What is a Travel Printer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A travel printer is a printer which has been designed for portability, so that people can easily carry it with them. Travel printers are useful for people who are traveling, hence the name, but they are also handy for people who want to bring a laptop and printer to events, presentations, and other settings where they may not have ready access to a printer otherwise. Travel printer quality can be quite high, so people are not obliged to give up quality for portability, although the printer may lack some features.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

Travel inkjet, thermal, and laser printers are all available. A travel printer is usually very compact, and it may be designed to break down or fold up. For example, the printer tray may detach or fold up into the printer to make it easier to transport. The portable printer is often small enough to fit into the front pocket of a laptop case or to share space with a laptop in a travel kit. Such printers are also durable, so that they can endure some jostling, time upside down, and other events which may occur during travel.

Travel printers which offer both color and black and white printing are available. Some need to be plugged in to the wall, while others may be powered by a rechargeable battery. The printer can be wireless or may connect to the computer with a cable; wireless printers tend to be somewhat slower because data can be transmitted more quickly to the computer over a cable. Sometimes both options are available for a travel printer.

The price of a travel printer varies, depending on the manufacturer and the features it offers. Such printers are usually limited in terms of paper size and what kinds of materials they can print on because the printer must be made as compact as possible. Some are very low cost and produce images of reasonable quality, while more expensive printers can yield very crisp and high-quality finished products.

An important subset of this particular area of the printer market is the travel photo printer. Such devices can connect directly to a digital camera or a laptop and produce prints immediately. This can be useful in the field, and may be used as a tool by photographers to check on composition, color balance, and other issues so that they can ensure that they are getting usable shots. The ability to instantly print pictures is also useful for things like photo booths, instant production of passport photographs, and so forth.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@MrsPramm - I don't know if it would really be worth it though. If you were anywhere that had the power to run your printer and your camera, you'd probably be somewhere that would have their own printer. I don't see the point of even the best travel printer for the average traveler for that reason.

Anywhere a person is going to stay overnight will have a printer available somewhere close by and anywhere that doesn't isn't going to have electricity to run other gadgets anyway. It seems like it's a bit of a waste of money to me.


@pleonasm - Yeah, one of the things that I noticed in Africa was that whenever I wanted to take a photo of someone they really wanted me to try and send the photos to them when I got home and developed them (this was before I had a digital camera).

I had good intentions, but most of the time it just didn't end up happening. If I had a small travel printer with me that kind of exchange would be much easier. Although I'm not sure any of them would be rugged enough for traveling in rough country like that.


A mini travel printer for your camera is such an adorable idea. I think it would be very useful as well, even if it doesn't seem like it on the surface.

Whenever I travel I like to give people gifts when I meet them randomly on the road. And it's hard to think of something that's going to be cheap but also meaningful.

If you have a travel printer, you can show them some pictures of your hometown and then print them out as a little gift. Or you could take some photos of you with your new friends and print those as a gift.

I think it's a brilliant idea, although I do wonder how long the ink would last in a printer like this. Ink tends to be expensive and might be difficult to find in other countries.

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