Being away from home for nearly two weeks can be a tough proposition — especially when you leave home intending to work. You’re not packing suntan oil and swimsuits, but power adapters, accessories and other portables. Not that I’m complaining — after reading about Mike’s travels, I have to count my blessings. While he was lost and incommunicado in Australia, I was in the hyper-wired world of San Francisco, mixing a little work with a visit to see my best friend.

Instead of doing my usual thing — which is to make my laptop the center of my work, entertainment and media world — I decided to try something different. Sure, I still packed my computer, but barring emergencies, I also vowed not to open it. Instead, I would rely on a tablet (iPad 2), a wireless bluetooth keyboard, several cell phones (HTC Inspire, HTC Rhyme and iPhone 4S), and a mobile hotspot (T-mobile‘s Sonic 4G) to get me through this trip.

I realize that the number of gadgets might seem like overkill, but frankly, I didn’t want to take any chances. I needed to work, and having no fewer than three carrier networks at my disposal should guarantee it.

So how did I do? Pretty good, actually. But I have to admit, I did cheat slightly. Virgin America’s summertime Chromebook promotion — which lets travelers borrow a Samsung Series 5 for free during their terminal wait/flight — was still inexplicably going on, so I snagged one on the flight out. I knew this was bending the rules, but I couldn’t help myself — not only was I curious about it, but the promotion includes free onboard internet for it, so it was a no-brainer.

If you are flying Virgin America any time in the near future, be sure to look out for these Chromebook outposts in the terminals. They’re not available in all airports, but if you do spot one, there’s nothing like taking the device for a spin free of charge. You snag one at the departing point, then return it straight away when you arrive at the destination airport. Easy peasy.

This row is all tech’ed out: MacBook Pro, iPad 2 and my borrowed Chromebook

I like this, I thought to myself. It’s lightweight, turns on in a snap, has near-endless battery (at 8 hrs), and it lets me do everything I need to do. Well, almost. Photo editing pics for posts was not so fun. (I was working, remember?) As a web-only device, it doesn’t let you save pics to your desktop, and even if you could, you’d have no programs to edit them. This meant I was relegated to online graphics services. Let me just say, according to my hubby, watching me work with Picnik is like seeing someone trying to shove a watermelon into teacup. I think all my cussing was probably more of a racket than the screaming baby behind us.

Aside from that, the only other issue was dodgy internet. That’s what happens when you’re 36,000 feet in the air, and several passengers are trying to stream movies on the same measly connection. And that’s the thing: When you’re working on a device that’s basically just a web terminal, having spotty internet can be a dealbreaker. I would so totally buy a Samsung Chromebook, but not for $430 dollars, I thought. The Acer version is $349, but still — too many drawbacks. Note to self: Sign up for price alert services, so I can snag one when the price drops to a sub-$200 range. Then it would be worth it. 

I put the Chromebook away and pulled out my iPad. I had some notes in there for another article, so I whipped out my Apple bluetooth keyboard so I could comfortably type and flesh out some thoughts. All it took was one bout of turbulence to realize how much using a separate keyboard and iPad on an airplane simply sucked. I should’ve gotten one of those iPad clamshell keyboard cases. And wouldn’t you know, it wouldn’t be until after I got back that this beauty gets unveiled.

White ClamCase for iPad 2

ClamCase just announced this new version today. The previous black-only model had taken some heat for cramped keys and heavy weight, so they tweaked the keyboard and made the whole thing lighter. If I’d had this or a similar product, maybe I wouldn’t have had to experience the feeling of a tablet falling over onto my bare knuckles as I vainly tried to type.

I turned off the tablet, put away the keyboard and turned on CNN in the in-flight seatback TV instead. Tomorrow’s a new day, I thought. Let’s try again when I’m not being bounced around the clouds like a pinball. 

Part 2 — “I Come Bearing Tablets (& Hotspots & Androids &…)”!