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Digital Travel Advice - Laptops

Travelling with a Laptop

Should you travel with a Laptop Computer? In most people’s opinions the answer to this question is no. If you are travelling for pleasure, why would you want to have the burden of carrying a computer around? There are, however, a few reasons that you might want a computer along for the ride. You may be mixing business with pleasure for example, or you may take digital photography so seriously that your images are stored as large TIFFs and you want to view them quickly. Being able to go online easily is no longer an excuse with the abundance of internet cafés around, but what if you will be staying somewhere you know there is no internet café for a very long time? If you simply can’t travel without a laptop this article attempts to try and give a few pointers about what you need to look out for.

Strength, Size and Weight

If you have the benefit of buying a laptop before travel, you should put some thought into the build of the laptop and how it will suit your style of travel.
If you are trekking the Himalayas and crazy enough to carry a computer, then you probably want to spend more on a smaller and stronger laptop and give up a few perks such as big screen and media drive. Since you’ll be dragging that thing with you up a mountain, you want it to be light. You also need it to be strong, since it will no doubt be thrown into a backpack.
If your travel is more of the five star variety, you might want to take a whole portable space centre with you. A fast computer with all the peripherals is fine if you use heavy, padded carry cases. Just remember there is always going to be some point where you have to carry your own bags.

Power Considerations

Unless your trip is very short, or you intend on using your laptop for a very short period of time, you are going to need to consider how you are going to get power to your laptop.
If you know you will be spending a long time away from power you need to think of how long your battery will last and whether you need to take a spare. Batteries are heavy remember, the decision to take spares should not be taken lightly if you are going to be doing a lot of travel.
With laptop batteries the aim is usually to get them lighter or longer lasting. We would recommend a Lithium Ion battery for anyone seriously considering travelling with a computer. They last for ages and are low in weight.
Make sure your laptop is capable of charging from both 110V (America & Japan) and 240V (The World). This information is usually written on the charge adapter. Most laptops are multi-voltage, as they are designed with travel in mind.

Security Considerations

That laptop is going to be a big nugget of gold around your neck in some countries, if not all. Getting insurance for a laptop on the move is not easy, most travel insurance policies offer no where near the value of a laptop in loss or theft compensation. So this means that a) you are risking losing your laptop and b) you are going to stress constantly about your laptop. We know, we’ve done it. Here are some tips on how to keep your laptop safe.

  • Don’t stay in shared hostel dorms with a laptop. If you absolutely have to, then take your laptop to a library or something before taking it out of its bag.
  • Don’t carry your laptop around in a fancy laptop bag. Or if you have to, leave the bag inside another. In some areas of some cities a laptop bag is like hanging a sign saying “mug me” around your neck; and you’re in a strange city. See below for more ideas on carrying your laptop.
  • If you don’t feel safe in a city, then don’t use your laptop in public places, such as libraries and internet cafes. Get a room and use it there.
  • Always carry your laptop as carry-on luggage on aircraft. It’ll get damaged in the hold.
  • Don’t leave your laptop in cars, left-luggage rooms, baggage holds on trains/coaches.

Packing Considerations

When travelling with a laptop, you need to think about how you are going to carry it around. The laptop needs to be safe and sound in its little bag, but as mentioned above – doesn’t need to draw attention to itself. A laptop bag is fine if you are travelling somewhere familiar or somewhere known to have low crime rates. If not using a laptop bag, then you need to make sure your laptop is sufficiently cushioned wherever it is being stored. A good quality laptop will survive the rigours of being left in a daypack, as long as you don’t throw the pack around. A better idea is to get a dust cover for the laptop, this stops scratches to the casing and provides a bit of padding. Even better many travel stores sell backpack style laptop bags with padding built in. Storing your laptop in a large backpack may not be wise. It’s hard to keep a large backpack with you at all times. Also, a fully packed backpack will have some interesting twisting forces going on inside its contents. This may in turn cause your laptop to make some interesting noises as it is slowly cracked in half by the pressure. A laptop in the middle of a flat-packed suitcase may be okay – we’re not sure – who the hell travels with a suitcase anyway?

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