It’s been a good 20 years since I’ve traveled without a laptop; it comes with me everywhere, and especially since I started working as a digital nomad, it’s now an essential part of my travel gear.
But now that we have access to phones, ipads, and watches that can read our emails, is there tech out there that can replace the need for a bulky laptop, even if you’re an expat, or working from the road?
Here’s an overview of the tech that can replace your laptop when you’re traveling, and the pros and cons so you can decide whether the trade is worthwhile.
Tech That Can Replace Your Laptop When Traveling
These days everyone travels with their smartphone. And the latest smartphones are powerful enough that they honestly could replace what most travelers need from a laptop.
There’s a smartphone app for absolutely everything, like maps for navigating cities, flashlights, music players, and alarm clocks (because who trusts the hotel wake up calls!).
And even if you’re working, you can achieve most basic tasks like email, zoom meetings, and even editing Google documents directly from your phone.
Connecting to WiFi is easy, and is always available whether you’re at a cafe, an airport, a bus station, or a hotel – though we strongly recommend always using a VPN to protect your privacy before you connect. The same VPNs you would normally use on your laptop will also have a phone app, which means you even have the same level of security with a phone.
When it comes to a camera, phones not only act as the camera, but now have huge storage capacity which was previously a huge reason to have a laptop with you. From your phone you can upload photos directly to social media, Google drive, and even edit them with your choice of editing app.
Even if you’re a digital nomad, these days a phone can easily replace the need to travel with a laptop, and the biggest bonus here is that they’re pocket sized, can be recharged easily, and are portable enough to even use when you’re walking (though please do look both ways before crossing the street!).
The downfall of relying on a smartphone if you’re a digital nomad is that the screen sizes are typically quite small, which is not ideal for a lot of reading, websites aren’t always mobile friendly for small screens, and typing on phones can quickly get annoying if you have a heavy load of emails.
Tablets can be a great next choice, as a hybrid between a phone and a laptop. They have a much bigger screen, better battery, and you can usually hook in external accessories like portable keyboards if you want something more traditional to type with.
The con here is that they’re not pocket size, so if you do want to move around with it all day, you’ll need a sleeve, and some type of bag to carry it in, but they are much lighter than a bulky laptop would otherwise be.
You wouldn’t be taking photos with your tablet, as they’re a bit too large for the job, so you would likely be traveling with your phone anyway. Adding a tablet into your tech gear would be for tasks and entertainment where you need a larger screen.
CoWorking Spaces & Internet Cafes
If you’re not keen to travel with a laptop but still want access to a device, a great option for replacing the need to bring one is to visit Co-Working spaces or internet cafes.
Internet cafes are generally on the decline now that almost everyone has their own personal computer, but they are still available especially in developing countries where hotel computers may be harder to come by.
Co-Working spaces however are on the rise, and many hotels are now incorporating these spaces for digital nomads and expats to use, converting previous spaces for business travel for those who are remote workers. While most will bring their own devices, call ahead to inquire if there are public laptops for use.
Libraries are another option for accessing public computers, and there will typically be at least one in most large cities. Keep in mind that all of these services though – internet cafes, gaming lounges, co-working spaces, and libraries will be charged so this is the more expensive option.
It does however mean you can travel completely laptop free.