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Travel Unravelled Q&A Series 3: Computer Yes - Computer No?

Notre cyber cafe/our internet cafe Photo by Gearoid and Claire

Notre cyber cafe/our internet cafe Photo by Gearoid and Claire

Welcome to installment three of the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. This particular TU question deals with computers as questions about traveling with or without them come up frequently. So:

The Question

Do you recommend traveling with a computer or leaving it at home?

Criteria: Travel time is 3 months and visiting any 3 countries of your own choice.

Heather Robb (Purdy)


I'm on holiday to visit new countries, have new experiences, taste new foods, meet new people - not sit on a computer.

l go to work Monday to Friday and sit in front of a computer. l come home, log on and check the sites l want to check. l log on at weekends too - so, why would l want to go on holiday, which l do to relax and enjoy myself and sit on a computer? I'm on holiday to visit new countries, have new experiences, taste new foods, meet new people - not sit on a computer.

If l need to check email or contact home, hotels and hostels have internet access. l can do what l need to do on my mobile, if needed. A computer is an additional worry and weight to carry with you - in my opinion. So what if l'm on a 12 hour flight - plug in the MP3 player, read a real book, or sleep! Ok, l want to write a blog or keep a journal - might not be in real time but l take a journal note book with me and keep a daily diary. Through security, lap tops are a pain having to be checked out, additional insurance, and what if it gets nicked?

So in my opinion - computer says NO!!

Email in Gopane Photo by Lilibellil

Email in Gopane Photo by Lilibellil

Sam Daams (Sam I Am)

Personally, I can't imagine not travelling with a computer, but I also make my living by running a website, and that requires a certain amount of 'always online' mentality. I have, on shorter trips, decided to leave my computer at home just to not have any kind of distractions; fantastic!! But I guess more and more the question is "what is a computer?". More and more phones have all the same features you'd require from a computer for travelling purposes and I think most people would take their phones with them on trips.

Gretchen Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)

At one point in time, I didn't have a computer with which I could travel. A big Mac G4 tower and monitors were way over the weight limit without including my 2,000 pounds of luggage at airport check-ins. So, no to taking a computer anywhere. Since that time, I started out slow with our first laptop and only taking it when we'd visit our friend in Florida. We could 'hack' into his broadband to check TP and upload photos. We now have 2 laptops - PC and Mac - and for the most part they both follow us around.

All in all - short trips - no computer but long trips, worth the consideration.

Given the 3-month, 3-country criteria, I believe we would bring both computers so we wouldn't have to share. (I'm PC illiterate while Beerman is lacking in Mac skills.) Sort of like Sam, I make my living by working for a website - the computer would be a necessity. I do not own a cell phone that would work as a replacement device which makes the computer that much more important. All in all - short trips - no computer but long trips, worth the consideration. Though, internet cafe computers and online data/photo storage capabilities do negate the need for your own. Just be vigilant about your passwords and personal information in those situations.

Spider Solitaire

Spider Solitaire

Kris Kalav (beerman)

Well, lugging along a 20 kg desktop, 10 kg monitor, keyboard, and mouse.... Hmm.... I'll say no. Now, if you're talking laptop or smartphone, sure, why not. They take up far less space, and are much lighter, and you can do virtually all the same things as you would on your desktop. Call me crazy, but I tend to travel heavy. But I would happily bring along a laptop (no smartphone yet) on any three-month holiday I would plan. It wouldn't matter if I had internet access, I could still document what I wanted, upload pics of my trip, etc., and then update my blog when I had a good connection. Even in third world countries, they would marvel at my antique Dell laptop, no doubt asking how I manage to even play solitaire on it. Laugh I would, while beating a game of 4-deck Spider Solitaire and bragging to the village elders. I could at least show the locals pics of my other adventures as a way to strike up a good conversation. As long as I had an electrical outlet, I could do what I wanted on my laptop. And if all else fails, a trusty #2 pencil and pad of paper would suffice.

Nikki Leigh (Rraven)

For me travelling with a computer is a no unless it is necessary for work, many countries have decent internet access & cafes when it is needed. The extra bulk/weight in the back pack is not worth it.


For more information about the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series see: Travel Unravelled Q&A Sessions Unleashed. Please join in on the discussions!

Posted by Isadora 13:31

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Table of contents


It's definitely coming along with me on that length of trip. It's what would give me the excuse to go on the trip in the first place, so no two ways around that unfortunately.

Thanks to more powerful phones, I could consider leaving it behind on trips that aren't too long (no more than a week or two at the moment). So long as all I need to do is email and browse the internet, I could make do with that.

by Peter

I meant to send in an answer to this, but travel got in the way (despite bringing a laptop!) :)

My answer would definitely be an unequivocal YES! - I wrote down reasons why in some length for Talking Travel a while ago: http://blog.travellerspoint.com/223/

by Sander

Thanks for the comment Sander! Now that you are (or have been recently) travelling - any thought on guidebooks? It's the next question... ;)

by Isadora

No, if I'm travelling for leisure. If I should need Internet access, there's Internet cafe, or I can just use my phone. I hate carrying a laptop, it's heavy and I have to keep it safe. It's more of a trip crasher to me :D

But Yes if it's a business trip where I'll have to check emails and do some work. I'll HAVE TO take my laptop with me (not because I want to).

by zags

I would go for a yes on this. We took a net book on our 6 month Soutn American trip and it makes checking out accommodation, best flights, bus times etc& keeping in contact via skype so much easier rather than queuing to find a desk top somewhere. Net books are ideal. so a big YES from me

by ian Nightingale

I found when working short-term in China my own computer was a god-send as I could largely sort out my own problems and keep a blog. The school provided one but it was set up for a Manderin speaker and the school technician didn't speak English and I no Manderin. When I travelled I left the battery out to cut the weight, and only used it when there was a power source.

by Lorraine Merito

Being a very serious photo enthusiast, I need to store lots of high resolution photos (in Raw and jpg)as backup on my compact Ebook which means I have to carry it in my backpack most places. Also means I can download and check the photos whilst travelling. Can also check emails but must admit that travelling without a laptop could be done by just being vigilant about keeping photo memory cards secure - I keep the photos stored on them as first option with the computer backups but this means taking many memory cards on a long trip. Need to keep the cards in the money belt for security.

by Babs

"Don't Leave Home without it"!
For the last 3 years I have traveled to Ireland, England, Poland and Italy, and have had my Laptop with me all the way.....at least 99.9% of the time because I had left it in the floor at JFK Airport and forgot to pick it up and walked for at least 1/2 hr before I realized it wasn't in my Backpack. True panic set in, my 2 month old MacBook Pro was gone, and I had no idea how to get back to that restroom where I left it. A security guard saw my panic attack, and directed me to the checkout counter where an agent calmed me down and got on the Public Address System and announced "If anyone has picked up a Laptop Computer Call Me". wiithin a minute a call came in, a airport employee picked it up, and I retrieved it..whew, that spelled "RELIEF". Now about my traveling with my computer....I backpack all the way, yes at 75 years old the old legs still work along with a few pain pills. All my reservations once I enter the EU are made every day for the next day, ie; flights and lodging, all done with WiFi. This mode of travel is exciting, not knowing where I will be tomorrow, and the only downside is if I can't get a flight cheap enough...the floor in the airport terminal has worked a couple of times. This year in March I will expand my travels and include Spain, oh and this year for the first time I will have a compainion.....that is willing to sleep on the terminal floor if needed.

by Paul Hannan

People....iPad! Don't leave home without it!

by Marla

Since October 2008 I have been traveling for about 18 months split on 4 or 5 trips, On the first trip I had a laptop and buy the third trip I had down sized to a Netbook for size and weight, on the last trip I had an Ipad its the best thing I have had, I feel if I traveled without it I would be lost, as I book flights and accomadation while traveling, I can find cheap car rental good food and the best places to visit, but the best thing is it has an app for Voip that you can use Like a mobile and as long as you have a voip account you can ring any where in the world for very low cost or even free and of course there is the skype app Plus you can store all your photo's movies and music. so to the question should you take your computer on trips with you Bloody oath you should dont leave home without it, I am off traveling again later this year for around 8 - 9 months on a round the world trip and the first thing I pack is my Ipad

by PeterH from downunder

I think the new Ipod Touch 4 is an alternative to a computer as Notebook or other computer of this category. It is small, you can put it in your pocket and it has all the potential of a small computer. A good solution when traveling...

by Pierre Baril

I've just purchased a 10.1" Samsung Net book to take with me when I travel. Its very light,small and compact and fits nicely in a slot in my small shoulder Laptop bag.
I agree with other peoples comments concerning not wanting to lug a Laptop around on holiday, which is preciously the reason I bought a very small and light Net book.Its very handy when travelling particularly when using the Net to browse for accommodation and book in advance on line. Plus of course sending emails and using Skype.
Obviously I wouldn't be lost without it, but its handy for basic communication.
Finally, I guess that we all know the old well known saying - One man's meat is another man's poison!.....which like it or not,is so very true.

Kind regards

Brian Scott

by Brian Scott

I need to do it because i travel for diving and i need the computer for downloading all the dives to the log book, also all the pictures because have happened that the camera memories fails and good bye memories of the vacation.

Finally i do some articles for a diving magazine so for me its a most!

by esperanza guerrero

Because I am addicted to the damn thing!!
Even cruising, my great love, you can now use it in your cabin, making my being away more like being at home....errrr, maybe that is not the point of a holiday. OK, Next trip I will leave it at home...errrr, maybe not because I will miss it.

by Bill Healy

I took my MacBook Air on a river cruise during the holidays because I wanted to maintain a blog (with pictures) of the places I visited. The Internet wasn't great on the boat, but I was still glad I took it. Lots of friends and family kept up with me through my blog. If Apple had an iPad app for iWeb, I would have just taken that. Maybe they will in the future?

by Kay Ezzell

Wow - thank you for your comments - didn't expect this at all!!!
We have two trips (possibly three) in the planning and it looks like both machines (Mac and PC) will be going with us. Okay, they are short (5-10 day) visits to family and friends. (But, the PC laptop gets a "tune-up" during one of them.) It seems the overall consensus is 'take the damn things along'.
Again, thank you for all of the comments and input. Guess this dinosaur needs to enter the 21 century and maybe get a real cell phone... On second thought, not yet! I can only handle so much technology at any given time. LOL!

by Isadora

Definitely I would never travel without a laptop computer again. I just returned from volunteer work in Africa and every day I wished I had my computer with all my resources on it. I was working with illnesses and diseases that I never had to deal with in North America. And I felt so handicapped not being able to research and answer my questions. Also next time I will have satellite internet access.

by renee S

We recently completed a 95 day around the world tour touching on 17 countries.
I agree, they are a pain at the airports, believe me we went through about a dozen of them. I bought a small Netbook just for the trip.
I wrote my blog entries, I followed my Email and most importantly I downloaded the images from my cameras.
I also stored all my travel documents, either original digital versions or scanned to PDF. Yes, I had paper copies as well so it didn't save on weight but at least there was a readily available 'spare'.
I don't see the computer as an intrusion, rather an essential tool when travelling.

by greynomadm

I travel with a small Notebook so that I can download my photos each night, then back them up on a flash drive(s). This gives me 2 copies of the photos. I also check in with family and friends from time to time, as well as check up on bills I need to pay. It is small and light and does not inconvenience me. Where I draw the line is putting my photo editing software on the machine as I would be tempted to spend too much time playing with pictures.

by Victoria Bergesen

Personally, this solo female traveler can't imagine travelling without my 9" laptop. It weighs only a kg and is an essential travel tool for me. I have 23-30 people on my email blog list. Each day I photograph RAW & JPEG & then at night instead of wandering around searching for an internet cafe, I plug it in, compose my email & load my day's edited photos into the email. I look forward to receiving the replies each evening from friends and family. Travelling in developing countries makes for hysterical blog. Nothing is ever seamless.

by Debbie Taylor

I travel extensively in a motorhome throughout Australia. I run several internet businesses to pay the bills, including selling stuff I collect on my travels on ebay.
Must have my lappie!

by John Miner

We have just finished a 4 month trip to Australia and we were horrified about the amount of laptops in communial/lounge situations in backbackers and youth hostels. Are they the new tv,s everybody sitting around not chatting with each other , jabbering to their little screens on Skype in many different languages it was really intrusive to the ambiance of the travel experience.
We did a one year round the world backpacking tour about 8 years ago and found the sense of adventure and the commaradie was far better without the dreaded laptop

by palaceboy

With me, it is varies: If i am on holiday (eg: upto 2 or 3 weeks), then it is an unqualified NO. I am still fighting to stay low-tech in that I don't have a smartphone either: If I am on holiday, if it is urgent, those that need to contact me will know how. Everybody and everything else can wait.

However, If I am away or travelling (1month to 3years, on previous history), then yes. Over the course of a longer trip, you are still going to want/need to do the things you use a computer for at home: Check email, internet banking, check a few favourite websites. In addition, you might have photos to back up or upload, and a blog to write. In such instances, a laptop is increasingly useful, and I would not travel without one. Having said that, I will take my person netbook (small, lightweight, cheap) and not my work mac (lovely, but larger and heavier). I just don't need that extra functionality, unless I am "properly" working.

by Gelli

computers NOT computer. I have several computers while i travel. For serios fun serios computers are needed....i can provide service as i travel. I can test water. I can diagnose,cure and even fight with a computer.

by Jaguar

We have just spent 18 months travelling Asia, and each took our laptops, and portable harddrives to perform backups. Uses included storing photo, booking/checking accommodation, getting tips from travel forums, online banking, downloading and watching video, and getting directions. We used a handheld device in an earlier (and shorter) trip but found the screen too small for comfort. We also restrict our accommodation options to those with free in-room Wifi. It's interesting how some of the cheapest places in the furthest reaches can offer this - whilst four star hotels charge an arm and leg for the same.

by soundsgood

It really depends on how you use it - if you need it for work, or you are writing a travel blog, then why not? If you are just obsessed with social media and checking your mails all the time, maybe it's a good opportunity to step away. Even worse than computers are smartphones, as you can take them anywhere, and their owners seem intent on 'looking it up' everytime something comes up in a conversation. Very very irritating, and the biggest threat to being socialable that we have in the world today!

by Bebhinn

For sure computers have their uses but I find it a little sad that we cannot exist without them. My partner and I have travelled extensively ( a year or more at a time ) and have never missed carrying a computer. Now we run a hostel and see that many of our guests spend more time on their gadgets than they spend exploring. Why not stay at home and travel virtually? It's much cheaper!
Just my thoughts.

by Nick Wright

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