I really find it hard to “unplug” when I go on vacation. Sure, I can relax and unwind with the best of them (better even, some would say!), however, since gaming is my hobby, and I am a bit of an online news addict, I rarely travel without my trusty laptop. Seriously, I tend to visit about a dozen news sites before my coffee is even poured in the morning. And if I don’t get to shoot, slash or explode some pixelated digital enemy every evening, I can get a tad grumpy. So, no matter where I go, I tend to travel with my laptop, as well as a backpack full of accessories. Want to know my five laptop travel essentials? Read on and I’ll tell you.
Smartphone for Personal Hotspot
Sometimes when you’re on the road or holidaying in an unknown locale, you may discover that there isn’t a handy Wi-Fi connection, or stable Internet access to be found anywhere. But that’s okay, because fortunately most smartphones can “tether” or share their online connection with other devices, creating your very own personal internet hotspot. You can do this over Wi-Fi, with a USB cable, or using Bluetooth, if your phone carrier lets you, that is … you may have to pay extra. So, before you head out on that trip, check with your carrier to see if they allow tethering, and if your own personal data plan is sufficient for running a hotspot for any extended period of time. Also be aware that tethering is a huge drain on your phone’s battery, so try to have it plugged into a power source whenever possible.
Another issue I’ve run into while travelling is when the hotel, resort or area in which I’m staying has super flakey and unreliable Wi-Fi signals. There is nothing so frustrating as seeing a Wi-Fi signal, but your connection is slower than molasses going uphill in January, or it keeps disconnecting. And once upon a time, laptops all came equipped with internal Ethernet cards, so you could just jack your computer right into to the physical LAN or network connection. However, today’s more slender and lightweight laptops have done away with that convenient Ethernet port. But don’t worry. Even the most paper-thin notebook can have Ethernet accessibility, with the purchase of a little Ethernet adapter. All you do is plug the little device (like a tiny dongle) into your laptop’s USB port, then attach an Ethernet connection to the other end of the adapter, and you’ll be surfing the ‘Net in no time.
VPN for Safe Browsing
Using Wi-Fi in a hotel, resort, café or other public space sure is convenient, but it’s also not very secure. A firewall only protects the data on the laptop itself, while anti-virus software just protects your computer from viruses and malware. A VPN (or virtual personal network) provides security and privacy for when your data leaves your computer. Basically, a VPN allows you to surf the internet safely with the touch of a button, making it possible to connect to a public hotspot without compromising your data or exposing your traffic or browsing habits. It also blocks malware and bad apps, as well as online tracking attempts and phishing sites. I’m willing to bet that soon enough we will all be wondering why everyone isn’t using a VPN for everything.
One thing you likely neglected to do when you first bought your laptop, was to pick up a spare battery. If you travel quite a bit, an extra laptop battery is an absolute must-have item for your accessory bag. When you’re far from the nearest power plug (like on a beach or something), there is nothing as satisfying as being able to swap out a used up laptop battery with a freshly charged one. And if your laptop has some sort of quick-swapping battery feature, you just eject your depleted battery and quickly insert the new, fully charged battery without even having to turn off your machine! Remember to label your batteries (with a sticker or Sharpie marker) so you don’t insert the same dead battery again. Also, it’s advisable to buy the same model and make of battery from the same manufacturer, or else you could run the risk of getting an electrical shock or even having your laptop explode. And wouldn’t that just put a total damper on your holiday?
Padded Travel Case
Finally, if you’re going to be travelling anywhere with your laptop, you’re going to absolutely need a really good, padded travel case. You can find travel cases that fit practically every model of laptop, and your options can range from a simple carry case with no frills, to something a bit pricier boasting some pretty convenient features. Personally, I prefer my own laptop travel case to have a bunch of extra zippered pockets, in addition to the regular laptop storage section. That way, I have dedicated spots for all my laptop travel essentials, plus my iPad, a magazine or two, and a mouse. I also prefer my carrying case to feature RFID (radio-frequency identification) blocking technology, so hackers and high-tech thieves can’t steal or download any of my information or data stored on microchips in passports or your credit cards. As well, make sure your travel case has a comfortable and adjustable shoulder strap for easy carrying, as I find the bags that just feature handles to be very uncomfortable on my hands to lug around.
So, what do you think of my five laptop travel essentials? Have I missed something you feel is a must-have when travelling with your laptop? Let me know your own laptop travel essential list in the comment section below.