Home » Travel Advice » Tips » Should I Take My Laptop Traveling?

Should I Take My Laptop Traveling?

Published 09-10-2008
 
by Paul Dow ~ 3 mins, 38 secs read

laptop2

In a word, “no”.

I can actually feel myself boiling up with anger when thinking about this issue. It amazes me that anyone can actually sit down and consider taking a laptop around the world. I’m not talking about staying in posh hotels or on a business trip, but when traveling on a budget for a long period of time.

The answer is just so obvious, why would you need to ask the question in the first place?

Let’s see, what type of person would require a laptop to take traveling with them?

I can think of perhaps two:

1. A Web/Software Developer
2. A Writer/Journalist

update(3. Photographer)

I could realistically see either of the jobs above needing the use of their own personal computer while they are on the road. If you aren’t working as either a web/software developer or a writer/journalist then you don’t need to take a laptop with you.

Marketing To A Gadget Driven Society

It amazes me that today everyone seems to want to have a top of the range laptop. It’s probably a testament to slick marketing that people find small, slim, sexy, powerful, (expensive) laptops appealing.

Most users who simply burn DVD’s, CD’s, watch DVD’s, write emails or a blog don’t need a super all singing all dancing laptop, unless you use it for work. Recently my own Mother went “online”, having not much of a clue about computers or the Internet she just presumed she required a laptop to do the job. It seems desktops are highly unfashionable these days.

“But I need my laptop to…”

For too many young people, a laptop seems like some kind of status symbol, “look at me I can burn a DVD and check my email at Starbucks”.

The question you’ve got to ask yourself is, do these people really need a laptop? The answer is, “no”. Now to get back onto my point, if they don’t really need a laptop, do they really need to take one on a long trip or around the world?

I think you already know the answer.

You’ll often hear such arguements as:

“I need it to back-up my photos”You could equally just walk into a Internet cafe and burn them onto a CD.

“I need it to write my blog , emails and to keep in touch with people on the road”If you need to write an email, burn a CD or write a blog, again you can do it all cheaply in an Internet cafe.

“I want to watch DVD’s on the go”You can watch DVD’s in most hostels, guesthouses and planes. When you’re on the train or bus just read a book.

The hassle involved with taking a laptop on a long journey is simply not worth it unless you are in fact a journalist, writer or web/software developer. The weight of carrying such a device around with you would drive you insane after a while, not to mention having to find a secure place to keep it.

By taking a laptop you’ll find yourself constantly watching over it or trying to find a big enough safe to fit it in. It’s bad enough looking after an out of date mp3 player, digital camera and mobile phone let alone a laptop.

With the number of Internet cafes in backpacker hot spots these days there is really no excuse to be lugging around a shiney new laptop. The Internet cafes are so readily available in most places (OK, Hong Kong is pretty useless in my opinion) that you’ll probably be kicking yourself that you ever thought of bringing your precious laptop in the first place.

Imagine taking a laptop to poverty stricken regions such as India, Laos or Cambodia. All just to watch some DVD’s, write a few emails to friends and to post a blog entry on your own personal computer.

Sounds like a stupid idea, doesn’t it?

But there are people out there right now, doing just that.

If that still hasn’t put you off taking your laptop with you,
Seven Tips For Taking A Laptop Travelling from Travel Happy.info sees the other side of the argument.

Do you have an opinion on taking your laptop traveling? Maybe you’ve taken one before?

Feel free to comment below…


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Paul Dow is the Editor of TravMonkey.com and has travelled solo for 2 years through Asia, Oceania, New Zealand and South America. Now based in London whilst exploring parts of Europe and further a field when given half a chance.
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41 Comments, have your say...
  1. haha! Love it!! Completely agree, there's nothing more annoying than being the beast of burden for a large heavy laptop. I've done it before out of necessity (writing)but in my furute travels, since a laptop is still a must, I plan on buying the really small kind, or maybe even a PDA with a small fold-up keyboard. And it's tue, you're always more worried about the safety of your laptop than on relaxing and enjoying yourself.

  2. If I took a laptop, I'd probably end up dropping it or spilling something on it. My old mp3 player died half way round the world and lost all my songs! I think it sometimes sounds like a viable idea to take one until you actually have it there with you. Thats when you start swearing at it everytime you have to lug it to the next destination.Thanks for your comments Lucia.

  3. another great post! i'm in agreement as well. backpackers should be getting rid of stuff, not taking more. even in remote southeast asian cities last year, i was able to find an internet cafe no problem. i could burn my photo, update my blog, everything else is just a waste of time.

  4. I know, I find it hard enough to find time to go on the internet whilst travelling. I'm usually too busy enjoying seeing new things and having new experiences.

  5. Apologies to one person who left a great comment that isn't published, somehow I managed to reject it by accident instead of publishing! Doh!It's probably because I'm on the net without my contact lenses in, can't see that clearly!

  6. Agreed. I live in the tropics (currently in Hanoi but moving to Nicaragua..tomorrow – very exciting).I also blog a lot so its handy to have my laptop and living in another country is a lot different to traveling.But…anyone who does bring a computer to somewhere like Hanoi should know…1. Humidity kills computers effectively shortening the lifespan of a laptop to a couple of years tops.2. Electricity surges are commonplace – how'd you fancy seeing all your work literally going up in smoke?3. As far as Asia is concerned pirate software is everywhere. That may sound fantastic (and it partly is) but people using pirated software are unable to download updates, patches and virus protection. Vietnam has a major major virus problem.Leave it behind unless you are going to live here a long time. There are internet cafes everywhere too and most now offer the chance to upload photos to flickr and write your blog.In addition, it costs pennies to put your photos on a cd.

  7. Good points… but you missed out photographers.They need laptops in order to touch up photos. I doubt most hostels would have either Photoshop or Picassa installed.Also.. i am so used to my computer.. i find others literally impossible to use.. i wouldn't want to get to a hostel.. try and upload all of my photos.. somehow screw it up.. and lose ALL of them.Reading on a journey… makes me feel sick. Using a laptop doesn't.So mainly i agree with you.But you know.. Everyone is different. Everyone has different degrees of comfort. I will be taking one with me.Thats my personal choice.Not for you or anyone else to decide. Or judge me for that matter.

  8. don't you think this is everyone's personal choice? i mean if they are happy to lug their laptop around, then it's their problem.i've been traveling with my laptop before and i didn't find it annoying or cumbersome. i still only had my usual two bags with me. plus i tend to get stuck in places for a few months at a time and then it's nice to have your laptop with you. and if nobody knows you have a laptop with you, then they can't get tempted to steal it…

  9. Ah yes I did miss out photographers and probably a few other professions.This is simply my own opinion. If you want to carry a laptop, go for it, but I personally believe it takes you away from what you are really there for…….not spending lots of time behind a computer screen but going out and experiencing things.Thanks for your comments guys, very interesting.

  10. The question is about the purpose of the trip. If it is a job (journalist, pro-photographer, developer, accountant, salesguy, etc) the laptop is an invaluable tool.If you are there to do the usual tourist stuff, take normal pictures, eat well, enjoy good company, why bother with a laptop. I love internet cafes… for a few bucks I get everything I need out of them.My Blog

  11. Snap!http://travelhappy.info/travel-tips/seven-tips-for-taking-a-laptop-travelling/I came at it from a different angle – assuming you DO want to take your laptop, how do you minimise the pain?Here in Thailand, you see travellers with laptops all the time, while even 3/4 years ago when I was draggging mine around, it was a rarity. Mind you, iPods were a rarity then too…

  12. My post is in the most part in relation to long term travel or travel round the world.Students should be at home studying surely?As for gamers, yeah fine on a 2 week holiday/vaction but for months on the road? I wouldn't even take my Nintendo DS with Mario Kart!

  13. Consider taking the laptop but leavingthe hard drive home. Take a Linuxlive boot CD.I did this on my last trip, mostlyfor security reasons…and to seeif it would work.Experiences blogged @ http://ditchthedisk.blogspot.com/

  14. You know, honestly, a lot of your complaints don't seem that rational. a) Worrying about security of the thing? Don't buy such a big thing! Keep it small.b) 'lugging it around'? Why "lug"? You can buy one of those dorky looking laptop cases, but you're just advertising to all the theives around you that you have a laptop. Buy a padded backpack that doesn't have all the hokey logos on it. It looks like a regular backpack, still stores all your other stuff, and stores your laptop all on your back, meaning you no longer have to "lug" the machine around. Try it.

  15. Infamous,If I were working at the same time as traveling the globe, I'd consider it. But for checking emails and uploading photos etc I think it's best to leave it at home.

  16. Until a few months ago, I would have totally agreed with you. I've had a digital camera since about '99 and have always struggled with what to do with all my pictures. My first solution was to just buy loads of memory cards.The next best solution was to buy a portable hard drive based photo viewer – like an Archos or a photo iPod.Now, however, i have the ultimate solution – a new teeny, tiny laptop. It has an 11" screen, fits in my camera bag and fits nicely into any standard hotel safe. With it, I can store my photos, edit them, upload them, play computer games, surf the web etc. etc. I'd be lost without it! It's not cheap, but the best things in life aren't free, or something. :-) http://www.nosywombat.com

  17. I am taking my laptop because i make my music on my powerbook and its small compact and very light. I could not do without it for my music so thats my reason for taking one. We do live in the 21st century now!

  18. Heya i'm only 12 but I always take my Laptop every were to load up photos and checking emails and updating the seine-maritime website in france

  19. Perhaps you should try and get your own facts right before leaving abusive comments.Clearly a large section of the Indian population lives in poverty living on less that USD 0.5 per day."A 2007 report by the state-run National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) found that 77% of Indians, or 836 million people, lived on less than 20 rupees per day (USD 0.50), with most working in "informal labour sector with no job or social security, living in abject poverty." – />Please, feel free to point out mistakes or issues with people's blogs but first do get your facts right and secondly don't resort to childish abuse.Thanks,Travmonkey

  20. I think part of the appeal about going travelling again for me, is the idea of not have anything and experience life away from the materialistic world.

    I lost my ipod, PSP and 300 pound cybershot, after about a day of crying I finally managed to pick myself up and by the end of the trip it was a blessing in disguise –

    Reading a book instead of playing metal gear solid.
    Drawing instead of carrying a heavy camera around.
    Listening and talking to other travellers and locals instead of being in my own world listening to music.

    I look back and think I was no better off with 700 pounds worth of equipment!

    And to add to the above poster, internet cafes are very cheap, and lets face it!!! your away from home, how many times do you really need to check your mail, forget about it and have the time of your life!!!!!!!!

  21. I think travel is a great chance to leave it all behind… phones, laptops etc

    You can live without them.

    TravMonkey

  22. interesting discussion and all valid points. Personally for a long trip I always travel with my laptop for all the above and more…

    - I can use it to warm my feet when it's cold

    - you can teach people you meet how to do things with a computer that would otherwise not have access to one

    - if you run out of money you can trade it

    - processing photos as you go before the collection becomes unmanageable (particulary for diving) but then again I am a camera geek

    - it's cheaper to write a blog on the laptop then head to a InterNet Cafe and post it (creative writing particulary rather than a simple account)

    - you can make money on the road copying peoples photos, image processing, promo work, fixing ipods, sharing music, making videos etc

    that said, use it it for a purpose. If you're playing games or watching dvds on the damn thing I think you've missed the point of going away. Its tempting to lean on your crutches and if you can't say no to that temptation leave it at home and go see the world you came to visit.

  23. I've taken my laptop on three different cruises all over the world. It is essential in my opinion. Between taking thousands of photos (and needing to back them up), being out of touch for several days (and needing to communicate via email on the ship's WiFi), keeping written accounts of problems or high points regarding the trip (typing is much faster than writing), and being able to watch your own movies or videos at night when you get tired of the 3 repeating-loop movies on the ship TVs, a laptop makes the trip so much more enjoyable. My laptop case becomes one of my carry ons, and is able to fit tonnes of stuff (essential boarding/plane papers, cell phone, key cards, maps, etc). It is not really a burden at 10lbs, and is lighter than any suitcase.

    Not everyone needs one, no, but internet cafés do not all allow what you are saying they allow, and that can leave a traveler stuck when something urgent comes up.

  24. Hi,

    I have just planned and booked a 5-6 week trip around europe. Somewhat backpacking, but we will be staying in hotels, and hiring a car too.

    I was going to purchase a little 8 or 10 inch note book. I have been considering getting one of these before anyways, but my main purpose was to back up my photos. After reading your article im unsure.

    My main reason is that i will be taking thousands of photos. My camera is 12mp, with a 4GB card, going into a place that can burn them on to a cd, which can only hold about 700MB, im going to need about 5 CD's for each card i fill. I could fill a card every few days. I dont have the patience to go through the photos and select the ones i want. id rather check at a later stage.

    At the end of a 5-6 week holiday i would end up with a stack load of CD's. I would find that more annoying that carrying around a tiny notebook.

    The person i am travelling with also has a camera, and one that takes movies in High Definition. He'll need some place to back these up – they wont fit on a 700MB cd!

    And to back up photos onto a cd, can cost $6- $10 depending on wher eyou are, even more…after many many cd's, it can be quite a bit. I dont want to find when i get home that some of the cd's are damaged or didn't 'burn' corectly.

  25. Hi Amy,

    Thanks for your comments. I think you really have to weigh it up for yourself and it can depend on many factors.

    If you are staying in hotels as you say you are then you are more likely to have access to safe places to leave your laptop. As if you are very serious about your photography then it also could be worth taking a small laptop.

    Also, where you are travelling to can also be important. For example carrying around a laptop in Cambodia, Laos, Bolivia, Brazil could put yourself in a position as a potential target for mugging. But in most places in Europe it is pretty safe to carry such items.

    My article was originally aimed at backpackers who could possibly be staying in Hostels travelling to poverty stricken countries.

    I think if you can handle carrying the laptop around and finding places to store it, you should be fine.

    Thanks,

    Paul @

    TravMonkey.com

  26. IMO Taking your own wifi enabled laptop is ESSENTIAL if you plan to travel in the US. Not too sure that they actually know what an internet cafe is and if you find one they're expensive when the wifi next door is free. Go figure!

  27. Hi Kim,

    I would probably agree that a laptop can be worth while in many developed countries. I know Hong Kong was especially difficult when trying to find an internet cafe.

    Although taking one can restrict the freedom of your trip some what if you are a backpacking roughing it in developing countries.

    Thanks for your comment,

    Paul @

    TravMonkey.com

  28. I use both Picassa and Flickr for sharing photos over the internet but i use Flickr more often than Picassa.*`,

  29. I was recently travelling Mexico where internet connections are especially slow and patience is definitely a virtue in internet cafés where keyboard keys may as well be upside down! I think I spent about 10 minutes looking for the @ key one day!!! eeep. Anyway I'm glad I read this..sweet vindication that I was right not to lug my laptop round the back streets of Oaxaca, Mexico City and San Cristobal. Good old fashioned notebook did just fine.:)

  30. Paul, totally agree with you about leaving the laptop behind when backpacking for long periods in developing countries. I certainly didn't miss mine for the 10 months in Latin America. There were loads of cheap internet cafes to upload photos, blog, email, Skype etc, and places that burned to DVDs too. Packing a laptop for a backpacking trip is like packing high heels into your already overstuffed 75L.

  31. Hey Lani,

    Yes… for me there's nothing better than having the freedom to wander without worrying about the technology getting damaged or stolen… and it's good to leave it all behind for a while and know that your mobile phone isn't going to ring when you're out in the middle of no where enjoying the experience.

    Thanks for your comment :)
    Paul @
    TravMonkey.com

  32. I love having my laptop with me when I travel. It's light, keeps me entertained on the train, and i don't have to worry about my privacy using public computers. I can also pack it easily and discreetly. Plus, internet cafes are gross.

    I don't really think this article comes from a well traveled person who owns a laptop, it's too biased.

  33. Ya well, add DJs to the list of people that “might” justify bringing a laptop.

    I and still trying to decide, my 4th trip to s.e. asia and i have always been glad I left my laptop home… but this time part of me wonders if I should stay over there, and in that case I would want my laptop with me big time.

    I think I will leave it home, and instead carry my old ipod with all my dj music in the drive and also all my raw Ableton files in case I do want to try to produce some music over there. I will also have with me a android phone so I can check my stuff on the net I need to without many net cafes.

    I figure if I do in fact find a good dj gig, I can then burn my music to cd if they cdjs or I can also tell the promoter or a new friend I need their computer to dj with and then hope to find a midi mixer…

    I might bring a cheap old midi controller (dj mixer for computers) so that way all I really need is to install a app on someones computer and use my mixer .. and like I said, that is if I find a dj gig even.

    So ya, unless you really need a laptop, for go sake your backpacking, leave that hunk of crap at home and try to get some digital detox from your life, screw facebook, don’t post crap from the road, meet someone new and have sex stupid… lol

    • Hi,

      Yeh if you’re a DJ and need it to make money then yes, definitely!

      I think if you are living there then it’s fine but traveling around…it’s just not worth it if you are going for leisure!

  34. I totally agree with your opinions on this but there is another type of person you should add to your list. I’m completing a degree by correspondence as I travel so I need to use my laptop on the road. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea taking about 8 hours a week out of my experience for school but hey it sure beats being stuck on campus in the same city for 3-4 years!

  35. For someone who thinks a laptop has only a screen, a keyboard, a hard drive and software to type on it, it requires only for “A Web/Software Developer
    2. A Writer/Journalist, and update(3. Photographer)” to take a laptop traveling.

    But a laptop can do much much more than that. You can make video calls or normal phone calls cheaply. You can not only write e-mails, but also search websites when you are in a foreign country. I can argue a lot more but won’t waste others’ time. Can you imagine why almost all hotels around the world boast that they have WiFi? If you carry a cell phone when you leave your home, you might need a laptop when you travel around the world.

    • Hi Teak,

      This was written way back in 2008… but the point being that taking a piece of equipment worth a lot of money to countries where people don’t have a lot of money…just to make video calls , send emails etcis kind of ridiculous. Find the internet cafe.

  36. I don’t have a laptop (too cumbersome) – I have a netbook! But I am a travel blogger and a journalist. Also, when I was backpacking through Europe the price of internet cafes would seriously add up, sometime paying even a euro or two for just 30 minutes!

    • Yeh it can add up… I do think it is worth it if you’re making your incoming and using a laptop as a tool.

      This article was written at a time when it was much less common!

  37. I have an old netbook. Remember them. Screen the size of a tablet, a keyboard, 10hrs+ of battery life and a massive hard drive. Pretty great at everything, and as it syncs with the cloud when there is an connection, not a big risk in case of damage or theft. And normally if you ask nicely most people/hotels/hostels will let you connect to their wifi for fee. Its like asking if you can plug in your phone to charge it – a commodity item now.

    • Hi Adrian,

      This is such an old article… I think I may have written it before 2008 and republished! How things have changed! I probably need to do a revamped version really.

      I own a Samsung Chromebook wifi/3g and love it, as long as you can manage your work out of the browser it’s great! So many people saying negative things about it, but I’ve found it really useful…. increasingly so I think too as more apps and tools run from the cloud.

      Cheers!

      Paul

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