7 Benefits of Travelling With a Laptop

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Many first time travellers wonder whether they should bring a laptop or not. Some people advise against it because of the security risk, extra weight to carry, and the danger of shutting yourself off from local experiences by spending all your time on Facebook. We have travelled with and without a laptop and would say that if you are a photographer, writer, blogger or work from the road then it is definitely worth taking at least a small netbook.

When we first went travelling around the world at the end of 2007 we didn’t even consider taking a laptop with us – we were trying to travel light and as we weren’t working or even blogging on the road it just didn’t seem necessary. While we were away we caught a glimpse of the first tiny netbooks from Asus and after seven months Simon finally convinced me to buy one in Malaysia. He missed being able to write (pen and paper was slow) and as the first Eee PC was the size of a paperback novel I couldn’t really complain. It certainly made life easier and we were able to avoid the dreaded internet cafes.

This time round, as we are travelling forever and working on the road, a laptop is essential. We travel with a 13 inch Macbook Pro and a 10 inch Asus Eee PC (the latter picked up in Buenos Aires when we discovered sharing wasn’t working out). As well as the obvious advantages of being able to surf the net we have found a number of other benefits of travelling with a laptop.

1) Free Wifi

Internet cafes aren’t the nicest places to work: they are often noisy, hot and crowded and the computers slow. With your own laptop you can take advantage of the free wifi found in many hostels and cafes and work from much nicer places – like a balcony overlooking the sea. Even if your accommodation doesn’t have wifi you can write blog posts and emails offline and then publish them when you get internet access.

2) Skype

Being able to talk to your family for free from anywhere in the world is amazing, and seeing them with video chat makes all the difference when you are travelling for such a long time. In Rio we struggled to find a payphone that worked to call our bank before we realised that it would be much cheaper and easier to buy Skype credit and call them from our laptop. It’s free if the other person has Skype, but even calling landlines abroad is really good value. Six months later we have only spent £5 of our credit.

3) Storing Photos

On our last trip we used an iPod to store our photos, but it was slow and we couldn’t edit them. Now it’s great being able to upload our photos to our laptop, edit them as we go and have an extra backup on our tiny Western Digital Hard Drive.

4) iPhoto and iMovie

We are recent converts to the Mac and have discovered the joys of iPhoto which makes organising your photos so much easier. As well as sorting them into different groups you can do basic photo editing and can publish straight to Flickr and Facebook (although unfortunately only to your personal profile, not your fan page).

We haven’t created many videos yet but what we have done has been really easy using iMovie.

5) Language Resources

Using an online dictionary (I like Wordreference) makes travelling with a heavy foreign language dictionary unnecessary.

We also use Anki to organise our vocabulary learning. This free app uses spaced repetition to increase memorisation by repeating more often the words you don’t know and gradually decreasing those that you do. There are lots of other online language resources that I’ll be sharing in a future post.

6) Movies

Being able to watch films occasionally is really nice, especially when you are in very quiet places or you find yourself ill and incapable of doing anything else. It’s also useful to pass the time when the plane movie turns out to be dreadful.

7) Music

Having our entire music collection on the laptop and being able to easily add new music to our iPods is a big advantage.

As we sold all of our stuff before we left to travel our Macbook Pro has replaced our TV, DVD player, stereo, 500 CD collection, and desktop computer. We wouldn’t travel without it.

Are you planning your next travel adventure? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip. 

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41 Comments (1 pingbacks)

  1. I know for sure I’m taking a laptop for the reasons above exactly! I can’t take my current one cus its really to big & bulky so my big debate is if I should buy a netbook or a mac book pro when the time comes. I really want a Mac BookPro but know its a lot more money than a netbook. I think in the end it will end up depending on how my savings came along!


    • I suppose it depends what you need it for. If you can get by with a netbook it is cheaper, lighter and you are less worried about it getting stolen. That said, we love the Macbook!


    • Backing up is SO important. My 1000s of photos from our Bolivian salt flats tour are currently stuck on my CF card and it’s so worrying!


  2. I always travel with my laptop for all the reasons you listed! Sometimes it can be a hassle and surely the extra weight can get to be too much but all in all, it’s definitely worth it!


  3. That’s a lot of “pros”, but how about a “con”? I actually enjoy to travel without my phone or even international roaming. I mean – you’re taking a week to relax and get off the usual routine. But yet here you are – checking e-mail and reading same stuff :)


    • I completely agree. We have just had over a week offline and it’s great to have a break sometimes. We don’t ever travel with a phone either.


  4. Couldn’t agree more. I can’t imagine going anywhere without my laptop. I was debating selling it and getting a smaller netbook, but I don’t think that would cut it with all I want to do.


    • It does depend what you need to do. We haven’t regretted bringing the Macbook Pro at all, as Simon needs something more powerful than the netbook for web design work.


  5. I agree. A little netbook weighs almost nothing and can make a huge difference in dealing with issues on while traveling – like using Skype to call banks and credit card companies if they deny a purchase because it looks suspicious. Using it to download photos can ensure they’re not lost if your camera or memory card goes missing Also, having a blog makes taking a computer a necessity, really.

    You have a very slick blog, by the way!


  6. My boyfriend and I work while we travel as well, and we’d never dream of leaving our laptops behind. I find they come in handy when we’re planning out our day and looking for things to do or places to eat. Instead of hauling a LP or other guide book around, our computers offer a wealth of free information, often more updated and accurate than a guidebook anyway.


    • I admit I am still addicted to physical guidebooks, although that may change when I get a Kindle. In places like Bolivia where many places don’t have internet, or it´s painfully slow, it´s much easier to flick through your guidebook. I do like using the internet to supplement the info though, especially for accommodation recommendations.


  7. A laptop is a must for me as well. I’ve been using my Acer Aspire 1810T for the past six months and it’s a gem. It’s larger than a Netbook (11.6″ screen / 1 kg) but has the specs of a powerful laptop. It barely takes up space in my backpack!

    Just being able to open the laptop whenever I get the urge to work or write a post is something I’m addicted to these days. But if I didn’t have any work to do while traveling, I’d probably opt to leave the laptop at home so that I wouldn’t have to worry about breaking/losing it…


    • The Acer sounds like a good option, although we are recent but firm converts to the Mac now! I agree that if you aren’t working it probably is more hassle than use.


  8. The thought of going away without my laptop is shuddering to the bone. I live my life through my laptop. Photos go straight from the camera to be stored on the laptop. Thoughts are jotted down straight away to word. Surfing google about the place I am in, is so routine i do it without knowing it. NEVER leave home without your laptop!!!


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