We did bring our cell phones. Our phones are GSM enabled (this is also the wireless network that is used in Europe. We just called our cellular carrier (T-Mobile) a month before we left and they enabled our phones to work on the European networks for no extra charge. Where the extra charges come in is when you pay $1 per minute for local and overseas calls when in Europe. You pay double this if calling your spouse's phone when you are both in Europe! It was worth it however to have the security and convenience of a phone during the trip.
To Laptop or not to Laptop
On a business trip this is a no-brainer, but on this vacation trip we wavered back and forth on weather or not to bring our laptop, because it meant carrying an extra bag. If all you need to do is check your email once in a while, then the best choice would be to leave the laptop at home and use the internet cafes throughout Europe and even in most of the hotels. If you know that the hotel or B&B where you are staying has internet in the room (usually wireless), then that is a good reason to bring the computer because you can research the city in the evenings in your room.
If you leave the computer at home, I would recommend getting a tiny USB flash drive and loading it with your favorite applications. In fact use the "U3 launchpad" to take your entire desktop environment with you. Just plug the drive into the computer and all your applications are at your fingertips and the environment is the same as your home computer. See www.u3.com for additional information. A particularly good one is the SanDisk Cruzer Titanium USB Flash Drive because it has 2 Gb of memory, is extremely tiny and comes pre-loaded with the U3 desktop software.
We decided to bring the laptop because we knew we would be taking a lot of digital pictures and wanted to be able to back them up on the computer. We could also write and send our emails from the room. In France (no wireless in our hotel) we composed our emails in the room and sent them off the next day in just a few minutes from the lobby of our hotel.
The laptop gave us freedom to search for information on our next days adventures from our room (we had wireless internet in London) and to verify travel information. We even used it to watch DVDs in the evening when we were too tired to go out. We loaded guide book information and translation information on the computer as well.
Bringing the laptop meant that we did not need to bring:
The laptop is still heavier than all these things combined, but we were very glad that we brought ours with us.