Travelling without laptop or tablet...
August 28, 2017 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering travelling around Spain for 3 months and not taking my laptop or tablet, just my phone (Galaxy Note 5) and paper notebook. Everyone I've mentioned this to says I'm crazy and "should just bring in case", but when pressed cannot give a good reason why--"in case of what?" Not one person thinks this is a good idea. Are there any good reasons for worrying about travelling in another country (I'm Canadian) without a laptop? Also, any Android apps that might be useful for someone without a computer? Thanks!
posted by dobbs to Travel & Transportation around Spain (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Things I would want a laptop for- backing up photos and filling out forms for back home. If cyber caf├ęs are somewhat available in Spain then I wouldn't worry about either of these two things.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:28 AM on August 28, 2017

What do you use your computer for in daily life? If you think you'll want to do any of those things, you should take it. But I only travel with a computer if I'm afraid I'll have to do some work while I'm on vacation.
posted by something something at 9:30 AM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a Canadian who just recently travelled to Barcelona. I took my Chromebook plus a phone. I ended up using the chromebook a lot more than my phone. For stuff like google maps, and for sending email back home it was way faster. So I would say that not having it would have been more of an inconvenience than a worry. Also it's good to have a backup device.
posted by storybored at 9:30 AM on August 28, 2017

This question was so strange to me because I deliberately avoid bringing my laptop when I travel! We do generally bring a tablet to watch movies on the plane, and it can be easier to read on the larger screen, but I'm fine with doing those things on my phone instead. Unless you're planning on doing something writing-intensive I wouldn't bother.
posted by brilliantine at 9:35 AM on August 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

I've had good luck using public libraries in foreign countries when I need an actual computer for something. The biggest issue was trying to type on a keyboard with a different layout than what I'm used to. I really only end up using my tablet for surfing the web in the hotel room.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:51 AM on August 28, 2017

It's been what, 10 years at the most that such a statement is even considered? Somehow humans managed to travel without laptops for centuries. I've only very recently had cellular data during my annual lengthy trips to Europe.

Do what you like. People telling you you're crazy are sitting on their couch. You've decided to venture around.

posted by humboldt32 at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2017 [13 favorites]

You'll be fine with just your phone. Honestly, you don't even really need that -- every town has at least one internet cafe for you to send emails and upload photos to your cloud storage.

Ignore those people who say 'just in case'. There is more to life than can be experienced through a screen. I promise you won't be bored.

Have fun!
posted by ananci at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2017

I just came back from a two week trip to Europe with, electronics-wise, only my phone, a very good backup battery, this fold-up keyboard, and this mouse, which are about the size of a CD case and a pack of gum respectively. Android works fine with them, and they made my phone a perfectly usable laptop-ish device when I needed that, which was rarely.

Two utilities that I'd underappreciated until this trip are the offline options for Google Maps and Translator, both of which provide offline-download options you can prepare ahead of time, that makes them reliable even without a data connection. Strongly recommended.
posted by mhoye at 10:06 AM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

The only reasons I would take my laptop with me are to backup photos from my DSLR and to play Civ on the airplane. If you aren't taking pictures with a dedicated camera then you're probably good without the laptop as far as I'm concerned.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:17 AM on August 28, 2017

I have never traveled with anything other than my iPhone. Who wants to lug around a bunch of shit?
posted by greta simone at 10:18 AM on August 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have a Samsung galaxy edge but I frequently fall back to my Nokia 3310 2017. The camera is not bad, it has great battery life, and it's very low profile. I fear losing both phones but the Nokia can do almost everything I need and is mostly replaceable. Internet cafes are pretty plentiful, so I would not bring a laptop unless you absolutely need to.
posted by parmanparman at 10:39 AM on August 28, 2017

I managed eight weeks with just a phone and a USB drive to back up photos onto (as part of a carry-on only, single bag trip). I guess I had an older phone as a backup camera in case my actual phone broke/got lost, but I never ever touched it and it just stayed in the bottom of the bag. It's way easier and lighter to just not deal with carrying and monitoring extra electronics.
posted by janell at 10:53 AM on August 28, 2017

When I travelled in Europe for a couple months, I had to have a laptop because part of the time was for school. However, the 2 weeks afterwards that were vacation it was helpful to do things like plan out where we were going / notes on schedules / download tickets, and then I transferred the things I needed "portably" to my phone. However, my phone at the time was getting old and didn't have much storage, and those were my two main limiting factors.

The next time I traveled was just with an iPad and phone, and the iPad was more for entertainment value (kindle app, videos on long train rides / the flight) and I got around with my phone just fine.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:06 AM on August 28, 2017

What? Of course you can travel without a laptop. I have no idea what world your acquaintences are living in, but in my world a laptop is not an essential item, especially if you are already taking a smartphone. I mean, bring it if you want, you may even use it if you do, but I can't think of any reason why you would need to have it unless it's a working vacation or something like that.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:58 AM on August 28, 2017

For the second part of your question, is an app that uses open source maps for telling you where you are and you can download entire countries/states/regions to your phone. This is useful if you're somewhere without data and need to find out exactly where you are. With planning you can download the area in Google Maps ahead of time and have that available offline but it is nice to know where you are if you've forgotten to do so or are out past the boundaries of what you had downloaded.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:11 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The last time I traveled for a similar period, I brought along an HP Stream tablet, because it runs Windows and can use a USB On-The-Go cable to pull photos off my camera and put them onto a USB hard disk. But I only really used it for that- for day-to-day touristy things, completely unnecessary. I ended up having both my tablet and my phone stolen at different times. It was really nice to have a "backup" then.

I mostly stayed in hostels, and they usually had a terrible-but-usable PC I could usually hop on to if I wanted.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:37 PM on August 28, 2017

I've travelled for a month plus without a laptop, including Spain. I don't take my laptop if I'm not travelling for work, because then I can't accidentally do work. It's nice to unplug.

I do like to bring a (7 inch) tablet as well; it's useful as a larger screen for movies/games/doodling/reading/guidebooks. It's sometimes nice to have two screens for planning, logistics, etc - read the guidebook on the tablet, mark places in maps on the phone at the same time. It's also easier to backup pictures on my tablet. I have played around a little with the portable version of Adobe Lightroom, which is nice for cleaning up pictures - if you can do that during downtimes, that would be nice to be able to do before you get home. It's also nice to have a second device with a battery for long trips, especially since it's primarily for leisure - I don't need to worry if the battery on the tablet is drained, the phone has the real information, maps, etc.

This also might depend on your style of travel - if your 3 months in Spain means renting an apartment in Madrid for two months (with maybe a day trip to Toledo or the like), then Barcelona for a month, then the extra weight of a laptop isn't so much of a deal. If you're planning on doing a lot of travelling - five days in Seville, then four in Cordoba, then three in Granada, then... - then the weight of a laptop hits you every.single.time you change cities and you should be minimizing.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:39 PM on August 28, 2017

I've never brought a laptop unless I need to work. And if it's an emergency and you need a laptop? You can find a cheap one anywhere. (I also don't bring a tablet). I just took an almost 2 week vacation with my phone but no data, a week of it with no wifi, and it was awesome.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 12:58 PM on August 28, 2017

can you do email, banking, and book tickets and stuff on your mobile phone? i can't on mine - text is too small for me to read, and lots of sites eg theatres when you're booking a seat, the site is wrong. I took mine to ireland though i didn't want to (was in a car, so no trouble) and i had to use it to book the return ferry ticket, the ferry company's site didn't work on mobile tl;dr = try out some of the sites you might want to use on your mobile, eg booking a ticket or ferry, train tickets etc
posted by maiamaia at 1:16 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

i wouldn't bother. Its just more stuff to lug around & unpack (!and all the security stuff at the airports!), and worry about being stolen/damaged etc. also *not* having a ton of gadgets will make you more engaged with your surroundings - go explore!
posted by speakeasy at 2:27 PM on August 28, 2017

The most I've been away from my laptop is about a month, but I will always bring my chromebook with me. A phone's good and all, but I've had occasion where the phone won't connect to the wifi, but the chromebook will. And the other way around. Also, a full fledged browser will be much easier to use for online bookings - i find some sites annoying to use on a phone.
posted by TrinsicWS at 3:11 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I find a tablet useful if I need to change my travel arrangements or some other online business, but if you're comfortable doing that on your phone then you don't really need it. I'd recommend carrying a backup battery if you will be out and about all the time, and making sure you have the means to buy some kind of replacement if your phone is stolen or gets broken.
posted by cabingirl at 3:59 PM on August 28, 2017

I spent a month on the road using only my phone. Everything was being synced to the cloud, so I wasn't worried about losing data. The one thing I missed having was a keyboard, which would be easily remedied.

Some things were certainly more of a PITA than they would have been otherwise, but I managed, and weight trade-off was worth it.
posted by adamrice at 5:03 PM on August 28, 2017

Travelling with just a phone is certainly feasible, although I prefer a 7-inch tablet + keyboard cover because I feel naked if I don't have an xterm, but that's just me. Basically, as long as you have a way to connect to the Internet, you're golden. The fewer devices you bring, the happier you will be.
posted by pguertin at 5:06 PM on August 28, 2017

No, a phone is plenty.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:29 PM on August 28, 2017

Thanks, all. I will leave it at home.
posted by dobbs at 7:36 PM on August 28, 2017

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