Minimalist Travel Hacks for Digital Nomads

7 Minimalist Travel Hacks for Digital Nomads

When it comes to traveling, the less is more principle proves to be a lifeline. Tyler Tafelsky of The Gray Dot Company reveals the secrets to taking away the stress from long trips and shares some tried and tested travel hacks for digital nomads.

No doubt, the digital nomad lifestyle becomes the new normal for behind-the-laptop professionals. For many, the idea of long-term travel while making money has evolved from a distant fantasy to a fulfilling reality.

On my third trip working remotely from Europe, I felt I’d finally had my digital nomad lifestyle dialed in. I had put many different minimalist travel hacks to the test that enabled me to get around with more agility, ease, and efficiency. In documenting those travel hacks, I wanted to go beyond conventional tips like negotiating lodging and booking cheap flights. So below, I recap my top 7 travel hacks for digital nomads and remote entrepreneurs who prefer to travel minimally. 

1. Invest in One Good Pack and Stop Checking Luggage

The idea of traveling with just one carry-on size pack may seem challenging to adopt. And yet, it’s one of the most liberating and transformational travel hacks for agile nomadic types. 

Everyday encounters like climbing long stair flights, navigating city sidewalks, or squeezing through narrow train aisles are a literal drag with rolling luggage. When you have everything on your back, the cumulative effort of your travels can be both easier and more empowering.

Not only does it save you money at the airport, but it eliminates any potential risk of losing your luggage. Sure, it may be more physically demanding huffing your pack around, not to mention a real test of minimalism condensing all of your belongings into such a small pack. But in doing so, the feeling of adopting just a single backpack will shape your travel experiences for years to come. 

I use the Allpa 35L Travel Pack from Cotopaxi and love it. I’ve had it stuffed to the max, including my laptop, and it still fits the overhead compartment on all the flights and trains I’ve been on. Many of my friends are surprised when they see it’s the only thing I have with me. But it’s undoubtedly one of the best travel hacks.

2. Put Your Phone on “Low Battery Mode,” Even When Fully Charged

Even if you have a full charge on your phone, you can still consume most of your battery’s energy in less than a day. This is especially the case if you’re regularly taking photos and videos, listening to music, or using various apps throughout the day. 

To help conserve every ounce of your phone’s energy, consider putting it on “low battery mode.” All iPhones and most other smartphones have this option. Even after charging my phone to 100%, I will take the initiative below to better preserve every percentage of battery life.

3. Download Your Destination on Google Maps for Offline Use

Suppose you have limited cellular data when traveling internationally. In that case, it’s wise to make use of handy features that enable you to use essential apps without eating up your data. Google Maps offers a feature that allows you to download a selected region for offline use. This little travel hack is incredibly helpful, and it requires just a few minutes of preparation time when you have a Wi-Fi connection. 

While using the Google Maps app, per the animated figure, navigate to the menu options by tapping the three horizontal bar icon in the top left. Next, tap “Offline Maps” and choose “Custom map” under the download an offline map option. Depending on where you anticipate going in your destination, crop a sufficient section of the map and tap “Download.” Once downloaded, you can use that section of your Google Maps even if you don’t have data or an internet connection. 

4. Unwrinkle Your Clothing the Easy Way

There are countless ways to unwrinkle your rolled or folded-up clothes, from heated pots and hair straighteners to damp towels and portable steamers. But one effective method my mom taught me as a kid is simply using a misting spray bottle.

While this approach might not result in the perfectly ironed shirt you’d expect from a steaming iron, it does effectively de-wrinkle clothing within just a couple of minutes and with little downtime. You can buy a tiny spray bottle from most drug stores that sell cosmetics. I use a tiny 3-ounce spray bottle that’s virtually weightless and gets the job done. 

Once I pick out my shirt and bottoms for the day, I fill the bottle with water and give each piece of clothing a thorough spray, ideally while on a hanger or draped over a chair. You want to give your clothing some air (not just lying on a table) and gently tug the wrinkles out while misting your attire. You can even do this technique while wearing the clothes if you’re in a hurry. It works like a charm, and it’s by far the easiest and cheapest way to unwrinkle clothes while traveling.

5. Dial in Your Nutrition 

Relying on restaurants, street food, airport cafes, and convenience stores can make healthy eating a real challenge while traveling. And it’s often while traveling when your immunity is most vulnerable. 

In addition to loading up on healthy food options when available, consider packing supplements to help keep your immunity strong. Products like Amazing Grass Green Superfood tablets and Vega Sport protein packets are just a couple of examples among many that are easy to pack. For instance, the superfood tablets from Amazing Grass are fantastic because it’s affordable, compact, and comes in types that have caffeine (which is nice when a good cup of coffee is out of reach.) 

Conversely, the concept of intermittent fasting is a trendy discipline that’s a travel hack in itself. Training your body to endure hunger and sometimes prolong or skip meals has advantages while traveling. Not only can fasting help you avoid unhealthy and lesser-desirable food options, but research shows that it can also enhance brain functioning while enabling you to burn more fat

6. Adopt a Mindfulness Practice

When traveling, it’s easy to be absorbed by the idea of “what’s next?” It’s a natural inclination to be forward-thinking. But a constant headspace in the future (or the past) can deprive you of the present moment’s beauty.

If you don’t already have a mindfulness practice, traveling is the perfect time to adopt one. No, you don’t have to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day. But you can try new things to help keep you grounded. Some of my favorites include:

  • Journaling my experiences, feelings, aspirations, or other thoughts I want to jot down.
  • Pausing for moments, ideally first thing every morning, to just breathe and check out from thinking for at least 5 minutes. In short, meditate.
  • Experimenting with breathing techniques, like an intense fire breath similar to that of the Wim Hof Method.
  • Taking cold showers, ice baths, or other forms of cold exposure: one of nature’s best antidepressants.
  • Combining exercise, bodywork, yoga, and forms of movement to tame the monkey mind and go inward.

In situations like your flight getting delayed or your Airbnb host canceling last minute, how you react to that situation can drastically shape the trajectory of your trip. Having a solid mindfulness practice can help you cope with the stress and struggles that come with travel. 

7. Be the Last to Board Your Flight

This travel hack might be a bit too extreme for some, but with a little luck, it can help make flying far more comfortable. It’s quite simple — be the last to board your flight. 

Regardless of your seat assignment, you must be willing to bend the rules and ignore the airline personnel when they call your section to board. I prefer to stay a comfortable distance away from the gate and keep myself occupied until they call for final boarding. And when they do, I board the flight in an attempt to be one of the last travelers in line.

Assuming the flight is not full, and no more than a few people are left to board, you can often spot empty seats in more ideal conditions, like two empty seats next to each other or an empty row. Seriously, don’t hesitate to take these seats with the confidence that they’re yours. 

If those perfect, unoccupied seats go untaken before the flight takes off, you can count on someone else requesting to sit there once the seatbelt sign goes off. So I encourage you to try boarding last to capture those perfect, unoccupied seats as you like. Worst case scenario: you feel a little embarrassed that you took someone else’s seat. Best case scenario: you get an entire row to yourself in an exit aisle for a 10-hour flight. Boom. Naptime. 

Author Bio

Tyler Tafelsky is Director of Content Strategy & Copywriting at The Gray Dot Company, a senior-level SEO consulting firm staffed by an international, remote-working team of professionals. Having started his digital marketing career in 2009, Tyler has been working remotely for over a decade in a content strategy role. During that time, he’s developed many practices and hacks to maintain a healthy work-life balance, especially for those who work from home. In addition to marketing, Tyler is a sports blogger and athletic coach at Better Triathlete, a blog dedicated to endurance sports like swimming, cycling, and running.

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