Q&A, Travel Advice, Travel Gear

Q&A – Travel with a Laptop

14 Comments 26 May 2010

Travel Questions? Ask Them!

I get many emails from travelers all over the world asking me questions about my travels.  Here are some of the recent ones that are great to share with everyone!  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask!

Q:  From Anna in New York city – I’m planning a trip to start in December ’10 and have questions…
Did you travel with a laptop? Was that a good idea or bad?

A:  Yes, I travel with a laptop, however I use it to write and blog while I’m in the road. So I’m probably not the average traveler when it comes to carrying a laptop.  First I would recommend really considering what you want to use a laptop for while traveling.  Once you can answer that, then you can start to figure out what type of equipment is right for you.  For me, a long term traveler, it is really nice to have your own laptop to use for skype, travel research on your next destination, upload photos as a backup, and to simply stay in touch without having to use an internet cafe. However if you’re not a travel blogger, then I would recommend getting a cheap travel netbook (mini laptop) to simply have some internet access, and upload/backup photos.  If it’s cheap, then you won’t feel as bad if it’s lost or stolen. You can now get little travel laptops for about $500 and they are really just used for internet and some storage space.  That way it won’t take up much room, if it gets lost or stolen you haven’t invested a ton, but easier to use than an iphone or droid as you’ll have a full keyboard. Here’s a recent review from PC World about The Best Laptops, Netbooks, and Smartphones for Travel.

Here’s another good post about 7 tips for taking a laptop traveling, the author lists some good things to consider if you considering taking hardware with you!

If you decide to take it with you – then here’s a must read from my friend Anil at Foxnomad (he’s a security guru!) – The Traveler’s Guide to Locking Down Your Laptop

Blogging in Action at an airport in Vietnam

Q:  How did you get internet access?

A:  Depending on where you are going wireless internet may be free, or you may have to pay for it. I can safely say that all thru SEAsia(and most of Asia) – you can find it for free. Also – unlike America, most coffee shops, hotels, and airports also have internet and it’s normally free if you are a ‘guest’ there. Sometimes in Europe you’ll have to pay. If you know where you’ll be staying – you can contact them and find out if they offer internet. When I stay in hostels or choose hotels, I only choose places that offer wireless internet – else I won’t stay there. That way after touring around all day I can sit in my room and write or catch up on emails.

A decent source to find public access Wifi spots is Wifinder – just put in your location and see what’s around you.  It’s not completely up to date, but it will give you a good start if you are researching a travel location.

Finally, I would also highly recommend bringing an ethernet cable with you as you never know when you’ll have trouble connecting wirelessly on old routers, etc.  By bringing an ethernet cable – you may just be able to directly ‘plug into’ the internet and skip the wireless hassles.

Q:  Did you really write and upload photos in the internet cafes?

A:  When I first started traveling, yes, that’s how I did it. – I had a little card reader and would plug in via USB port at internet cafes and slowly try to upload my photos. It was painstaking. Once I started taking my laptop with me, I could at least get the photos on my laptop, even if the internet connection was too slow to upload them to the photo site I keep at Smugmug. So at least I had a backup – which was important to me. Yes, I also did the writing in internet cafes. Which the amount I write now, I don’t think that would ever work for me again. I find it so much easier to have my own laptop to travel with. However it is extra weight and security concerns. That’s why I suggest getting a cheap one for travel.

Q:  What blogging software do you use for Ottsworld?

A:  I use WordPress. We also use it on Briefcase to Backpack, Meet Plan Go, and Auraliya (my many sites!). It’s a great free software that is constantly updated and provides a lot of flexibility – and most importantly you don’t have to be a tech genius! You can have a free acount on WordPress – or simply choose your own host and download WordPress for free and then customize it.

Keep the questions coming!  Or if you have experience traveling with a laptop and want to provide Anna with more info – please leave a comment below!

Your Comments

14 Comments so far

  1. Anil says:

    A laptop can double as so many things and is great travel gear. If I didn’t use one to work though I’d get a netbook as well.

  2. Great advice. We find a laptop indispensable, but then again we’re on a working road trip.

  3. megan says:

    I’ve only just started my trip, but I’m really glad I decided to bring my laptop. It does add quite a bit of weight & value to my bag, but so far it’s made life much easier in terms of tracking my travels, writing and editing photos. I just can’t imagine doing the same stuff in internet cafes.

    Plus, it was great to be able to watch a bunch of Buffy episodes while travelling on overnight trains 😀

  4. I wondered if you’d noticed a trend for people starting to use those smaller notebooks for internet access when travelling as they’re also a lot cheaper than the average laptop

  5. Mark H says:

    Hotels are still slack on providing economical (or preferably free) wi-fi. It is one of my biggest annoyances of travel.

  6. Laura says:

    Thanks so much for sharing the website Wifinder. What a great resource. I’m definitely going to be using that at some point, as I’ve had many frustrating experiences searching for wifi!

  7. I’ve been absolutely amazed during this 4-month trip around Mexico that laptops are everywhere. Two out of ten people in the bus stations are working away on them and there is pay wifi in some of the stations. Halfway through my trip I got tired of struggling with finding cheap hostels that also had good wifi, so I bought a TelCel aircard and had connection even in the remotest canyons and jungles. How far we’ve come, from even a few short years ago.

  8. ayngelina says:

    In Central America there are tons of people with netbooks but what I’m also seeing are a lot of iPhones and iPod touch. As you can use Skype and check Facebook, emails it’s a great alternative. If I didn’t have a blog I’d definitely use one of those

    • admin says:

      Yeah – the ‘blogging factor’ makes a simple ipad or iphone hard to use. Ah – the sacrifices we make for the love of blogging!

  9. Theresa says:

    Great Information, thanks for the great Article. Really great topic to write about on my Site. I probably set a bookmark from another site. cheapest netbook

  10. Regarding internet, we buy a pre-paid sim card with an internet plan in each country and use the iPhone as a wireless router (using “MyFi”), along with just plugging the iPhone into the laptop via Internet Tethering – it works quite well for us. It does require quite a bit of research to discover which provider and which plan to go with but once you’ve got it you don’t need to worry about it again until you change countries! Sorted :)

    • admin says:

      Michael – very cool idea – thanks so much for sharing it. Will def. looking into it! If you have any site you recommend for doing that research – please let us know!

      • My pleasure! Glad to help!

        Well, I usually just start by googling “mobile internet OR broadband ” and take it from there, but if you’re interested in any places we’ve already been, I keep notes on all the options – http://michael.tyson.id.au/mobile-broadband/

        At the moment in the UK we’re paying £25 for 7GB, which sounds great, but we’re going through it about once a week or two because we’ve become obsessed with “The Tudors” and watch an episode per day! Ah, well, it’s the excesses that make life grand 😉


        (PS. Actually, my mistake – It’s called “MyWi” – silly name.)

  11. I just took my first vacation with a netbook and it was great. I bought it a few months before the trip and it was great on the long flight to London…one that didn’t have movies in the seat back in front of me. Even without wifi on the plane, I was able to work on cleaning up my email and a few other projects. The first day I carried the netbook with me around London, thinking we might want to find someplace with free wifi to help us decide where to eat or go. But it was heavy to lug around and I never touched it, so after that I left it at the hotel and checked email morning and night, and downloaded pictures. The first two days I managed to blog…then realized there wasn’t time in the day and it was limiting me to about 4 hours of sleep.

    I’ll never travel without the netbook again, even if just for the plane and hotel. Now to figure out how to manage blogging the trips and were to post it…the posts really didn’t fit into the theme of my current blogs but I posted on one of them anyway.

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

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