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Packing and Using a Netbook on the Road

A few years ago I took the train from central Virginia to New York City for a week-long business trip. I brought my beautiful Dell laptop along. I loved its wide screen, full size keys, and that it had all the programs and features I needed. By the time I made it to the hotel, however, I had promised myself I would never travel with this laptop again. Despite everything I loved about it, there was one thing I quickly learned I couldn’t stand – its weight. How in the world could I take it overseas if it was too heavy for a domestic trip?!

The trip to NYC taught me that I had to downsize if I was going to continue traveling abroad. Months before I quit my job to head to Australia, I decided to purchase a netbook for the journey. Now I have to confess, the first time I saw a netbook I had to suppress a groan and keep my nose from wrinkling in distaste. I thought, the screen is too small. It must be impossible to type in such a confined space. Why would I spend money on something that probably can’t do half of what my current laptop can? I admit – I judged the mighty netbook before I really gave it a fair shot. What changed my mind?

About the netbook I bought, packed, and used on a daily basis in Australia:

ASUS Eee PC 1005PEB netbook

— Dimensions: 10.3 x 7 x 1.4 inches
— Weight: 2.8 pounds
— Intel Atom N450 (1.66GHz, 512KB L2 Cache)
— 1GB DDR2 RAM, 1 SODIMM Slot, 2GB Max; Intel UMA graphics
— 250GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM); 0.3MP Webcam
— 10.1-Inch 1024X600 WSVGA LCD Display; 802.11 b/g/n; Chiclet Keyboard
— 6 cell battery for up to 11 Hours of Battery Life; Windows 7 Starter Operating System

>> Shop for the ASUS Eee PC Netbook on Amazon

I upgraded to the max 2GB of RAM at the recommendation of a friend who sells computers and electronics. An easy upgrade for a netbook!

Why I picked this one:

I’m fairly tech savvy, but when it comes to comparing specs, I really don’t know what I need! I spoke with a few members of Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” to help me learn about the specs of various netbooks and how these differed from full-size laptops currently on the market.

What did I learn? Any netbook would allow me to get online. They all had plenty of memory for my travel photos. It had everything I’d need except the two things netbooks simply don’t – a CD/DVD drive (I’d learn to live without) and MS Office (I know there are free tools out there but I wanted Word and Excel at the very least for the future).

I tried many netbooks and found that the keys were too close together. Or the keys made odd sounds with each keystroke. My fingers felt awkward typing a simple sentence. Ultimately I selected my netbook for a very simple reason: I could type on it easily. Like any product you plan to use daily, it’s important that you’ll actually be able to use it DAILY. I visited stores on multiple occasions and spent time using various netbooks before I realized that this model was the only one I felt comfortable using.

How I traveled with it:

For another $20-$30, I purchased a padded netbook-sized case. Both easily slid into the laptop pocket of the school-sized backpack I use as my go-to carry on item. When I was traveling and living out of hostels, it seemed that everyone had a netbook. Its small, lightweight nature was a dream come true.

What about the charge? It’s said to have a battery life of up to 11 hours, but like other owners of this netbook, I’ve found it gets 5-7 hours from full-charge when unplugged. I usually had no problem keeping it charged on the road. If I had, perhaps I should have spent more time out and about and less time on the computer!

Why I had to pack a netbook:

It doesn’t seem like long ago that everyone went to an internet cafe or paid to use computers in the hostel. Now, most of us want to keep in touch with loved ones from the road through a blog, social media, email, and Skype. Some of us even work while we’re traveling. Choosing to travel with a laptop probably doesn’t feel like a choice to many – it’s a given. And when it comes to packing light, a netbook packs enough power in a small package.

What type of laptop do you travel with? Any raves for a particular brand? Do you think you could manage without it? Tell us what you love (or don’t) about yours.

Written by Heather

Heather Rudd Palmer is a 30-something with a love for travel, food, and healthy living. After short trips to Europe in her 20s, Heather left her job at 30 to live, work, and travel in Australia for a year. She visited every state and territory, embarked on two road trips, worked at an organic food store, and ate her way through Sydney. She's now a career counselor for university students. You can find Heather at There's No Place Like Oz and Healthy Life Heather.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Alouise says

    I have an Asus netbok too and I really like it. I use it when I travel, and it’s nice and light. I also use it for school. Price was a major factor for me, as much as I like macbooks they’re out of my price range. I usually only use my netbook to go online, and to write, so this netbook worked well for me.

    • Heather says

      I agree, Alouise. This netbook has become my only computer and I use it for everything now. Sometimes I wish I had a bigger screen when editing photos, but it’s been a dream for everything else.

      • Brooke says

        I also use my netbook for everything now, but I’m majorly torn! I love the size, and for most things in my life, size beats out other factors… but it lacks many abilities that I would want in a computer — like quality photo editing, the ability to handle more processes,the ability to edit travel videos (video blows on my netbook) and speed.

  2. Kriss says

    Some Netbooks do come with MS Office, mine did. Well, it came with it fully in it but after 30 days it became read only unless I paid for it. I didn’t so I just keep it to read Excel and Word files, etc that people send me and use Works as my main word processor, since it is free :o). So, you can put it in yours if you wanted to.

    My Gateway Netbook is now my main computer since my laptop passed away. I can’t say too much is different about it since my old laptop was the same size; it was the smallest laptop when I got it 7 years ago. Price wise the netbook was super cheap, though my laptop had more functions than my netbook. But it is great for travel!

    • Heather says

      I finally have Office on my netbook! I believe I did have a trial in the beginning but didn’t pay for it after it expired. Once I returned to the states and needed Office for work, I was able to get it at the education price…*phew* 🙂

      • Brooke says

        OpenOffice is a FREE alternative to Office that I use. You can read all Office docs and even save your OpenOffice docs in word doc format.

  3. karen says

    hi, i’m planning for a rtw trip jan 1 2013- i’m so excited! while I’m a returned peace corps volunteer, i am a little rusty when it comes to backpacker/hostel style traveling. i just bought a macbook air and plan on taking it on my trip- its so lightweight and just right for blogging, face timing, etc. my concern is keeping my laptop safe! any suggestions for locks or securing on the road or at hostels when i’m out? i don’t want to have to take it with me everywhere!

  4. Heather says

    Karen, I tend to use the locker in the hostel bedroom to keep my electronics and valuables safe when not in use (not all hostel rooms have them but many do). Some hostels rent padlocks (as the lockers don’t come with them), but if you plan on traveling around quite a bit, it’s worth it to just buy your own lock!

    Some folks have used a PacSafe lock to keep their backpacks and valuables secure in the hostel room during the day, but I’ve never used one!

  5. Brittany D says

    I have a Netbook and hate hate hate it. It’s 2.8lbs, When I did research to find one that worked, this one is the one that was the heighest rated. I couldn’t even tell you what it is anymore…I just don’t care enough about it and want to spare you all… and has been nothing but slow and groggy. I am getting a MacBook Pro soon, and it is 4.5lbs and well worth the added weight in my opinion…I get a CD drive, retina display, and a full sized screen. Here’s my though…Laptops are getting lighter and lighter. I believe the extra memory, usage, speed, and quality is very much worth the added weight.

  6. Ellie says

    I love my Netbook! In 2013, I purchased an HP Mini 10.1″ Netbook that was preloaded with a trial version of MS Office. It has everything I need and is definitely my go-to electronics choice for travel. It fits easily into my tote bag, briefcase or backpack. I can even squeeze it into my purse (with zippered soft case that I purchased separately. I also opted for the 2 GB of RAM, which is the max on any Netbook. The battery life is super long. Blue tooth and Voice -to-Text option for MS make this compatible with just about anything.


  1. […] I brought my laptop because I was blogging along the way and my husband was back home in Germany, so we kept in touch on Skype. If you only need to get online to check email, Facebook and occasionally Skype with family back home, consider leaving the laptop behind. It’s extra weight and you can find internet cafes almost anywhere. Another option is to bring a lightweight netbook. […]

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