On the Road with a Laptop: Troubles, Tips and Too Much Work

In the past two years, I’ve learned to take my writing on the road. I always had a notebook. But after seven years of writing, I have so many notebooks I end up spending half a day going through them all just to find the scene I know I wrote. It really hasn’t been easy. We’ve gone through three separate laptop suitcases and I’m still not satisfied. I’ve had problems with my data and difficulties connecting to free Internet services. I tend to bring my entire library with me, or so it seems. But I’m happy to say I’ve accomplished it. I’ve written articles, scenes, and poems and submitted them to magazines. I’ve answered my e-mail and help desk calls. I’ve even done a small amount of research. It is possible to write on the road. These tips and tales might help you do the same.

1) A laptop carrying case needs to be big enough to carry whatever you carry on the airplane, plus allow you to easily pull out the laptop at airport security stations. And it needs to be small enough to fit airplane carry on regulations. For me, this means it has to hold the computer and all its accessories, my camera, my binoculars, one outfit and at least two books. Who really knows if your checked baggage will arrive with you? Read Steve Tyler’s article on taking your laptop on a flight.If you have a new laptop, also read laptop computer care tips

2) The accessories you need for on the road include:

  • surge protector
  • car lighter a/c converter
  • cord
  • flash card reader and media
  • 3.5 floppy disk
  • CD’s
  • mouse
  • Internet cable connector
  • wireless card
  • all model electrical current converter

3) Although you take all the above accessories with you, most of the time all I use is the laptop, wireless card, cord and surge protector. This fits under my arm or in a large open bag and I just pull it out, already connected.

4) Surge protectors may be blown out anytime. They cost $10, even when we have to buy a new one. Computer’s average cost is $600. You may lose all your data. Read about laptop data recovery.

5) In general, electrical current converter units need to be bought at home. Once you’re there, the cost of many items that need a converter is about the same as the converter. I.e. hair dryer or cell phone charger. I’ve blown the circuit in my room and had to stumble down to the hotel desk wearing only a robe. They aren’t recommended for your laptop.

6) Use the library as back up. One time when we were on the road I had a deadline for submitting material. I left the flash card reader at home, thinking I’d just submit using my wireless connection. Except, the wireless connection didn’t work. Luckily, I remembered the town had a library and I managed to sign in and use it for a half hour. But I had to put the data I wanted to submit on a 3.5″ disk. Most libraries don’t allow you to mess with their configuration. They don’t want you plugging in flash card readers. And my PC doesn’t have a CD player that will write a disk. Ergo, floppy disks purchased at the local Radio Shack. If you have a CD player that will write a disk, be sure to bring enough and tell yourself you were smart.

7) Just because your hotel offers free internet services, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to save things to your hard drive, have full-time availability or that it’s wireless. One room had it available for e-mail messaging only from a television. Several places wireless Internet was only available in the lobby. Some places require a phone connector and will charge you for the cable if one is still available for rent.

8) E-mail is easy if you have a popular Internet mail service like Yahoo, Hotmail etc. But if you use e-mail, be sure you have antivirus software on your computer. And protect sensitive data with a password on your computer and hard drive. You might also want to read Kari Livingstone’s article on protecting your files.

9) Plan the work you intend to do ahead of time. If you’re reviewing books, plan to bring them along. If your writing requires research, do it in advance and save it to a file. If you’re generating new work, bring along one creative prompt per day. Don’t forget to enjoy your trip.

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