Summer vacation season is already starting for most of us, and for notebook users taking to the road, we have made a little list of suggested items to throw in your bag. Everything listed can easily fit inside a standard backpack with plenty of room to spare. If you pack correctly you could even fit a few days worth of clothes inside too! Most of these items fall directly into the notebook-related category, but some are just common sense to always have with you.
Don’t Forget Your Notebook
Your Travel Laptop: What kind of notebook travel guide would this be if we didn’t start out by talking about the type of laptop you’re bringing with you on your travels? Notebooks come in all shapes and sizes and the type of notebook you bring will depend on your needs. You might need a 17-inch multimedia notebook for serious gaming on the road, or a 7-inch Eee PC for light travel use and web browsing.
For business trips I usually pack my 15" ThinkPad T60, or my work provided 14" Dell D630 if they make me. These notebooks are probably the biggest I would consider traveling with as they can be quite heavy. If you don’t need the performance of a fullsize notebook, get the smallest notebook you can afford. For budget conscious travelers an ASUS Eee PC starts as low as $299, or for those who through caution to the wind, an SSD-equipped Sony VAIO TZ might be a better choice.
Notebook Bags and Slipcases
Notebook Backpack or Messenger Bag: A good laptop bag can be the difference between an enjoyable trek or a painful adventure. Always shop around for bags, read reviews, and above all else try to find a store that sells the bag so you can try it out. What might seem comfortable to one person might be painful to another since bodies can vary in shape and size, or pain tolerances. I like to pick a big that is no larger than the width of my body and has very wide padded shoulder straps. If the bag is no wider than me, I know that if I can fit through something my bag should as well. Wide shoulder straps come in when carrying heavy loads, and being able to spread out the weight over a greater area to prevent high pressure spots.
Notebook Slipcase or Sleeve: Notebook sleeves are great if you already have a bag you love, but it isn’t really designed to carry a computer. They are super thin and lightweight, and give just enough padding around your notebook to prevent damage pack in other things around it. These slipcases are also much cheaper than buying a whole new bag.
Wireless Mouse: Even the best notebook touchpad can make your hand tired after hours of use. I find that a small travel mouse gets plenty of use if I am sitting down at a desk inside a hotel room surfing the web or typing up an article.
USB Card Reader: If your notebook does not have an internal card reader that works with your digital camera’s memory card, you are out of luck if you try to upload photos to family and friends (or boss) while on a trip. A multiple format card reader is even better in the event a friend needs to grab images off their camera and doesn’t have the proper equipment stowed with them.
Plug Adapter and Mini Power Strip: This is especially important for international users who need to power and charge multiple devices in a hotel room or other setting. Plug adapters let you use your foreign device with international outlets, and a small power strip lets you share that power with multiple devices without needing a handful of individual adapters.
LAN Cable: Not all destinations have WIFI in this day and age, with many hotels still offering wall plugs for internet access. While some offer LAN cables if you need them, I have been to plenty that don’t have any left or just don’t offer them at all. It is wise to always pack a small cable with you, if only for that one time you ever need to use it.
High-Capacity USB Flash Drive: Call me paranoid, but if I take lots of pictures at some international location that cost me a couple thousand dollars to reach, I take every step possible to protect my images in the event something breaks. This means backups of important items in many locations before I leave my destination. With large flash drives costing next to nothing these days, it is hard not to justify the purchase to protect precious images in the event your camera gets lost or your notebook’s hard drive gets damaged in transit. Another huge backup location some people forget is their iPod, with offer 80GB or 160GB of space in some models.
Photo Editing Software: Photo editing software is sometimes overlooked, but it is essential if you plan on sending images over the internet from some exotic location. A 10-megapixel consumer camera can dump out a 3MB-4MB image, which can take forever to email if not resized or compressed. GIMP is an image manipulation application I love to recommend, since it is free and every easy to use for basic functions.
Anti Virus Software: If a virus wipes your system clean in the middle of nowhere, do you really think a local computer shop exists to get your notebook up and running again? I am one of those guys that really doesn’t like AV software on my system during daily use, but if I am going on a trip somewhere, I wont take any chances.
Quad Band GSM Cellphone: Depending on the country you visit, your cellphone may or may not work, including use for emergency calls. Not all phones sold in the US work in other countries, which is especially true for CMDA phones used on Sprint or Verizon networks. If you are going to do some globetrotting, make sure you pack a phone that is compatible in the country you are going to visit, which generally means a quad-band GSM phone. I prefer to use a non-Smartphone, since they tend to have much better battery life, and I don’t make enough money to afford international roaming data rates.
iPod or other MP3 music device: Plane rides are boring and not everyone likes to read romance novels on a business trip. I use an iPod Touch exclusively while flying about, since it stores just enough music to keep me happy, and has a fairly large screen to watch movies or TV shows. Bonus points if you jailbreak it, and install a few simple games on it like solitaire to help kill time.
Digital Camera: I feel no one should be without a digital camera, and with many good models costing a little more than $100, they can fit into anyone’s budget. It is also wise to bring two or more flash cards with you, since in the event one goes bad or just runs out of space, you can keep shooting uninterrupted. I tend to go overboard in this category though, packing a Pentax K20D DSLR, a compact digital camera, four memory cards, and plenty of spare batteries.
Of course, you’ll also want to worry about packing clothes, some food and drinks for the road, but this list should take care of most of your travel needs in terms of electronics. Enjoy your vacation and be sure to spend some time enjoying life … don’t just sit in front of your laptop for your entire trip.