Living as a digital nomad is awesome, but if you’re living the nomadic lifestyle, there are some important digital nomad essentials that you should have, but might not have considered.
This isn’t a nomad packing list, this is my guide to nomadic essentials and recommendations after 3+ years of being a digital nomad and discovering that having these things made being a digital nomad a lot easier.
If you’re thinking about becoming a digital nomad, you might not have considered things like having separate electronics insurance, having an eSim enabled smartphone, banking with a mobile-first bank or using a VPN for smoother working.
Read on to make sure you’ve got these digital nomad essentials!
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Things to have as a digital nomad (that you might not have thought of)
1. Nomad travel insurance
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have travel insurance.
But did you know that most regular travel insurance companies won’t cover you if you travel permanently or without a specific end date of travel? i.e. a digital nomad
Thankfully, there are a couple of specialists for digital nomad insurance who make this essential requirement a lot more straightforward.
I use SafetyWing Nomad Insurance.
The thing I love about their insurance is that it’s a rolling monthly payment. So no need to fork out hundreds of $$$ upfront, you can just keep their nomad insurance rolling on a month-to-month basis.
Use the price checker below to get a quote for your own digital nomad insurance.
2. Separate electronics insurance
I will openly admit that 5+ years ago I never insured any of my electronics.
However after becoming a business owner and digital nomad, I realised my entire lifestyle, income and financial stability is depended on me being able to work online and have my digital devices and technology functioning at all times.
So I took out dedicated gadget insurance that covers my smartphone, laptop and tablet.
I use Protect Your Bubble insurance which is a UK based insurer. They cover you abroad but a replacement or repaired device can only be sent to an address in the UK. This might be restrictive for some, but I frequently hop in and out of the UK for work and also can have my family forward packages and mail to me wherever I’m based.
Important: most gadget insurers will only insure your devices if you bought them new or from a certified reseller. You need to have proof of purchase to make a claim and receipts from secondhand websites (such as eBay) are not valid.
3. An international phone plan or eSim enabled smartphone
International roaming charges on your regular phone plan for your home country can get pricey really quickly which is why having a foolproof phone plan is one of the nomadic essentials.
It’s not uncommon to hear of tourists getting stung with phone bills in the hundreds or thousands when they return from a trip, so of course if you’re travelling full-time, you could end up with astronomical phone bills.
Thankfully there are a few great options out there now:
Get a local sim card - this option is possible in some countries for a short period but sometimes a longer plan requires a permanent address or social security-type number which you’d usually only get if you’re a resident
Pay for a package with international travel plans - for a (sometimes hefty) fee, you can get roaming packages for your phone. Some companies have cheaper international data plans like Google Fi but they only work outside the US for 90 days. You would need to return to the US to re-activate the data plan which isn’t possible if you’re a digital nomad
Use an eSIM - many modern smartphones are now eSIM capable. This means you can download a digital version of a SIM card and activate it on your phone for data
I’m a big fan of the eSIM and I use the Airalo app which offers eSIMs for 200+ countries so you can use data locally.
How to use Airalo:
Make sure your phone is eSIM enabled
Sign up to Airalo here (you can use code “HELENA2610” to sign up)
download the Airalo app
select your country and the amount of data you need
Pay in the app and use code “HELENA10” for 10% discount
Top up as and when you need and use “HELENA10” each time for a discount
SIGN UP HERE and download the app to start purchasing and managing your eSIM. Use ‘HELENA10’ at checkout for 10% discount on your eSIM (can use multiple times)
4. Photocopies and photos of your passport and important documents
This is one of those tips that you really have no idea when you’ll need these - until you do!
We had instances of lost IDs, applying for permits, traffic stops and even needing to show copies for a passport renewal at an embassy abroad.
I usually keep photos of them all stored on a private folder in my phone and also physical copies in a folder at the bottom of my travel case.
5. A VPN
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it has multiple uses that are vital for working as a digital nomad.
First and foremost, a VPN provides an extra layer of security when you work on public wifi networks - something that’s common for digital nomads working in cafes, airports, coworking spaces or hostels. The VPN encrypts your connection to hide your device and online activities. Keeping you safe from web trackers, hackers or malicious threats.
A VPN can also be used if you use any software or platforms that require you to be in a certain place. For example I use some software that requires a UK IP address when I access it and I’m easily able to do that by selecting a UK server as my VPN before I connect to my software.
A VPN is also a great way to get access to movies and TV shows in other territories that might not be available where you are currently.
I’ve tried a few VPNs over the years and have finally settled on NordVPN as my preferred VPN provider.
You can pay a monthly or yearly subscription and it’s absolutely worth it to me to have peace of mind about my information being protected when I’m working remotely.
6. Reliable cloud storage
Being a digital nomad means being able to take your work anyway, but that also requires a reliable way to store that work.
I’ve been a devote to Google Workspace for years, I run my three businesses through Google Workspace and work with clients in shared Google Drives and folders within their own workspace.
For my two websites, Google Workspace enables my team and I to have professional domain emails and a dedicated workspace for collaboration, document storage and record keeping.
I also store all of my travel photography in back up folders on my Google Drive and all my copywriting work is written, edited, stored and saved in Google Drive.
7. Reliable technology equipment
You’re a digital nomad, so of course an essential part of nomad travel gear is having reliable tech to do your work from.
There are a range of digital nomad jobs and the technology and equipment needed will vary, but even on a basic level, you need to have reliable tech to work, earn money and sustain your lifestyle. This might include:
A reliable, fast and portable laptop that you can comfortably work on
Additional mouse, keyboard or other comfort enhancements such as a second screen
Headphones or even a headset if your job involves lots of calls
An external hard drive to back up important documents, files or photos
A pocket wifi or booster if you anticipate being in areas with poor connection
8. Mobile first banking
I couldn’t believe it when I learnt from my American partner that a lot of banks in the US don’t have banking apps where you can easily move, transfer and manage your money.
In the UK and Europe, there are now multiple mobile-first banking apps that allow you to send, move, save, receive money and transfer money with just a click of a button.
I can’t tell you how easy it has been to move money instantly between my business accounts and personal accounts to ensure I can pay bills, withdraw money and invoice clients all from within my mobile banking app while travelling.
Because of the lower running costs, many mobile-first banks also have low or no fees for foreign transactions as well as favourable exchange rates and other perks such as favourable interest rates and tools to help you manage and save money.
Some of the best mobile-first banks for digital nomads include:
9. A credit card or debit card without fees
Following on from the last point, when you’re travelling and living abroad long term, the foreign transaction fees on credit and debit card transactions can mount up fast unless you’re super savvy about taking out a card with no fees beforehand.
Mobile-first banks such as Chase UK, Starling and Monzo have no transaction fees on foreign purchases.
For US digital nomads, I’ve heard positive things about Schwab Bank. Also check out Capital One and Chase Sapphire for low fees and rewards/points.
For Europe based nomads, check out N26, Monzo, Revolut and Tomorrow.
10. Savings for 3 months or enough to fly home in an emergency
Obviously no one wants to think about things going wrong or having to return home unexpectedly, but sometimes life happens and it’s important to be prepared for any unexpected expenses.
Unexpected expenses could include:
Paying for something while you’re away, such as a rental deposit
Needing to travel home for an expected event or emergency
To cover any quieter freelancing or business months if you’re self-employed
Or worst case scenario being able to get home if you decide the digital nomad life is no longer for you or you’ve run out of money!
10. Portable battery pack
Whether you’re working in a cafe and can’t find a plug socket, or you’re on a 10-hour flight or bus ride, you never know when you might need a charging top up of your devices!
Keeping your phone charged is not only good for you to stay connected, get work done or enjoy some scrolling downtime, but also it’s important to keep you connected with friends, family and loved ones so they know your whereabouts (this is something that’s especially important to me as a woman).
I’ve been using Anker portable power banks for over 5 years and it has saved me on many a flight, bus or road trip if there’s no access to plug sockets, it’s one of my must-have digital nomad essentials!
If you’re living and travelling solo, it’s also especially important to make sure you always have backup power should you phone or devices run out of battery and you’re lost, stranded or trying to make your way somewhere.
11. Universal adapter plug
There’s no need to be carrying around a different adapter for every country or continent you visit and there’s definitely no need to have a separate adapter for each cable you use.
Instead, get a Universal Adapter like this one I’ve been using for 4+ years.
Includes a plug for your device, with 3 different slide-out prongs depending on what plug sockets are like where you are. It also has 4 USB slots and a USB-C slot so you can literally have 6 devices attached to this at the same time!
I usually have my laptop and phone plugged in at the same time and the voltage converter means it’s safe to use regardless of the voltage of your devices.
12. Private pension
This might seem like an odd one to put on this list, but if you’re self-employed, a freelancer or a business owner, hear me out.
If you’re not an employee, then you don’t have any of the perks that usually come with being an employee as part of a company, which includes things like paid leave and medical insurance (for some). But many people also forget that retirement funds and pension contributions are another important perk of being an employee that you lose when you become self-employed.
It might not seem like something you need to worry about yet, especially if you’re a digital nomad in your 20s or 30s, but starting a retirement fund in your 40s is a risky game unless you’ve become a multimillionaire in that time!
Make sure to secure your future for when you’re older and possibly no longer able to work by opening up a private pension fund. I use Vanguard and contribute at least £100 per month.
This isn’t financial advice and obviously you need to make a decision on what’s best for you, but it’s important to think about securing your financial future.
Also if you’re self-employed in the UK (and possibly other countries too), pension contributions are tax deductible.
Summary: digital nomad essentials you might not have thought of!
While a robust digital nomad packing list is essential, these are some of the digital nomad essentials and nomad travel gear you might not have considered for your life of digital nomadism.
Nomadism can often mean leading a spontaneous or “go with the flow” lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for any challenges or problems that might arise as well as preparing yourself for the future.