Traveling: Gadget or No Gadget?

These days in this gadget-on-steroid world, have you ever faced the dilemma of what gadgets to bring with you while traveling? Not to worry, we’ve all been there. Cameras, smartphones, laptops, tablets, e-readers, music players, car GPS, did I miss anything?

Adding on top of those, all the chargers for EACH of the gadget. Long cables, short cables, adapters, plugs, converters, battery chargers, the list seems to be endless!

So the question is, how much is too much? Do we really need all those electronic gadgets while traveling?

Mountain of gadgets

Case of over-gadget?

In my old days of traveling, I used to just carry one pocket camera, one stupid phone, and one paper book. These days I seem to carry a lot more.

For one my camera has gotten bigger, bigger, and heavier. Sometimes I even carry one DSLR and one pocket camera for emergency. When the battery of the DSLR runs out, I take out the small camera like cowboy with her backup gun. My smart phone is a must for emergency. Being able to turn on the Internet in times of need and see where I am is crucial. I can’t seem to leave my iPad anymore, and I do look for accommodation that includes free wifi so I can do that extra research and correspondence with the rest of the world at the end of the day.

My Kindle is tagging along for long train trip and flight and the waiting at the stations and airports – though admittedly I almost NEVER read when I travel. Not books anyway. I’d be too busy reading about the places I just left and the ones I’m going to in the form of travel guide books and brochures. But still, my Kindle is tagging along, just in case. Some people listen to music so they can’t leave their music bank at home. Rendy always carries his iPod when traveling.

Busy reading guide book

Guide book – staple while traveling

Some things you really can’t compromise. If you intend to drive, GPS is a no-brainer, and it was probably the single most useful gadget we carried with us (recent example: the Spain road trip). Some people intend to work during traveling, so laptop is no compromise and has to be carried around.

So I guess it is back to your priorities on the road. It also depends on where you go and what you will do. If the countries I’m going to are known to be unsafe, I wouldn’t want to bring too many gadgets and be endlessly worried about people robbing them in daylight or stealing them when they’re out of my sight.

The last time I traveled around Asia I was still a minimalist traveler and the style really suits the places. Carrying expensive electronic gadgets when you go backpacking, island hopping, or venturing to places where people are poor and technology is scarce is asking for trouble.

But now that I travel around Europe all the time, it feels like I’ve gotten a bit soft! I have no reservation of bringing any gadget with me as everywhere is very safe, the hostels and cafes have wifi, and it’s not a big deal for anyone to see DSLR, iPad, or iPhone. I wonder what will happen the next time I travel in Asia again?

Gadgets - should we leave these at home?

Gadgets – should we just leave them at home?

My Rules of Thumb

To summarize, the following are my rules of thumb for gadget consideration:

The Must Haves

1) Camera
For me camera must be the single most important gadget I need to have with me. I know some people don’t take pictures while traveling and I cannot fathom that. But since phone camera has gotten so good these days I guess you could use that if you’re not into photography. And that brings me to number 2:

2) Smart phone
Smart phone that is able to access the Internet for map checking is absolutely crucial. Get the local SIM card if you travel for a while in that country. Otherwise, check the roaming rule for your phone provider. Make sure it is enabled and make sure you are clear about the price so there will be no surprises when you go back home!

Nice to Have with Conditions

4) e-reader, portable media players, and the likes
Only bring if you know there would be some waiting around such as flight and long train ride. I would argue that since e-reader and iPods are generally very light and do not cost too high that you can always bring them (considering that it’s not too painful if you lose them).

5) iPad or other tablets (really, who use those?)
Only bring if you:
– travel longer than a couple of nights
– won’t venture too much to remote places (no wifi anyway)
– won’t do very long walk with your luggage

Make sure the hostels you stay in provide free wifi. These days it’s really not hard to find those. Useful for doing extra research and stay in touch with the rest of the world.

6) Laptop
Only bring if you travel more than a month or that you plan to do some work while traveling. My longest trips so far have been a month at a time so I never got to this point, but sometime in the future maybe I will, especially now that laptops are becoming smaller, lighter, and cheaper.

So there, my guide to traveling gadgets. Agree or not agree? Anything you do differently?

Severe case of over-gadget?

Severe case of over-gadget?


The Traveling Reader
I left home when I was 17 and never stop exploring the world since. Most days I'm a digital technician at one of the London's biggest visual effects studio. My alternate persona writes and travels and dreams of doing these as a living. I alternately call myself Indonesian or Australian whichever is more beneficial at the time, and I've been a Londoner since 2011.