The iPad as a Travel Companion

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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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