General Question

JonnyCeltics's avatar

Which piece(s) of technology should I get for my month-long travels, and beyond?

Asked by JonnyCeltics (2716points) June 11th, 2014

I’m a journalist and a teacher. This summer, I’m spending a month traveling Eastern and Central Europe, and I’m looking to purchase some new technology. Normally, I would just bring my current laptop—a 13-inch macbook pro—but it weighs 6 lbs and, with portions of my travel dedicated to backpacking, if you will, I’d prefer not to lug it around.

It just so happens that my birthday occurred recently, so i’ve a few hundred bucks at my disposal, on top of whatever else I decide to spend (for the sake of this Q/A, let’s roll with $5–600 total to spend).

My initial thought is to get an iPad Air, with an attachable keyboard. But that is cost prohibitive, and I fear it getting stolen if I stay in hostels and some rats decide to go clawing through my bags and take my stuffs. I imagine I could also get a small laptop, like a netbook(?), but that hinders movie-watching and the ability to read (as a tablet would enable).

Because I’m a teacher, I imagine having a tablet, which I’ve yet to use, could help too while I lecture (I often pace with my notes in hand. And though I do love the feel of paper, and highlighting, I realize that new technology is about being open to the experience that it can enable.) So I’m also thinking longer-term too.

(FYI – I have an android phone)

just some food for thought. what do ya’ll think?


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23 Answers

janbb's avatar

I travel a lot and had an iPad but I found it too heavy in my backpack. Recently bought an iPad mini and that is perfect for most purposes. I don’t have a detachable keyboard but I don’t do a lot of writing on it – just notes and e-mail and Fluther. Definitely an asset but you have to consider the costs and avialability of Wi-Fi and/or a data plan.

Seek's avatar

The Microsoft Surface does that thing where it folds out to a laptop, then folds in to be a tablet.

The Surface 2 is $449, which still leaves you with some cash to grab the attachable keyboard thingey. It comes will full-Windows software so you can still do laptop-type work while having the option to use it touch-screen like a tablet.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Oh man.. . I have such a different take on this subject you might as well delete this comment.
I would not bring any new, marketable device I would not bother with the ability to watch movies. You are there to experience the people and the country, not on-demand-vids from NetFlix. You should not carry anything you are concerned about losing or getting broken.

The only tech I would take are those that enabled easy communication with the folks back home and the ability to write and store presentations that might be used in future classes.

I would expect anything new to be stolen or at least be a target. Make sure anything you a carry is spray pained to look ugly and has your name or mark inscribed in at least 2 places, one visible and one hidden.

That said, you will have the time of your life. Enjoy!
Stay away from Svetlana and her twin sister. They are dangerous.

gailcalled's avatar

My bro-in-law took the iPad Air to Palm Springs for two weeks and then recently to France for a month. He used it only for photos, communication, translations and maps. I believe he is having it attached surgically for the next trip to Paris in Sept. No additional keyboard.

flutherother's avatar

I took a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 abroad and found it was perfect. I could take it everywhere as it fitted comfortably in my pocket. I used it as a phone, for internet, translation, maps, email, photography, calendar/planner, to do list, diary and alarm clock.

JonnyCeltics's avatar

@LuckyGuy love your response. Plato would be proud, and I’m with you on this. I usually just like to read (actual tangible books) and find places/people to play chess with. But I am also going to be writing a bit—for an assignment, and for personal reason—hence the need for some workable tech. In that sense—any further thoughts?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JonnyCeltics I would go with older, less desirable tech, not the latest and greatest. Something about the size of a netbook that has a browser and Office (or similar) installed so you have Word, maybe powerpoint and a USB slot so you can store your docs in a separate location .
Think back…. what was considered hot 2 years ago. What was selling for $1000 back then? . That is what I’d take.
This also explains why I still carry my MIL Spec Casio Ravine 2. I see that the Android version Casio Commando is for sale for ~150.

When I travel I like to take papyrus paper books and magazines that I can leave behind. A paper back book is almost as useful as the hithchiker’s towel. It can be used as a gift, it can help start a fire, used as toilet paper, napkins, origami. I can think of dozens of uses.
As you travel you intentionally leave some behind to lighten the load and increase goodwill.

“There always are in the world a few inspired men whose acquaintance is beyond price, and who spring up quite as much in ill-ordered as in well-ordered cities.”—Plato

Seek them out.

jaytkay's avatar

A tablet is designed for starting at web sites and clicking on advertisements. It’s all about consumption. They aren’t for writing.

As @LuckyGuy wrote, the goal of travel isn’t spending time gaping at a screen.

Remember netbooks? They were hugely popular for a short time before the advent for the iPad. The current equivalent is the Chromebook. I would go for that.

filmfann's avatar

My wife bought me a Kindle for Christmas, and I wasn’t thrilled to gett it, since I like holding and reading real books, but after several months of use, I find myself unable to put it down. I can read, write emails or post on the web, surf online, or just play solitaire. I love it.

whitenoise's avatar

how about a nice photo camera?

JLeslie's avatar

When I travel with my iPad I am always worried it is going to get cracked. I guess if it is in a case that protects it, a hard case, that is less of a worry, but then you add weight. Also, I wonder if you are traveling abroad if your iPad or something similar will even work? I would think it depends on the country. Same with your phone.

If I was backpacking through Europe I would want a phone (maybe just buy a throw away if my phone is not going to work or if it will be crazy high international charges) and I would leave other internet communication for when I stop in towns and use computers at hotels or libraries, assuming there are computers provided like that as they are in America. I would not want to risk worrying about my iPad or similar, or lugging it along and it doesn’t work. As it is I worry about my iPad if the hotel doesn’t have a safe in the room, I worry if I have to leave it in the hot sun for hours, it’s more trouble than it’s worth on a trip like that I think. I don’t have to feel connected all the time when I travel, I don’t miss it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@filmfann Noooo!!! Take off the Solitare game! Quickly! If you must have a time-waster, add Sudoku. or something that exercizes your mind.

JonnyCeltics's avatar

Great suggestions, but remember, I’ll need to be doing some writing—revisions and edits, and for an assignment… so some level of consistent production is important.

josie's avatar

I would also leave behind the expensive tech stuff, except maybe for a decent camera. Save the money and use it to buy Euros. Your dollar isn’t worth much against the Euro, so you will need it. As for writing, if it were me, I would take a BIC pen and and a lined pad. Just sayin.

JLeslie's avatar

@josie Yeah, but we’re old. LOL.

josie's avatar


What do mean we? :)

antimatter's avatar

What about a laptop?

JonnyCeltics's avatar

@antimatter I’m leaning towards a cheap small laptop with a couple gigs of RAM, 11 inch+ screen, good battery life. Something not to break the bank.

antimatter's avatar

When cheap comes to mind Lenovo G 500 should be under $ 1000.

Thammuz's avatar

I suggest an android tablet (for all sorts of security reasons, not the leats of which that you can encrypt all the data to avoid identity theft) a portable battery charger such as this (and in general, take a look at the smartphone/tablet accessories for a lot of nifty stuff) to avoid running out of power even when backpacking in some remote eastern european countryside, a backup old-fashioed cellphone with its own sim card (in case the smartphone gets stolen) and an unassuming package you can hide it into, possibly something that can stay on your person even in the aforementioned hostel situation.

A flash drive with copies of your ID, visas and the like (which you would do well to have on your cloud storage services as well) in case you need to prove your identity at an embassy could be useful, although it’s not necessarily guaranteed to.

If you go to a hostel, remember to spread out the important stuff to different pockets so there is no “motherlode” and to configure your smartphone/tablet and the like to set off an alarm if one of them gets out of bluetooth range.

Also, all android devices with a GPS tracker can be tracked through google, and there are several services that allow you to remotely wipe the device, should it get stolen.

Thammuz's avatar

Also, as a side note: Europe uses 220V AC, and a different socket type than the US and the UK. I have noticed that most charcers for electronics, laptops and smartphones included, work fine up to 240V, but the socket shape is an issue. Try to buy adapters beforehand, maybe even a powerstrip of your kind so you can use a single adapter on the typical single hotel room socket but still charge more stuff at once.

Also: this

JonnyCeltics's avatar

@antimatter $1000 = cheap? I don’t think so…not for me.

GloPro's avatar

A magic jack for telephone calls all over the world at a flat rate and an AC converter which allows you to use any type of outlet you encounter.

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