Freelance Travel Writing Gear: my top 10 must-haves

Once, while sitting by the river and working on my laptop at an eco-lodge in Belize, another guest approached me and said, “Travel writing must be the life – you get paid to vacation and they buy you a free laptop.” There are a few things wrong with his sentence, but the one I’ll focus on here is the “free” laptop. Freelance writers aren’t given the equipment we need to do our job. We buy it ourselves and haul it with us wherever we end up going: camel riding in Morocco, practicing yoga in Mexico, or scuba diving in Belize.

Price is a major factor in deciding what I need to buy, but durability, weight, and multi-functionality matter too. The trick is to invest in gear from the States that I can’t easily find in foreign countries. Notebooks, memory cards, and toiletries are available all over the world, but my core list of crucial items were bought before I got on the plane. Here is a list of must haves to bring with me when I travel.

Travel Writing Gear: BackpackBackpack: Osprey Kestrel 

Osprey bags are well known for their durability, which was extra important when I had to carry my entire life on my back while I travelled throughout Belize for three months. Rips, tears, or broken zippers weren’t an option – and they weren’t an issue.

Travel Writing Tools: Digital CameraDigital Camera: Olympus PEN E-P1

What makes the Olympus PEN E-P1 camera the best bet for travel writers is that the camera body is lightweight and discreet, but still takes beautiful photos. The extended battery life allowed me to shoot hours of HD video and hundreds of still shots in Belize’s Mayan villages with zero access to electricity.

Freelance Travel Writer Gear: LaptopLaptop Computer: Apple MacBook Air

I’m a firm believer that anything I take with me on a trip has a good chance of not coming home with me. I proved I’m okay with that when I left my iPhone in Morocco. But if anything were to happen to my MacBook Air, I’d be devastated, and not just because of its high price tag. As a blogger, my light as air MacBook Air is my business partner and best friend. For me, the cost is justified because I don’t get a sore shoulder from lugging a bulky computer everywhere, and the MacBook Air is lightning fast, which saves me time.

Freelance Travel Writing Tools: StaplerMini Stapler

While in Morocco, I collected hundreds of business cards, menus, flyers, receipts, and promotional materials because that information becomes vital when writing articles after the trip. The easiest way to organize all that loose paper is to simply staple it into a notebook. Voila. Organized.

Travel Writer Toolkit - Business CardsBusiness Cards

I wish I’d printed out business cards earlier in my career. Having my name, contact information, and website on one little card is much more professional and organized than scribbling on a scrap of paper. In Latin America especially, business cards are a requirement. Not having one reads as amateur. Exchanging cards with anyone from hotel owners to interview subjects is as necessary as a handshake, mostly for formality.

Freelance Travel Writing Tools - SmartphoneSmartphone: Apple iPhone

A smartphone is like a miniature laptop that fits in my pocket. When I’m traveling I can quickly access travel apps and email, and take photos for my social media platforms. In New York City, I use it constantly to navigate the subway system. Oh, and that Starbucks app? Perfect for finding the nearest free bathroom.

Travel Writer Gear - HeadlampHeadlamp

Headlamps are the ultimate hands-free device. In Paraguay, I used my headlamp every night on my way to the dark latrine. In Belize, I put it to good use exploring wet and dry caves. And I can’t forget all those nights it illuminated my travel journal as I wrote down my latest stories.

Freelance Travel Writer Gear - JacketOuterwear: NorthFace Fleece Jacket

I spend very little money on clothing. Most of my travel stuff is destroyed in months and left in whichever country I’m visiting, but I made an exception with my NorthFace Fleece. It’s durable, washes well, and adds a layer of warmth without much bulk – features that more than justify the precious space it takes up in my backpack. I’ve worn it biking in China, hiking in northern California, and on the windy beach in Uruguay.

Travel Writing Tools - Garment BagSeatoSummit garment bag

I only pack one backpack when I travel, which means my hiking boots, emergency snacks, and underwear float around in one big compartment. Not cool. SeatoSummit garment bags changed all that. I tried them out on a trip to Portland and was able to keep my clothing clean, folded, organized, and away from my dirty shoes and clementine oranges.

Freelance Travel Writing Tools - Yoga MatYoga Mat

A yoga mat is my one essential non-essential when I travel. I’ve used it as a makeshift bed in Paraguay and for actual downward dog stretching in Cabo, San Francisco, and Belize. To transport the mat most effectively, I roll it very tight, secure the top with a rubber band, and insert the bottom into the exterior pocket of my backpack designed for a water bottle.

About Megan

Megan L. Wood is a freelance travel writer and full-time free spirit. She's lived and worked on five continents, and still feels like Paraguay is home.

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1 Comment

  1. I really really want to be a travel writer. I love wildlife and do a fair bit of travelling to wildlife parks and so on and this year have opened a business to do just that. I have been writing for years on issues as the editor of a periodical on the deaf community of India called The Deaf Way. I just want to write some light hearted funny stuff that gets a laugh and takes people to a place they have never been or never would go.
    I would really appreciate it if you took time to read a post of mine on my wildlife blog, and tell me if it is interesting, do i have skills, should i pursue this. I am a travel freak and have been to 26 of 30 states in India. I have travelled europe on my own for months at a time. i like writing about my wildlife adventures. I have so much more material sitting in my head and in my laptop in pictures. really need to know if i should go with writing. I would love to. I am a total freedom addict, just have that concern, yeah money, to sort out.

    Really would appreciate your comments.

    These are a few articles i wrote for a social site in india called india mike.

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