Why Travel with a Chromebook with VPN WiFi Protection

I love my grab-and-go Chromebook! It’s the best laptop/notebook/tablet computer to take with you on vacation. It’s really inexpensive, acts as your travel guide, offers big screen entertainment, simplifies trip booking, and offers a desktop Chrome browser experience with a real keyboard to get stuff done. Plus it’s more secure, especially if you install a VPN to connect to potentially dodge WiFi networks while traveling.

My personal choice is the ASUS Flip Chromebook (portable and converts from a notebook to a tablet), but you may prefer the super high-resolution Google Pixelbook. My choice for a bargain Chromebook model is from Acer. For around $200 or less, the Acer Chromebook is a great deal and lightweight when you are flying on business or holiday. Following are my top reasons why I often pack my Chromebook when traveling.

Chromebook Computer is for Travel

Be Aware That Chromebooks do NOT Run Windows

This is important because Chromebooks are still new to many people. Chromebooks are Google developed low-cost notebook computer replacements that run the Google Chrome operating system (OS). Not having Windows can be a good thing and a bad thing depending upon how you look at it. It took me a bit of time to get used to not having the Windows operating system that has served me well for most of my life.

Since it doesn’t run Windows, I was forced to find cloud-based solutions to replace any must-have desktop application software. You can’t install Windows desktop apps or any other CD-ROM or downloadable software that you may have used for years. For example you can’t run regular Microsoft Office on a Chromebook including Word or PowerPoint. Luckily there are full featured cloud solutions to replace almost all of your familiar Windows and Apple desktop apps if you are ready to make the leap to online software as a service (SaaS).

5 Reasons Why Chromebooks are Ideal Devices for Travel

1. Lost or Stolen, Chromebooks are Cheap to Replace

My first reason has to be cost. I have no interest in lugging an expensive and heavy laptop computer on my vacation. I don’t like to risk it getting lost on the road or possibly stolen from my hotel room. When researching hotels I often look to see if they have an in-room safe that can hold a laptop, but that doesn’t solve all the drawbacks of bringing a full-sized Windows notebook.

Buy Chromebooks on Amazon

Regardless of whether I can lock up my computer in the room or not, there are other situations where it can become lost or stolen during the chaos of travel. My bag may be out of sight on public transportation or I may accidentally leave it in a coffee shop. Besides Windows notebooks, MacBooks are ultra expensive and high-end iPads cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Ask yourself if these are necessary travel gear.

This all comes back to my point that Chromebooks are among the least expensive portable computers you can buy. Check the prices on Amazon to see models from under $200 to $500+ for the high end laptop replacements. At the bargain end they can be cheaper than most tablets and more powerful with a full keyboard, large display, and powerful Chrome browser built-in! There are plenty of other models at lower and higher price points depending on whether you want the touch screen, additional memory and storage, or a larger screen size. At these prices, replacing a Chromebook doesn’t feel so traumatic whether it is lost, stolen, or you just dropped it off a cliff (by accident of course!).

2. Take Your Travel Guidebooks with You

I still rely on travel guidebooks to plan vacations and to carry with me while traveling the world. Publishers like Lonely Planet, Rick Steves’, Rough Guides, and Fodors are among my printed sources for expert advice. My preference is to buy physical guidebooks for a destination (and often paper maps too), but I’ve turned to ebooks more often these days.

Travel ebook guidebook on Chrombook

Books available on the Amazon Kindle e-reader platform offer the greatest number of titles. While I love holding a blue Rick Steves’ book in my hand, I have grown to appreciate the flexibility of the e-book format. Lonely Planet is an excellent source of travel guidebooks in electronic format. Besides Kindle versions you can purchase PDF, epub, and mobi files directly on LonelyPlanet.com.

Luckily you can read both Kindle and PDF books on your Chromebook. For Kindle the Amazon Cloud Reader for Chrome offers both online and offline mode. For PDF format travel guidebooks that you can store in the cloud on Google Drive or Dropbox, I recommend pre-downloading them for speed and offline use.  The PDF reader for Chrome can open these files in your browser just like on any computer or mobile device.

Even better is when you buy a Chromebook with a touch screen like the ASUS Flip model I mentioned since you can use your finger to navigate. Its tablet mode is awesome as it lets you convert the Chromebook to a tablet by just flipping the keyboard to the back of the display. This means you can carry your Chromebook like a tablet and scroll through the guidebook page by page with your finger. I love the versatility of having both a notebook and tablet in one device.

3. Watch Movies, Play Games, Blog about Travel

Chromebooks are great at providing entertainment for you and your traveling partners while away from home. You can rent or buy movies and TV shows using Google Play Movies for example. They can be downloaded and watched offline including rentals which offer 30 days to begin watching after payment and download. Books and magazines can be bought on the Google Play Books and Newstand site so you can catch up on your reading. Finally, you can blog about your trip as you go since you have a fully functional computer in your hands.

Watch Google Play TV and Movies on Chromebook
Chromebook Flip in Folding Tablet Mode to Watch Movies

Regardless of your entertainment choice, the bigger screen compared with phones means a better viewing experience for all. I like to download the latest TV shows to my Chromebook so my wife and I can watch them together on a plane or train ride. A headphone splitter is essential as are noise cancelling headphones when external noise is a factor like when you are sitting over the wing of the airplane.

The ASUS Flip Chromebook even lets you stand up the device in tabletop mode for watching videos. Alternatively, the incredibly powerful Google Pixelbook (formerly called the Pixel) has an HD quality screen, all day batter, and Pixelbook pen included. As you know, shorter flights often offer zero in-flight entertainment and some airlines are removing their seat-back screens when they roll out streaming services. While the in-flight WiFi with personal device content streaming is a cool idea for smart phone usage, it may be slightly trickier to get working on a Chromebook.

4. It’s a Pain to Book Travel on a Cell Phone

Book Travel on Chromebook - Hotel Search

While you are on the road you may need to reserve hotel rooms, modify your flight reservations, book a day tour, or even secure a rental car. All of these things can be accomplished on your smart phone, but it is so much faster and easier on a real computer.

I’ve tried most of the major travel booking apps like Expedia and Booking.com as well as airlines like United and Ryanair. While they are fine for basic research and good for looking up your confirmations, they are often a pain to book and pay for travel. Plus when I don’t have a real physical keyboard I get frustrated selecting dates on a pop-up calendar as well as typing my home addresses and travel identification details.

When I reach the stage of confirming the itinerary and passenger details, entering my credit card number, and clicking the “Book Now” button to pay, I am much more confident on a computer versus a smart phone. I definitely don’t want to make costly booking mistakes such as getting the date wrong or spelling my name incorrectly on an electronic ticket.

5. You can work from the road with a Chromebook

Wait, did I just say that? I don’t personally recommend working while on vacation, but if you need to occasionally respond to email chains, edit a work document, or hold a video conference call while traveling, Chromebooks are an excellent desktop PC or Mac replacement. You can do many of the same things with your phone, but it’s nice to have the keyboard for typing as well as the full screen for editing and handling multiple tasks at once.

Working in a Coffee Shop with My Chromebook Computer

On second thought, strike this 5th reason why Chromebooks are the best devices to take on vacation. I don’t want to encourage mixing business with leisure. Work-life-vacation balance is what VacationCounts is all about, so do try your best to leave your work at the office and your life at home. You’ll be happy you did!

So Which Chromebook Do You Want to Buy for Your Next Vacation?

OK there are at least 4 awesome reasons why Chromebooks are ideal for traveling on vacation. For computers and electronics I often do my research in-store and read reviews online, but shop at Amazon to get the best price. I know I’m getting a good deal and I know it will arrive quickly. Shop via my partner links to check out the wide range of Chromebooks and support VacationCounts in the process.

Protect Your Chromebook with a VPN

Will you need to access your bank accounts, securely stored documents stored in the cloud, or to login to sensitive sites while away from home? Using a public WiFi connection comes with hacking risks. Encrypting all your Internet traffic can help protect your sensitive data while traveling. I don’t want to have to deal with any of my online accounts becoming compromised while away from home. That’s not what embracing the vacation mindset is all about.

Hide Your IP Address in 94 countries with Express VPN (ad)
Protect Your Identity with trusted Express VPN

Take a look at my recommended VPN service ExpressVPN which had all the global security features I was looking for at a competitive price. The most important reason I chose them is because they post detailed instructions on how to install the VPN settings on a Chromebook.

There are two options for using ExpressVPN on your Chromebook which may be a little confusing. If you can install Android Apps on your Chromebook as many newer and touchscreen models can, you are in luck. The ExpressVPN app will do the trick by installing it from the Play Store. Otherwise you have to go the manual L2TP protocol. It isn’t ideal but at least it’s well documented by the support team. Since ExpressVPN is an established and trusted vendor, they offer prompt and excellent support.

ExpressVPN Chromebook Setup – Install Android App

Express VPN Chromebook Setup – L2TP Protocol Config

Once you signup for a membership plan you’ll be given all the addresses, secret codes, and passwords to add country-specific private VPN network connections to your Chromebook. I’ve yet to find another VPN service that explicitly supports Chromebooks so that is one reason I chose them for my business travel needs.

VPN for VacationCounts Travel

As a frequent traveler, a VPN service is an essential tool for my computer and devices. You never know when you are going to need it to connect to WiFi in a foreign country or a place where the “free” Wi-Fi raises red flags, but you need to get online right then and there. That is why it pays to buy an annual subscription and install the software or app on all your home and business computers and mobile devices. Luckily ExpressVPN supports a ridiculous number of devices with full setup instructions.

ExpressVPN list of supported devices

As a paid service (I do not trust the privacy of free VPNs), they offer a dedicated support team that is very response in my experience. This includes both chat and email support which is essential if you are traveling and having connection issues.

A virtual private network (Watch: What is a VPN) is a must (though there is no guarantee) when you are visiting a country like China that blocks numerous essential websites such as Google and Facebook. How one can live without either while on the road is beyond me. On my recent extended trip to Asia including China as well as Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, and South Korea, ExpressVPN came to the rescue on both my ASUS Chromebook and Nexus 5X Android phone. That means Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Docs, and of course the ever popular Gmail were accessible when they could have otherwise been blocked by the Chinese firewall.

Please leave a comment below if you agree that Chromebooks are perfect for frequent travelers on business trips and on vacation. Also do you have any Android apps, Chrome store extensions or security and privacy services to recommend? With identity theft becoming so common, a VPN running on a Chromebook (seemingly more secure than a Windows PC) is a smart way to protect your sensitive data and passwords in any country.

Note: Google, Chromebook, Pixel, Microsoft, Apple, Mac, Windows, Office and other mentioned products and brands are all trademarks ™ or registered trademarks ® of their respective owners. Some links in the post are to affiliate vendors where a commission may be earned, but this never affects the content nor costs the reader.  

  • Michael says:

    Thanks for this article. I’d love a Chromebook but I’m based in China. Can I still use the usual apps like on my Android phone? I use a v@n occasionally for all things Google.

    Can I browse the web in China with it? Will Chrome extensions work? Firefox? Different app markets? Can I side load apk files?

    Have you tried Linux on it?

    Thank you!

    Michael Abboud

    • I know getting connected to many sites such as Google can be a real challenge in China. Recommended ExpressVPN offers support to customers traveling in China. Visit their site to learn more about connectivity options and sign up for a plan. From my experience it’s easier with a Windows computer such as a laptop or Surface book from Microsoft. You can install ExpressVPN as a Chrome browser extension as well as on the desktop. Hope this helps.

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