Remote Work Essentials

Updated: Dec 1

Advancements in technology and changing norms around remote work have made it easier than ever to spend more time on the road and less time stuck in an office cubicle.


In this post we'll cover all the essential gear that will allow you to work remotely and effectively while traveling.


Whether you're a full time digital nomad or preparing for your first remote work experience this guide will make sure you're prepared for whatever the world throws at you!


I recently had the opportunity to spend a month traveling across Europe while keeping up with my corporate day job responsibilities.


This guide is the culmination of my preparations for that trip along with everything I learned as I explored five new countries without compromising my work.


Men at Tre Cime Italian Dolomites
I was able to leverage working remotely to travel Europe for a month (Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Italy)

There's a lot to think about when preparing for a such a large undertaking and so many things that can go wrong.


Rest assured this guide is battle tested and will cover everything you could need while on the road!


You'll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I'm still happy you're here!

 

A guide to the perfect remote office setup


Below you will find a curated list of remote office essentials. While this post is geared towards travelers who plan to spend extended periods of time traveling internationally, you can easily slim it down to fit your individual needs.


Laptop bag


When selecting a laptop bag to support your remote work ambitions it's equally important to consider style, comfort and utility.


Depending on how much you plan to work remotely and your field of work style is likely to be an important consideration.


You'll be carrying this with you through airports, hotels, coffee shops, meetings and well.. pretty much everywhere!


Man overlooking Cusco
Where will the ability to work remotely lead you? Views from above Cusco, Peru

Due to many of the same reasons I mentioned above be sure to read reviews about the bag you're considering for purchase to ensure it's comfortable.


Once fully loaded laptop bags can weigh quite a bit and you're going to be lugging it across the world! You'll want something you can tolerate wearing on the go.



Last but not least it's important to consider what you'll be packing into your bag to ensure you purchase one with sufficient capacity.


Mine is usually stuffed to the brim with a laptop, travel monitor, iPad, random documents and some miscellaneous office supplies.


You can shop for laptop bags on Amazon here.


Air card


Being able to connect your laptop to a cellular network for internet connectivity can be a lifesaver.


If you ever find yourself in a pinch without an air card or Wi-Fi don’t forget that most smartphones have a tether feature. This means you can effectively pass your cell phones data connection onto your laptop!



I’ve found myself in a number of situations where I expected to have Wi-Fi but didn’t (trains in Europe being a big offender here).


I'd recommend reaching out to your current cellular provider to see if they have an air card and data offering or paying up for the personal hotspot feature on your smartphone.


Portable monitor


One common issue with going from a desktop setup to something truly remote is figuring out how to address not having a second monitor.


Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this problem!


There are a number of lightweight portable monitors on the market that provide the utility of dual monitors without being a pain to travel with.


After doing extensive research I landed on a ViewSonic portable monitor that I've been really happy with.



Weight, durability screen size, resolution and price are all important considerations when picking a good travel monitor.


If you haven't invested in a mobile monitor yet it's a game changer and a great way to boost your productivity on the road.


Laptop


The laptop (or tablet) is a digital nomad's most important piece of gear. It's the piece of the puzzle that makes working remotely an option in today's world.



Getting into specifics regarding which type of laptop you should be using is outside the scope of this article since this is meant to be a checklist and overview rather than a deep dive on operating systems, software and hardware.


But, I'll leave you with my most important bit of advice which is to purchase a device that aligns with the type of work you'll be doing.


If you're strictly a writer you can probably get by with a lower cost Chrome Book or something without all of the bells and whistles.


Amsterdam Canal
Being able to work remotely allowed me to spend a week exploring Amsterdam

For the corporate nomad you'll probably be working in spreadsheets, blasting out emails and taking some Zoom meetings. In this case a Windows based operating system with a built in camera is probably the smartest route.


The digital creator or photographer might prefer a MacBook for its world class photo and video editing capabilities.


I'd also add that the more you're on the road, the more valuable those warranties can become.


A laptop sitting safely in one place in your home office is less likely to be damaged than one you're toting across the globe!


For anyone in the market for a new device I've included a link to shop laptops on Amazon here.


Mouse


Upgrading from the built in laptop mousepad to a bluetooth mouse is one of the easiest ways to boost the efficiency and ergonomics of your remote work setup.


The more time you plan to spend locked into your laptop while on the road the more important having a comfortable mouse becomes.



The trade off here is that you'll have to pack one more item which takes up weight and space.


Not only that but if you're relying on a mouse you'll need to bring a charger or backup batteries to support it.


Mouse pad


This wouldn't be a complete remote office setup guide if we didn't cover the details!


Do you NEED a mouse pad? Generally no. However, there are a few good reasons to have one especially if you're posting up in different coffee shops, hotels and other public places.


First - you won't always know what kind of surface you'll be working on ahead of time. Some mouse designs don't work well with glass or reflective surfaces. It can also protect your mouse from the surface or vice versa.


Mouse pads are also usually designed with comfort in mind so they can be a nice quality of life item.


You can shop mouse pads here on Amazon if you're in the market for one.


Keyboard


For those who aren't keen on laptop keyboards be sure to do some research on travel keyboard options.


This tip doesn't just apply to your laptop either.


A Bluetooth keyboard can also be used with other devices such as tablets and cell phones.



My personal favorite is the iPad Magic Keyboard that turns your iPad into a much more effective device for composing emails or other long form content. This is my go to for working in tight spaces such as planes or trains!


Amazon has a great variety of keyboard options available here.


Batteries


If you're packing anything dependent on batteries, let this serve as your reminder to pack extras.



This is especially true for anything you might possess that takes batteries other than AAA or AA which can be difficult to source in some parts of the world.


Back up chargers


This one is pretty straightforward.


Be sure to have backup chargers for anything that might be difficult to replace on the road.


If you lose your laptop charger and you're somewhere without a major electronics retailer you might be S.O.L.



For anyone with a corporate day job like me, the last thing you want is your employer doubting your ability to work remotely reliably.


I can't speak for everyone but having a laptop outage would be a major setback for my ability to get work done!


You can shop Amazon laptop chargers here if you need to secure a backup.


Battery Cell


Battery cells are the ultimate insurance policy for the digital nomad on the go.


Even when you expect to have charging options at your disposal (planes, trains, cafes, etc) sometimes things don't always go according to plan.


Train in Italy
I've frequently encountered connectivity issues on trains - be prepared!

The most common issue I encounter on the go is being in a crowded place where there aren't any available outlets. Another common issue is running into outlets that don't work, especially on trains or planes.


This can be a nightmare or just a minor inconvenience depending on how prepared you are.



Anker is a battery cell maker that I use and can highly recommend. They make models with different charging capacities to fit a variety of budgets. You can check out other portable battery cell options here.


International adapter


You will need at LEAST one international adapter appropriate for the country you're visiting.


Depending on how many devices and gadgets you're traveling with you might need to have more than one device plugged in or charging at a time. If you'll need to charge multiple devices overnight be sure to pack more than one adapter.


I'm usually traveling with my digital camera and drone so only having one adapter doesn't always fulfill my needs.



Also, be mindful of the difference between an adapter and a converter.


The adapter allows for male plug endings to fit into sockets of foreign countries. Not all adapters have a built in voltage converter


Meanwhile, a converter changes the voltage so that devices like hair dryers won't explode when plugged into the wall of a country where the electricity voltage varies.


Most high end electronics (cell phones, laptops, etc) have chargers that can handle voltage differences across geographies. Devices with less technology (like a hair dryer) typically require a voltage converter.



The only way to know for sure is to read the product label on your devices.


You can shop for international adapters and converters on Amazon here.


Power Strip


Be tactical about the power strip you travel with and be mindful that there are a few important considerations.


Usually power strips are dual voltage (be sure to check) which means it can be plugged into a foreign outlet using a plug adapter, without a voltage converter.


This is a great hack to cut down on the number of converter plugs you need to bring, since the power strip will likely have five or more sockets designed to fit your device plugs.


I'd recommend picking one up that has multiple USB ports as well.


Just be mindful that everything you plug into the power strip must ALSO be capable of handling dual voltage, otherwise those devices could be damaged.


Be careful about packing a power strip with a built in surge protector. There's a possibility that the device views the voltage difference as a 'surge' and may not work, or worse, damage your devices.


Cord length should also be a consideration here, the extra length can be quite useful when you're at the mercy of power outlet placement in unfamiliar places.



Here's where you can shop for power strips on Amazon. Be warned - even though I've set the search up to look for "power strips without surge protection" they will be mixed into the results.


Noise cancelling headphones


Sometimes working in crowded noisy public places doesn't bother me, other times I find it impossible to focus.


One way to deal with noise is to spend time on tasks that require less focus and critical thinking when in these situations.



But sometimes duty calls and you've got to dig deep to focus in a chaotic setting!


Regular headphones are a great way to drown out the noise. Or you can take this strategy a step further with noise cancelling headphones.


If you're interested in learning about how that noise cancelling magic works you can read more here. Otherwise you can browse current offerings on Amazon here.


VPN


If you're going to be dipping your laptop into sketchy public internet connections I'd recommend using protection.


VPN encrypts your web activity which is a fancy way of saying it makes your computer and data more secure and less vulnerable to outside threats.


Most corporate travelers (like myself) will have VPN provided by their employer. Unfortunately, that also means I'm not in a great position to recommend a VPN service provider for individual travelers.


With that said, I would recommend you first educate yourself on what VPN is really all about using this helpful article.


Reusable Water Bottle


This is especially important when traveling outside of the USA. You'll want something to utilize all of those water bottle refilling stations while on the road.


If you get something higher quality with insulation it will also keep your drink colder longer which is a nice plus as well.


Having a reusable water bottle is a great way to cut down on waste while also saving money from having to purchase bottled water.


Depending on where you're traveling you won't always have clean drinking water at your finger tips so you need to be thoughtful and plan ahead.


You can shop insulated water bottle options on Amazon here.


Post its


Post its are amazing. I use them throughout the day to jot down quick notes that I can keep to organize later when I have more time.


They're also one of the smallest and lightest note taking mediums to choose from.


When you're on the road space and weight are at a premium!


Note Pads


Sometimes, nothing beats a good old fashion note pad.


When I travel I have miniature ones I like to use for brainstorming and jotting down quick notes.


Pens and pencils


This item is pretty self explanatory, but this IS a complete guide so we're touching on everything. Let this serve as your reminder to pack an adequate amount of writing utensils.