Laptop, Tablet or Smartphone For Travel?
They’re the gadgets we can’t bear to be without, and when traveling they can feel like a lifeline to keep you connected when you are far away from home. But to travel light means making a crucial decision on which tech to take. Weight, cost, size, security – these are all key things to consider when choosing which device is best suited to your next trip. We take a look at the pros and cons of traveling with your laptop, tablet or smartphone and give the lowdown on which device is the best for taking on the open road.
For everything but a traditional phone, the big plus for the laptop is its sheer versatility as well as all that storage space. The software on your laptop means you can do pretty much everything you need as an active traveler, plus start the blog and document your travels! Typically, more powerful than a smartphone or tablet, you also get a normal sized keyboard and a bigger screen, as well as all your full-sized documents at your fingertips making it the go-to for those business trips. Laptops can also be used for your music, photos, games, videos and films, so an all-round in-flight entertainment system. For serious work on the road, you could look at adding a laptop cooling pads or stands to your hand luggage. And to keep connected at home, go WiFi for your social media, Skype, Facetime, Messenger, WhatsApp and other apps.
Device downside: While they are your convenient office on the road, the main negatives to taking a laptop on your travels are the weight, bulk and price. You may be able to stash your laptop in your hand luggage for your flight, but they just aren’t the thing to take in your travel backpack for a day’s sightseeing. And there is the risk that you will lose or break what is a weighty investment.
You could look at one of the popular laptop/tablet hybrids which offer a camera on the removable tablet and is lighter to carry. But, unless you are on a business trip or are a serious traveling blogger or online entrepreneur, we say leave your expensive laptop at home.
As the half-way between a laptop and a smartphone, the popularity of tablets has steadily increased, and it’s easy to see why. With their larger screen, intuitive use and better battery life plus, on many models, a half-decent screen keyboard, with the right device you can get the best of both worlds. OK, you do lose the phone element and also text but with Skype or Facetime, as well as Messenger and WhatsApp easily loaded onto your tablet, you shouldn’t miss your traditional phone too much.
The retina quality of many tablets is also pretty darn good, meaning whiling away the time watching Netflix or playing a game is a visual pleasure and the screen size is better for your eyes than a smaller smartphone. The battery life is a real selling point too – especially when in flight mode or just using WiFi. There are also add-ons for your tablet that can take them nearer to laptop territory, such as Bluetooth keyboards and for your music, they can take most wired and wireless headphones.
Device downside: with even the smaller tablets coming in at 7-8 inches, size could well be an issue for taking a tablet on your travels, as they really won’t fit in a pocket. They are also heavier than a smartphone meaning they may not be the best for carrying around when out and about all day. Using the camera on a tablet is also nowhere near as convenient or flexible as a smartphone, due to their size and bulk.
You most likely already carry your smartphone with you, wherever you go, and even the basic models have a host of functionality and app options to meet your daily contact and connectivity needs. As a device for traveling, smartphones come into their own and can take the place of multiple devices – so no need to pack your camera, music, alarm clock, maps, rechargeable flashlight or compass! All in a handheld device that fits in your back pocket, making a smartphone a total space-saver too.
The size of your smartphone means you also have room in your hand luggage for the extra essentials to make any long journey bearable – we’re thinking wired headphones (or wireless headphones for extra space-saving) to play your music or get gamed up.
You can still keep connected with your smartphone and access emails, messages and social media while on the road, as long as you have the data or free WiFi access. Plus, you can tailor your smartphone to match your trip with a myriad of destination sites, maps and insider-info apps to choose from. And the lightweight nature of smartphones means you can take your device straight from hand luggage to rucksack/back pocket when you arrive at your destination and hit the tourist trail.
Device downside: the biggest negative to the smartphone is battery life. You’re lucky if a smartphone lasts longer than a day on a single charge and long hours on the road will sap that juice all the quicker. You’ll need to be able to top-up the charge during the day, so the charger will always need to be close to hand – or a portable power bank could be a useful addition. The smaller screen of your smartphone may also frustrate you after a while, especially if you’re gaming or watching videos and as we all know, other than texts and short emails, the keyboard is really not built to deal with longer documents, so perhaps not best for a serious business trip.
The best device for your travels all depends on the reason for your trip, how long you are going for and how light you intend to pack. But overall, for pleasure travel, the smartphone really is the best option for most people – it is light and convenient to carry with you, whether that’s while traveling or sightseeing and has all the essential functions, apps and camera capabilities to make your trip one to remember. A tablet can bridge the gap if battery life or the need to do limited work is on the must-have travel list but unless your trip is for business or you need to work while you travel, we say leave your laptop at home.
- Seven tips on keeping your phone safe while traveling – CNET
- 7 Secrets to Taking Better Travel Photos – Smarter Travel