven. I only brought one pair that are ripped everywhere now (thanks a lot, Misi), but currently waiting on a care package from mom with some more. Best part? They’re only $16.99 at Target. I opted for the cropped version, but they have a full-length style as well.
I need a solid sports bra, and for that, I really like Athleta. My chest is on the larger side and they offer sports bras with A-C support and ALSO D-DD options, which are perfect for me. This is my fave, I brought 2 with me.
For regular bras, I’m usually going with Victoria’s Secret for the same reason. I don’t find bras that are as cute, or that fit as well, anywhere else. I packed 3 regular bras.
I packed 12 pairs I think. Better safe than sorry! I’m sure everyone has their own underwear preference, but I usually get cheeky style from Victoria’s Secret 5/$25 or whatever their current deal is.
Bring one bathing suit (unless you’re traveling to a usually-warm beach destination). Standard black bikini is my pick.
In my opinion, this is by far the most important category. Not because I’m shoe-crazy, but because my feet are really picky about what I’m walking around in all day. I can find comfort in virtually nothing! And my preference when exploring a new city is to do everything on foot. So good shoes were key.
For warmer weather, Sanuk flip flops are where it’s at. The sole is made out of recycled yoga mat, so they have a tempur-pedic quality. They’re durable (one pair lasts me 2-3 years, and I rarely wear other shoes in the summer, so they get a lot of use).
For the in-between weather, Classic Vans are perfect. You can wear them with a skirt, jeans, leggings, whatever. They’re super comfortable, so you won’t have to worry about being more focused on your aching feet than your adventure.
And in the cold, you’ll undoubtedly want something that’s waterproof and keeps your toes toasty. The exact boots that I brought with me are no longer available, but this is the closest version to them for the current season. I opted for Uggs because of their proven quality coupled with the fact that I know for sure these bad boys are comfortable for my feet.
I lose sunglasses at least twice a year, so I’ve learned the hard way not to spend much on them. These hexagonal sunglasses from Urban Outfitters have actually lasted me 9 months!
The hat in the above photo doesn’t transport well in a suitcase – I actually got this once I arrived in Romania. But, if space allows, this hat was a lifesaver all summer.
For cold weather, you’ll definitely need something that covers your ears. I love this one by C.C. (pictured below), even though my fiancé jokes that I look like a Russian prisoner. Also in the picture are my Align II leggings, favorite long-sleeved shirt, and Ugg boots.
I brought along a laptop bag (which doubles as my day-to-day bag). After arriving I realized I needed something smaller and hands-free, so I jumped on the fanny pack trend. Depending on where you’re traveling, you can shop retail for much less than where you’re coming from. In my case (American, now in Romania), that was certainly true.
I brought this gorgeous coral-colored sheer scarf with me to be used in the spring and fall. Come summer, it doubled as a beach sarong. It rolls up into the size of my fist and I think only cost $10.
books or kindle
Generally when traveling, I am going for a week or two and always have room for hard-copy books. Considering the nature of my work, I’m always staring at a computer screen and I definitely prefer to hold a real book in my hands. Still, this isn’t ideal for long-term travel. Books are heavy and take up space.
A Kindle is a great option if you have the space, but if you’re limited (as I was), you can download the Kindle App on a laptop or smartphone to save even more space.
Noise-cancelling headphones are a must for me – especially for planes or trains. I’m not a fan of headphones that cover your whole ear, since I like to wear them when running as well and get wayyyy too hot. Not to mention, I am losing them all the time, so I don’t like to spend much. These Aukey headphones are inexpensive, work well, and block out excess noise.
Depending on your personal needs, you may not need a camera aside from the one included on your smartphone. My phone is a bit old and the photo quality has gone down significantly, so I splurged and got a DSLR.
I’m still new to the world of photography, so I got this Canon EOS 250D Rebel that is appropriate for beginners. It comes with a 18-55mm lens that’s versatile and takes beautiful pictures or 4k video.
You can find Sephora in most countries, but, if you’re like me and get your makeup from CVS or Target, you may not be able to find what you like. The one thing I can’t find anywhere is Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse. If there’s something that you really like and are not willing to change, stock up a little and take one or two extras.
I brought a couple of travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, face wash, etc. with me when I left for Europe with the intent to purchase larger bottles upon arrival. This leaves more room and less weight in your suitcase.
That being said, I am not too picky when it comes to this sort of thing and don’t have a favorite brand, I usually just get whatever’s on sale. If you have a favorite or coveted brand, it may behoove you to purchase before leaving your home country.
Melatonin is a must for me! I don’t fare well with insufficient sleep, and Melatonin always helps me when I’m feeling restless.
Ibuprofen was another of the best things I packed. I got a huge bottle (500 count) and am just now running out. Ibuprofen is more difficult to find in Europe and you can never purchase in that amount.
If you take vitamins or prescription medication, stock up on those as well. Any type of medication you regularly take is absolutely a long-term travel essential.
I wish I’d brought more Band-Aids! Whether for a cut that won’t stop bleeding or a blister on your foot after hours and hours of exploring, I only brought maybe 10 total – definitely not enough!
This Anker portable charger was a life-saver a countless number of times. I will drain the battery of my phone throughout the day with camera and GPS usage, and it’s so nice to not have to return to the Airbnb to re-charge.
Considering the amount of time I spend in yoga pants, I need this fabric de-fuzzer to keep my pants pill-free. It’s not a must-have for everyone, but I certainly need it!
OK, here’s another item that may be a must-have for me, but not for you. Hear me out. If you’re a woman who spends wayyyy too much time dealing with shaving or hair removal, this is a great investment. I’m of Mediterranean descent and, come the summer months, I literally have to shave my legs every day. With this bad boy, that I was completely on the fence about, I only have to shave once or twice a week.
It’s my favorite discovery of 2020, and you can use it all over your body. After doing plenty of research reading reviews and comparing features & prices, I chose the Philips Lumea BRI953/00. It comes with three different attachments for different areas of the body, a carrying case and cleaning wipe.
It’s definitely on the pricier side, but in the long run it saves so much time and frustration – no annoying bumps on the bikini area from having to shave too frequently, either!
If you suffer from anxiety at all, this is a great option if you’ve got the space to pack it. Weighted blankets help you to feel secure and fall into a deeper sleep. This travel Gravity Blanket is great, especially for the first few nights of sleeping in a strange place.
travel yoga mat
I did NOT bring a yoga mat, because I anticipated purchasing one once I reached my first destination (a village two hours north of Rome). Bad call. It took me weeks before I was able to finally get back to Rome and purchase one, as the cities nearer to my village didn’t have anywhere from which to purchase.
FYI, if you’re heading to Europe, Decathlon is a good store to find one (or any other sporting good needs). If you’re packing one, this travel mat from Lululemon is my preference. I’ve heard many people opt for the Manduka travel mat as well.
I needed these things for everything (I didn’t pack any initially, instead had my parents send some from home). I used them for dog food when taking mini-trips, storing food in the fridge (I could only find aluminum foil and no plastic-wrap for the longest time).
sleep mask & ear plugs
Don’t forget these two at home! You never know when you’ll be staying in a room with no curtains or above a street that is unexpectedly loud. A solid sleep mask and a few pairs of ear plugs will save you from the frustration of sleepless nights. Definitely long-term travel essentials!
The exact things you’ll want to include in your long-term travel essentials will undoubtedly vary a bit from mine, but I hope this list gave you some insight into my biggest packing regrets for an indefinite trip through Europe!