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Bringing a laptop along

I am planning on bringing a laptop on the 13 day south Italy tour in May. I've checked, and most of our hotels have wireless connection. The laptop I'm bringing is still at school with my daughter, so I can't check it right now. I think she has a Dell. Are most laptop chargers dual voltage the way camera chargers are? Has anyone had a problem using their laptop in Europe? Do you think it's a good idea to bring one rather than depend on the hotel computers? Any special tips? Thanks!

Posted by
668 posts

Barbara, I take my computer for the same reasons you do. 3 European trips and one to Central America. I had almost no problem with WiFi. While most hotels do not charge for it, a few do and some advertise that they have WiFI, when in fact they are a hotspot for another provider that you have to pay, which sometimes can be expensive. I would be surprised if the power supply is not dual voltage. It would have to be a very old one not to be, but check just to be sure. Make sure you have the right adapters for the outlets in the countries you are visiting. There are two sizes of two pin round plugs and UK and Ireland use a large three pin plug with rectangular pins.

Posted by
1003 posts

James, I went to 10 cities in 6 weeks, but I was not backpacking. I had one rolling carry-on suitcase and a normal-sized backpack with a laptop section. I was in each place for at least 4 nights, mostly 5. I took the train a few times and also flew several times. I'm sure lots of people would say it's a pain in the butt, but I am used to carrying a laptop around, going through airports with it, and my laptop is relatively light at about 4 pounds. I'm sure traveling with a laptop isn't for everyone, but I don't think there's one right or wrong answer. It bothers me when people make blanket "NEVER TRAVEL WITH A LAPTOP" statements on here because some of us really enjoy traveling with it and enjoy the benefits of having a laptop. Just being able to have my trip blog alone is worth taking a laptop, I type so much faster than I write that I know I wouldn't have kept the same kinds of records of my trip had I not had my laptop. I still look back at my blog sometimes and re-live my trip almost 2 years later. It is a precious keepsake to me that I wouldn't have been able to have without my laptop. I also was able to keep close contact with home and I didn't have to waste sightseeing time or worry about finding a net cafe after dark at night at the end of the day, which is when I mostly used my computer. So i'm sure some people would say what I did was a hassle, but for me personally, it wasn't.Barbara, I agree that people back home love the blogs. My friends and family loved living vicariously through me and my parents always knew I was safe without "checking in." At the end of the day, each person must decide if the benefits outweigh the hassles for him or her. For me, they definitely do. For others, I'm sure they don't.

Posted by
345 posts

It most likely is dual, but there's always that slim chance that it isn't. Just check when she gets home.

Things to consider... do you want to carry that dense weight? Have you kept in mind the weight and space not only of the laptop, but of the cord as well, and do you want a mouse? Is there something else you'd rather have for the space takes up? When/why will you be using it? Will you be worried about the safety of it while you're out each day?

Don't get me wrong, I love my netbook, but I still keep those questions in mind before bringing it along. I use mine for photo storage (I can take 8GB of photos in a weekend), keeping in touch, and entertainment.

Posted by
800 posts

Barbara, agree that most laptop charges seem to have dual voltage so you shouldn't have a problem. We HAVE taken a laptop a few times and have also left it home many times. It was great to download photos and do instant editing, one day at a time instead of at the end of a long trip.

It was NOT easy, for us, to hook into wireless everywhere in Europe - but then, this is my husband's work computer and it is difficult enough to set it up in a US hotel, airport, etc. much less one in Europe. This is mainly due to his customized network connections. But if he had work to bring along with him, then it was handy to have all his files with him and I'd eventually figure out the workaround in order to connect.

But for me, to use just for tourist stuff (looking up hotels, info) or to communicate via email - no, I would not take a computer for a short trip. While husband is busy working away on his laptop, I am usually using the free computers that are in many hotels and find this much easier indeed.

Posted by
15545 posts

If you are looking to use it for downloading photos and editing, then bringing a laptop is a good idea. If you're interested in mostly checking email or doing basic web searches, then you might want to look into getting a handheld PDA type device that has wifi built in. The Ipod Touch is one example. There are others.

I have a netbook that I travel with for business purposes. But on vacation overseas, it stay home.

Posted by
19149 posts

If you will use a computer for necessary things, bring one with you. Cybercafes are becoming rare.

Of 14 places I have stayed in the last 2 years, over half (8) have had Wifi.

Of the six that didn't have Wifi, none had an Internet computer, either.

Of the eight that had Wifi, only 2 also had open computers connected to the Internet, and one was in the office, which was locked at night.

Posted by
1003 posts

I had no problems using my laptop in Europe on a 6-week trip and bringing it again on a 2 and a half week trip this fall. Most of my hotels had wireless, and i was easily able to connect to all but one (it was their connection I'm almost sure). If you think you will use it, you should bring it. I greatly enjoyed blogging each day in my hotel room at night as i reflected on what I did and saw that day, in addition to going through my pictures. I also skyped back home to keep in touch, etc. I'm very glad I brought it, but only you can decide if you will really use it enough to make it worth lugging around.

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks for all the speedy replies. I am going to use it to blog and post pictures to my blog. On my last trip to Europe (21, seven country), I was only able to find a computer about every other day with people always waiting. The folks at home LOVED LOVED LOVED the blog and would wait patiently for the next entry. And I wasn't able to add any pictures then. My biggest problem was the foreign keyboards with keys in different places, so I thought bringing my daughter's older laptop would be a good idea. If I ruin it, she'd love to have me replace it with a new one!!

Posted by
881 posts

Just a thought Barbaba (Sounds like you've got things pretty well thought out). My old Dell laptop is about six pounds, it gets to be pretty heavy even on short trips.

I'd recommend a netbook as other have. But if you're not afraid of losing the old lap top, and are going to use it only at hotels, You'll probably be fine. Happy Travels!

Posted by
347 posts

TAKE IT! We took ours last summer for the same reasons - pictues and blogging. We were in England for a month, and while we were in Wales, we did have to use the public library b/c we had no connection, but other than that, we were generally able to get on without much problem.

The only reason weight would be a problem is if you were moving from hotel/hostel to hotel/hostel every single day - then you'd find yourself carrying it around ALL the time. No matter how light it is, that would get old quick. However, if you are staying in one place for a few nights at a time, you should be fine.

Just my opinion. :)

Posted by
486 posts

I agree with Chris about the notebook. On a 2007 trip to Italy, I brought an old laptop. Was like carrying a brick. On our recent visit to France/Ireland, I brought a 2+ pound notebook. so much better!

Posted by
19 posts

You should be fine if you need only occasional internet access, like checking email once a day.

I need to be online regularly for my business, so I carried a 10-inch netbook on a recent 13-day trip through the Netherlands and Belgium. I stayed in small hotels and quickly discovered that even though they said they had wifi, usually the signal was weak and slow in the room and so I had to work in the hotel lobby, which could be uncomfortable (propping the netbook on my knees, etc.). I also found that free wifi in cafes, etc. was not all that abundant, so the next time I go to Europe I'll have a wireless cellular modem.

Posted by
421 posts

last trip did not take one...drove me nuts not having it...having to rely on the ones in the hotels ect....
on my trip to mexico last year I had to take it because of a coruse I was taking at the time....I said never again will I go on vacation without my macbook!

Posted by
668 posts

Cathy: Interesting you say you will take a cellular connection fro your netbook. I have used WiFi in teh past and not had too much difficy=ulty getting a connection, but my cell phone carrier phoned yesterday offering me their "rocket" free of charge and a reasonable connection rate, but he was evasive about teh cost in Europe. Have you investigated the cost and how the service works in Europe? Do you use a European carrier or extedn you North American one?

Posted by
144 posts

I took my business computer last summer to Italy and had trouble at about half of the wireless internet cafes making a connection. I used a Blackberry last month in France and Germany and it worked great. There is something that may be different with their computers and ours. You won't have any trouble charging it with an adaptor. Mine is also a Dell. If you have trouble with it, don't expect much help from the hotel or provider. My best connection was in Florence at a national chain of wireless providers. Some do charge what seems to be a lot.

Posted by
590 posts

I love having my netbook on my trip and I have had no problems so far with connecting. I am using mine right now in a hostel in Prague. THey are offering free wifi, but you pay to use the internet via their computers. It is nice to connect anywhere I want here while others have to wait in line to hop on a terminal. I haven't seen any internet cafes here, but then again I haven't been looking out for them. For the extra 4 lbs it takes to bring a netbook it was worth it for me. But then again I am also downloading my pics and working on a blog. If you just want to check emails I would suggest something like an Ipod touch.

Posted by
32244 posts

Cathy, as Iain mentioned, it would be a really good idea to get specific information on the costs of using wireless cellular MoDems while roaming in Europe. The fact that your cell provider was being "evasive" is a warning flag - either they don't know the costs, or don't want to say.

Using a wireless "Rocket" Cellular MoDem on a Netbook / Laptop accesses the same network as those who surf the net or check E-mail on I-Phones or Blackberrys (ie: the Cellular network as opposed to short range Wi-Fi connections that are connected to the net using a "regular wired connection). Data roaming costs in Europe are VERY steep, so you don't want to return home and find a $3000 bill waiting in your mail box!

Good luck!

Posted by
32244 posts

Barbara, regarding Laptop Chargers, it's very important that you verify the Input Voltage on the Charger before using it in Europe. If the "nameplate" says Input Voltage 100-240VAC, 50/60 Hz. then it's designed for "world operation" and will work in Europe with the appropriate Plug Adapter.

On the subject of "bringing a Laptop along", that's something I've resisted so far for a number of reasons:

  • I already travel with a fair bit of Camera gear and with only only a finite amount of room in my Backpack, it wasn't really practical.

  • On trips in the past, Net Cafes were fairly plentiful, Wi-Fi access fairly sparse and many Hotels or Hostels had at least one terminal for guests to use. Therefore it wasn't really necessary to have a Laptop. However, these days Wi-Fi is much more common in many Hotels, so having at least a Netbook would be nice at times.

  • The possibility of theft or damage was a real concern, as the Laptop would most likely be left in the Hotel / Hostel room during the day. I usually stay in Rick's budget Hotels, and many of these don't offer an in-room Safe. The thought of losing several hundred valuable photos and travel files was not something I was comfortable with.

  • I find that when I'm in Europe, I put in some long days touring the sites and visiting with the locals and other travelers. I don't really want to make time to sit in front of a Laptop, considering I've spent a fortune to get there to see the sights. I've seen other people spend several hours in both the morning and at night hunkered down in front of a computer, and that's NOT something I want to do when I've travelled so far and spent a small fortune to see Europe.

Those are my travel preferences at the moment regarding Laptops. With the capabilities and small size of Netbooks, I might try one on a future holiday, but for the next trip I'll try to get by with my IPod Touch.

Cheers!

Posted by
19 posts

I wouldn't use my US cellular provider for cellular data in Europe. I did that on a very limited basis with my iPhone, buying a small data roaming package from my US provider.

I've read (but didn't pay a lot of attention) to comments about using a prepaid card for cellular modem access through European carriers. Does anyone have information about that?

Posted by
19 posts

Trying to answer my own question...

According to one site, "In Europe, prepaid 3G data dongles can be easily procured for less than the $6.95 to $19.95 per day it costs to connect to a Wi-Fi hot spot on an ad-hoc basis.

The prepaid mobile broadband dongles - portable 3G modems that plug into the USB port of your mobile device and connect it to the Internet via 3G signaling - are available from carriers such as 3 Broadband, Vodafone UK, Orange and T-Mobile. They are one way to control international data usage spending."

Link for the above: http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/wireless/2009/020209wireless1.html

Info about a French prepaid USB key:
http://www.muniwireless.com/2009/01/26/sfr-launches-prepaid-mobile-data-plan/

I am a geek and always had my iPhone or netbook with me to check for wifi, yet I had trouble finding free access in the Netherlands and Belgium. I found plenty of pay-for-use sites with prices as high as €6 for one hour, but few free sites.