Learn which laptop characteristics are the best fit to support your expat travel lifestyle.
Technology has made it much easier for expats to travel the world while still working remotely. These days, laptops and smartphones are essential devices that make it into every expat’s carry-on bag. But whether you’re camping in Spain or working in Japan, there are many different kinds of laptops to choose from and it can often get confusing.
Which laptop will offer the right kind of durability and battery life when you’re in a remote location? Which model will be perfect for travel-size without being too compact? And which will allow me to carry the least amount of accessories while on the road?
In this post, I’m sharing with you different kinds of laptops that are suitable for the expat lifestyle, and also detail some of the hardware and features that you should be looking out for as well as links for purchasing.
What Should Expats Look for in a Travel Friendly Laptop?
MAC or Windows
Deciding between Mac and Windows is difficult, but it ultimately comes down to what you’re used to and what programs you use. If you have an iPhone and an iPad then a Mac laptop makes more sense. However, if you’re used to using Windows-based programs then you may want to consider a Windows laptop instead to access familiar programs.
If you’re open to both Mac or Windows, then the biggest thing to decide is if you’re willing to invest a bit of time into learning either ecosystem.
*There is a good chance this post contains affiliate links. If at any point, you click on a link and decide to make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (to which I am eternally grateful) at no cost to you.
Windows has the advantage of a little more customization. There’s a much larger library of software to pick from and lots of free tools that you can use instead of expensive paid programs. However, installing them and fixing issues requires a bit of tech knowledge.
Luckily, you can Google any problem and fix it, but it does add a few extra steps that might intimidate some expats who just want a working laptop to use. Like me!
However, if you want a seamless experience from start to finish and want to focus more on your travels and your work, then a Mac laptop is the ideal choice. While it doesn’t allow as much customization in terms of your workflow and software choices, it does make everything simple and understandable.
Laptop Screen Size
Screen size can be a tough decision. Job demands and working on multiple platforms at once may be easier on a larger screen. At the same time, traveling with a big bulky laptop isn’t exactly convenient.
However, if you are streaming videos, how to watch other countries’ Netflix movies and want to consume more media content or play video games, then a larger screen can make for a better experience.
The best rule of thumb for something right in the middle is a 13.5″-14″ screen. That’s what I’m working on right now and find it to be easily transportable as well as lightweight while still providing sharp quality images on screen. My laptop is the HP Envy:
Touch Screen Laptops
There are lots of small and powerful laptops to pick from these days which are perfect for travelling. However, if you’re used to smartphones and tablets with their touchscreen-focused approach, then you may be more at home with a 2-in-1 laptop.
These are essential laptops with removable screens or screens that can fold all the way back. This lets you use the laptop like a tablet with a pen or your fingers. Genius really!
This is great for expats that do a lot of travelling and want to sketch or take notes.
Keyboard & Track Pad
A laptop with a large track pad and a fluid keyboard is a great choice and these are characteristics that will make working from the road (or the beach!) a bit easier.
To note, there aren’t many Windows-based laptops with a large trackpad. This is something that Apple excels at with its Macbook lineup.
Ports, Ports, Ports!
Ports refer to the connectivity of your laptop. Those little friendly square holes on either side of any laptop where you can plug in external devices. More ports usually means that your laptop can support more functionality, but the type of port can also make a huge difference.
Most modern Mac laptops only have USB-C ports, meaning most keyboards, mice and accessories that use the old USB standard won’t work. You’ll need to purchase a dongle which is connected to the USB-C port and provides a couple of extra standard USB ports. This is an extra accessory to carry and many people, especially traveling expats, will find it a nuisance to keep around.
As such, you may want to look at the ports of a laptop before making a purchase. If you know you’re going to be connecting a phone, a camera or other accessories that use the old USB standard, then you’ll want something that has a couple more ports.
You’ll typically find that business-oriented laptops have lots of ports whereas consumer ones have fewer. This makes sense as business laptops are intended for people that do a lot of travelling, making them a great choice for expats as well.
This is a HUGE characteristic that many people forget about when researching the right laptop. We tend to think battery life is all about your smart phone.
What an expat that travels a lot must consider is the ability to work on his or her laptop when a power outlet might not be an option. Think train stations, airports….the middle of the woods or top of a mountain!
A long-lasting laptop is ideal because it offers more portability. It means you don’t need to be tethered to a wall socket and gives you more options to do your work in unique locations.
However, there are a lot of factors that go into determining battery life and it’s not just about the size of the battery.
For example, a laptop with a large screen and high-end hardware is going to drain battery life more quickly than something like a Chromebook. As such, we suggest looking at battery life tests on review websites instead of just taking the manufacturer’s claims as proof of its longevity.
Lastly, an expat that’s always on the go must consider protecting one’s laptop from physical damage. A damaged laptop is not an option! So it’s important that your laptop survives the journey and is still functioning as well as the first day you brought it home from the store.
A padded and waterproof laptop case is a good investment. Not to mention one that includes a lock for protection and security purposes. Traveling to foreign cities as many expats do always presents risks of laptop theft. Choosing the right laptop travel bag is a must for overall comfort and peace of mind.