I have never traveled with my laptop until this past trip to Las Vegas. My primary day job is on a computer, and with all the blogging I do, I am on a computer from morning until night every day of the week as it is. So I’ve always been very happy to unplug during my vacations. A vacation away from home has also always been a vacation away from technology. I do have my cell phone with me in case my family needs to reach me and so I can tweet, and I’ve always felt that was enough. My opinion on that, though, changed during my past two trips.
In Paris, I felt very disconnected from the world. I didn’t speak enough French to make friends in the city while I was there, my cell phone tweets weren’t making it to the outside world, and the one time I tried to use a hotel’s loaner laptop was a huge failure, in terms of speed and connectivity, as well as the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to use the keyboard (which looks very different from US keyboards). If it weren’t for my ability to text my brother and an afternoon spent with @leganomads and @ParisBuff, I would’ve felt completely isolated.
After that trip, I decided I didn’t want a situation like that happening again. Especially when you travel solo, it’s really important to be able to stay in touch with people back home while you’re gone. So I bought a Toshiba netbook off Amazon.com and loaded it with my favorite applications and bookmarks. It has Skype and a webcam, though I haven’t used them yet. Was it useful during my trip to Vegas? Hell yes!
- First off, I was able to experiment with daily live blogging. This did take time away from doing other things, but I was glad for the alone time in my hotel room every day; as an introvert, there’s only so much I can stand being around other people.
- I was able to upload photos from my camera memory cards every day, which gave me some peace of mind that if something were to happen to my cameras or the cards themselves, I would have a backup copy of my photos.
- I was able to use the netbook to stay connected with people back home, as well as on social media.
- When I needed some down time away from the crowds and wanted to do something that didn’t cost an arm and a leg (like drinking, gambling and shows do), I knew I could entertain myself on my netbook (although I had to pay a daily connection fee at my hotels, it was still cheaper than the aforementioned activities).
- I was able to keep myself occupied during 2 long layovers at JFK by plugging into their free Internet.
But most importantly, when my flight home was canceled Tuesday night, having a netbook enabled me to see what my options were for flights home and available hotel rooms for the next few nights–during the busiest time of year for Las Vegas. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without it.
I had already checked online and seen there were hotel rooms available on the Strip. As I was riding home from the airport (where I went to get a new ticket home), my cab driver tried telling me I wouldn’t be able to get a hotel room on the Strip, because they were completely booked up, and the best I could hope for was some off-Strip long-term-stay dive. Because I’d already seen otherwise on my netbook, I knew he was full of shit. (And possibly high, but that’s another story…)
Having seen the usefulness firsthand of carrying my netbook with me, I don’t think I’ll ever travel without it again. Yes, it requires a bit more time going through security at the airport (though, really, all I have to do is remove the netbook in its sleeve from my knapsack and place it in a bin; I don’t have to remove it from the sleeve, because I carry my cord in a separate ziploc bag in my knapsack). But I’m pretty organized, so it’s not as much of a pain as I expected it to be. In any case, the benefits far outweigh any negatives. I would also consider using an iPad if they weren’t so expensive, or a smartphone if I had one (unfortunately, I’m stuck in a Verizon contract for one more year before I can get an iPhone). But in any case, I am now a bring-your-tech-with-you-when-you-travel convert.
What about you? What do you bring with you when you travel solo to stay connected with the outside world? Or do you? Do you have any success stories of when your technology really proved its worth on the road?