Ultimate guide to Travel with Your Laptop

Sarah Adedun Updated on March 31, 2020
how to pack a laptop for travel

Have an upcoming trip but need your laptop for a few businesses or personal related matters? Not to worry, we have you covered here as this article covers how to pack a laptop for travel.

When it comes to how to pack a laptop for travel, you have to think of the following:

  • Whether you want it in a carry on bag or as part of your check-in luggage.
  • Getting through the Security Checkpoint
  • The onboarding process
  • In-flight use

What is the optimal way to pack a laptop in checked luggage?

When packing your laptop in check-in luggage, ensure you have a laptop screen protector on, have a protecting casing is a must, then padded it softly clothing, stable it in the middle of the padded clothing, cover all sides with soft items to ensure your system is cocooned.

If you have other electronics you want to take aboard the plane but are not sure if they are allowed or looking for a more comprehensive guide, read below:

Electronic Devices Allowed On a Plane

Electronic Devices Allowed On A Plane
Source: media.etihad.com

According to the FAA, most consumer electronic devices with batteries are allowable on a plane. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Tablets
  • Computers
  • Smartphones
  • Camcorders etc.

The batteries within the devices can be:

  • Dry celled
  • Lithium-ion
  • Lithium metal

When traveling with a laptop, It is recommended that devices with lithium-ion or lithium metal batteries be used as carry-on luggage. However, if they must be checked in, ensure they are:

  • Totally turned off
  • Well packaged to prevent accidental activation
  • Protected from damage

Traveling With a Laptop

When traveling with a laptop, there are certain steps involved from how to carry it on a plane to packing it. 

How to Carry it On a Plane

..However, we feel it is important to point out that checking in your laptop with your baggage is not the best option…

Note that when you travel with your laptop, you have two options either check it in with your baggage or use it as a carryon. However, we feel it is important to point out that checking in your laptop with your baggage is not the best option. This is because there are a lot of risks involved.

Check-in luggage

Firstly, check-in luggage is not handled with care by airport officials. More often than not, they get tossed on top one another before being placed in airport cargo. When they arrive at their destination, they are tossed to conveyor belts for passengers to identify. 

At the end of the day, the laptop is greatly exposed and the risk of damage is high.

Carry-on luggage

On the other hand, using your laptop as a carry on is relatively safe. The care of your laptop is up to you and it does not end up getting jostled by unsuspecting airport workers.

How to Pack a Laptop for Travel

If you have decided to travel with your laptop using either of the two methods, we suggest the following packing methods:

Packing a Laptop as a Check-in Luggage

Although it is not advisable to place your laptop within the cargo hold of a plane, it might be unavoidable.

So, in such a case, what should you do? Read below:

  • Ensure you place a screen protector on the laptop to prevent scratches
  • Place the laptop within a sleeve to protect the casing.
  • Place softly padded clothing in your luggage. 
  • Fix your laptop in the middle of the padded clothing.
  • Cover all sides from top to bottom with only soft items to ensure your system is cocooned.

However, note that at the security point, you may have to open your box. So, do not lock it until the checks are done to save you the hassle. 

Packing a Laptop as a Carryon Luggage

The first thing to do is to purchase a laptop case or backpack. You may consider purchasing a laptop sleeve, however, practically, it is not travel-friendly.

Ensure the bag you buy is well padded and your laptop has a screen protector to prevent scratches over the course of your journey.

A laptop bag with a lot of extra compartments and zippers would be an added side benefit as well. You could pack items all the way from your phone chargers,  power banks, to your passport. Clearing up more luggage space for you in your main suitcase.

Arrival at the Airport

Whether your laptop is a carry on or check-in bag, you still need to undergo security procedures at the airport.

For your check-in bag, the process is relatively easy:

  • Present your ticket at the counter
  • They weigh your bag and confirm its contents
  • Then it goes to the cargo hold.

However, for check-ins, apart from removing your shoes, you will need to bring out all electronic gadgets. Therefore, follow these steps:

  • Ensure the laptop is turned off
  • Get a tray and carefully place the laptop within it.
  • Do not let the tray out of your site once it goes through the detector.
  • Retrieve your laptop and place it back within its protective bag.

Boarding

After boarding the plane, place your laptop bag under the seat in front of you. This way, it is within your sight and you can retrieve it if you need to use it on the flight.

Do not place laptops in overhead bins as they can fly open during turbulence. 

Etiquette for In-Flight Use of Laptops

  • Pay attention to the instructions given by the pilot including putting your laptop in airplane mode.
  • Look out for the signal that says you can power on electronic gadgets
  • Use your headphones if you require sound output for your work.
  • If you are dealing with sensitive information, ensure you have a laptop privacy screen with you.

Making Use of a Delivery Service/Courier

..Companies like FedEx and UPS render such services and all you have to take care of is the packaging for shipment…

Apart from traveling with your laptop, you can choose another option and that is to have it shipped to you via courier. Companies like FedEx and UPS render such services and all you have to take care of is the packaging for shipment.

Is it Safe to Put My Laptop Through an Airport Scanner?

Is It Safe To Put My Laptop Through An Airport Scanner?
Source: wpengine.netdna-ssl.com

Generally, airport scanners are meant to be okay for laptops and technological devices. The hard drive of your laptop uses magnetic media to store your data. On the other hand, airport scanners make use of light wavelength to operate so your system is safe.

However, if a wand or metal detector is used on your gadget, it could lead to a malfunction.

This is due to the emission of magnetic pulses by the wands and detectors. It, in turn, can lead to the wiping of data on your hard drive. 

Can I Have More Than One Laptop On a Flight?

There is no restriction to the number of laptops you can have on a flight. However, the weight limit for each individual to use as a carry on might limit your ability to have it on-board with you.

As a result, you may have to check it in with your bag. If you also exceed the cargo limit per person, you will have to pay an additional cost to get it on board.

other tips when traveling with your laptop

Keep A Backup Of All Your Essential Files.

Let’s say in a worst case scenario, your laptop does get stolen, or ends up breaking on the trip. Then your going to want to make sure you’ve backed up all your essential files before the trip. 

…Remember a laptop can always be replaced, but your data can’t be..

You could get a portable storage solution such as a USB thumb drive, or even a portable harddrive/ssd. You could also back it up on cloud storage such as Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. Remember a laptop can always be replaced, but your data can’t be.

Purchase A Universal Adapter. 

Chances are that if your travelling abroad. Then the power sockets aren’t going to be the same ones, as from where you are from. So get a decent universal adapter from a reputable brand. An added bonus would be if it has some sort of surge protection capabilities as well. 

Speaking of surge protection, a power surge protector would be another great investment. Some countries in Asia have electricity that can constantly fluctuate. And if you don’t have a surge protector, you risk frying your entire laptop. So off all the tips on the list, we would recommend these two the most. 

You can find a lot of cheap, and reliable universal adapters, and surge protectors on Amazon. Each item should not run you more than $10 to $15 at best. And their a one-time investment that can save you from potentially incurring thousands of dollars of damage.

Make Sure Everything Is Password Protected

If you don’t already have a password set on your machine, then now might be a good time to set one. It is not that uncommon for valuables such as laptops to get stolen in airports. And even if they aren’t stolen the airlines can sometimes lose your luggage as well. 

So encrypt everything on your machine, starting from setting a password on your account. Don’t make it something easy to guess either like “12345”. The more difficult your password is, the harder it is for someone to hack it, and gain access to your files. 

So your going to want to have a password that’s a combination between uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

Remove All Highly Sensitive Data From Your Laptop

If let’s say someone were to steal your laptop, and gain access to your sensitive data such as back account passwords, and credit card information. It would be better if you didn’t have that information stored on your laptop in the first place, at least until your travelling. 

… as long as your travelling remove such sensitive information from your laptop, and keep it backed up someplace else ..

Believe it or not, for some people it isn’t that hard to gain access to the data on your machine. They could simply take out the harddrive/ssd of your machine, and access the data directly from it. So as long as your travelling remove such sensitive information from your laptop, and keep it backed up someplace else.

Keep It Near You At All Times

This tip is something most people seem to forget, despite how obvious it is, but keep your valuables close to you at all times. Sometimes you can get distracted at the airport, or the hotel when your in that “vacation” mindset. So forgetting your laptop down at the hotel bar is more of a common occurrence than you think.

Whenever your travelling, keep all your valuables close to you, and never let them out of your sight. Maybe invest in a tracker such as a Tile. A tile is a small thin square shaped object that can discreetly fit into any inconspicuous pocket or compartment. It allows you to track the location of it using an app on your smartphone. 

So even if you did manage to lose your laptop, as long as you keep a small tracker within your laptop bag. You’ll instantly be able to track it from anywhere in the world.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Our last tip isn’t that one we would recommend to everyone, because it can get quite expensive. But if you simply can’t handle the thought of losing your expensive $5000 Macbook pro on a trip. Then travel insurance might be the right option for you. 

There are probably multiple companies that can offer you travel insurance for all your belongings when travelling. So if you happen to lose anything, they will reimburse you for the item. While this option isn’t necessary, it can be the peace of mind that someone might just need when travelling with their laptop.

Conclusion

When thinking of how to pack a laptop for travel, ensure that you place the safety of your laptop as number one priority. Subsequently, you can think of the convenience each method avails you. Before making a final decision on the best method.

Sarah Adedun
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Sarah Adedun is a technology enthusiast. When she is not reviewing tech products, you can find her sharing personal thoughts on Medium and researching ways to merge Finance and Technology together.

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