Packing Question: Should you take your laptop on your trip?

Posted in: Trip Planning


Online at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. Photo by Fact244.
Online at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. Photo by Fact244.

The scene is all too familiar: While packing your bags back home, you spot your laptop computer. It seems to be winking at you with an all-knowing, come-hither look.

“Take me with you,” it says. “Please. You know you need me!”

Well, Cheapos, what do you do? Should you pack your computer or not? Can you survive your trip without it?

Laptop Pros:

– There are all sorts of light, cheap, and web-only laptops that are well suited for travel.

– Taking a laptop makes it easy to update your friends and family from the road. You can send them daily emails and photos.

– A laptop keeps you informed of news and current events. (It also allows you to set your Facebook status from fabulous locales.)

– Many hotels offer free wireless connections, making it easy to go online — and avoid paying for computers at inconvenient internet cafes.

– Laptops can help “spur of the moment” travel planning and research. Need a restaurant suggestion for tonight? Go online from your room.

– A laptop can help keep an eye on your workplace activities. This could minimize feeling overwhelmed upon your return. If necessary, you can work from the road.

– Of course, some of us travel for work and simply must take a laptop. Case closed.

Laptop Cons:

– You’re on a trip, right? Not having a laptop and being “offline” can help recharge your batteries, so to speak. Do you really want to turn on your laptop first thing in the morning, just like you do every other day of the year?

– Internet cafes offer low-cost access to your email and websites.

– Many travelers already receive their emails on their telephones. A laptop just isn’t that necessary.

– Lugging a laptop around requires additional packing and extra security considerations. (You’ll probably choose to cross off hostels from your accommodation considerations.)

– While many hotels offer free Wifi, other hotels charge for the service. It can add up.

– Wifi isn’t always a sure thing, especially if your itinerary doesn’t include major destinations. Think you’ll easily find a signal in the rolling hills of Tuscany? Think again!

– Laptop bags can start feeling pretty heavy, especially as you acquire souvenirs. “You just had to bring that thing along…”

– Most “mission critical” work and research can be done in an internet cafe. Or when you get home.

To pack, or not to pack the laptop? What do you think, Cheapos?

Do you take a laptop with you while you travel? Why? Do you swear against it? Why? Post a comment below and tell us what you think!

About the author

Pete Meyers

About the author: An Ohio native, Pete Meyers was bred on family road trips and the Beach Boys. When not working at EuroCheapo HQ in NYC, Pete likes to be found eating bouillabaisse anywhere in the south of France.

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14 thoughts on “Packing Question: Should you take your laptop on your trip?”

  1. As an alternative to carrying my laptop around, I’ve recently purchased an iPod Touch and am going to take it with me on my next trip to Europe. I like having internet access for checking out accommodation options and getting information and email, but I don’t want to be worrying about my laptop. I am hoping the Touch will be a handy alternative. My one concern is availability of wifi. Does anyone have any feedback on the availability of free wifi in Europe?

  2. I usually leave mine home, unless of course it’s a business trip. Even a three-pound notebook starts to feel like a ton after a few weeks of traveling, and I hate worrying about losing it or having it stolen. On the other hand, I usually do bring a mobile phone.

  3. I take my laptop on every long-distance trip, including my last one to Paris.

    I write my trip logs, edit pics, audio and video. Check the latest weather, sightseeing info, available local tours and events, where to get good, cheap local eats, train/bus/ferry schedules, reconfirm flights. It has become as important to me as my passport.

  4. @ Pete Myers – I missed your 2nd question. Believe it or not, we usually travel with a Sony Mylo as well. We have a T-Mobile Hotspot account for this device, which resembles a phone. It makes Skype phone calls too. You can access web pages, but they are pretty hard to read. It’s excellent at picking up Wi-fi signals, which we sometimes don’t find with the Asus eee.

  5. I just bought an iPod touch. It does everything the iPhone does with a wi-fi connection– except make calls.

    I see no need to bring a laptop, especially if you are moving around quite a bit.

  6. I’ve always swore that I would not travel with my laptop but more and more I’m wishing it was with me. Waiting for someone to get off the one computer at my hotel, running late and needing to book my next hotel in a hurry or uploading my videos to youtube so I have memory left on my camera all seem to be reasons I’m reconsidering. I for one am going to start shopping for a travel size laptop…or an iphone (do those even work in Europe?)

  7. @ Pete Meyers –

    Pete, I do use the netbook frequently. I keep a journal, send trip update e-mails, check reservations, weather, traffic, etc. I don’t fall into the trap that many do, which is to spend too much valuable vacation time online. This is the perfect little machine for the job.

  8. I recently bought one of the smaller laptops, a netbook because I am in graduate school part time and I hated lugging the laptop around to work and then to classes (well, that is my excuse and I am going with it!). I also just got back from a cruise and brought my netbook along with me and while I had to pay for access for the two weeks I was gone (in Europe) it was well worth the effort. It was nice to be able to check on my bank account and I also had downloaded several pages from different websites of places to visit, etc… In addition, I kept a short journal. I don’t know if I would take it with me if I were moving to different hotel rooms over the course of a vacation, but I did enjoy the access. AND I did have to force myself NOT to look at my work stuff while I was gone. I did not want to get sucked into anything!

  9. I never travel with my laptop – I value it far too much to bring it with me in case anything happens, and if it was with me, I’d spend all my time on Facebook. Laptop can be really handy though especially if you need to book accommodation while travelling, check in for flights etc. so my boyfriend has a teeny tiny laptop (i.e. netbook) that he brings with him. It comfortably fits in a bag and weighs under a kilo. Success!

  10. Thanks for the feedback – keep it coming!

    @Pam – do you find you use your netbook frequently when you take it with you? And any tips for picking up wifi signals?

  11. I usually leave mine home, unless of course it’s a business trip. Even a three-pound notebook starts to feel like a ton after a few weeks of traveling, and I hate worrying about losing it or having it stolen. On the other hand, I usually do bring a mobile phone.

  12. Unless I am on business trip, the laptop stays home. The last thing I need is to lose it or break it.

  13. I travel with a netbook – my Asus eee, which can actually fit in my purse. In installed Skype and can make international calls wherever I can get a wi-fi signal. That said, don’t spend too much time on the internet – enjoy your travels!


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