If anyone knows me, it’s not a terribly big surprise to say that I’ve been charged with finding the right technology for our travel. But, let’s be honest, I also enjoy technology (and spending countless hours reviewing the minutiae between two models of laptops). We’re a household with three times more wifi enabled devices as occupants after all…
There’s a few major considerations when choosing the right tech for our trip:
- Size and weight: We’re packing light. So that means, we need to pick things that are not only small, but literally light as well.
- Cost: We don’t want to blow our budget on things (we want experiences!), so cost is a major factor. On top of that, replacement cost should anything get broken, lost or stolen is important.
- Theft resistance: Speaking of stolen, a piece of tech that isn’t a target of thieves is useful. Obviously, anything can be a target, but an iPhone 11 Pro is likely more of one than, say, a Nokia flip phone.
- Usability and convenience: What’s the point of a piece of tech if it only does a part of the job, or does the job but not really that well?
- Universality: Will it work everywhere?
With 7 months to go, what did we choose for our trip? Well, we decided on four primary pieces of technology:
Streaming: An easy topic that didn’t really exist more than a few weeks ago. On Black Friday, Amazon was offering a great deal on their Fire Stick, which allows streaming from multiple services such as Netflix and Disney+ (and Amazon Prime Video, obviously). This tool plugs into the HDMI port of any TV and will let us continue watching our favourite shows, providing the streaming service makes the show available in that country. And that’s the clincher that needs more research. Can we keep watching Nailed It! in Japan? For $25, it’s worth a shot and saves us from having to keep plugging in our laptop every time we want to watch a show.
Laptop: Speaking of laptops, our old Dell beasts that we’re currently using are getting long in the tooth and weigh a little over 5 pounds each and are thick (they still have a DVD drive!). Sadly, with what we’d like to do on our travel (blogging, light video editing, video chat, distance education for the kids, etc.) a laptop is a must. With that in mind, we purchased (on huge discount from the Microsoft Store of all places) two HP Stream 14 laptops. They’re about half the weight and thickness of our old laptops, are still 14 inches in size and run Windows, which is a must for Mega Mommy and G-Man’s needs (we’re usually a Linux household, so I made sure these suckers can work with that operating system as well!). We’ve been testing the laptops out and so far they’ve been wonderful. For $200 each, that’s not bad.
Phone/Camera: Now the most expensive part of this post – the camera and phone. I originally started with the need for a good camera to capture our trip (naturally). Our current cameras and the cameras on our smartphones were very sub-par, so that just wouldn’t do for something as memorable (momentous?) as this. I originally started looking at DSLRs, since I’ve had experience with SLRs in the past. I quickly realized that we’ll only be lugging around carry-ons, and a DSLR (with case, lenses, etc.) would take up quite a bit of room. Furthermore, it would cause us to stick out as tourists from the get go. So I began to investigate smartphones with good cameras, and three options peeked out: Google’s Pixel, Apple’s iPhone and certain Chinese phones such as the Xiaomi which advertise ridiculous levels of cameras and pixel densities. Going backwards, we chose to avoid the Chinese phones since we’ve had issues with them in the past, and avoided the iPhone since we’re an Android family (I mentioned we use Linux right?). So, that left the Pixel, which luckily had a Black Friday sale just as I was researching things. So, we’re now proud owners of two $400 Pixel 3a phones which have already proved to be perfect for our needs. Now we can take great quality photos without sticking out like sore thumbs – and, best of all, Google offers free backups of all of our photos. Although we’ll be storing them all on our own cloud server, it’s a nice peace of mind to know that should our phones be stolen or broken, we don’t need to worry about losing any (most?) of our photos.
Server: Speaking of cloud servers, we decided to set up a personal cloud server on Hetzner (Nextcloud-based), hosted in Europe for only a $2.50 a month. Separate from our website (which is also in Europe), the cloud will let the four of us access personal files, and keep it all encrypted and secure. This include password management, personal emergency documents, and so forth. We’re also considering a secure tracker so that close family can monitor where we are in the world, which is neat, but also a way to found out where we are should anything happen. On a side note, G-Man also set up his own Minecraft server on PebbleHost so that he can continue playing games with his friends as we travel!
Of course, we’ll also carry miscellaneous items such as a universal power adapter ($10-20 on Amazon), cables and a battery backup. Thankfully, we’ll be in some fairly big cities from time to time, so we should be able to pick up anything we might have forgotten or lost along the way.
So this is the technology side of things for now, although things might change a little as we get closer to the time. Seven more months of preparation only?! Time to start reading a bit more about the minute differences in universal power adapters…