Tech Travel Tips for Tablet, Ultrabook, Smartphone Road Warriors

Written by Isaac Kendall — Mobile devices haven’t killed the PC. It won’t happen for awhile — if it ever does. As a tech commentator, IT rep and all-around road warrior, I know what it takes to perform on the go. And that means more than the lightweight functionality my tablet and smartphone offer.

Here’s a laundry list of my tech travel requirements, depending on what hat I’m wearing. Sometimes a tablet is enough, usually it isn’t. Here’s how and why, depending on what hat I’m wearing.

What I Need as a Tech Rep

As a rep for a tech company, communication is the main priority. I have to be in touch — more than in any other capacity. Calls can’t wait. Here, smartphone and tablet functionality match my needs pretty well for my calls, email, social media, MS Lync for checking in with the mothership and Skype and Google Hangouts for personal calls.

And I need the ability to run presentations and fix them hardware and software-wise while on the road. And here, a tablet is tricky. Not undoable, but tricky. Par for the course. Tech travel gear is lighter than ever — I’ve heard stories about people carrying luggable Dolch computers around tradeshows and airports. But you still need something heavier than a tablet when you’re hitting the road.


Yet presentations are a major part of my day job. I travel  for work without the ability to present slideshows and make quick or last minute changes to my presentations. Most tablets do connect to an office projector, and mine allows me to run a full PowerPoint slideshow straight from my tablet. But editing on a tablet,while possible, takes some getting used to. Especially if you are more at home with a mouse and keyboard than you are with your touchscreen.

Remote access tablet apps like LogMeIn or GoToMyPC are useful when you combine them with your tablet’s Bluetooth keyboard and mouse accessories. But then you ask yourself, why did I just not bring that light laptop again?

On the road, no question, I prefer to travel with just a smartphone and tablet in hand. It makes getting through airports quicker at the very least. But if you’re going that route — and I don’t mean Route 66, at left — don’t forget to bring your tablet’s HDMI adapter and other accessories along, too. And a charger. Multiple ones.

Image of Route 66 between Oatman and Klingman, AZ: Wikimedia Commons

Tech Travel Gear for the Tech Writer in Me

We’re not yet living in a “post-PC” world. As a tech writer, I can’t possibly rely on the tablet-smartphone tag team alone. I need a real keyboard, display and some decent horsepower for photo and video editing, not to mention WordPress editing for aNewDomain. 

Ultrabooks are a good compromise for me. Light, powerful enough for most tasks I need for on the road reporting at shows like NAB 2013 or CES 2013. Schlepping across 3.2 million square feet of convention hall space multiple times a day for an entire week is typical in Las Vegas, for instance, and I’d rather save my vertebrae, thank you very much.

And here’s another practical benefit to traveling with a notebook or ultrabook. Wi-Fi goes haywire at a huge show like CES. When you’re filing deadline stories, you want a hard-line Internet connection. Correction, you need one. And most tablets don’t yet support a hardwire connection.

MacBook Air with Touch Screen Makes Me Kind of Hopeful, But …

The advantages of a touch screen interface are undeniably attractive, but there’s not a tablet device I’ve tried that equals the flexibility of a sturdy laptop or even lightweight Ultrabook. I’ve tested several convertibles over the last 12 years, and they’ve all come up short. There are some promising Windows 8 PCs out there that are pushing the ultrabook envelope forward. So I have hope. But so far it’s just that.

As for the Mac set, the touchscreen-carrying Macbook Air is worth waiting for. The Air really set the bar for ultrabook-style systems. I’ll be watching this product closely.

My Remedy. What’s Yours?

We’re all road warriors of a sort. Your needs are going to be a lot different than mine. Do carefully consider the kinds of things you need on the road before you buy into the lore that a tablet and smartphone are all you need when you travel. Consider the weight of what you’re carrying and also the weight of the processing power you need. Consider the batteries. Consider your sanity and consider your back.

So far I’ve settled on a 7-inch Android tablet and an ultrabook. It’s an ideal match for me. But I’m open to suggestions. Let me know what combos work for you and what must have accessories you think I’m missing out on. Email me at

For, I’m Isaac Kendall.

Based in Vancouver, Isaac Kendall is a wireless industry specialist and a senior contributor here at Email him at and follow him @isaackendall. Reach him also via his stream at +Isaac Kendall on Google+