Smartphones, Tablets, or Laptops: What’s Best for Travelers? 2018 guide

When I just got my iPad 5 years ago (yes, it’s been that long), I took it with me everywhere. Outside the house I mostly used it for taking notes and reading documents in meetings. 

These days I still take my tablet (an Android Note) with me to meetings, but otherwise it stays home. I use my phone for everything else. 

So when it comes to travel, a smart phone may be all you need.

Taking a smart phone when you travel abroad!

A smart phone is really an all purpose device. It can:

  • Find the way (if there is enough signal) – Google Maps app or similar
  • Serve as a flashlight (get one of the flashlight apps – a lightweight one)
  • Serve as a calendar
  • Serve as a camera
  • Convert currency
  • Translate text into your native tongue
  • Entertain: books, movies, music etc.
  • Get you online for information, social media etc.
  • It’s small. It will fit into your luggage no matter how light you’re traveling. 
  • Some are even equipped with a built in compass!

The downsides to a smartphone:

  • Battery life. Don’t rely on it if you don’t know if you’ll have electricity in ever port
  • Screen size. With HD I find it’s large enough for reading books on the Kindle app, but if you want to type or edit pictures, you’ll want something bigger. 

2016-05-07 11.36.53I recommend an affordable high-end phone like the Samsung Galaxy S4. It’s a few years old now, but still fast and reliable. Get it unlocked, so you can get a local phone and internet connection. Shown here is my own 3-year-old S4. It still works fast as anything, still takes great pictures and the only thing that has been changed is the new battery. But that’s a plus: the battery CAN be replaced. 

Taking a tablet with you for travel?

You’ll probably take your phone with you anyhow. The question is really: do you also need your tablet. 

The main consideration, I think, is weight and safety.

When it comes to weight it is real simple: less is more. So if you’re only going to carry a large backpack, a tablet may fit, but it’s probably not worth the extra pounds on your back. If you’re traveling by car however, or will have your luggage carried after you, you can certainly take a tablet as well. 

The other issue is safety: Do you feel comfortable carrying all that expensive equipment with you? 

If so, the main advantages of a tablet plus phone over only a phone are:

  • Two devices that can go online through wifi. That means twice as much battery life. 
  • Larger screen when you need it. For reading, writing, social media, image editing etc. 

Remember: a tablet is better than a laptop at the following:

  • Sturdier: less moving parts, less chance for sand and dirt to get in and ruin things. 
  • Lighter

Depending on your phone size, you could go with a 7 inch tablet or a larger one. Smaller is obviously lighter. 

The Kindle Fire HD is a pretty good tablet for the price. Good screen, and all common android apps are available. Definitely recommended if you’re worried it might get stolen. The Kindle Fire range starts at $40.- so you won’t have to worry about it at all. However, I recommend a higher end Kindle: better screen equals better reading experience. 

If you have a bit more budget, check out well rated android tablets out there. Of course the iPad is also an option. It’s definitely built to handle everything, but it’s a bit more expensive and therefore not worry free. 

The best laptop for traveling 

If you want or need to do business on the road, or want to do serious writing – taking your laptop may still be your best option. 


  • Laptop is heavier and larger
  • Laptop is more fragile
  • Laptop is harder to read out of doors
  • Laptop is not a camera
  • Laptop is not really good for ereading

If you’re traveling light and want to get some work done, you may want to consider a convertible laptop-tablet. That way you get the benefits of a tablet when you don’t need to type, and the benefits of a laptop when you do. 

31xvhgf6jaLOne advantage to taking a laptop, is that it handles all software your PC does. There are a lot of choices in Windows 2-in-1s. However, at present there is only one with good reviews that has a 10 inch screen size.

The alternative is a Chrome 2-in-1. It’s good for basic office editing and going online. Other than that: any tablet or a Windows laptop are both more versatile. In different ways of course.

Android and iOS both have more apps for gaming and that sort of thing than Chrome does.

Windows is still the classic OS for laptops and desktops, with all the freedom that brings. I don’t recommend it for a stand-alone tablet, but with a keyboard and stylus it’s good at what it does. Which is a lot. 


If you’re used to Android, don’t get an iPad just for this trip. If you’re an iPhone lover, don’t get Android just because you’re traveling. When you’re traveling you are not going to have the energy to find out how this new piece of equipment works – unless you’re a gadget lover of course, but then you would not be reading this article. 

If you’re going to buy a new piece of equipment for traveling abroad, stick to a system you know. It will save you heart-ache and head-aches later on. And do try out the travel apps you’re planning on using in advance too. You’ll have enough on your mind when traveling – don’t add trying out too many new things to the list. 

Conclusion: what to bring to your trip?

When traveling a lot depends on weight: if you are going to travel light-weight (aka without a car), you should only bring a laptop if you’re planning to work. 

My parents love taking their iPad on walking vacations. It’s their ereader as well as, in an emergency, a way to get in touch with the home front. And since these walking vacations include people driving their luggage around after them, the weight is not an issue. 

Since smart phones are such versatile things these days, for many people it will be enough to bring one on their trip. It’s even more lightweight than a tablet and it doubles as a camera and navigation device. It’s even a decent ereader in the shade. 

Posted on Categories Laptops, Tablets