What is the best electronic device to bring?

I have a laptop and an IPod, but I was thinking that maybe I could buy something like a Kindle Fire, a Nook, or a cheap, small laptop that gets internet to take with me to Europe? I will be going to Italy and Greece, possibly France. I want something that will allow me to go online, so that I can purchase train tickets, airline tickets, etc. for if and when I needed to buy them. Is this a good idea? I didn't want to carry around my big laptop around with me and my IPod gets internet, but I'm afraid something might happen to it or the transaction won't go through. Any advice would be appreciated. This is my first time going out of the country. I'm not sure what to do, because I read where having one of those Eurail passes for the train isn't worth having and that purchasing train tickets at the train station or online is cheaper and better? Also, is flying a better choice rather than taking a train? Is flying cheaper?
Thanks for your help!!

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

We take one, an iPod Touch. It is used to access internet using a WiFi connection. We mainly use it to send and receive emails. Our home account can be accessed in this way. On occassion we have used to to make reservations ahead. We don't take a phone because people tend to chatter needlessly when talking on a phone, thus driving up the bill WiFi connections are in most hotels, some local cafes, and American chain restaurants. You can find one when you need it. Anything bigger than a Touch is too big for us although we are thinking of getting a Mini. Train tickets. We used to buy Eurail passes. No more. We try to buy a ticket for the next leg our journey at least three days ahead thereby saving about one third.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Megan, The "best electronic device" seems to vary between individuals. A few thoughts on your question..... > Laptop - you didn't say how large or heavy your Laptop is, but I suspect it would be a bit of a chore to pack it around Europe. That's certainly the case with my MacBook, which is why I never travel with it. > iPod - I assume your iPod is a Touch model? In my experience, those are fine for "limited use" but quite "painful" for extended use due to the small display and keyboard. Your concern about the "transaction not going through" is valid. When I was in Munich last year, I encountered a couple who were trying to make hotel reservations from the Hbf using an iPhone or iPod Touch. At some point the device locked up, and they eventually had to hoof it across to the hotel and deal with the staff in person. I happened to be standing at the desk at the time, so heard the whole story. As it turned out, they were able to get one night at the hotel, but had to find somewhere else for their second night. Regarding which device to use, a few thoughts..... > Kindle Fire, Nook, etc. - I'm not overly familiar with those, but if they handle internet, they should work fine. You could of course also consider an iPad or iPad Mini. > Netbook - that's my preferred method for accessing the internet when travelling. The 10" screen and slightly smaller keyboard is a compromise to some extent, but it's still very practical. They're small, light, have good battery life and only cost about $400. Whatever device you decide to buy, you WILL need Plug Adaptors to connect the Charger to European outlets. Check magellans.com for details. Continued......

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Megan - Part 2.... You'll also need to check the Chargers for any Cameras or other electrical devices you'll be travelling with, to ensure these are designed for operation on 220 VAC electrical systems. DO NOT connect 115 VAC only devices in Europe, or these will self-destruct very quickly! As this is your first trip to Europe, I would highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door prior to your trip. It provides a LOT of good information on "how" to travel in Europe. Use the country-specific Guidebooks to plan sightseeing, hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc. in each of the places you'll be visiting. Whether or not to use a Railpass will depend on each situation. In many cases, they're not really cost effective, especially in Italy. The same is true with using budget flights. Getting to and from Greece is usually better via air, due to the distances involved. It's virtually impossible to give a good answer to which is the best method without knowing the specific cities or route that you'll be following. It would help to have a few more details on your trip - when this will be taking place, how long you'll be travelling, which cities you'll be visiting, etc. Happy travels!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

I carried a 17" laptop to Italy, as I don't care for the software format on my daughter's notebook. A big laptop in a backpack is a back breaker. A notebook is preferable for a travelersomething that runs on WIFI. You don't want to use 3G or 4G over there due to cost. Having internet communications is great. On long trips, I prefer not to plan ahead. It's great to be able to sign into Booking.com or other internet websites and make room reservations as you go along. You never know what or who you're going to run into as you travel. Don't try to go to many places on your trip. There will be other trips to Europe. You cannot see all the great cities in one trip. If going to Italy, take it slowly. There's so much culture, food, art, history and architecture to soak in. Read everything you can on your itinerary. See RonInRome.com for example. Train fares in Italy are very inexpensive, and everyone buys point to point tickets. Eurail passes are not popular right now. See RonInRome for everything about buying train tickets in Italy. Flying is cheaper going between some big cities; like from Venice to Paris. Look for EasyJet.com or Vueling.com or RyanAir.com, which are some of the more popular budget air carriers.
Flying open jaw'd into one city and out of another at the end of your trip is preferable. Backtracking to your original city is just too expensive to do.

Posted by Denise
Lake Forest, CA, USA
1391 posts

I take my10" Acer Aspire One notebook. When I can get WIFI, I'm able to check/send emails, work on my trip blog, etc. I do take my cell phone. I set up an international plan on my AT&T account before I leave the States. This way I have a reduced rate for texts and phone calls. I DO NOT call, or receive calls, from the States unless it's an emergency. Not knowing your itinerary, it is hard to say whether you should fly or take the train to your next destination. When you get a chance, give us an idea of what your itinerary might be in Europe.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

Megan,
I purchased an Acer Aspire One 10" netbook before my 2 month trip last summer. I have a bigger laptop but it's way too heavy to lug around. I thought about a Nook or Kindle but I'm a creature of habit and knew I needed a regular keyboard. It was the best purchase I made, I love the little guy. The battery lasts for about 6 hrs and it charged up in about 3 hrs each night. I loved the ease of uploading my pictures from my camera card each night and checking my email/facebook/etc whenever I had wifi (which was most of the time - if not in the hotel it was always available at McD's). I didn't usually carry it with me when out sightseeing during the day but it was lightweight when carrying my bag on trains. It was the only tech item I took with me (other than my camera), no phone, GPS, kindle or anything else. Also, it was under $300 so good investment.

Posted by Emlyn
East coast, USA
49 posts

This is my friend's current route: (Fly from U.S -> Lisbon (via flight) -> Madrid (via flight) -> Barcelona -> France: Paris, Nice, Provence, and Versailles (via flight) -> Athens, Santorini (via flight) -> Italy: Rome, Tuscany, Florence, Venice, Pompeii -> Vienna -> Prague -> Berlin -> Amsterdam -> Cologne -> U.S She would like to spend 3 days in Lisbon, 7 days in Spain, 14 days in France, 5 days in Greece, 14 days in Italy, 3 days in Vienna, 3 days in Prague, 3 days in Amsterdam, and 8 days in Germany.) Back to me: I'm not going to be able to go to all of those places with my friend, so I'm choosing to go to just Italy and Greece. I'm thinking of flying to Paris and meeting her there. I will probably stay in Paris for around 2 days, then we will fly to Athens together. We will stay in Greece for about 5 days exploring Athens and Santorini. Then, we will fly from Greece to Italy where we will stay about 14 days. In Italy we will explore Florence, Venice, Rome, Pompeii, and Tuscany. What is the best transportation for traveling among these cities in Italy? As well, what's the best route or order to follow? Like, should we go to one city first and save one for last? And yes my IPod is an IPod touch 4th generation. Does this help? Let me know if you need any more info! Thank you all so much!

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

iPhone - can find restaurants, use Google, maps, everything. Well worth the $$ for a data package but I try to use wifi as much as possible obviously. Rarely use my phone but it is nice to have one if I need it.

Posted by Debi
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
257 posts

I have a Dell 10 inch mini and a Dell Streak that is 7 inches. I have taken both to Europe and prefer my 7 inch. It allowed me to use Skype and email back and forth to home. It also takes fantastic photos to.
I say take the lightest thing that you have. Happy Travels!

Posted by Lexma
Denver
536 posts

Re your itinerary. Florence, Venice, Rome, Pompeii, and Tuscany in 14 days/nights does not give you a huge amount of time in any of those locations. Florence, Venice and Rome are best visited without a car - take the train between those cities. Pompeii can be visited as a (long) day trip from Rome, or you can take the train there. Or you could pick up a rental car on leaving Rome, drive it to Pompeii (spending the nigh somewhere like Sorrento). After that visit, you could drive to rural Tuscany. If by Tuscany you meant the rural countryside (Florence is in Tuscany), a car is the easiest way to get around that part of Italy. You definitely want to arrive in Italy into one city (Rome, for example), then exit from another. Depending on where you're flying home to, the flights from Venice can leave very early in the morning. So one suggestion would be to start in Venice, train to Florence, pick up rental car to visit the rural areas, drive to Sorrento, then drop off rental car in Naples, and take the train from there to Rome. Re electronics, I wouldn't buy a new device just for a trip. We traveled with a Netbook for several trips, which was also useful for my daughter to watch movies on the plane and in the car. I have a Smartphone, but find it difficult to use for making reservations, and the like. Most hotels have a computer for guests to use - that's what I mostly do when making reservations. Then I can also use their printer too.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

I just treated myself to an ipad mini...we have an ipod, but on our trip, we very laughingly tried to use it to look at a street map while in Paris (yes, yes, we had a paper map as well)...pretty much worthless. We also took our Samsung netbook (8.9 inch), but to carry out sightseeing...too heavy. It's like Goldilocks and the 3 bears...ipod, too small, netbook, too big and heavy...ipad mini, I believe will be just right. Small enough to carry in my day pack/purse, and light enough, yet big enough to be useful for maps and movies and books. I've also heard good things about Samsung tabs...I got the ipad for ease of sharing with the pod...and will still take the pod for music and such. If you want something to carry around with you all day (as opposed to leaving at your hotel)...weight and size will make a diff...amazing how heavy even our netbook seems compared to mini.

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
194 posts

I just bring an iphone. I don't buy phone plans or data packages. I use the phone only if absolutely essential. Occasionally I text. But the main use is connecting via wifi for skyping and emails, sending pictures, etc. So the deal breaker when booking hotels is lack of free wifi. For better pictures and HD movies, I carry a tiny Canon camera with a 36 gig chip. I can certainly see the advantage in bringing some of the nice gadgets discussed but I just hate carrying stuff.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

Like Monte, I think an Ipod touch packs a lot of punch in a very small package. In addition to music (we didn't bring any movies or other entertainment), we found it was useful as a travel alarm. With Skype (and earbuds with a microphone) it worked great for cheap calls home using Wifi. With the Jibbigo app it was a functional pocket dictionary/phrase book/translator. With Documents to Go, it stored phone numbers, credit card contact numbers, reservation details, etc. It's not too big or heavy and doesn't require heavy batteries or power cords. I'm a very light traveler, everything in my bag has to pull it's weight. The Ipod does that. If they can just build electronic travel guides that are easy to "thumb" through, we can save even more weight/space in our bag by loading them on the Ipod.

Posted by Emlyn
East coast, USA
49 posts

Thank you so much everyone for your help! You have made this a lot easier. :)

Posted by Wray
Boston, ma, usa
155 posts

I, too, bring only an iPod touch and my Nook. I bring the Nook for my books as it is older and has little internet access. We brought our iPad once, but won't ever again. It wasn't worth the weight or the worry. The ipod is great as it is small, light, but handles our internet needs.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

Another great use for our Ipod was checking the local weather before heading out of the hotel.

Posted by Emlyn
East coast, USA
49 posts

I just thought of this: I have a GPS, and I'm pretty sure that it has maps from all over the world. Should I bring my GPS with me? Has anyone had any experience with using a GPS to get around overseas?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

For walking around, don't bother. If you're in a city it might be masked; worse, if it's working you'll have your head down and bump into buildings.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Megan, Yes, I always pack along a small Garmin NĂ¼vi GPS unit, and have found it very helpful for finding my way about unfamiliar cities (and NO, I have never walked into a building). The model I'm using was supplied with both North American and European maps when new, and I've upgraded those a few times. Some people have mentioned that GPS units have difficulty getting a "lock" when between tall buildings. That's true to some extent, but I've found that if I take a few minutes in a clear area (ie: a Piazza) and allow it to get a lock from the satellites, it's able to maintain that when I'm between buildings. It sometimes requires a bit of "trial & error", but works well for the most part. Cheers!

Posted by Emlyn
East coast, USA
49 posts

Thank you everyone for helping me out on all my questions. I am firm believer in asking questions. I was never trying to start a riot or cause any harm. I guess you could say that I am a real young person who's just starting out, and I never had any guidance on major events such as this. My parents never had the money or opportunity to do something like this, and so they can't help me. I like how every single one of you are positive and wise! I appreciate the advice, I really do. I guess I just have to quit over thinking everything and live life. It's just that when I think of the world I feel so small compared to it. And, If I can't ever manage to go beyond the limits of my own home town, then I'll never go anywhere or do anything with my life, and I don't want that. I want to be brave, strong, and experience the world. I will stop posting from now on and just go with the flow. Thank you all for being so kind. You have really made this easier. I wish you all luck and joy for years to come!! Farewell.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1396 posts

I travel with 3 devices. My iphone for texting and facetime, and as an emergency contact device for phone calls and also to call home when we are back in the states. My Nook, because I LOVE to read on it, and it is easy on the eyes, and lightweight for reading in bed. My Ipad2 because I load movies on it before we leave for vacation and have a movie night every other night or so, snuggled up in bed with the ipad between us. also use this to facetime my kids back home. I also use the ipad for surfing the web and emails and for work while on vacation. I know it sounds like a lot, but it's NOT a lot of weight. The ipad is also handy if my hubby wants to read a book while I'm reading on my Nook - although he's still into the old fashioned read books. I can't see bringing 5 books with me, I'm such an avid reader, I go through several on a 2 week trip. It sounds like you might take a Kindle Fire or Nook tablet that has access to wifi, can be used as a reader and laptop.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Megan, Hopefully you won't stop posting. If you have further questions, there's certainly nothing wrong with asking for answers. IMHO, preparation and knowledge are two key components of a good and successful trip to Europe. Your questions will help you in both those areas. You'll probably find also that after each trip, your travel methods evolve a bit. When you've reached the point where you just can't study and prepare any more, just get on a plane and go for it. There will likely be a few "bumps in the road" (we've all had those), but you'll find that this is probably one of the best experiences in your life. Cheers!

Posted by Les
Divide, Colorado, USA
78 posts

Megan, I want to address the train travel in Italy. In 2011 we traveled through Italy using trains. We found that in the train station there is a kiosk where you can change the language to English, put in your destination and all the options will appear on the screen along with prices. When we had plenty of time to get where we were going, we chose a cheaper train that made more stops. If we needed to get there more quickly, we chose a more expensive speedier train. You could use a credit card or cash to pay for your ticket. We made our first trip to Europe in 2005 after we had retired. We are currently planning our fifth trip to Europe, so you can see we fell in love with it. Relax and enjoy every minute!