Ahh Electronics. Now we’re talking! This is the sexy stuff that everyone is interested in!
I remember when we were researching we just wanted to know what kind of computer to bring. We agonized over this decision. We wanted to be able to blog, surf, and use social media – but we didn’t know what would work for us.
Like clothes, electronics are a highly personal choice. Some people can’t live without them while others are hitting the road to avoid them. Once again we learned to just pick what we are comfortable using and stop trying to find the one “right” option. Here’s what worked for us on the big trip with some plans for the upcoming Tanzania trip mixed in.
TABLET + KEYBOARD
It was a big decision that required untold amounts of research, but we decided on taking a mini tablet instead of a laptop computer (the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4″ with a bluetooth Fintie keyboard and case). It took us a little while to learn the in’s and out’s of tablet-speak, and it’s true that the capabilities are a bit limited compared to a laptop, BUT it’s uber lightweight and takes up very little room. Since one of our pillars was for all our luggage to meet the weight and size limits for carry-on luggage, the tablet was a big winner. All these blogs and FB posts? Yes, they are straight from the tablet to you. Certainly there were times that a laptop would have been easier and better suited for a task at hand, but never so much that it was worth the weight and worry of damage or it getting lost/stolen. The tablet looks pretty unimpressive from afar and that’s fine by us. We absolutely love, love, love (can’t imagine my life without it), love this tablet!
We got the biggest internal memory we could plus a 32 Gig memory card. That might be our one piece of guidance – get the most memory you can because it’s one less thing to worrry about on the road. Got to be able to store all those incredible photos, right? Right!
RE-DO – if we could do it again, we would have brought two tablets…and just might to Tanzania as we got another cheaper version, the Galaxy Tab A, to bring. Sharing the one was simply not that much fun on the first trip. Plus, think how much stuff we could have published with two of us writing at the same time!
Anyone who knows Aaron (including all the librarians at Northgate Library), knows he reads a LOT. Like four+ books a week, unless he’s in a reading mood and then it’s off the charts. Raised by a bookstore owner he had a serious bias for paper books. The real thing! The look of the print, the feel of the paper… but for this trip he decided to try a Kindle. Just think about the hassle of trying to get books on the road, carry them, find them in English. He knew he had to make the leap. He did a ton of research and decided the Paperwhite was the way to go because it’s built-in backlight makes it easier to read in all levels of ambient light. Also, using his library card he can check out books from the Seattle library anywhere we find wi-fi, download them to his Kindle, and read (in english no less) to his heart’s content. And boy does he! I think he’s a convert. Sorry librarians, you might see less of him from now on.
RE-DO – We originally brought just one Kindle and thought we would share. One person on the tablet, one person on a Kindle. That did NOT work! So a few months into the trip we had a friend drop a Kindle off for us on the road. We both are in love. For me (Anner), who reads about a book a month, this Kindle and this trip have been a big change as I careen through book and after book and I don’t have to feel bad if I start a book and ditch it 15 minutes later — it didn’t cost a thing. So I know I’m a convert!
If there’s one thing we appreciate, it’s a good snapshot! If we had to pick which piece of gear we liked most it would be a close tie between the tablet and the camera…but I think the camera would win out. We’ve already written about our love affair with our little Sony. We are happy to recommend it once more. Note: as you’ll see on that post, we ended up getting a second one AND a cheaper version – that was a story!
It was perfect (and I do mean perfect) for our trip. It fit in our one carry-on bag. If we had a big camera with lenses and what have you, we would have been sunk. We can’t imagine lugging that around. Or course, there are people who can’t imagine NOT having their big, fancy cameras. So once again, pick what you know and love!
A Go-Pro looks like so much fun! It’s a camera specifically for catching the action while you snorkel or hike or ride a horse through Mongolia. I wanted one for a long time; before the trip even. So early one morning we met a Navy sailor in a parking lot and purchased a used GoPro just before the trip. Thank you, Craigslist. We kind of learned to use it the tiniest bit and that’s as far as we got. We tried to do time lapses of packing. We attempted movies while we snorkeled. The thing was that the GoPro editing software doesn’t work on the tablet and, being an older GoPro model, the battery didn’t hold a charge too well any more. There were these little nagging issues and, honestly, we just never quite got it working for us. Big sad face. In Africa we ended up sending it home with Aunt Casey.
Sigh. That said, we know a lot of fellow travelers who *love* their Go-Pros. They also are carrying a laptop with them.
RE-DO – make sure all the electronics work and work together.
I brought my little MP3 Player (a red Sandisk Clip) for music on long bus/train/plain rides. We didn’t listen to it much. And we never set it up to download music from the tablet, mostly because we’re lazy, but also because we were saving money for actual travel so didn’t want to pay a cent for music while on the trip. Obviously, this probably goes against the grain. I assume most people would bring a lot of music. We’re happy with our minimalist approach, but , since it takes up no space at all, I’ll probably bring it again to Tanzania so I can zone out and listen to some music once in a while.
This was a late, laaaate add. As we traveled through Europe people kept loaning us their Sat Nav to help us get around in our rental cars. When we headed to Spain it was going to cost as much to rent a Sat Nav as buy one. Soooooo, we bought one. I guess sometimes it is nice to have a map. We loved it and when we got home we loaded the US maps on it… and promptly never used it again.
Oh, there was so much agony about the phone. Do we bring one? If we do, what kind of phone do we bring? Do we buy an “international” or “unlocked” phone – meaning one that we can put a sim card into in each new country. Do we bring one of our out-dated smart phones and get an international plan? What to do? What to do!
We ended up bringing Aaron’s old smart phone – I forget the reason why. It was big and heavy and took up space and was one more thing to get stolen….and we never, ever used it. That got sent home with someone. I had a co-worker who gave us an unlocked phone. She warned us it doesn’t hold a charge. We got a sim card for it and cranked it up in Panama. In case you don’t know, a sim card is a little do-dad you put into the phone that gives it a local phone number and hooks it up to the local network. They cost next to nothing and in many countries vendors sell them right outside the door of customs. Many people take an unlocked phone and this works great for them. In our case, some teenagers were more than happy to inspect our borrowed phone and tell us exactly what we needed, install the sim card, and then activate it for us. Thanks kids! But the total lack of holding a charge and not really much need for a phone meant we were just hauling around a phone we didn’t need. So, yet another phone sent home. Finally, in Africa we really needed a phone for the first time. Mostly to get a hold of our guides here and there. Again, someone was more than happy to take us to a local market — like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and get us a little “candy bar” style phone and set it up for us. Being Tanzania it cost next to nothing — maybe $20 for everything, and I’m sure everyone who helped us get it got a cut. Happy to help the economy! We changed the sim card when we got to South Africa and definitely used it there…but not since. Another phone shipped home.
“So what DID you use?!“, I hear you shouting. Well, we used our tablet and the Interent for everything! If we absolutely needed to make a phone call (very rarely) we used Skype. We also used Skype to stay in touch with all of our parents and it worked great. We use FB Messenger to text with our friends almost every day. We felt very in touch with everyone and not having a phone turned out to be no problem at all (aside from Africa, where we simply bought one!). For the upcoming trip we’re again planning to simply buy one in-country and then maybe leave it for the locals when we leave. They can certainly make use of it!
If there’s one thing you’ll need to make your electronics work during a trip around the world, it’s a plug adaptor. There’s different plug types in different countries, so having an adaptor that connected our US-style plugs to fit other outlets was essential.
There’s bunches of adaptor types, but we went with the now-popular multi-plug cube. It’s made in China and everyone makes their own simply with their own label on it. Odds are good you’ll see one of these if you’re looking. It’s kind of awesome because it has room for two USB plugs that works with pretty much all our electronics and the various plugs worked in every outlet we tried! It’s a little bit Inspector Gadget and it never let us down. Back to Tanzania it goes!!
We have 5,000 cords. Every box that went home, I stashed another few in there (usually when Aaron wasn’t looking). I swear they are like rabbits – multiplying when you’re not looking. It’s helpful that most of our gadgets use the same plugs so really we just need a cord and a back up. These are less-is-more moments.
The one cord we really loved was an extra long micro-USB cord we picked up on the trip. It’s about six feel long which makes it easy to use when there’s only one awkwardly placed outlet in a hostel. It broke down after the trip so we’re bringing a couple of new ones this trip.
Like clothes – take what you love and will use every day…and won’t be spun into ruin if it gets lost or broken.
I agree with your tablet instead of a laptop decision. I took my tablet when I went with you to Africa and would do so again. I can stay in touch and read my e books. Fancy computing isn’t used much while traveling. I did take my full-sized camera and a 70-200 mm lens to Africa and was pleased I did, but all the editing was done in Lightroom after returning home. A longer trip like you did would have resulted in taking something smaller.
My phone has a good GPS app, so a Tom Tom would be redundant. The newer phones have good photograph capability. I’ve seen many Japanese traveling who use their phone or tablet as their only camera. Waiting for some updated photos this year, please.
And cords? They definitely reproduce, and a certain husbands just keeps them regardless of their current usefulness. Ziplock bags full. Love the blue. I, too, have a 6 foot cord. It’s so great even in US motels with too few and too inconvenient plugs. Mine is gold. I love the new bright colors as they are easier to find.
Finally, I agree that e choices are personal depending on the priorities of use while traveling, the length of travel and what kind of activities involved.
Three cheers for longer, more colorful USB cords!!!