There are lots of price specials on notebooks with Core 2 Duo in the 15.4" widescreen or smaller range. They are offered every week in the USA for under $1000.

17" is not portable, IMO. "A lot of travel" may mean a 14" widescrreen. The smaller the screen, the lighter the notebook. Widescreen is made for DVD viewing.

Always inspect the model or a similar models in person before purchasing. That way, you get a good feel for the weight, how movies look, and if the text is readable at the screen's native resolution.

Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba should be fine in the USA.

Apple MacBooks are a little more expensive, but it's worth visiting a local store to see one in person.