How To Travel With A Laptop, And Keep It Working

Having a laptop while traveling can be such a great asset – you can connect with your friends, upload pictures, save money by booking flights and hostels online etc.

But when traveling around the world, by nature you are forced to put your laptop through so many challenges that it can be really hard to keep it in a good working condition, especially if you don’t know the best ways to look after it.

On my first big trip, I took a small 8 inch mini-PC which broke down half-way through and I was forced to purchase a new one – I had no idea how much pressure I put on my little 8 inch laptop, and that cost me a big portion of my travel budget.

Here are some lessons I learned:

  • Use a good protective laptop case: This is probably the most important issue when traveling. You move around a lot, and it will get bumped into things no matter how hard you try to avoid it. If you have it in a big backpack/suitcase it can get hit when someone throws your luggage in the bag storage on the bus, or handles it badly.
  • Never leave your laptop in a cold environment: If you do, and then bring it into a warm environment, condensation on the circuitry will build up and cause the laptop to short itself out.
  • Never keep your paperwork between the screen and keypad: Paper is pretty sharp and will eventually cut into the screen or scratch it.
  • Use good virus software: When traveling you never know how safe the internet connection you’re using is, so always make sure to keep your laptop safe with a good firewall. And make sure you update it and clean your data every few weeks.
  • Avoid placing your laptop on soft surfaces: This will block the air vents and overheat your system. Doing this too often isn’t good for the laptop.
  • Don’t pick the lap top up by the screen: I did this way too many times, and eventually the screen cracked…

I followed none of this advice, and as you can imagine every single consequence mentioned – happened…

One Last Tip:

Even if you follow these rules there is still a risk that your computer will break. If this happens, you can lose everything on it.

Make sure that you have saved your photos (and other important documents) somewhere else too, like on a USB memory or an external hard drive.

If you have an iPod with a lot of memory which you don’t use, you can even save them there.

Since both laptops and hard drives run high risks of breaking, I recommend you to store your photos online as well.

This way you have at least three places for your photos. I’ve learned this from past experiences. Our hard drive was full and we hadn’t uploaded our photos from parts of our trip online. Of course the laptop broke and the photos were gone…

What precautions do you take when traveling with your laptop? Share your advice on how you take care of your laptop in the comments below!

(photo credits: stuartpilbrowed yourdon)

38 Responses to How To Travel With A Laptop, And Keep It Working

  1. Jaime October 26, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    Thanks for the great tips! I will be using these since I plan on traveling with my laptop.

  2. Brooks October 26, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    These are good tips! I’ve been fretting over the best way to protect my mbp. I’m going with a speck case that’s always on as well as a neoprene sleeve for cushioning and outdoor research waterproof bag to protect it when it’s in my pack. Might be overkill, but it’s a small price to pay to make this thing last.

    • Sofia November 1, 2010 at 6:53 am #

      I don’t think that’s overkill, better safe than sorry ;) And like you say, it’s a small price to pay in the end.

  3. QunoSpotter October 26, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    All true, yet I am guilt of breaking most of these rules *shamed face*

  4. Peter_M October 26, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Good tip about storing photos online as well as on hard drive. Too many people have learned the hard way that laptops, memory cards and external hard drives can all be lost (sometimes all at once!).

    • Sofia November 1, 2010 at 6:54 am #

      Yeah, sometimes what seems to be the most unreliable place (the internet) is the one that saves you :P

  5. Simon October 26, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    Don’t walk down small stone steps in nothing but your socks carrying your Mac casually in one hand.

    If you do, then don’t slip.

    If you do slip, then don’t throw the aforementioned Mac down those same stone steps, watching as it bounces a few times, slides across the floor and hits a wall.

    • Sofia October 28, 2010 at 6:54 am #

      hehe, I assume that this happened to you..? :P

  6. Blake Cannon October 27, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    Avoid placing your laptop on soft surfaces” only matters for notebooks which have side/bottom vents.

    • Sofia November 1, 2010 at 6:59 am #

      Yeah you’re right, thanks for adding the note.

  7. Michael Figueiredo October 27, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    Great advice! I’m going to re-tweet this too :)

    • Sofia October 28, 2010 at 6:53 am #

      Thanks! I’m glad you found it helpful :)

  8. Bryan October 27, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    The most important tip must be to remember to take your charger. I left mine at home after a trip to Egypt.

    • Sofia October 28, 2010 at 6:52 am #

      Ouch, yeah a charger is always good to bring, makes things a whole lot easier… :P

  9. Emily October 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Awesome tips–I didn’t know that condensation could build up in the circuitry! Kind of scary. I would be so upset if my computer broke while traveling. I have thought about getting a little netbook for travel since it’s so small and seems easy to protect, but it sounds like regardless of the size, there are still potential problems!

  10. jaydee October 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    yknow how you said to save stuff in an external HD / thumbdrive / etc?
    you can also save smaller files by emailing them to yourselves :)

    • Sofia October 28, 2010 at 6:50 am #

      That’s true, thanks for sharing the great tip!

  11. Theodora Sutcliffe October 28, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    Also? Wrap up the cable and plug so it doesn’t jab into the laptop case…

  12. Theodorasutcliffe October 28, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    These are great tips. I’d add: do not store the cable in the laptop case but separately, and wrapped up (the plug can add pressure to the screen).

    • Sofia November 1, 2010 at 7:45 am #

      Hi Theodora,
      great tip, thanks for sharing!

  13. Tran October 28, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Great tips! I always put my laptop on my belly (soft surface) when working in bed. Oops! I would also recommend purchasing travel insurance that covers the laptop if it’s lost or stolen and a warranty to cover repairs.

    • Sofia October 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

      Yeah, travel insurance that covers the lap top can be very good to have if it’s an expensive one – although I didn’t bother getting one for my cheap one as it would turn out to cost more than the lap top itself..!

  14. Mattfromtexas October 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    Don’t let other people borrow your laptop!!! People will not treat your stuff as respectfully as you do!!! As I write this, I realize I do this all the time!

  15. Fida October 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    Do not fall asleep with your laptop in your lap, sitting in an airport chair – or you will wake up when the laptop hits the floor!

    • Sofia November 1, 2010 at 7:47 am #

      Oh no, I guess this happened to you..?

  16. Ordinary Traveler October 29, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    Thanks for the tips! I think a lot of us put our computers through hell while we are traveling. That’s part of the reason I’m considering just getting a cheap laptop to travel with. But I would miss my Mac sooo much!

    • Sofia November 1, 2010 at 7:53 am #

      I think bringing a cheap laptop when traveling is the best idea, unless you really need a Mac. I traveled for years with cheap mini laptops, but now that I need a better laptop for work purposes, I bring a Mac.

      If you travel with a cheaper lap top you wouldn’t have to worry as much of having it stolen or broken, since it didn’t cost that much to begin with you won’t have lost too much money.. :)

  17. Anonymous October 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    This is really good common sense advice….sometimes we tend to take our laptops for granted and often do not protect them as much as we should….this should be a wakeup call for those who are a bit careless when it comes to things like this. It’s like the old saying “You never miss your water until your well runs dry”.

    • Sofia November 1, 2010 at 8:03 am #

      Great saying there, and so true! Thanks for sharing that, it’s spot on ;)

  18. Sarah Wu October 29, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    These r great tips, espeiclaly I need my laptop for storing my photos etc. :)

  19. Ayngelina October 29, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    My biggest learning experience was getting a sleeve that was waterproof. The first time I got caught in the rain I panicked but my netbook was dry.

  20. Darren Alff October 31, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    I took my laptop with me on a 9-month bike tour through Europe last year and my hard drive crashed in the first month. Luckily, I had backed everything up on an external hard drive. If I hadn’t done that, I’d still be crying. I was able to get the computer back up and running (it now has a German operating system). But now I back up everything on my computer using the automated service at Carbonite.com. I also backup everything to an external hard drive on a regular basis (every two weeks).

  21. Abby November 1, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    Amazing idea for a post. After my laptop was stolen from my home in Costa Rica, I carried my next one around with me everywhere I went. Everywhere. The beach, on hikes, etc. I learned some of the tips you wrote about here the wrong way — my brand-new laptop aged very quickly. I hope readers prevent making the same mistakes by reading your post!

  22. enrolled agent cpe November 6, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    How I wish my friend has read this article before our Taiwan trip last October. For some reason her laptop broke and since we were there for a three day event, she lost the all the pictures from the first night. She did not have it saved on a backup file.

  23. Polishing Marble Miami November 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    How To Travel With A Laptop, And Keep It Working…Great information here! Very helpful! Thanks for sharing!

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