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Summary:

On June 7, I embarked on a trip to Europe. I debated whether I wanted to take my iPad or my hackintosh’d Dell Mini 9. In the end, I went with the iPad.

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On June 7, I embarked on a trip to Europe. I debated whether I wanted to take my iPad or my hackintosh’d Dell Mini 9. In the end, I went with the iPad.

My biggest reason for considering the Mini 9 was the ethernet port. Some of the hotels I’ve stayed in in the past only had ethernet jacks. Fortunately I wouldn’t have to worry about that.

I had no problems getting the iPad through TSA. Our flight over was about seven hours long, from Chicago to Heathrow. The iPad worked pretty well at keeping me entertained so I didn’t notice the time go by. First, I watched a movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which looked great on the iPad’s screen. That took up about an hour-and-a-half. Then I started reading The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace, which I got about five chapters into (I’ve read it before), and then I listened to music for the rest of the flight. I was pretty limited in what I could do without Wi-Fi. I’m always reminded how much we rely on the Internet when I’m stuck with my Wi-Fi-less iPad. 33 of the apps on my iPad require WiFi to work. I have 65 apps in total, so that’s about 50 percent.

Once we got over there, my iPad became useless. I didn’t need it to entertain myself and I couldn’t use it to communicate with my family, as most of our hotels didn’t have free Wi-Fi, and I refused to pay for it. Our first hotel did have a “free 30 minutes of Wi-Fi” thing going on, but when I connected to the router, I got a page asking me to sign in, offering no hint of this 30 minute deal. One of the hotels advertised free Wi-Fi, but I could never get it working. It wasn’t until the last hotel that I actually got free Wi-Fi that worked. That hotel was cheap, with small rooms and showers that didn’t even have hot water. Comme ci comme ça, I guess.

Another thing about traveling with the iPad: You never want to take it out, for fear of someone knowing you have it, and then stealing it. I had several roommates during this trip; people I didn’t know. It wasn’t until halfway through that I trusted them enough to reveal my iPad. One of my roommates asked me to give him a demo of it, as he was planning on buying one.

Also, I never charged the battery. I was amazed at how long it lasted. Of course, it was in standby mode most of the time, but this trip was nine days, so that’s pretty amazing. (Though some have said the iPad can last up to a month in standby, but I can’t find anywhere on Apple’s website where it says that, so correct me if I’m wrong.) The battery didn’t die on me until the flight back, and then only after I’d gotten a couple more chapters through my book.

I saw three other people using iPads on this trip; two in an airport, and one on the flight back. I was actually surprised at that.

In the end, the iPad turned out to be a great travel device. It’s thin, it’s light, it’s easy to stow, and it has a long-lasting battery. However, for those of you with the Wi-Fi-only version, or those who don’t want to pay for roaming, the iPad’s utility is limited based on the availability of Wi-Fi, so make sure your hotel has Wi-Fi that actually works.

What about you? Have you taken a long trip with the iPad in tow? Anything you found really great or really frustrating?

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  1. I did a similar experiment last weekend with the iPad (3G) on a trip to London. The flight was just 3 hours but the iPad kept me (and us) entertained, mainly with a few games, some BBC documents (video) and a few magazines with Zinio.

    Our hotel in London had a free wi-fi (without any passwords or stupid logins!) and the iPad worked just great for keeping up with e-mail, browsing the web and other basic surfing the interweb. The iPad never left the hotel so I didn’t try it with a pre-paid 3G SIM. I had all the flight and hotel documents through DropBox on the iPad as well.

    I have a longer trip to China and Hong Kong in a few days and I’m still undecided if I’ll take my hackintosh with me. The biggest issue is backing up the photos from the DSLR. I would prefer to empty the memory cards every evening to two hard drives to have two, separate copies. I already tested that the VPN on iPad works to my home network as internet access in China is restricted, also I’m not 100% sure if all the hotels will have free wi-fi.

    The size of the iPad and battery lifetime were the best parts of the experiment. Also surfing the interweb is such a breeze with a tablet.

    Carrying an Airport Extreme is an easy solution for hotels with wired access only.

    1. Airport Extreme? I think you mean an Airport Express. Good idea, though. I’ve been looking into replacing my flaky NetGear router with one from Apple.

  2. I’ll probably be traveling to Italy later this year, and I definitely plan to bring my wifi iPad with me. I can load up a couple movies or shows for entertainment, though for music I’d just use my iPhone (I only have a 16GB iPad), and iBooks or the Kindle app for saving space in my luggage that might have been filled with books. Then, of course, I’ve got games if these three entertainment sources are already exhausted.

    Besides the in-flight entertainment, though, one of the more interesting things I hope to use it for while I’m away is in off-loading memory cards, and making use of some of my photo editing software as well. I can also use my iPhone to take video while I’m over there and off-load that onto the iPad as well.

  3. I keep trying to resist buying an iPad then you keep putting up articles about how great it is….lol!

  4. Shane Ketterman Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Excellent Post Alex. I have been traveling with my iPad and then I came back and did a iPad Summer travel guide over on my ipad daily site. I found that, for me, the navigation and apps that help with languages were really useful.

    http://www.ipaddaily.com/ipad-summer-travel-guide-how-to-use-your-ipad-for-summer-travel/

  5. Sharif Al Motawally Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    The lack of Ethernet is a serious issue, but can be compensated by taking a tiny Airport Express with you. you can have it preconfigured as a wireless extender. what we really need is an iOS config app for the airport express so we can modify the config on the go if we happen to need it.

    1. I’ll have to add an AirPort Express to my ‘buy’ list, along with a new Mac mini.

  6. David Mullings Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    I have he 32gb 3G version and have used it every time I have been in Jamaica. I purchased a SIM from Claro, a local phone company that is a major player in Latin America and parts of the Caribbean, got it working in a few minutes and was off.

    I rarely needed my laptop for any meetings, easily reading Word docs and PDFs on the iPad. When I was bored in a meeting I could distract myself by checking work email and being productive.

    I used Google maps to get directions to some locations (I am born and raised in Jamaica but sometimes I still don’t know where some roads are) and VPN has been useful at times.

    I used it for a couple presentations thanks to the dongle for the projector, had the MC read my biography from it when he forget to print it and was constantly asked to demo it, even showing up in one of the national newspapers showing it to someone at a conference.

    Overall I will never travel without my iPad.

  7. Some airlines such as Delta offer in-flight WiFi which works pretty well. DSL like connection speeds. It’s a bit pricey but if you need to get an important email and reply to it, then it will suffice. 3G certainly will not work at 30k feet. I suspect the WiFi would cut out over the ocean on a trans-atlantic or trans-pacific trip.

    Some hotels with WiFi redirect you to a hotel page where you have to enter your room number. Then it’s good for 24 hours before you have to do it again. One hotel in Florida, charged me $15 a day for WiFi, two bottles of water, a daily newspaper, and something else. I was charge whether or not I used the WiFi, so I suppose it’s considered free. The charge was listed as a daily convenience room fee.

    Going through security was a breeze, didn’t even have to pull out the iPad. They did roll my bag back and forth a few times to examine it in greater detail. I bought it a week after it went on sale WiFi only model so it was very new to the TSA.

    1. And I have been seeing people use their iPad Wifi only with 3G via the Verizon MiFi service! The costs, however, are about identical in the long run.

    2. We flew United Airlines, which didn’t have in-flight WiFi. And a hotel charging for services you may or may not use is kinda evil.

      I always took out my iPad at security, just to be safe. Kept forgetting to take off my shoes, though.

  8. I like how you say:

    “Once we got over there, my iPad became useless.”

    And then end your review with:

    “In the end, the iPad turned out to be a great travel device.”

    1. It’s not the iPad’s fault that WiFi wasn’t available.

  9. Joe,

    “I can also use my iPhone to take video while I’m over there and off-load that onto the iPad as well.”

    How can you do that?

    1. Using the iPad camera connection kit. An iPhone is identified as a camera when connected.

  10. I just got back from France (2 nights), Luxembourg 2 (nights), and Japan (15 nights). I decided to only take my iPad and not my netbook.

    The best thing about the iPad was sharing photos with people.

    I bought my iPad they day I was leaving so I didn’t have much time to figure things out. I tried to load some pdf’s and word documents to read later but I couldn’t. These files were also in Microsoft Office Live but the Safari doesn’t work on that site.

    All but one of my hotels only had wired internet which I couldn’t access so the only time I got to use the internet was in the airport lounges.

    As a first time Apple customer, I was completely frustrated. I have done a little research and it sounds like I could buy an Airport Express to connect to the internet in hotels in the future. I wish I would have known that before I left on my 20 days trip.

    I love the feel and looks of the iPad and if I can get it to work a little more like my netbook, I will be a happy camper.

  11. I bought an iPad 3G+Wi-Fi some 6 hours ago, before reading your blog, but I’m so glad I did the right decision by myself.
    Your review will be very useful for people like me that was searching for a good reason to invest in the 3G version.
    The reasons?
    1. When you leave home you almost never find Wi-Fi. And when you find, it’s after much searching, and sometimes is not useful anymore.
    2. GPS. Only in the 3G version.
    The 3G version it’s worth the extra bucks!
    Keep up the good work on the blog.

  12. I’d also suggest you look at OffMaps for the iPad, and if you use Evernote, definitely upgrade to premium.

  13. Two weeks ago, I went to a medical conference with my iPad 3G that had come only the Thursday before. I had WiFi access where I stayed at my friend’s flat and while at the conference, I used 3G to pull down web pages, upload conference notes to iWork.com, blog, twitter and mail. It would have been a hassle to connect to the various commercial WLANs. The one time I connected to free WiFi at Starbucks it didn’t feel safe and was slow.
    I didn’t worry about taking it out at the conference and using it and actually got a few inquiries about it as well, but I did avoid using it on the subway.

  14. I brought my airport express with me and it works as a good travel companion with my iPad Wifi.

  15. Your review doesn’t sound like the iPad was very fun to take with you. I just got an iPad myself and will be taking it with me to Washington dc as well as Chicago. I too am afraid of taking it out. I want to use the maps app as I go down the streets but am afraid someone will see me with it and steal it. What good is a divice you don’t even take out and use for fear of being robbed? On the whole I love my iPad but live with the constant fear that it will be stolen. Is this what the early adapters of the iPhones had to go through?

  16. Great to hear about your iPad adventures. As to Wi-Fi connections, you should do a bit of research before you leave home. (Would you drive until your petrol tank was empty before you wonder if they sell fuel where you have driven to?)

    So, for those whom will emulate your epic trek, I recommend two Wi-Fi providers, being The Cloud and BT-Openzone. (We are not some primitive part of the world, you know.) They have both short term plans and longer to suit most needs.

    Hope that helps,

    Alasdair D

    1. I had no control over what hotels we stayed at, sadly. I did check if they had WiFi beforehand, though.

  17. “Though some have said the iPad can last up to a month in standby, but I can’t find anywhere on Apple’s website where it says that, so correct me if I’m wrong.”

    Check out the Apple Keynote which launched the iPad – http://www.apple.com/quicktime/qtv/specialevent0110/. 28 minutes in, Steve Jobs mentions it has “over a month” on standby…

    1. Thanks for clearing that up. Nine hours seems less impressive now.

  18. Ive been traveling about about 2 months now in Thailand and have requested free wifi at every hotel I stay at. It’s great. I do also not particularly enjoy taking my iPad out in public in fear that someone will take it or simply someone wants to check it out while I’m personally using it lol but hey it’s part of the “magic” of the iPad. It’s very portable, love the battery life, I listen to music, book hotels, read books, watch videos, check out my maps, look up local tourist info, book flights, chat with friends, facebook etc and more.

    Things I don’t like is the inability to upload pics from my cam without the need of the camera dongle thing you have to buy from apple and even then would I be limited to uploading a single picture at a time to facebook or photo bucket etc.

    If it wasn’t for that inconvenience I wouldn’t have brought my MacBook pro.

  19. I love traveling with my iPad. I fly ALOT on business and the iPad is a dream. Battery life is incredible, and now I don’t have to lug around my MacBook Pro (usually). I use AirportAce app for airport information which is really helpful when I am in the airport, and Kayak to find decent flights. Its just great.

  20. You should check out these great iPad travel guides, for a number of different countries. They really use the iPads large screen to full effect: http://phlogy.com/Travel.htm

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