Technology has come a long way since the days our parents stalked the airport terminal, dozing off to whatever nonsense the local newscast was beaming about. Formerly, your only option for portable computing power was a laptop. Then came the era of the smartphone and tablet computer.

asus ultrabookWe have the ability to take along our music, movies, games, photos, maps and careers with us everywhere we go – in our pocket no less. Granted the tiny touchscreens have a lot to offer, but can a cute little tablet that only requires two fingers to operate really replace the tried-and-true laptop?

If you demand more out of your portable computing device than an elegant delivery method of “Candy Crush Saga” advertisements and Facebook pokes, then chances are you want to invest your money in a modern laptop.  In this article, we will take a look at the features available to travelers who are looking for something that’ll slip right into their carry-on bags!

The Basics of Buying Travel Laptops

The first thing you should consider when selecting a laptop for travel is its screen size.  To avoid drama at the airport, it is safe practice to keep your total laptop size at 16 inches diagonal or less.  Be sure to fully charge your laptop before you leave home for the airport, as the TSA can ask you to demonstrate its functionality by turning it on and off at security.

Before you decide on a brand name, decide on what your needs are and how much you are willing to spend to accomplish your goals. Also consider if the laptop you will be purchasing will act as your everyday machine or if you are purchasing it solely for traveling.

Simple Options

While we’re on the subject of battery life, did you know that budget laptops traditionally get better battery life than more expensive professional and gaming models?  All of the extra bells and whistles result in more rapid energy consumption.  If your needs are rooted in the realm of e-mail, web browsing, social media and watching a few movies while you’re stuck in layover, then you may find that a $300 – $500 budget laptop will be all the power you’ll ever need.

Power Users

Suppose you are traveling for work and require a beast rig for a 3D modeling project or HD video presentation? You may not get off so cheap. While it’s possible to acquire a laptop that performs as great as your office workstation, you could be looking at spending $2,000 or more for travel-sized performance in the form of an ultrabook.  Power users should be on the lookout for configurations featuring upgraded RAM, hardware graphics acceleration by NVidia or ATI, increased hard drive storage capacities, and razor-sharp 1080p / 2.5K / 4K resolution IPS displays.

Other Cool Features to Consider

convertible PC laptopTablets are intuitive and undeniably hip, but they leave something to be desired in the productivity department. Fortunately, several manufacturers have recognized this problem and now offer laptops with break-away displays you can walk around with and use like a tablet.  

Other companies offer a 360-degree hinge that allows your display to fold down over the keyboard facing outward achieving the same effect. These laptops are great because they give you the comfort of a tablet while on your flight and the productivity of desktop while you put together a presentation for your business meeting.

Laptops now feature many of the same great things you find in your smart phone, such as Bluetooth, built-in Wi-Fi, HD displays and even 4G Wireless Network-compatible cards for getting internet access anywhere there is a signal.  Google’s Chromebook line of laptops in particular is well known for bundling a year or more of 4G wireless data access at no additional cost.

There is a trade-off, however – Google’s Chromebooks use Chrome OS,  which might be too restricting for people who depend on professional applications that are native to Windows or Mac, such as Microsoft Office Suite.

Pros & Cons of Portability



  • Slim, Lightweight, and Compact
  • Decent Battery Life
  • Typically have solid state drive
  • Boot quickly


  • Pricey
  • Shallow keyboards
  • Integrated hardware makes it difficult for configurations and replacing the battery
  • No optical drive



  • Inexpensive
  • Boot very quickly
  • Excellent battery life
  • Lightweight and portable


  • Cannot run Windows Office
  • Although there are offline apps, most apps require an internet connection
  • Limited performance
  • No optical drive

Don’t Forget the Most Important Thing

The most important thing you should consider when shopping for a travel laptop is how you feel about the machine.  Do you like the color?  Is the screen bright and colorful enough for you?  Can you see yourself loving this thing so much that you must have it slung over your shoulder as you travel the world?

Like any techno-bauble you buy, you need something that feels like it belongs to you.  If you find that you break a lot of your gadgets, buy a Toughbook.  If you find yourself away from outlets for hours at a time, buy an energy-saving model.  If you prefer Call of Duty over your hotel’s free HBO, then buy a gaming laptop if you don’t mind the hefty weight.

Interest in technology that will make travel easier for you? Head on over to our travel tech section. If you’re interested in technology that will help you organize your travel plans, learn more about the TripCase travel app.