From the Kenosha News on 5-29-05

Stay Connected on Vacation

      It's Memorial Day weekend, and that means that summer and vacation are right around the corner.  If you're like me, it's hard to be away from e-mail for very long.  The best way to stay connected depends on the answers to several questions.  First, where are you going?  If you're backpacking through Europe or climbing Mt. Rainier, the possibilities are much different than if you're spending a week in Vegas or Disney.

      Second, are you taking your own computer with you?   If not, you'll need to find places where computers – not just connectivity – are available.  Check with the place you'll be staying.  The Disney campground has a workstation that operates something like a pay phone - convenient, but expensive.  Ask the desk person what other options are available.  Two of my favorite options are public libraries and internet cafés.  We've used computers in libraries in Arizona, Colorado, and Arkansas; search the internet for library locations.  Note that some libraries may charge for this service.  In Laramie, Wyoming, the hotel desk clerk suggested a coffee shop with computers and internet access.  Our only cost was the price of a double expresso or hot cocoa, which we enjoyed while checking our e-mail.  Colleagues who have traveled to Europe indicate that internet cafes are common.

      If you are taking your own laptop, then the third question is whether you have a "portable" internet service.  If you have a broadband connection (cable or DSL,) that connection will not be available on the road.  Ask the place where you'll be staying if they have broadband connections.  Free broadband is fairly rare; many require you to pay at a flat rate per 24 hour period.  Make sure to take an Ethernet cable with you. 

      If you have a nation-wide or international dial-up service such as ATT Global, AOL, or EarthLink, you can connect to that same service nearly anywhere you go, as long as you have access to a phone line.  Ask if your hotel or RV park has phone lines for data and what they charge for phone calls.  Download the local access numbers for your destinations before you leave home and make sure to take a phone cord with you.

      If your laptop has wireless capabilities, more and more locations are offering wireless connectivity, including airports and RV parks.  Some charge a fee and others do not; inquire before you go.

      The key to all of the above strategies is planning and preparation.  If you really want connectivity – specifically to e-mail – at any time nearly anywhere, investigate a PDA that has wireless internet or e-mail access.  PDAs such as Palm Pilot, iPaq, and Blackberry can provide a way to stay connected using Bluetooth or cellular wireless.  The down-side to these devices is that the displays are small and you have no real keyboard, so reading and writing long e-mails is not very convenient.  You will also need to pay a monthly fee for the Bluetooth or cellular network that you use.

      If you love travel like I do, but don't like to lose touch with your e-mail, there's at least one strategy that will work for you.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 5-29-05