Vacations are supposed to be about logging off, but most of us still end up traveling with our laptop.
Whether we need it for business, or checking on emails and loading travel pics to our social media feeds, our laptops can be a lifeline to our life back home, and a valuable tool when booking tours, tickets, looking up directions, and researching things to do in the area you’re visiting.
While most of us check and recheck to make sure we packed our laptop, we often don’t give nearly as much thought into keeping our laptop protected both physically and in terms of making certain our personal data that is stored on it remains secure.
From the moment your laptop leaves the safety of your home, you make it vulnerable to getting damaged or potentially stolen. Thankfully though, there are many ways you can reduce the chances of anything happening to your laptop and the data that’s stored on it.
How to Travel Safely with a Laptop
Choose the Right Laptop to Take
One of the best ways to make sure your everyday laptop remains safe while traveling is to leave it at home and think about purchasing a cheaper laptop that is solely dedicated to traveling.
You probably won’t actually need all the advanced features on the expensive everyday laptop you use for work or daily online tasks. Likewise, you most likely won’t need to access much of the data stored on your main laptop like important documents and photos.
Most of us simply use our laptops for casual web browsing and checking emails while on vacation, so if you have the extra cash to splash on an additional laptop, go online and search the best online laptop deals to find a cheaper and lighter one more suitable for travel.
Alternatively, if you’ve been thinking about upgrading your current system, why not purchase a newer laptop that has all the extra features you’ve been looking for and then designate the older laptop you were using as your new traveling laptop.
While purchasing an additional laptop obviously incurs an extra expense, this cost is much better than losing or damaging your nicer model. It can also be an alternative to buying insurance for your laptop which is our next safety tip.
Buy Insurance for Your Laptop
Despite how careful we are about guarding and protecting our laptops while traveling, accidents and unfortunate events can still happen. This is when having insurance quite literally pays off.
There are several ways you can insure your laptop during your travels, the first being credit cards offering complimentary credit card purchase protection for items such as laptops.
This covers you if certain items like your laptop is lost, stolen, or accidentally damaged. Each credit card will have specifics regarding what items are covered, what the maximum coverage amounts are, and for how long the coverage lasts.
Generally, credit card purchase protection is only valid for a few months after the purchase of an item, so this may only be an option of you just recently purchased your laptop.
Credit cards also often provide complimentary extended warranties for products such as laptops which can come in handy if your laptop malfunctions due to a manufacturing error.
A second option is looking into whether your home contents insurance covers your laptop. Just make sure your policy covers your laptop even when it’s taken out of your home. This is known as portable contents insurance and can cover you in the event your laptop is stolen or accidentally lost or damaged.
The third option is to purchase travel insurance which you should be doing anyway.
Make sure to get a policy which provides coverage for the theft, loss, or damage of personal items while traveling. Make sure to read what the general coverage amount is for various items and if necessary add on adequate coverage for a specific item which although will incur an extra premium will definitely be worth it.
Insurance is only as good as the quality of the policy. Read the fine print to know what you’re covered for and read each insurer’s definition of damage, as this can vary. Note that insurers will usually deny claims if you were deemed to be negligent and left your laptop unattended in a public space.
Purchase a Quality Laptop Case
It goes without saying that you’ll need some kind of case to carry your laptop in while traveling with it. There are a number of distinct ways you can choose to protect your laptop including laptop sleeves, modern briefcase-style cases you carry on your shoulder, and backpacks specially designed to accommodate laptops and their accessories.
Laptop sleeves are lightweight cases often made of nylon or plastic that your laptop fits snugly into. Sleeves are great for keeping dust out of your laptop and preventing scuffs and scratches, but they don’t offer much protection should you drop your laptop while in transit.
Modern briefcase-style laptop shoulder bags have come a long way from the heavy and bulky, boxy briefcases that existed before laptops were even a thing.
Today’s briefcase-style laptop bags are often carried on the shoulder with a comfortable strap and can offer 360° protection from drops, sharp objects, or getting crushed by heavy items. They usually offer multiple pockets where you can store your laptop accessories such as your mouse, cables, and hard drive.
The one problem with laptop shoulder bags is that they don’t exactly conceal the fact you are carrying a laptop and this makes you a target for potential thieves. When traveling, you always want to try your best to not advertise any valuables you have on you.
Bags that feature the logos of well-known laptop makers like the Mac apple basically tells everyone around you what you’re carrying, so stick with nondescript bags void of well-known tech logos or labels.
Laptop backpacks have several advantages over handheld laptop bags. For one they free up your arms and hands to be able to roll your checked luggage and hand over documents like boarding passes and your passport.
They also can better conceal what you are carrying, making it less evident that you’re carrying a laptop.
Whichever style laptop bag or case you prefer, choose one that is well padded, offers water resistance, has tamper-resistant zippers, and is made with slash-proof material. You also want to make sure it’s the right size to fit your laptop and possibly a bit larger in case you purchase a larger laptop in the future.
Another thing to consider to save you time at the airport is choosing a bag that is security friendly. Some laptop bag designs comply with TSA guidelines which allow you to pass through scanners without having to remove your laptop from your bag.
Keep Your Laptop Turned Off When Not in Use
There are a few reasons why it is important for you to turn off your laptop when not in use while traveling. For starters, airline passengers are often asked to turn off their electronic devices before take-off and during landing.
The second major reason to power down your laptop before storing it in your laptop case is that it can easily overheat since the case can block the laptop air vents.
You’re almost always told to stow your laptops during takeoff and landing so be sure to leave enough time to power down fully before storing it away. Note that hibernation mode vs actually shitting down can still generate heat when your laptop is stored.
And while your laptop case should provide an adequate amount of protection, you can further protect your laptop screen with a cheap screen protector, and the keyboard with a silicone keyboard protector. Both of these are usually custom designed to fit specific brands and models of laptops.
Pack Universal Adapters and Power Surge Protectors
While you can plug in your laptop charging cable anywhere at home, you may need a universal power adapter when it comes to traveling internationally, as different countries often have different plug shapes.
Many laptops these days are dual voltage (120V to 220V), meaning they don’t require you to use a travel converter which is otherwise needed to convert the voltage if it differs from the voltage supplied by the country you are visiting.
I also recommend getting a universal power adapter that offers surge protection since some countries experience regular electricity fluctuations.
Use Data Encryption, Antivirus Software, and a VPN
Free Wi-Fi networks are great but they do potentially open you up to security concerns. You should always avoid logging into important online accounts such as your online banking account and refrain from using credit cards to make purchases when connected to public Wi-Fi.
Only visit and share data with websites which have a padlock icon and URL which begins with “https”. You should also invest in antivirus software and make sure it is up to date and running in case you do happen to get hit with a bug.
Before you travel, remove unnecessary sensitive data from your laptop or at least encrypt sensitive data and files. You probably won’t need full-disk encryption, rather you can simply choose individual files or folders which you want to encrypt, making sure to use strong passwords which include upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols.
Clear your browser cache files and autofilled/saved login passwords. It is also wise to disable your laptop’s Bluetooth and file sharing.
Avoid using those USB drives that are often given as gifts from airlines, hotels, or other travel-related companies unless they are made by a reputable USB flash drive company such as SanDisk.
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) will encrypt the data you send and receive online. It allows you to access the internet from a location of your choice which masks your identity online, and also comes in handy when you want to access certain websites that may be blocked in the country you are traveling in.
Backup Your Data Before Your Trip
While your actual laptop may be expensive, what’s on it can be priceless and possibly irreplaceable. Be sure to backup your cherished photos and important documents via a hard drive you keep locked up at home or through the use of online cloud storage.
The benefit of backing up data via online cloud storage is that it allows you the ability to access such data while traveling of needed. This can come in handy if you happen to lose something like your passport and have a copy of it in your cloud storage.
Backing up your data means you won’t lose everything should your laptop be lost or stolen.
Record Your Laptop’s Details
Finally, this last step is often overlooked by travelers. While you may be able to recall the brand of your laptop, how good would you be at recalling the exact model and serial number?
Knowing the specifics of your laptop will assist you in retrieving your laptop if it’s lost or stolen while traveling. You can either write down your laptop details and email it to yourself, or take a photo of the bottom of your laptop where the label or tag with all the useful information is usually found.
Taking a photo of your laptop also helps authorities notice your laptop’s distinguishing features such as stickers or scratches.