Technology Tips: 2008
European tourism now comes with a digital divide: those with high tech gadgets and those without. Which fancy new tools are worth the trouble and actually enhance your travels?
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Digital Camera=Poor Man's Laptop
lucie, great suggestion. I do the same, and want to add one: train schedules! When you arrive at a little town with just one board of arrivals and departures, take a pic of it. Then a few hours later while you're in the town center sipping a coffee or beer, you can check the schedule for your return.
St. Louis, MO USA Sat 12/27/2008
ASUS customer support is horrible
I bought an ASUS 900 for a two month road trip in Europe, it actually performed pretty well. When I returned home, it failed. Got a replacement which failed and another replacement failed as well. I'm now waiting on the fourth PC.
During this whole fiasco, I felt like I was talking to a bunch of high schoolers who had not developed their interpersonal skills yet, I was ignored, I encountered an uncaring attitude, I was promised things which didn't happen. When I called, I was transferred from one person to the next and sometimes the call was dropped.
Any time one of their people ran into wall or encountered something they hadn't been trained for, they just give up, they showed no initiative. Even though I asked and then demanded it, I was never allowed to speak to a supervisor.
They should be ashamed of themselves. I've since bought a Sylvania g meso, it's awesome, check it out.
Lynden, WA USA Tue 12/09/2008
digital camera = poor man's laptop
I'm not a techie but found my digital camera very useful in cutting down on amt. of paper I used to haul around on trips. Kept the camera near computer for a few weeks before I left & snapped photos of computer screen when I had info I might need on the trip -- ie airline & hotel confirmations, details of maps, metro map of Barcelona, restaurant reviews w/ location & phone #, etc. It worked well. I even showed taxi drivers where I needed to go a few times. Tried to enter info in camera more or less in chronol. order so it would be easier to find, then could delete info as we moved along to open up more space on memory card. (did NOT delete it from my computer until I got home in case something happened to camera)
st francisville, la USA Fri 11/28/2008
SONY VAIO & DUAL SERVICE CELL PHONE
We have our Sony Vaio 11.1" TZ270N with us and it is a godsend. First, you can download your photos each night and label them. The small size is perfect and lightweight with the Tom Bihn briefcase and Tom Bihn hard case insert for the laptop. This has been the carryon that we are never without.
Also take a couple of those tiny flash drives. If you use a camera shop to burn a CD, maybe you could use the thumb drive as well for certain back up.
We upgraded our Verizon phone to a dual service, which we can turn back in if the Motorola isn't what we really like. The charge is .99 USD per minute so we save it for those times that we really need it. I am a disabled traveller, so having the laptop and cell phone have allowed me to be flexible and keep in contact with my train, hotel, car rental services.
Ellen from Seattle
Seattle, WA USA Tue 09/09/2008
European charger for Nintendo Ds Lite
As much as I hate to admit it my son's bringing his Nintendo DS lite -along with a new game he got at the start of our trip- was a godsend. When the kids' movie channel was not working properly on the United overseas segment of our flight (why am I not surprized) he was quite happy to play with his nintendo for hours on end. The nintendo was also handy to have while waiting for Mom and Dad to get ready for dinner, or just any other time when waiting was involved. We had no TV access for our 10 day trip, and my son also had plenty of time to read and do schoolwork as well. Nintendos do need their own chargers which CANNOT be used with an adapter plug. You can also charge them with your regular car charger in any european car. We bought a special European charger from a man who had mentioned on this site that he'd had to make a special trip to a hardware store in Venice to find one. As far as I can tell it is impossible to buy these chargers anywhere in the US.
Aspen, Co. USA Mon 09/08/2008
Use your laptop for checking in for flights
Even though we didn't often have internet access, it was handy to clear our camer's memory card every night by downloading our photos. It was very helpful to have our laptop when we did have the internet, because it was the only way our rental car company to contact us. As it was, they were about to cancel our contract unless they heard from us the night before our rental, which was the first time we were actually able to get online.
You also might not think about it, but it is also a very handy way to check in the night before your plane flights, view plane loading (ie. where there might still be blocks of empty seats to move to) and, if you have access to a printer, print your boarding passes all ahead of time. You can save quite a bit of your check in time this way.
Aspen, Co. USA Mon 09/08/2008
Acer Aspire One
Hey, I got an Acer Aspire One this weekend. For a non-geek it would be perfect. Built-in WiFi and card readers. It's only 2.2# and so small it fits into the carrying case from my MobilePro handheld. My only objections are, 1) it comes with only one user accessible, 105GB HD partition - not a very good idea for disk organization, and, 2) the tech support people at Acer are worthless - not very knowledgeable of computers in general and even less so about the Aspire One specifically (but it is a brand new product).
Denver, CO USA Wed 09/03/2008
Notebook computer for travel
For all of you who wanted to take a notebook computer with you to Europe but thought it would be too big, too heavy, or too expensive, Micro Center, www.microcenter.com, has the Acer Aspire One on sale this week for $350. It is smaller than 10"x7" and weighs 2.2#. It has a 8.9" screen and built in card readers and WiFi.
Denver, USA Tue 08/26/2008
We finished a 25day trip in Northern Italy by car. We brought a GPS system with us and would recommend that anyone traveling by car have one with them. It was a great help in driving between towns and to specific locations when we knew exactly where we wished to go. You still need a map for planning purposes, but a GPS will reduce stress and make the holiday more enjoyable.
Vancouver, BC Canada Mon 08/25/2008
I have the 270 and used it this past spring in Germany and it was great! I never got lost - in large cities, country roads, small towns. Definately worth the money for a stress-free drive.
Richmond, Virgin USA Thu 08/07/2008
Garmin Nuvi on sale at Costco until August 11
I just purchased a Garmin Nuvi 270 online at Costco.com for my trip to Ireland. They are on sale through August 11 for $199.99 if anyone is interested. That is $100 off. I just received it today and it does have the current maps loaded on it. $199.99 After $100 OFF Garmin nüvi® 270 3.5" Portable GPS Preloaded maps: North America and Europe Voice prompts Garmin Lock™
Omaha, NE USA Wed 08/06/2008
I just spent 2 months in France and Austria. I took my Nokia n95-3 Quad Band cell phone. It worked great with it's all-in-1 abilities. The 5 m.p. camera is very good. I got two 4 GB micro chips (yes, even if Nolia says only 2 GB max,) which each held enough of my music and extra space for photos/video. I didn't need to remove and insert the different chips too often. I bought new sim cards in each country for a few Euros (they come with minutes) and bought extra minutes as needed (thanks Rick.) My friends/hotel staff added the minutes for me as I couln't understand the directions which come in the different countries langueges. I'd then make one call home, give my new tel #, have them spread it around to friends and family and have them call me using the "1010-987" phone calling plan (very cheap rates to call europe.) The wi-fi ability allowed me to send/read email and ck-out web sites from most of my hotels and many cafes. I did't use the GPS function because I didn't have an internet option on my phone plans. Also useful is the curency, weights and measures converter, and many of the other options I'm still finding out about. I stored copies of my passport, credit cards, hotel info, hotel location maps and other vital info as Adobe PDFs. All-in-all a pretty handy device. I recomend extra batteries though (they go fast, $20 on Ebay,) and an universal elect. outlet adaptor for the charger plug. Add all that with Nokia travel speakers and a car charger; all for less than 1/2 lb. But bring the instruction booklet (!!) to read on the plane.
Piedmont, CA USA Sat 08/02/2008
LEAVE MODERN TECH AT HOME
just returned from 3 weeks (France, Italy, Switzerland): we are tech addicts and my husband's new spiffy phone would not work there. we survived, did not have laptop access except at internet cafes, (wrong plugs bought more than once both there and before trip!) and we are glad we unintentionally left the ball and chain behind---modern technology!
Atlanta, ga USA Wed 07/30/2008
use the led flashlight when needed you can crank it to recharge in about 1 minute no need to carry or buy batteries
plymouth, pa USA Sun 07/20/2008
Take an iPod Touch....best of both worlds!
We took an I-Touch iPod to Europe and it was great. Got all our e-mails, maps, info necessary. Free wi-fi cafes abound in Italy, and we had a caffe and read our mail. We also used it with Rick Steve's downloaded tours of all the sites in Rome and Venice, and we loved it!
Joan and George
Orlando, FL USA Sat 07/12/2008
Those theatre size binoculars are also handy for viewing the departure boards from a distance in crowded train station.
Katy, TX USA Wed 07/02/2008
Tour bus picture
It can be a good idea to take a digital picture of your tour bus (especially those 1 day tours) so you can find yours in a crowded parking lot.
Katy, TX USA Wed 07/02/2008
Not sure which category this comes under, but I brought good old fashioned binoculars (theater-size) and they were fantastic for viewing the Sistene chapel and other duomos through out Italy!
Loveland, OH USA Sun 06/29/2008
A computer - Don't leave home without it!
I spent two weeks in Germany last October, and I was sure glad I brought my notebook computer with me. It weighs less than 3# and fits in a bag too small to be a computer, so I don't worry about lugging it or theft.
If I had not brought it, my opportunities to go online would have been few and far between. Apparently most Germans now have home access, so Cybercafes are going away. I only found four in two weeks. Two places only had one computer. At one place I waited for three hours for the one computer to become free, and finally left without getting online.
On the other hand, half the places I spent the night - and these were small family run Gästehäuser - had wifi access.
As for convenience, I find it far more convenient to use my keyboard, with which I am familiar, than to use a strange, foreign one. Also, I find I can go online at 2 in the morning if I want to. In addition to email access, I download, sort, and label my pictures, keep a journal, and track my expenses using Excel.
Denver, USA Fri 06/20/2008
Don't take a computer
I was all set to take a pocket PC along on my one-month tour of Europe in 2007. I even had a folding keyboard for it. But the learning curve for using it turned out to be more than I could bear (and I work in the digital industries). So I left it home. That turned out to be a very smart decision. Desktop PC access is everywhere and is much more convenient than diddling around with your own computer, which is likely to consume undue amounts of time.
Vallejo, CA USA Thu 06/19/2008
Just returned fron 2 weeks driving in Spain. Since my own GPS doesn't work in Europe, I rented a TomTom with my rental car. While it was great on the "open roads" it was worthless when trying to locate our small hotels in historical districts. It repeatedly tried to send us the wrong way on one way streets and or onto pedestrian only lanes. I wish I had asked each hotel for specific dribving directions and saved the money it cost to rent the TomTom!!
Villa Park, CA USA Mon 06/16/2008
Gmail or Yahoo Mail
It is great to bring copies of all your documents, itineraries, etc, but if they get lost!!!! Scan and email copies of reservations, etc to your portable email accounts. Even copies of passports can come in handy if anythign is everlost.
As an alternative, scan to your laptop and have immediate access even if you are not on line.
Branford, CT USA Fri 06/13/2008
I have used a TomTom 910 to travel around for the last two years. It was great in Italy. I recently purchased the new TomTom 930 with the US and Western Europe maps installed. Have used the switch map function to browse and pre enter all our hotel location as Points of Interest in advance. This saves time and worry, just turn it on in your rental car and you are on your way to your first destination out of the airport.
The maps are excellent. This unit fits in my shirt pocket. Rather than bring the suction mount, I take a couple of adhesive Velcro dots. It is so light; I stick it on the instrument screen with the Velcro, and remove it when leaving the car. The Velcro can be removed when you turn in your rental.
The unit has FM audio output, and can play through the car stereo or with its own speaker. Big bright LCD display and ways only a few ounces
Branford, CT USA Fri 06/13/2008
Sugestions for iphone users
I recently went to Paris and Amsterdam but before I left I was worried about turning on my Iphone and incurring the monstrous roaming charges I have heard all about. My solution? I just took the sim card out and essentially turned my iphone into a ipod touch. With your sim card removed you still have the ability to connect to wifi networks so the maps, Safari and email apps were all there, fully functional and very helpful[I even booked my hostel for Amsterdam from the cafe by my hotel in Montmartre]. And when I got home there were no outrageous roaming charges waiting for me. Hope this helps my feLlow iphone users wondering if they should leave it home. CHEERS!
Marietta, GA USA Fri 06/06/2008
dont leave home without em!
Thanks so much for all your posts, you're all awesome! Ive traveled extensively throughout Europe, India, and the US. I love my technology and never leave home without my gadgets! Ive never regretted bringing the following items, if anything I've patted myself on the back because I was so glad I brought them!
1) Macbook Laptop: Very lightweight and durable, comes with great easy to use applications, and the battery lasts a long time before needing to be plugged in, I even lugged it around India for 2 months and loved having it! I use it to listen to music (on headphones OR in the room out loud!), upload pictures to empty my photo cards, watch movies I've downloaded from itunes or that I bring with me (especially nice toward the end of the trip when your brains missing your home language;), I keep our travel documents on here, talk to friends and family using instant messenger, and of course to take advantage of all the free wifi everywhere. You have your own keyboard, documents, pictures from home, everything that's familiar in an unfamiliar place 2) Ipod + extra battery pack: this is another item I LOVE and never leave home without. The bigger ipods last about 8 hours (if watching movies, the battery goes even faster) which isn't particularly useful on those 12+ hour plane rides, ricks walking tours you downloaded, etc. Ipod battery packs take 4 AA batteries, plug into the bottom of the ipod and give you about 20 more hours of juice! Most trips I don't bring my charger, I just bring my battery pack and batteries, even those long months in India! The pack clips to the ipod so its not even a hassle. I would also recommend getting a great case for your ipod so it doesn't get ruined traveling. I like to take mine everywhere because it allows me to escape the crowded museums and just enjoy my music and the art without feeling claustrophobic and annoyed with all the other travelers. I even make playlists for different cities and parts of the trip to keep it interesting and theme songs about Paris to my Paris playlist etc, ill have friends make me playlists so I can think of them and hear some new music too, so fun! (amazon has some battery packs for pretty cheap) 3) A great Digital camera that takes batteries: having some photography background, it was hard for me to travel at first without my big SLR camera. But even the cheaper digital cameras nowadays have a lot of the same features as my old SLR camera. I got a middle end digital camera that takes AA batteries and lets me do lots of the same things I could do with my SLR. Make sure it takes batteries so you don't run out of charge when you've just arrived at the Louvre for the day. Carry extra batteries with you during the day. They also take short videos which is fun and a nice alternative to lugging a video camera along as well. Especially if you bring your laptop you can upload the little videos at the end of a day or two and don't have to worry about filling your card. Get at least a 1GB card if not more, if you don't bring your computer then bring extra camera cards for sure! Become familiar with your camera before you go. 4) Cell phone: having a cell phone with you is nice even if you don't end up using it for calls. It acts as an alarm clock, flashlight, calendar, clock, emergency camera, and sometimes even a little music player. This summer while im in Europe im going to see if I can use the T-Mobile international plan they advertise. Supposedly you just call to activate it and it should work perfectly fine while im there, we'll see! Don't forget your charger!
Sorry this is so lengthy, but I tried to include things I haven't seen on here yet. Feel free to email me with any questions you may have! Happy travels!
San Diego, CA USA Thu 06/05/2008
Headphones for Hearing Aid Users
Just returned from a RS tour of Spain and Portugal. 3 times, local guides used wireless transmitters and ear buds to talk to the group. I wear hearing aids, so I missed one talk. Then I bought a pair of collapsible earphones at a department store for the other two talks. Lesson learned: If you've got a pair of collapsible headphones, consider taking them them so you'll hear the local guides.
Bradenton, FL USA Sat 05/31/2008
Just got back from two weeks traveling with my ASUS EEE. It's absolutely wonderful. Easy to log on to wireless networks, easy to use, cheap. The smaller keyboard takes a little getting used to, but it's definitely manageable. I traveled with the EEE and a 2.5" portable USB-powered hard drive (made by Western Digital; as a nerd I'd recommend either WD or Seagate) with all my movies and TV shows on it. We watched our favorite shows on long train rides, and I was able to send email and pictures to my family back home from any location with wifi. During my trip, about a dozen people we met (including a stewardess on the flight home, who saw me watching Dr. Who on it) asked about it and were interested in buying one. Even my technology-averse mother has purchased one for her travel. I'd recommend them to anyone who wants to travel with a laptop but doesn't want to risk the expense of losing or breaking a top-of-the-line machine.
Salt Lake City, UT USA Thu 05/29/2008
the versatile iPod Touch
I'm bringing along an iPod Touch, it's useful in several ways: * watch movies or listen to music on the flight * watch Rick Steves' free Europe videos * listen to Rick Steves' free audio tours while visiting museums and other major sites. * browse the web and check your email from wherever there is Wi-Fi available * can store your itinerary details in the iPod's Calendar * built-in alarm clock (but it's not very loud), plus a "world clock" so you can remind yourself what time it is at home * show photos of your family to people that you meet.
Kansas City, MO USA Tue 05/20/2008
If you have Verizon wireless and really need to be in touch back in the states, they have a free phone to use in Europe with your Verizon phone # and all you pay is for the minute charges from wherever you are. BUT, the catch is you can only have it for 21 days. I'm going to try it (13 days in Benelux & France) since I need an emergency access back to the states. There are 2 plans so make sure you get the free one. The other chages for the phone.
Chicago, IL USA Tue 05/13/2008
digital camera and photos
I just spent one month in Florence, Italy and i take a lot of pictures. I had brought along only 2 memory cards and used the camera shop to burn my photos on CD- 5 euro each and if 2 CD's were needed, it was 10 euro. I went to the big camera shop next to the Duomo several times and all was godd. Then i went and catastrophe... the girl told me that my card was defective and nothing was on it. I was very upset and sick, thinking of the wonderful hiking i had done at Cinque Terre. I will never use a camera shop again to burn my photos! My next trip, i will bring lots of memory cards. By the way, the next morning, it took the train from Florence (2 hour train ride)to Cinque Terre and redid all the hiking and took all the pictures again that i had lost. I was sort of lucky because it was a glorious day!!! And i stopped crying.
Edmonton, Albert Canada Tue 05/13/2008
I used the "Notebook" feature on Google (it is free) to organize all of my info for a recent trip to Italy, and loved it! So much better than using Excel or Word, because your notebook "lives" on the web...as long as you can access Google, you can get to your notebook. You can create section headings on it, and best of all, you can cut and paste anything into it (great for when you are suring the 'net and come across a great piece of info you want to capture, or a web site you want to remember to check out later). I had sections for my flights, trip itinerary, restaurants, sites I wanted to check out, etc. It has a handy print feature so I had a portable copy (which I actually USED while traveling). I highly recommend it!!!
Slatyfork, WV USA Mon 05/12/2008
For those below who questioned, there are, as of today, some 900+ travel books available for the Kindle, including some Rick Steves titles. I got a Kindle about a month ago. On a business trip since then, I found I could use the Kindle's limited web browser to keep up with news and sports (during meetings, much sneakier than using my laptop). It was nice for reading on the trip. My only concern with Kindle (so far) is the cost of the books. My typical strategy was to buy used books and leave them behind as I traveled, leaving space for souvenirs. But with the volume of reading I like to do when traveling solo, it was a LOT of space in my luggage. The Kindle alleviates that.
Columbus, OH USA Fri 05/09/2008
New Top Three
Technology has added some great things to travel. Here's my top 3:
1. My digital camera (now on at least my third) really lightens the load and allows me to take tons of pictures without hauling bags of film and paying a fortune to develop at home. Be sure to get optical zoom, a big view screen, batteries that will take a couple hundred pics on a charge and a big memory card.
2. LED Flashlight. It's so much better than the old mini-mag days. Batteries last a lot longer and the bulb doesn't wear out.
3. The next thing. Rather than write in my journal daily, I'm considering getting a digital voice recorder. You can simply dictate your journal. When you get home, transcription software will automatically put it into a digital Word file where you can edit, cut and paste, add photos or anything to turn it into a digital journal without the sore hands.
Gainesville, va USA Thu 05/08/2008
What else to do for 20 hours ??
Bring your camera instruction book wirh you in your carry on. The one time in my life I find time to read completely .(on my way to India)
Bellevue Wa, USA Wed 05/07/2008
On laptops, hotspots & US news
Just returned from 10 days in the Netherlands and Paris. I always travel with my laptop for business as well as personal reasons. WiFi availability was quite good although less often free than in the US. While I was not looking hard, I didn't notice many cybercafés.
Early in the day, I would connect in a McDonalds or a hotel lobby, using a ten-day or so T-Mobile subscription for 15E. In the evening In Holland I visited a bar with free WiFi and could call home on Skype while enjoying the fine beer. In Paris's 7th ar, AKA Ville RickSteves, it was similar.
The utility of the laptop is compelling for me. One element is getting online to find out what's happening in the US. Being cut off from US news, particularly during the current crucial presidential primary and election period, is very hard for me to handle.
Browsing the NY Times and Washington Post online was great but it meant dedicated time at the hotspot. So, I signed up for the TimesOnline service.
Once online the service downloads all the latest stories in all sections of the paper to the PC reader application. Then one can read it offline. Also it saves the last seven days. So, a good solution for those afflicted with my condition.
Durham, NC USA Mon 05/05/2008
Useful Tech Links for Travelers
This site contains a list of essential software for travelers, as well lots of other recommendations for laptop travelers:
Baltimore, MD USA Wed 04/23/2008
I love traveling with my digital camera. No more waiting to develope your film to see if an important photo turned out. You have immediate gratification on discovering if your photo attempts worked. If not, try again. I find I shoot anywhere from 100 to 200 photo's per day. Editing these at the end of a trip would be a daunting task. Instead, at the end of each day I review my photo's and delete the ones that either didn't turn out well or were repetitious. It is a nice way to to recap your day and keeps the editing process to a more reasonable size.
Dayton, OH USA Sun 04/13/2008
Outlet adapter - Italy
Make sure you bring the old three prong adapter if you are staying in 2 star or less hotels in Italy (or elsewhere I suspect). We brought our larger (grounded) 2 prong adapter which worked well on our last trip to Italy. However, our last trip was a tour and we stayed at 3 star hotels. This time we only stayed in one hotel that could use the 2 prong adapter.
Roseville, MN USA Fri 04/11/2008
Our I-Pod car adapter worked just fine in our rental car in Ireland.
Oconomowoc, WI USA Tue 04/08/2008
Simple idea. Having a digital camera, I didn't want to deal with an adapter for battery charging nor did I want to carry a pile of AA's. I took 6 lithium batteries for a three week trip, and I was just beginning to use the third set when the trip was over. I took well over 800 photos and reviewed, deleted and reviewed again to take notes almost every evening.
Brevard, NC USA Sun 04/06/2008
New ASUS EEE coming soon
Asus is coming out with a new EEE sometime in April. It will be about the same size but the screen will be 2 inches bigger, it will come with Windows XP installed, as well as Microsoft Works and Wifi. Also supposed to have 12G.
USA Sun 04/06/2008
Asus eee 8g
Hi Janice, I bought the new Asus eee 8g from newegg.com a few weeks ago, put linux on a thumb drive and installed windows xp. It is SWEET!!! It weighs 1.97 pounds and if it is its little pouch that comes with it, it looks like a book. Icarry it in my purse. Then yesterday I went to Best Buy and bought the new LG 8x Slim portable External Super Multi DVD rewriter. it is just as cute as the eee!!! It is small and compact. The eee comes with a mouse as well. Go for it, it is awesome and if I need to do a lot of typing, I just plug in a regular keyboard and off I go!! kathy
salt lake city, utah USA Sat 04/05/2008
Thanks to the tip from Jon from Calgary, I'm going to buy an Asus Eee for my trip! I always said I wanted a light, cheap, no frills laptop for travel. I just can't imagine writing the old way and I want to keep a travel journal. On that note, I notice that a lot of y'all have blogs. What blog would you recommend? I'm looking for something free (or very close to it), very easy to use quickly, and that when I add pictures, it will be able to look different than other blogs (in that order of importance btw).
TX USA Wed 04/02/2008
This last trip to Southern and Central Italy, I did extensive research using Google Earth. AMAZING TECHNOLOGY! I printed out all the needed maps with a magnetic north orientation and using a cheap little compass, we were never lost. Our Hotel in Rome was in a difficult to find place since it was just outside the city wall and not on any store bough map. Using Google Earth, I had a complete picture of exactly where it was and what it looked like: Almost TOO easy.
Eugene, OR USA Tue 04/01/2008
I was planning on taking my laptop until today when I discovered Cruzer Flash Drives. I got one at Costco for $30 and was thrilled to learn that Skype was preinstalled, and that I could install firefox w/google toolbar also. I've now got this thing working exactly like my computer at home, so all I will need is the small 2oz flash drive and an internet cafe to do all my communication and calling back home via skype (I am bringing headphones w/mike). I am so happy to save 4 pounds of luggage plus not have the fear of it being stolen.
Orlando, FL USA Fri 03/21/2008
You don't really need much in the way of electronic gadgets to communicate from Europe. I used this BlackBerry Pearl I am typing on right now to communicate from France 2 years ago. No WiFi hotspots necessary. The charger also charges my IPod, as well. I actually did business from a bench at the Gare de Lyon in Paris. The Pearl fits into a shirt pocket. Lighter is so much better than heavier.
Reno, NV USA Wed 03/19/2008
Don't bring a laptop
I travel internationally to Japan a lot and Europe sometimes for business, and always bring a laptop when I do. However, when I go to Europe on vacation, I leave the laptop at home. It is really unnecessary. There are plenty of internet cafes throughout Europe that are easy to find, inexpensive, and can be a great cultural experience. By the time you have fiddled around and figured out how to get online to check your email in your hotel, you could have been down the street, checked your email and sent several off in an internet cafe, and be off starting your day. Plus you don't have the weight to lug around all trip, and it's one less thing to have to pull out of your carry-on bag in the security line at the airport. I carry an MP3 player and a very small charger that sticks into the wall and has a USB slot, and occasionally bring a very compact DVD player for the flight and for nights in the hotel after dinner when we are just too tired to be out anymore but want to watch a little something before going to sleep. Sure, in the hotel a laptop could do this funtion (though it is a lot bigger than the DVD player), but on the airplane you can't finish a single 2-hour DVD on a regular laptop battery, while the DVD player allows 6 hours of playtime.
Even that, though, I consider a luxury. I'm 32, took my first trip to Europe as a kindergartener back in the early 80s, and somehow managed to have many enjoyable trips to Europe without in-room internet connectivity and movies. It's a vacation people, so take a vacation from slavery to all your electronic gadgets.
USA Tue 03/18/2008
Ultra-Portable Mobile PC
We will be doing a Europe tour this coming September and will be taking our Asus EEE computer. This is a full laptop in a tiny ultra mobile form factor. It is great for getting on the internet as well as a GPS device using a receiver from Garmin.
I have travelled with laptops before, and this is by far the best one for mobility that I have found. Should also note that the model I have only cost $350 new out of the store, so I feel less concerned about having it broken or stolen.
I totally recommend this device for travel and at home as well!
Calgary, Albert Canada Sun 02/24/2008
My wife and I spent two weeks on driving tour of Germany last fall and are in process of planning the same time trip to Ireland in Sept. We took my 14" iBook, an iPod, a Garmin nuvi 360 and two digital cameras and would not think of leaving for Ireland without them. The extra weight??? it's worth it. Charged from car battery as we drove. Made sure we had car with lockable trunk and booked our hotels based on WIFI access. Folks, it's 2008. PS I'm 67 not 27.
Avon Park, FL USA Wed 02/13/2008
Digital Camera Battery
When I travel, I avoid the rechargable battery headache by using AA Batteries. I purchased a Canon digital camera that uses AA size batteries. If my rechargeable batteries lose charge, I know I can purchase Alkaline AA batteries just about anywhere. I usually travel with 4 AA rechargable (my camera uses only 2)batteries & a small recahrger.
Tracy, CA USA Tue 02/12/2008
I am writing this on my iphone from my motel room in st Petersburg. I can send and receive email with quality pics taken with the iPhone. I can surf the Internet and check the graffiti board to check for places to visit while I am here, check train schedules to Helsinki, register online with embassy, etc. It has google maps so I can determine walking distances by placing drop pins. For a nominal fee, you can buy an overseas calling bundle. And of course, before I left home, I downloaded a bunch of free podcasts: UC Berkeley history of Europe series, Rick's shows. I also downloaded the last 4 episodes of celebrity rehab. All of this in my front pocket. Very discrete and not bulky. I love it.
Seattle, WA USA Thu 02/07/2008
Taming Gadget Electrical Needs with USB and a Solar Option
For YEARS I've struggled with how to take those few necessary electronic gadgets along on trips (iPod, Cell phone, Digital camera, etc.), but not have to be burdened with an extra couple pounds of adapters and cables taking up precious space. I think I've finally hit upon the ideal mix, thanks mostly to the current trend of having USB recharging cables for a variety of small electronics. If you own an iPod, you probably noticed that the charging brick has a USB plug in it and is very small (2"x2"x1" in the latest version). It also works with universal voltage (100-240). You plug the USB docking cable into it to charge your iPod.
Did you also know that there are USB charging cables available for lots of cell phones, cameras and other small electronics and that they can use this same charger brick to get their power? If your particular gadget doesn't "officially" have one, check your manuals and device very carefully and find one that's compatible; for example, my Sanyo digital camera has the exact same voltage, polarity and plug dimensions as the Sony PSP Game console, so I use that cable. You can even purchase retractible USB cables that pack up very small, saving you lots of time and headaches: one power brick, but a variety of compact cables--neat!
But there's one more item in my arsenal: a small solar charger made by Solio (www.solio.com). I use the Hybrid 1000 model which is essentially a solar panel and battery in a small, rugged case with an attached cable and convenient carabiner-like clip. The solar panel charges up the unit's internal battery, and you can then plug your device to be charged into it using the attached cable (nice, since it won't get lost or take up even more space). You can even recharge the unit's battery at night or on rainy days by--you guessed it--plugging IT into your USB charger.
But the best thing about going with this small solar panel is you can clip it to the outside of your day bag and as you stroll around town touring the sights in the sunshine, you're charging it up for free. It's always ready to go if you need a quick charge for your camera while you eat your picnic lunch and before you hit the big museum.
Valencia, CA USA Mon 02/04/2008
Back up personal information
Being a first time traveler and in London studying for the summer with multiple weekend trips; I didn't feel safe with my passport much less hard copy's that could be stolen, lost, or ruined just as easy. Before I left I scanned everything(and I mean everything), using a photo quality scanner, created a file and emailed it to my self. When I visited the embassy in London they told me that if I had to replace my passport or needed that info, being able to access that info in that format would definately speed up the process, and even move me along quicker than those who had come before me. And, she also said that it would be useful almost anywhere because everyone use's computers and has internet access. I had a friend with that kind of scanner at home, so I don't know how much it would cost to have done, but I'm sure everyone has at least one friend with one, and it takes no time at all.
Baton Rouge, La. USA Tue 01/29/2008
TomTom to the rescue!
My wife and I spent a month in Europe this summer, from Glasgow to Ibiza and many places in between, and my TomTom 910 GPS (we named her "Kate" after the pleasant British voice built in) was by far the most useful piece of technology I have ever taken with me on a trip to Europe! Whether walking, driving, going by train or by boat, this thing showed us precisely where we were and how far away our destination was. I can't tell you how many times I had gotten lost, map in hand, walking the streets of London or Paris or Prague on previous trips. And while getting lost can sometimes lead to interesting new discoveries, the benefits of being able to find what you're looking for stress free far outweigh the wonder of random discoveries. Plus, this model of GPS has a database of "safety cameras" built in. So whether I'm approaching a speed regulated section of the Autobahn, or a crowded roundabout, I am warned about 400 meters before the speed camera appears (and if you're familiar with them, you know they are tiny and often impossible to spot without help)!
Portland, OR USA Fri 01/11/2008
Navigation Systems for Driving in Europe
I cannot emphasize enough how nice navigation systems are for driving Europe. They allow you to focus more on driving and traffic instead of trying to figure where you are going. They can save you a lot of stress and headaches if you are planning to drive on a vacation in Europe whether you're on the backroads or in a city. If you miss a turnoff, they will replot your route for you. I've seen large numbers of Europeans using them for getting around.
I've got a TomTom 910, and it works really nice. The maps are about 99% accurate, and I haven't had any problems with it. The only errors that I've seen is we've they've recently rerouted one of the roads due to road construction which is understandable. It's one of the best investments that I've ever made.
Okie in Europe, USA Wed 01/09/2008
Use of electrical adapters in Switzerland
There is something wrong here.
Either you were not using a universal "Europlug" adapter (CEE 7/16), or the receptacle was not according to Swiss standard, SEC 1011. The Europlug fits into the SEC 1011 grounded receptacle (which is a flattened hexagon shaped recess with three holes). Perhaps these were some older style receptacles that were "grandfathered" in.
I am also somewhat confused by your saying a European extension cord. It must have been an ungrounded cord (which I was unaware that they had), because there are so many mutually incompatible, grounded plugs that there cannot be one European grounded extension cord.
USA Mon 01/07/2008
Use of electrical adapters in Switzerland
Just returned from two weeks in this lovely country and found that in many instances, electrical receptacles (primarily in bathrooms but also in other locations) do not accept the typical adapter. The receptacles we encountered in both homes and hotels were an elongated horizontal triangle shape which will not work with the oblong, round-ended adaptor. We found that the use of a European extension cord (plugging it into the wall receptacle and then plugging the adapter into the other end of the cord) worked OK. There might be available other devices for such a purpose, but we didn't see any. Just be forewarned!
K & F
Oregon Coast, USA Sat 01/05/2008