iPhone, laptop, netbook, help!

Old Mar 21st, 2010, 11:46 AM
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iPhone, laptop, netbook, help!

My husband and I will be spending June in Italy. We have a MacBook which we have used for travel in the US, and loved having it along. For Italy, we have considered many scenarios:

Buying a netbook for internet access and purchasing a cheap cell phone in Italy for local calls
Taking the MacBook and purchasing a cell in Italy
Buying an iphone to use for both internet and mostly within-Italy calls

My worries about the iphone option are that we will be locked into an additional phone contract here at home (our current phones are T-Mobile, still under contract). Also, I worry about inadvertently running up charges by not having the iphone set correctly. We would use it mostly for looking up travel info online, not general surfing, and for email with family.

We are not very tech-savy and tend to have complications using technology in new situations.

Are there other options I should consider? Which would be best for our situation/limitations?

Thanks for any insight, which you can see is much needed!
enewell is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2010, 02:03 PM
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I never leave home without my Mac. It has a built-in power adapter so you just need to get a wall adapter for the plug. Easy.

Do you Skype? That's a $0.00 way to keep in touch with family. If your hotel does not offer free wireless, find a cafe that does, have an espresso, and you are away. With our children, all of whom are in different time zones, we agree on set times for phone calls so there is no telephone-tag.

Prepay phones, without subscription, are quite cheap and that might work for your in-Italy calls. Long distance tends to be expensive.
awong is offline  
Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 06:02 AM
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Data roaming charges with the iphone will be through the roof, so you will want to use it in wifi-enabled areas anyway. Given that, I would suggest the iPod touch, instead, as it will avoid the new contract. When connected to a wifi network, it offers pretty much all of the internet features of the iPhone.

Personally, though, I do like having a computer with me, even though I have an iPhone. I have a netbook (the Sony Vaio P) that I often use, but will sometimes bring a full-size computer, particularly if I might need to work.
travelgourmet is offline  
Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 06:59 PM
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I suppose for a full month it's worth buying a cheap cell phone in Italy, but a local European cell phone is good for calls within Europe, not for calls back home. For those, buy a phone card and use a pay phone.

Now for the internet, internet cafes are cheap and abundant throughout Italy, particularly in major cities. Further, virtually every hotel in the world now has some kind of internet service that guests can use. Unless you are staying in a villa or rental apartment, you'll be more likely to need your computer. You could certainly buy a cheap netbook, but I don't think it would be worth it to buy an iphone and saddle yourself with a rather expensive 2-year contract just to have an iphone in Italy. Plus, as travelgourmet points out, it's pretty prohibitive to use the phone for roaming, especially for data.

If you plan to use the computer a lot, then bring your own Macbook, but if it were me, I'd welcome the chance to be offline for a month and would leave the computer at home.
doug_stallings is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 05:49 AM
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You can buy a disposable international cell phone pretty cheaply and they can come with data packages. That is all I ever use when I go overseas and I travel extensively. Go to www.ekit.com for everything that you need. Plans are pay as you go, you can check the per minute rates for calls and data access on the web site before you buy. I am on my second phone through them (upgraded the first) and both have come with a 1-800 number that lets people call you and you pay the normal minute rate. It is the cheapest option I have found and I have searched extensively. Adaptors are cheap but for an even better on the go charge I rely on my Solio solar charger which can be used for phones, computers, GPS units... And the best part is that the phone and charger fit in a single pocket leaving plenty of room to pack other things.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 06:01 AM
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I spent a month all over Europe in October & November with my MAC and Iphone. I agree with Awong and Doug. I could use my MAC anywhere that there was WIFI, plus my IPhone. But you should read the international site on IPhone charges, it can be very costly. We decided to get the international plan for $5.00 a month, and then only used the phone for emergency calls. And even just doing that, the roaming charges were steep,even in the biggest cities. We skyped quite a bit on the MAC, plus we also used Skype on our IPhone (great app!) and that was cheaper.
But as stated above, there are internet cafes everywhere, plus hotels and B & B's have computers now. Lots of choices!
Auditt01 is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 06:51 AM
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If you pick up a magic jack, it will plug into your computer and you can use the hotel phone to make your calls for free. The magic jack runs 39.95 to purchase, but comes with a one years worth of service. It is not expensive for the next year, but I find it easier to use a telephone.
travelroo is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 07:03 AM
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My husband and I spent several weeks in England and Prague not too long ago. I brought my MacBook Pro with me and had no trouble logging on in Wifi areas. Our flat had it provided for us as well. I used it in areas that had free wifi too with no problems. You will like having it with you because if you take a lot of pictures you are able to download your pictures each day and send them by email to family back home. You could even post them to your Mobile Me account. I would definitely bring it with you.
I had my iphone with us too. I found that even though I purchased the international package, I would only use the phone portion of it because I was nervous about the data portion and going over the allotted limit. Couldn't you just use your T-Mobile phone? I used mine on a previous trip to make phone calls back home and it was easy. I would skip the iphone and netbook purchase and just go with your laptop. Have fun!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 08:05 AM
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With a T-Mobile phone, you may not need to buy another phone in Italy, just buy a pre-paid sim card and switch it out. I think T-Mobie is actually Deutche Telecom and they are one of the few carriers that will allow you to do this while traveling outside of the US. Call them and double check. I might consider a netbook purchase, given the less space and the fact that macs are so expensive to replace. Especially if you are only using it to surf the internet and not typing huge reports or something more intensive.
picapica is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 08:43 AM
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We too travelled in the Baltic countries for 3 weeks with TMobile service on our cells(possible Samsung or Motorola phones) and contacted TMobile beforehand to ensure that we would get worldwide service; dont think we even needed to switch out the sim card. It was not inexpensive to use, but with skyping for home contacts, we didnt opt for prepaid cards in Europe. I would bring the laptop or notebook; everyone seems to love the Lenovo S10. Hotel or local internet service is spotty and/or costly. (US hotels included in this-- last fall hotel in Portland OR had the worse internet service -- the 'free' ten minutes was allocated with about 8-9 getting into your email!)
aliced is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 09:44 AM
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The advice you are receiving is good from what I have seen thus far. I am a "expert" in another travel forum, mostly for travel gadgets and gear.
Here is my opinion, after looking at your scenarios/options:
1. If you want to reduce your carry-on weight, then buying a netbook might be advisable. However, the MacBook is very capable, and after using it for some time, you might not like the move to a smaller screen and another operating system - Apple doesn't make netbooks. Plus, you might not even need to carry a laptop/netbook with you ....
2. Don't buy an iPhone. Very over-rated, even given all the "thousands" of applications out there. You can't unlock it to put other country's SIMs in it. If you do manage to get an iPhone unlocked, you have just VOIDed the warranty. You could buy an iPhone ... and only the telephone when at home, placing the iPhone in Airplane mode AND turning off the telephone radio when out of the country. Then, you could use the wi-fi portion to surf the 'net, and hook into Skype. But remember what I said about changing SIMs for the iPhone. Very risky.... Apple loves to control their product line.
3. You could buy another type of SmartPhone, say like the Google Nexus One, which has a similar price point to the iPhone, comes unlocked, has quite similar features, a very capable browser and wi-fi. You could use it in much the same manner as I previously described for the iPhone, with the telephone in Airplane mode and radio turned off. If you so chose to buy SIMs as you go, then you could.
Hope this helps.
CTW (Travel Gadgets & Gear)
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Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 10:01 AM
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Your t-mobile phone will work IF you have the right type of phone (tri- or quad-band). You need to call to activate int'l service and calls will cost 99 cents/min. I always have my t-mobile phone with me for emergencies, or to get calls from people who don't know how to reach me any other way. If I am in a country for more than a week I buy a local, prepaid cell. Handy for local calls (make or change reservations, etc.) and to give out to anyone who may need to reach you. I think they cost less than $25 when I was in Italy last year. As for computer -- I'd say, do what feels comfortable to you. MagicJack -- very good option for free phone calls to/from home if you have free internet at your hotel/apt, BUT you may not be able to plug a EU phone into it -- you may need your own phone or you can use a computer headset.
RondaTravels is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2010, 10:10 AM
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You can't unlock it to put other country's SIMs in it. If you do manage to get an iPhone unlocked, you have just VOIDed the warranty.

Actually, depending upon where in Europe you are going, you could buy a brand-new, unlocked iPhone in several places. IIRC, Belgium is a good choice, but I believe that you can get them in Italy too. Some countries require that all phones can be purchased without a contract and several more that require carriers to unlock any phone after the contract has run its course.

Indeed, if the OP really wants an unlocked iPhone, they might want to look into this a bit. I think it is about as good of an option as buying a Nexus One. The warranty coverage is only good in the country of purchase, I think, but it isn't a bad option for those that want an unlocked iPhone.
travelgourmet is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2010, 05:35 AM
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Thanks to everyone for sharing your expertise and experiences! I think we will take the laptop and purchase an inexpensive cell in Florence.

I appreciate all the ideas.
enewell is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2010, 12:26 PM
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Don't forget to do your travel diary on your computer everyday you can use is for memories, and also share with friends. I added pictures for each day to make it even more memorial. I also use Skype, and my cell for local calls in Italy. Not that expensive with the one month international package.
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Old Apr 25th, 2010, 01:06 PM
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Just bookmarking this forum post for later (i.e. our next trip!). There is some remarkably good advice here - thank you all.
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Old Apr 29th, 2010, 10:48 AM
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