Writer’s dilemma: laptop or notepad


Samsung Galaxy Note 10 challenge – taking notes on the road

When I was planning my recent research trip to the Czech Republic and Poland, I thought long and hard about how I was going to take notes on the trip, how I was going to store up any ideas and information and how I might actually revise the manuscript on the move. Having keyed in about 20,000 words, I thought a print out would be too heavy and bulky to take on the trip, especially since I was travelling by budget airline.I considered a proper notebook but that hadn’t worked well for me the previous year because I keep scratching things out and altering them. The result was a proper mess I could barely make head or tail of. I had not wanted to cart around the huge laptop because of the luggage requirements which is why I decided to invest in a tablet.

I equipped myself with a reconditioned Samsung Galaxy Note 10, set it up and downloaded a third party App to enable me to use my Apple keyboard. I did a dummy run with the pen and managed, with some difficulty, to get the machine to recognize my handwriting. I have long been aware that my handwriting is an issue for people being a mix of Central European 7s and Ts with old school penmanship. People not familiar with how things are written to the east of France appear to have some issues with it. Nevertheless, I thought the Samsung seemed to be coping.

With priority booking on Wizz Air passengers are allowed an extra small bag for camera or laptop and so on. I purchased a small carry bag just bigger that the Galaxy Note and packed it up.

As a back up, and because I like to read books on the Kindle App, I also packed my iPad Mini. This was fortuitous as once abroad the Galaxy Note decided it would no longer recognize either my writing or keypad. It also took issue with downloading my MS Word manuscript from my Cloud Drive. This was frustrating. After a wasted evening I put the Galaxy Note back in it’s carry bag where it remained until we returned home.

The solution? I received quite a few odd looks as I stood in the middle of Český Těšín bus station dictating the scene and notes into my LG Sprite phone. This method I supplemented with taking notes in a small notebook I had packed. It seemed to work.

The idea had been to have one tablet PC to do everything: take notes on the move using the pen, type up notes in cafes or on trains, make adjustments to the manuscript whilst in situ, use the on-board camera to take photos and videos to combine with the words and generally to reduce baggage and confusion. The Galaxy Note did not do it for me :(.

What have I learnt from this challenge? What can others learn from this challenge?

In the absence of any other solution (I think the Note was the third tablet I tried), I measured up my ASUS 15.5 inch laptop and discovered fits into a nice backpack along with its charger, mouse and IKEA riser. Therefore, it will go on future trips. The “smartish” phone came into it’s own as I was able to make recordings on it as I walked along the streets and even interrupt the recordings to add a snapshot of the scene. How good is that? Now, I have the updated Kindle App with white pages and everything on my iPad mini I don’t really need the old Kindle. I still bought another new notebook in Prague in the hope that I will one day fill it with thoughts. All the other stuff, I stuck into a small exercise book using glue tape I found in a small shop en route.

The Galaxy Note failed me and I am gutted. I had such high hopes for it. I hope it’s new owner has a better experience :).



How to pack for Wizz Air

Choosing to travel Wizz Air unleashes my creativity. Here I show you how to pack for a one-week trip and meet the Wizz Air baggage requirements.

Wizz Air, the Hungarian “budget” airline, has one of the tinniest free baggage allowances of any of the no-frills airline. Their free on-board allowance is one bag measuring 42 x 32 x 25 cms. This is smaller than the smallest wheelie case I have been able to locate. However, if you pay for priority seating at the time of booking you get to take on board another bag such as a small handbag, camera bag or laptop case. In addition, you can take an “airport” carrier bag with your duty free purchases, reading material such as a book and one of those little food bags from the eateries.

Having spent several days measuring up my own collection of rucksacks and those available in local shops, I have finally settled on one. It is a bog standard work or school rucksack which is marginally smaller than the size allowed. I picked it up off Amazon but they have similar ones in supermarkets, sports shops and the like. I like the colour and the three pockets on this one. The straps at the bottom will be ideal for holding my sunhat. There’s also one of those mesh side pockets which will become home to my vacuum flask.


This bag is not huge, and far smaller than a small suitcase, and so requires clever packing and serious trip planning on my behalf.

The trip is a seven day research trip to the Czech Republic and Poland. I will spend two days in Prague, then take a cross country train over to Poland, spend three days in Silesia, take the train back to Prague  for another 30 hours or so. The bag, therefore, needs to be lightweight, sturdy and easy to pack and unpack. So far, on trial packs, this bag meets the criteria.

As the trip is combining travelling, museum visits and archive research with some sightseeing the packing list includes items suitable for a city visit. In my trial pack, I have squeezed into the main compartment socks, underwear, two pairs of chinos, three light shirts, a tee shirt, a thin sweater, PJs, two exercise books, a camera, tin mug and coffee bags, some charging cables, slippers and some odds and ends such as cotton shopping bag and a bottle opener. In the outside pocket, I am carrying plug converters, a small water heater and all toiletries. All clothing has been rolled up so it will a) fit and b) come out looking reasonably wearable. All the accommodation comes equipped with irons so I can spruce things up on the way. I have gone for a blue and terracotta colour scheme to maximize usage.

I have learnt from previous trips that it is essential to keep key items in large freezer bags so they don’t get mislaid or the bag emptied to find them. I have one freezer bag for chargers and connectors, one for toiletries and one for miscellaneous items. Small clothing items are in nylon bags.


I have a nice collection of small tubs for aloe vera gel (for rashes and sunburn) and hair gel. The shampoo is made from a shampoo base with a little olive oil and sage essential oil. The blue liquid is laundry detergent. I take a bar of homemade soap to use in the shower and sink. It is stored in an Altoids tin. The toothpaste is low cost supermarket own brand. I decant where possible as small versions of toiletries are very expensive and wasteful.

I always have a stash of useful items in a plastic bag. I always take some spare freezer bags. The roll up sports bottle is both extremely useful and lightweight. I have added a clothes repair kit because accidents do happen.


I am saving space by taking a bridge camera i.e. a DSLR which has one lens to cover wide angle and zoom. My phone is a back up. I need to take notes so am packing my Samsung Galaxy Note and  a keyboard. They fit in a small shoulder bag. I am also taking a small notebook and some photo mounts to create a kind of journal/safe store for the tickets and receipts I collect on the journey. The small book contains post-it notes in case I want to make a note.


And finally, coffee. I always take a water heater, a tin mug, coffee bags and some dried milk. I will only take a quarter of the milk in a plastic bag.


That’s almost it. I have a small nylon rucksack for days out, a travel towel and some plastic cutlery for picnics in the park etc.

Everything fits comfortably in the small rucksack with some wriggle room and space for chocolate while meeting  the WizzAir requirements. I am now ready to travel.

Travelling Light in Estonia

I am not known for travelling light but I am enjoying the challenge of finding lightweight items to pack into my super small and lightweight suitcase.

I have ditched the usual small bottles of liquid toiletries for soap leaves, shampoo leaves and laundry leaves. I have tried them out and they seem to work well enough. I am replacing my deodorant spray with a deodorant stick; the same for the sun blocker. Both are lighter and don’t have to be shown at the security gate. The hairbrush has been replaced by a comb which is smaller and lighter. I still have to take a tube of dry skin cream and some hair gel, since I haven’t found any solid replacements. I am thinking of making toothpaste using bicarbonate of soda and some mint flavouring.

Other lightweight options have been to buy two throwaway ponchos to replace the waterproof jacket, two microlight beach towels to replace the hand and beach towels (I am going hostelling), a roll up water bottle to replace a metal one, travel slippers to replace my indoor shoes, very lightweight trainers instead of heavier sports shoes, coffee bags instead of a jar of coffee and a water heating element instead of a kettle. I have got a good melamine cup and some quality cutlery.

Buying a pack of plain white ankle socks, with white briefs and lightweight tshirts has helped reduced the clothing weight. I have three pairs of lightweight cotton casual trousers and a light cotton and cashmere sweater to complete the outfits.

I have acquired a lighter and smaller roller suitcase and a nylon-type daypack which folds into itself to reduce the luggage weight. RyanAir allow passengers to also take a very small bag on board, so I can put my iPad in my tiny Rock bag along with the travel documents.

On the technology front I now have a Griffin cover for my iPad, which is both protective and doubles as a stand (this saves me taking the Belkin stand and the second sleeve). The mini wireless keyboard is an essential as is the SLR digital camera. I have ditched the heavy multi adapter for a smaller one and am looking at how I can reduce cables.

This year I am taking no books or magazines but am downloading them to my Kindle, Kobo and iPad. This should save several kilos. Also, I am not taking paper copies of maps and itineraries – for once, I shall try to remember to put everything on at least one eReader rather than leave them on the home PC.

Packing light is still a work in progress and I have 13 weeks to see if I can reduce the weight and contents even more. I am sure to find more weight saving ideas by then.