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A Year Traveling With the iPad

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This is an overview of my year of traveling with an iPad. I’ve taken it overseas, used it on road trips, navigated with it on city streets and used it on the beach as well as in the mountains. I’ve probably done as much as anyone has in terms of traveling with this device since it was launched in 2010.

Over the last few months I’ve been seeing a lot of other travelers with iPads. I’ve been rather surprised at how quickly they have become popular. They seem to have overtaken netbooks with the travelers I see in hotels and hostels. My guess is that over the next 5 years tablets and the iPad in particular will become the primary computing device travelers use, at least for short term trips. They are lightweight, cheap and are capable of mobile internet in a large part of the world.

I’m well aware that this “review” is really late to the game as the iPad has been out for a while and is already on its second generation. Nonetheless, I’ve had many people ask me if they should take their iPad with them on trips of if they should buy one for an extended around the world trip.

I have owned both an original iPad as well as an iPad2. My original iPad was a 3G GSM and my iPad2 is a 3G CDMA model. The only accessory I have purchased for either model was a case: a rubber covering for the original and the smart cover for the iPad2. I have not used a keyboard with either iPad and have also been traveling with an iPhone and MacBook Pro as well.

International Travel

The only thing which you need to consider for international travel are the 3G iPads. If you just have a wifi iPad it will work wherever you can find wifi. Of the 3G models now available, only the GSM (ATT in the US) models will work around the world. The CDMA iPad (Verizon in the US) will not work on networks outside of the US.

The appealing thing about the iPad for international travel is that you do not need a long term contract to use the device. That means you can cancel your domestic plan at anytime if you will be spending time overseas. Likewise, you can purchase a GSM micro SIM card in whatever country you will be visiting. I met an American woman in Italy who purchased a micro SIM card for her iPad and used that as her primary internet device while she was there. The lack of a contract makes the iPad a much more attractive tool for mobile internet than the iPhone.

A few tips:

  • Not all countries have the iPad yet. If you are going somewhere that is less developed, check ahead to see if there is a carrier which has micro SIM cards which you can use.
  • Rogers in Canada will not let non-Canadians register. Last year when I was on my Newfoundland road trip, I picked up a micro SIM from Rogers. I put it in my iPad and went through the registration process. I got stopped, however, when I had to put in my credit card information. It turns out whoever designed the form you have to fill out made it such that only Canadian provinces could be entered. I don’t know if they’ve fixed it but I have heard other people with the same complaints online. If you are visiting Canada you might want to get a micro SIM from Bell or another provider.
  • Consider getting a Boingo account. Boingo has over 325,000 wifi hotspots around the world. Odds are you can find a place to use your Boingo account wherever you are. I was able to use my Boingo account almost everywhere in Switzerland and you can also log on to the municipal wifi network in Bangkok with it. Your Boingo account with work with any model of iPad. (Disclosure: Boingo sponsors me and I have been a customer since 2007)
  • If you are concerned about theft, buy a Scottevest. Their jackets have an internal pocket which holds an iPad. I travel with a Fleece 5.0 and I can carry my iPad with me and no one is the wiser.

Photography

SmugMug for iPadI have to confess that the first thing I thought of when I heard the iPad announcement was that it would be a great way to showcase my photos. I was right. The size and the colors make it a great way to share my photos with people I meet while traveling.

As a camera, however, the iPad is horrible. Data from Flickr shows that despite the popularity of the iPad2, hardly anyone uses the back facing camera. Not only is the image quality poor, but holding a tablet in front of your face to take a photo is really awkward. I personally never use the front facing camera either, but I can see I use for it at least with video calls.

My favorite photo application for the iPad is the SmugMug app. It allows me to browse all the photos in my Smugmug site and share it with others. The the default setting are for images to be pulled off the server as you look at them, but you can set individual galleries to be stored locally.

There are several photo editing programs for the iPad but I never use them. I have occasionally used the 100 Cameras In 1 app by Trey Ratclif, but I usually just use it on my iPhone where the images are.

Another great photography app for the iPad is LightTrac. This app will determine where and when the sun will rise and set for any location on Earth at any given time. It will also display the angle of the sun on top of a satellite image.

If you are using an point and shoot camera, you can use the iPad as a photo storage device. There is an external SD card reader which can be attached to the iPad. If you aren’t a serious photographer and just want to upload your vacation photos to your friends and family, this option might be good enough.

Tip: if you have a portfolio of images you want to show people, create a pdf file with the photos and then use the iBook reader to display the pdf. The images look great but you don’t have to worry about an internet connection and you can also add captions to the images.

Super secret tip: If you are at a bar and talking to a woman about your travels and your photography, take out the iPad to show her some of the places you’ve been. Tell a story about each photos and let her flip around the photos. Seriously, this shit works.

Maps

Since I purchased the iPad I have taken road trips in the US, Canada and Spain. I’ve used the iPad as my primary map every time and I couldn’t be happier with the performance.

If you have a 3G iPad then you shouldn’t have a problem setting routes and pulling up maps. The built in mapping app uses Google Maps and is very similar to what you will find on the iPhone. So long as you stick to major roads, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the GPS leading you astray.

If you do not have an internet connection you can still use the map. Just create your route before you get in the car and have an internet connection. Then zoom in and follow the route you will be taking so those parts of the map are in the cache of the iPad. The map software will cache map images in the order of whatever was viewed most recently. The cache isn’t huge so don’t view anything other than your route once you’ve made it.

Favorite Apps:

  • Google Earth: Google Earth for the iPad is great, however you have to be connected to the internet to make it work. It is great if you want to show people places you’ve been or where you are going.
  • MotionX GPS: I also use this app on my iPhone. The MotionX GPS gives you most of the features in a dedicated GPS but with the added benefits of being able to see a map. You can get exact latitude and longitude data and well as track where you’ve been.

Reading

Kindle for iPadDespite everything else I mention in this post, the #1 thing I use my iPad for is reading. I read a lot. During the first 3.5 years of traveling I had a big problem with books. They are heavy and English language books can be very expensive in most countries. I often found myself shipping books back to the US which is not very efficient.

No only has the iPad solved the problem of traveling with books, I now find myself reading more than I did before. eBooks are cheaper and easier to get than print books. I’m basically carrying an entire English language book store with me when I have my iPad.

There are several bookstores you can choose from. I have been buying my books from the Amazon Kindle store. They have a much better selection than Apple does on the iBook store. Likewise, I haven’t bothered to check the Barnes & Noble Nook reader. I downloaded the app to take a look, but it seemed designed for the iPhone not the iPad. The nice part of using the Kindle app is that anything you buy can also be read on a Kindle reader at no extra charge.

I’m also able to do a fair amount of offline reading with Byline, which is my preferred iPad RSS reader. Unlike other RSS readers, Byline will cache your feeds for offline viewing. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do much if the feeds you follow aren’t full text feeds.

The biggest downside to using the iPad as a book reader is battery life. Because the screen is an LCD screen, the battery life for book reading isn’t much longer than it is for watching a movie. It is basically showing a white screen the entire time you are reading which requires the most power.

With the iBook application you can also easily read PDF files. Just drag the pdf to the books section of iTunes and it will show up in the iBook application the next time you synch.

I should also note that I haven’t really used may electronic versions of guidebooks. I have a few on my iPad that I was given but I seldom use them as a reference. Your milage may vary.

Tip: If you are reading a book on the iPad, put it in airplane mode and turn the brightness of the screen down to whatever is tolerable. This will maximize your battery life.

Games

Osmos for iPadBe honest with yourself. If you get an iPad, you are going to install games on it.

When you are traveling you often have to kill large chunks of time. Some of the games for the iPad are outstanding. Two of my favorites are Osmos and Civilization Revolution.

Osmos is an incredibly addictive game which could only exist on the iPad. It would make no sense on any other platform. Civilization Revolution is a massively scaled down version of the Civilization game you might be familiar with on the desktop. I can easily kill an entire domestic flight playing a game of Civilization.

I’m not going to go into too much detail on games because everyone has their favorites, but don’t ignore them when making the decision to get an iPad.

Media

Netflix for iPadThere might be some debate on the Kindle vs the iPad as an ebook reader, but there is no question that the iPad is probably the best mobile platform for viewing video. I am able to watch streaming movies with the Netflix app and there are a host of movies to buy or rent from the iTunes store.

I purchased an iPad for my mother for Christmas and she has taken to watching movies on Netflix as well. It really is a great device for watching video.

There are two big downsides to Netflix on the iPad: 1) it doesn’t work if you are outside of the United States, and 2) there are a lot of movies which are not available for streaming. I can verify that you can purchase and download movies from anywhere in the world if you have a US iTunes account, however.

Audio on the iPad is not much different than what you will experience on an iPhone. You have access to your iTunes library as well as the iTunes store. One difference is the quality of the external speaker. The speaker on the iPad really isn’t that bad considering how small it is. It is good enough to provide music for me if I am taking a shower or working when I don’t want to wear headphones.

Before I started traveling I had to pack up my life and put it in storage. By weight and volume, the majority of the stuff I owned was books, movies and music. We have reached a point where all of that can be condensed into a tiny space and carried with us wherever we go. Amazing.

Content Creation

As a blogger, much of what I do involves writing or photo editing. I do not do either of them on my iPad. It is fine for sending out tweets, replying to email or updating Facebook. I have never written a blog post nor have I edited a photo taken on my SLR with the iPad. I could do it, but it just wasn’t designed as a tool for content creation.

Whenever I travel now I bring my iPad and my laptop. Some may see this as overkill but I use them for very different purposes. I treat my laptop as a mobile desktop computer. When I get in a hotel room I will unpack my laptop and leave it locked in the room for most of my stay. My iPad is what I will take to dinner to read or what I will take out of my bag at the airport.

Steve Jobs in an interview talked about the differences between trucks and cars and how most people don’t need trucks. The difference between tablet devices and those with keyboards is like the difference between a truck and a car. A truck is for doing work and so it as desktop or laptop computer.

The iPad is great at what it does, but if you try to use it for any sort of large scale content creation I think you will be disappointed.

Kids

I don’t have kids, but my assistant Amy does. When I purchased my iPad2 I gave my older iPad to her. Her kids took to it immediately. Here is what she has to say about traveling with kids and an iPad:

I have two preschoolers, and they are in love with our iPad. The first thing I considered when we got the iPad was how great it would be for entertaining them while we were traveling. That could not be more true! Unlike the iPod Touch we had previously, they can realistically share it and watch a movie together. And if one falls asleep or is otherwise engaged, the other is able to play one of the multitude of age appropriate games we’ve loaded onto it. But it’s not all about filling their time while traveling. My daughter, age four, uses several educational applications that teach her the basics of math and reading in very dynamic ways. Both of my children grew up around technology, but the iPad is extremely easy for them to navigate themselves. My two year old successfully uses it on his own without any help – very important when they are in the backseat of a car on a trip and you are not. It’s also highly durable. I’ve cringed after several drops onto our tile floor, but so far it has held up well. I highly recommend it to parents, especially those that travel.

Tip: Check out the site from my This Week In Travel co-host Jen Leo: Best Kids Apps.

Summary

There is an argument to be made for the iPad being the greatest travel gadget ever made. Its portability and versatility are unrivaled in any other device I can think of.

If you are going on an extended trip and are not worried about writing long articles, then you might just be better off taking an iPad over a laptop. If you are only traveling for short periods of time, such as a weekend, you might be better off with just an iPad.

If you are going on a long term trip with the intent to do work while you are on the road, I’d recommend bringing a laptop in addition to an iPad.

It doesn’t do everything, but it does a helluva lot.

  • 62 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Donnie says:

    excellent points altogether, you simply won a brand new reader.

    What could you recommend in regards to your put up that you simply made a few
    days ago? Any positive?

  2. Nina says:

    Your Message
    We are going to Lithuania, Latvia and Poland for 3 weeks, and are considering buying an IPad. I hate to have to search out buy SIM cards for each country, but of course will if we have to. All we want to do is surf and email. We waffling between 16 or 32 gb. For minimal use, would this be more trouble and expense than it is worth? We don’t plan on using it that much at home either. On our trip we definitely have to stay in touch with home and they have to be able to reach us. I’d rather do it this way than by phone. We’re going nuts trying to decided what to do. :-)

  3. Kris says:

    How do you upload photos from your ipad to smug mug? Doesn’t work for me.

  4. Tanya says:

    The iPad vs Kindle debate has been on my mind for a long time. I don’t have either yet. Even after reading your post about how great the iPad is, I am unsure if I could warrant buying an iPad over a kindle. Especially since I have to travel with a laptop also.

    Hmm. I have to decide at some stage. Perhaps I don’t need either of them… I have gone without for this long now!

  5. Kim says:

    Why don’t you try the Galileo Offline Maps app for iPad?
    http://galileo-app.com/blog/ontheroad4real.html

  6. Mike says:

    For my purposes, I found the iPad useless for travel. I take lots of raw images and HD video, sometimes I may have 10GB data after a days photo work. You can forget about using an iPad for storing this data. Instead I use an Asus Transformer tablet with detachable keyboard. It has 2 USB ports on it and an SD card slot, so I insert the SD card into it, attach a USB portable 500GB hard drive to the Asus and use the file manager app to download my data onto the hard drive. The tablet is much more compact than a laptop, especially when detached from the keyboard and as a travel bonus, comes with GPS and a navigator app which does not need wireless or 3G to operate.

  7. AdventureRob says:

    I know this is an old post, but thanks for the write up, I’ve been considering an iPad for travel. Looks like it’s not up to replacing the mac pro just yet (I can’t see typing being comfortable on a vertical screen anyway). Although I do have a wireless keyboard that could be used with it.

    I was holding out for a better screen to show off photos and it looks like Apple has delivered.

  8. Sonia says:

    I know this is an old thread but I just wanted to know what case you used on your iPad. I have each generation of the iPad (great entertainment when family visits) and a scottevest. Right now I travel with the 3rd gen iPad and would like to know if you have a recommendation for a case that would offer some sort of protection while in the iPad pocket.

  9. Maria says:

    When I travel I usually bring along my laptop but I think I will consider buying myself a IPAD 2. It’s very lite and multi purpose and now I’m convince that it’s a smart buy.

  10. revaaron says:

    For photos, try snapseed. I love tweaking photos with it and then posting them to fb

  11. Great post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last phase :) I deal with such information a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a long time. Thanks and best of luck.

  12. I hate reading on a screen but I love my Kindle – it only needs charging once every few weeks (if that) and its as easy to read as a paper book – but much, much lighter. I still can’t go past a netbook for typing – I hate typing on a touch screen and it doesn’t matter which OS is running the tablet that’s the real issue. Plus the price- maybe its different in the US but in NZ the iPad is 3x the price of a better spec’d netbook

  13. I’m also doing a world trip over 10 months and looked into the iPads but decided against them for many of the reasons you cite them. We decided the BlackBerry PlayBooks were much better choices…. here’s why:

    1) its too BIG and HEAVY. Using an iPad as an eReader is nuts. The thing weighs over three lbs! You need a separate man purse or a dorky vest to carry one and don’t tell me that its invisible under that. You may as well be wearing a sign… rob me. If I am going to carry around a 3+ lb device, I might as well bring a NetBook or a MacAir. The PlayBook is a LOT lighter, actually fits in a jacket or pants pocket… cargo pants hide the thing completely and while heavier than the Kindle which we also brought for the kids, is quite managable as an eReader… especially in bed at night.

    2) The iPad needs its own data plan. Unless you plan on hanging around internet cafes and wifi hotspots on your travels, you need to get a 3G iPad in addition to your cell phone.. especially if you are going to use it as a GPS to get the online maps. Buying 2 SIM cards, having 2 data plans, is just nuts… especially if you are taking the trip to get away from it all. The PlayBook “bridges” to a BlackBerry or “tethers” to any other phone to use as an intenet modem. With bridging, its absolutely seamless… the only thing that will change if you stumble into a free hotspot is the speed of the connection. We pick up a SIM card for the BlackBerry Torch (worldphone…. handles all 3G types) and thePlayBook rides along for free. The only time the Torch comes out of the pocket is when we need to make a phone call. Just the savings in dataplans/SIM cards paid for the PlayBooks. Best of all BOTH PlayBooks can share the one Torch meaning we buy ONE SIM card/dataplan and have three devices off it.

    3) Those AWFUL cameras. Apple should be ashamed. Even video conferencing looks awful on an iPad… and using one for a quick photo/video if you left the digital camera behind? I’d sooner hunt down a store and buy a cheapy digital camera. The PlayBooks on the other hand take 5MP stills and 1080p Videos with amazing sound. I’d still bring a good digital camera for stills and video’s but I have yet to miss a picture or video and the PlayBook makes uploading to Picasa/Youtube a snap.

    3) eBooks/guidebooks. The PlayBook is actually smaller/lighter than a LonelyPlanet book and is much more convenient to carry/search. It supports Kindle (cloud and soon to be direct through upcoming Android support in October) and Kobo as well as PDF. ePub is not yet supported but the developer of the best eReader app is working on it right now so this should change in a month or so. No issue with getting Frommer’s/Lonely Planet on the PlayBook and I DO use it for the guidebooks all the time. Its very easy to whip out the PlayBook, look something up and have it back in my pocket hidden in seconds.

    4) Music/video.. lets face it… the iPad/iPhone SUCKS as a music playback device unless you are wearing earphones or have it plugged into a stereo speaker system of some sort. Those speakers are so tinny its painful to listen to it. We use the PlayBook every night as our “stereo” and/or TV and its quite usable. The sound is actually amazing from such a small device. As for video playback, we just have a $3 micro HDMI cable we plug into the hotel TV and we’re watching in full 1080p with what ever sound system the TV has… often not as good as the PlayBooks! Best of all, one of us can still use the PlayBook to browse the internet. RIM has announced DLNA support so we can even ditch the wire if we run into a room with DLNA enabled TV but we’ve yet to see one.

    5) TYPING!!! Holding the iPad and trying to type anything is a task. No wonder you drag around laptops to type your blog entries. The PlayBook just naturally fits in your hands in landscape mode and you can thumb type with it much like with any smartphone. You can even one hand it in Portrait mode. This entry was typed on the PlayBook. I can’t type at 60 WPM like I can on a full size keyboard but I bet I’m at least 20 WPM.

    6) The internet! The iPad is crippled when it co.es to the internet and redirects you to many mobile/subset site if you can get content t at all. I have yet to run into a site the PlayBook couldn’t handle except for ones that use old style IE plug ins… if it works on a PC or on a Mac, it’ll.work on the PlayBook. Its got flash support so many hotel/reservation/preview sites work as well. We never use a PC for the Internet anymore… the PlayBooks are so much easier… and you don’t need an App for that. Picasa, FaceBook, Flicker, etc all work exactly as they should.

    7) NewsReader. Being out of country for 10 months can completely disconnect you from home. We use the PlayBooks to follow top stories in the local (to home) Newspapers. There are apps for the major chains (and most of the small ones) but we just want the beadlines and the ability to dig deeper if necessary. The Newsreader application on the PlayBook connects up, grabs the news and stories and then you can disconnect and read offline later. Its nice knowing home is only 1/2 a second away at the speed.of electricity.

    8) Security… We are traveling off the beaten path. Other than a 3 day stay in NYC we’re seven months in the third world (Central America, Africa, South East Asia with stopsnon the middle east). Even the last 4 months in Europe will be in less well traveled locations like Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Spain. The thought of whipping out an iPad in plain view was like hanging a sign around our necks.. “Mug us… we’re rich, clueless tourists”. The thing we LOVE about the PlayBooks are that any sensitive data on them can be put on the BlackBerry instead… all our emails, sensitive docs (like eticket receipts, credit card numbers, bank cards, and PINS are kept on the BlackBerry which almost never comes out of a hidden pocket. We can get them all on the PlayBook seamlessly when in range (30′ or so) of the BlackBerry phone but as soon as its gone or the phone is shut down… poof. Its gone like it was never there to begin with. We haven’t been robbed (yet) but knowing we aren’t losing all our personal/secure information goes a long way… even if it is stolen while unlocked. The PlayBook is also the only FIPS certified tablet out there (can be used for government use because of the encryption) so I know they won’t be able to hack into it no matter how hard they try. We use it for all our intenet banking (and therefore has access to tens of thousands of dollars in money just sitting there as well as hundreds of thousands in our lines of credit). I can’t imagine the damage someone could do.

    9) I note that you still feel you had to have a laptop (although you leave it in the room). We’re backpacking so dragging all that crap just wasn’t an option. We miss a PC for downloading DVD’s and for configuring our Apple Airport Express mini router that we use to extend hotspots… but most hotspots have a computer you can use to download/install the configurator. If I were doing it again, I’d buy a web configurable router instead of the Apple device. We bought it for the size but I’ve seen others using smaller battery powered ones that I wish I’d bought instead. We use the PlayBook to create and edit Office documents that the kids can send to their schools for homework. The PlayBooks came with that capability out of the box and we didn’t have to buy an app for tbat. For photo uploading, we use an Eye-fi card tied to our router. When ever you get to a hotspot, it’ll automatically upload our photos to Picasa/FaceBook (and otbers I believe) . Neither the PlayBook nor the iPad have the ability to read SD cards natively.

    10) The rest. We LOVE those PlayBook gestures… flicking an application off the screen, swiping to change between apps that are running AT THE SAME TIME – we play video’s and browse the internet/do homework/blog updates/research and book next stops all the time. I find now that when I get on a computer, I’m furiously flicking at the screen all the time trying to switch screens or exit windows. The touch interface is so much more intuitive than the mouse… and the PlayBook (and HP’s now defunct webOS) are by FAR the leaders in this. The iPad is still just an overgrown iPad. I know the author agrees as he does his real work on a computer.

    While the PlayBook’s don’t yet have hundreds of thousands of apps, most of the big ones we want are there or there are good substitutes. Yes it doesn’t yet support NetFlix or Skype, but as the author pointed out, you can’t use NetFlix out of country anyway and there are plenty of good streaming sites that work just fine. The lack of Skype (video) forced me to look for web based alternatives and I ended up with a much better (free) service that also gives me a local telephone number back home -I give out to my family so the can call us from their home/mobile phones. The video quality.of the video conferencing is SO much better than Skype (full 1080p if you have the connection). Our parents are in their 70’s and getting them downloading and installing Skype wasn’t something I wanted to have to do. Now they just pick up the phone and call us like they would if we were at home.

    In October, RIM will release OS2 which will contain among other things Android support. That means we’ll also have up to 250K apps available although I can’t think of more than 3-4 that I will bother downloading. Speaking of which…. you don’t need a computer to update a PlayBook. It gets.its updates (including the very first one) over the web… isn’t that the point of a tablet??? RIM has been great about sending out fresh new features every few weeks. We now look forward to seeing that little update notification icon to see what new feature they added this week. Even major new upgrades like OS2 and full android support are done over the air.

    I know all the iFans will go nuts with this post, but seriously…. looknat the PlayBook. Its the first truly “portable” tablet.

    • Gary says:

      And when RIM goes out of business while you are traveling??

      1) The ipad isn’t heavy. It weighs 1.33 pounds (601 g) not 3 pounds. The PlayBook weighs 0.9 pounds (425 grams). It isn’t that much heavier. 175 grams of anything isn’t a sign that says “rob me”.

      2) If you use wifi, you don’t need a data plan. Moreover, the iPad is unlocked so you can get sim cars in any country. Tethering to a phone just means if you lose the phone, you are screwed. Or if a country blocks BlackBerry access (and it has happened several times in the Middle East) you are screwed. Or if (when) RIM goes out of business you are screwed. I’m not sure why an international data roaming plan is cheaper than getting a sim car in a new country. The iPad is an independent device that doesn’t require buying another thing to work.

      3) All of that is also true about the iPad.

      4) You are wrong. iPad sound playback is great. I don’t know where you are getting that it is tinny. It certainly is the case for me. The iPad also has an HDMI playback dongle. I’m not sure how you can tout the PlayBook as a great music device without talking about iTunes….which doesn’t work on the PlayBook!

      5) Why is typing better on one tablet than another? I’m not sure why a smaller scree in something to brag about.

      6) The only thing the iPad doesn’t render is Flash. There are no other issues browsing.

      7) I use a fine newsreader on the iPad. There are way more apps available on the iPad so I can’t see how you can brag about apps for a device that no one writes anything for.

      8) First, Spain is not a less traveled location. It has one of the highest number of tourists of any country in Europe. I’ve personally taken my iPad to Romania and Spain. I have no sensitive data on my iPad so this isn’t an issue for me. If you are really worried about hackers in Africa cracking encryption doing a middle man attack….you are far too paranoid. You haven’t actually traveled with a table yet, so these concerns are just theory. I’ve done it over a year going to many of the places you have listed. This isn’t a problem.

      9) You can do all those things on an iPad. I carry a laptop because I do serious photo editing which you cannot do on any tablet device.

      10) w/e

      There is no tablet market. There is only an iPad market. The iPad is 98% of the entire tablet industry. That is where all the action is for app development….which is the main reason to own a tablet. I’m not sure why being required to own and buy a phone in addition to a tablet is a selling point.

  14. Kris Koeller says:

    A great writeup. We had a tough time finding WiFi in Japan so bought an Airport Express Basestation which thankfully worked out of the box. I was hoping to use the iPad for sorting and processing photos (rather than traveling with a laptop), but there are just too many limitations to doing this.

  15. cailin says:

    I recently just drove across Canada with an ipad 2. I wanted to use it for creating video content and its true the camera sucks and its awkward to hold and use like a camera but what I got out of it was pretty great. I downloaded the iMovie app and was able to edit and upload a video from my trip every day we traveled.

  16. Tony says:

    Many thanks. I have had one for nearly a year now and, apart from showing photos and email/web, i have struggled to find a reason for having one. This has made me think again!

  17. Elijah says:

    How does the battery hold up in hotter climates? Other than that question, it seems like I should have invested in one.

  18. Bob Crunch says:

    Great article. I was thinking of buying an iPad sometime soon and your review has reassured me that I should definitely get one. Would definitely be a great companion fro traveling.

  19. Donna Hull says:

    Enjoyed reading your views about traveling with the iPad. I agree that it’s more for consumption than creating content. It’s also great for organizing, especially using the Evernote app.

  20. Mr. Nosuch says:

    If you want access to US restricted content while abroad, you can get a VPN account. I just recently moved to Germany from the US and we want to keep our access to NetFlix and Pandora, and I got a VPN account and it works great. The iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch can all connect natively with the service I use too (StrongVPN). It’s about $60 a year for the service.

    • Gary says:

      I’m going to be testing out some VPN services as well as trying to roll my own. I’ll have an article about my results at some point.

  21. Great article, hits all the right points about the iPad. We decided to travel with two wifi only iPads (one for each of us) and have found it both useful and frustrating at points. Our specific gripe is hd video. We brought an hd camcorder with us for our blog, but can’t upload the content through the iPad because the video format it records to isn’t compatible with the iPad. If anyone is considering the same, make sure to read up on your camcorder specs first.

    Our only other regret was two iPads. In retrospect one iPad and one iPhone would have been a better idea. All things asside, we’re doing just fine without a laptop and would recommend the iPad for others traveling. Just be comfortable in advance with what it can and can’t do.

    Lastly, we’d also recommend people get a cloud account somewhere and do upload your photos, etc daily. There’s always the specter of theft and it would be terrible to lose all your photos and such. It’s been working for us so far…

  22. I fully agree with you, the iPad is excellent for content consumption, poor at content creation. I get frustrated pretty quickly typing more than a sentence or two of text. I just naturally type faster than it can respond.

    My wife and I have been traveling the world too and we’ve often found that purchasing and activating SIM cards ranges from very easy (Ireland) to very difficult (Italy). It all depends on the quality of the store you walk into. Usually we just buy one and stick it in our smartphone. Then we can make local calls and use the maps feature with the GPS to find our way around. Buying *another* SIM card for just the iPad doesn’t make sense to me. We have two smartphones, an iPad, and a netbook between us. Why should each device have its own data plan? Have you considered a device like the MiFi? Then you can buy just one sim card and share it between all of your devices. We’re thinking about getting one.

    Regarding the Kindle and reading books, I’ve found the “night mode” with white text on a black background is much more readable and preserves the battery a bit longer. I actually try and avoid reading PDFs because the colors can’t be inverted. The screen is rather screamingly bright for night reading even at its lowest setting.

    Regarding DSLRs and photo storage, my wife is looking at replacing her netbook with a Toshiba Thrive tablet. Its one of the few (only?) tablets that can host a USB device. She shoots in RAW and literally takes 1000’s of pictures, so we need a portable hard drive to store all the photos. The Thrive should reduce the weight and size of the netbook while improving the screen and maintaining the USB hosting.

    We’ve enjoyed the pictures you’ve posted to your blog, but it’s the posts like these that really stand out. Thanks for sharing your travels!

  23. Matt says:

    I recently saw a couple with ipads in the desert north of Timbuktu. They are everywhere now and are definitely the better option for tougher conditions.

  24. Randy says:

    Nice review! You answered a lot of questions I had about traveling with the iPad as well as confirmed what I’ve always suspected: the device is a chick magnet. :)

  25. Amy says:

    I was in Italy recently and purchased a chip for g3 connection but it did not work in my ipad2. When I called apple, they said they lock iPads purchased in USA to prevent using an internstional carrier – which is much cheaper than AT&T. So can tell me how the person you met in Italy was able to work around this?

  26. mario bucolo says:

    Hi, I also travel with a wand scanner (brookstone around $100) that allow me to scan every paper surface like books, newspaper etc and upload images on the iPAd. Unfortunatly with the new firmware Apple reduce the power of the iPad connector, so now powerconsuming device aren’t possible to connect. In fact if want to upload in the iPad photo from a DSLR witha compact falsh, need to connect directly the camera, via usb cable, to the iPAd usb dongle.
    Another thing, At&T web subscription it’s also limited of US residend…every time i travel I need to ask a favout to a US friend to subscribe for me.

  27. Walter says:

    Hey I would have to agree, The Ipad is an awesome travel gadget.. I also would like to add that within the next few years the ipad devices will start replacing laptops. Acer, Hp, and a few others have already started this process..

  28. Amazing article. I agree with every single point. I read this on my new iPad and I totally cannot wait to travel with it.

  29. MissyB says:

    Hmm. Interesting but – travelling with an iPad, a phone, a laptop… Basically is travelling with all the stuff you have at home. Last year I took just the iPhone 4. I used it as my camera, I blogged from it, edited photos, used it with tv out in hostels, downloaded new content, called home with Skype….
    I also slept easily on Indian trains and Bolivian buses knowing the only thing of value I had with me was the reassuring lump I was sleeping on!

  30. Ysmay says:

    I run the iOSDevCamps in California at PayPal HQ. It is an iOS programmers conference. People show up with all these cool and fascinating ideas of what to do with iPhones and iPads. I am intrigued to see that you’re using it so often for reading. Many people have commented on the eye strain and thus do not develop better tools or applications for reading. I look forward to seeing and hearing more about your adventures travelling with an iPad.

    • Gary says:

      I haven’t had an issue with eye strain. I have toyed with the idea of getting a Kindle reader, but having another device that does exactly the same thing my iPad does in a different form doesn’t seem worth it for me.

      • John says:

        I’ve used both an iPad and Kindle in my latest travels. The Kindle works much better in sunlight, especially when using guidebooks while out and about. Kindle also allows you to keep the iPad battery more charged for important things (!) like uploading photos to Facebook, email/internet and playing games instead of burning battery time reading! Really enjoyed a recent 3 week trip to Italy using the iPad and Kindle while leaving the lapper at home. The Kindle really doesn’t take up much space, even including charger, and doesn’t feel redundant at all.

  31. Great post Gary… we couldn’t agree with you more.

    We travel with a macbook each and 1 iPad and use it the same as you.

    Macbooks for blogs, bigger projects, etc. and iPad for quick surfing at resorts, airports, etc. and for music, movies, etc.

    Any suggestions for backing up when you travel?

    Always a dilemma how to sync our 2 Macbooks and back it all up… hoping the “iCloud” will solve all this!! :-)

    Great post!!

    Nancy & Shawn

    • Gary says:

      I think iCloud will solve many of those problems at least for apps, music and documents. I’ll let you know in a few months after I test it.

  32. Crystal says:

    There is a terrific app for blogging on the iPad. It is called Blogsy and is so great it feels native to the iPad. I use it consistently with my WordPress blog.

  33. jonaha says:

    Great post! I’ve been looking into how travelers use the ipad to get ideas of how I might want to use it for my travels. Although I disagree slightly about not being able to blog and writing documents on the ipad(2). I recently got mine and my immediate sole purpose for getting one was to quickly take notes during conferences and panel meetings that I attend. I use my iPad2 to post comments, on forums, blog. I’m using it right now to type up this comment. I do however have a bluetooth keyboard that is also a cover for my iPad2 that I use. Makes it easier to type. I have small hands though so this size of keyboard works for me.

    Has anyone who takes photos from a point/shoot and or dslrs tried eye-fi X2 pro to wirelessly transmit photos from your camera to the iPad for easy push online? I’v’e read some posts on it but haven’t seen any videos.

    • Gary says:

      I believe you can transfer photos with an eye-fi, but the next generation should make it much easier to do. I actually have one but I’ve never had to use it yet. I might test it out next week on a short trip I’m taking to Tahoe.

  34. CNPH says:

    My iPad is a wifi only but when I can’t get wifi I connect through a personal hotspot on my 3GS iPhone. I do have international coverage. Will this work if I’m traveling internationally?

  35. Matt says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. I’m kind of facing a delima as far as what to take while traveling. I’m almost at the point of just taking my iPad, but the need for downloading RAW photos necessitates taking the lap top. Plus I’ve started blogging so that pretty much requires a lap top too.

    • Gary says:

      It isn’t either or. I carry both for different purposes. I agree if you are shooting RAW the iPad isn’t going to help you in that department.

  36. Airbrush says:

    Good to read your story about your Ipad. but still i do not find it useful for me because of no USB port and no DVD rom. :(

    • Gary says:

      I can’t say I’ve ever used the DVD drive on my laptop or my desktop computer. There is very little need for them anymore. There is nothing you would never need to install from DVD as all the apps are in the app store in the cloud.

      Likewise, all the media you’d need is in the cloud too.

      As for the USB port, the only thing I can think of that would require it would be a camera, and you can get an adaptor for that.

  37. Monica says:

    It looks great. I’ve wanted one for ages now but can’t justify spending the money. I have a perfectly good netbook that I do love but I’m secretly hoping it will break soon so I can replace it with an iPad ;-)

  38. Simon says:

    Hi Gar, good post. I agree, having my iPad replace my laptop on my last few trips. In case you haven’t seen it, check out out ‘Ask a Nomad’ iPad app – designed for travellers by travellers and aims to share travel knowledge. Only vs1.0 but I’d be interested in your feedback …

  39. Walter says:

    Thanks for sharing! You answered my main question, i.e. whether iPad was good enough for travel writing. And you confirm my assumption that it is good for consuming but not so much for large scale content production.

    I also like to produce my content while travelling therefore I schlepp a laptop around. To be fair, the ‘Airbook’ is very light and stable and does a perfect travel job.

  40. Sarah says:

    I’m curious, did you ever feel the iPad was cumbersome because you had to take it everywhere with you? Did you ever feel it made you a mark? Thanks!

    • Gary says:

      No. It is not cumbersome at all. That is the whole point of it. It is very small and lightweight.

      As I mentioned, you can carry it in a pocket (if the pocket is big enough) or you could even tuck it between a folded newspaper if you were worried about it getting attention.

  41. Katherine says:

    I have an iPad and I am planning on bringing it with me for my upcoming two month backpacking trip to Europe.

    My question is about photos. I am taking my DSLR with me and am looking for the best way to backup or upload my photos while I am gone. I have the iPad camera attachment and use that to take the photos from my camera to the iPad, but when I try and use Dropbox to upload them to my gallery it takes far too long and many uploads fail.

    How did you preserve your photos on your travels?

    • Gary says:

      I have USB hard drives that I carry with me. Cloud backup really isn’t an option unless you don’t take many photos and don’t shoot in RAW.

      I don’t know how many photos you take, so you might have to evaluate how much space you need. My last 4 months in Europe would probably not have fit into 64gb, and that isn’t including the apps and other things you’d have on your iPad.

      Another option is to just bring a lot of memory cards and make sure you don’t lose them.

  42. David Hawke says:

    I am not a techno geek & all I know about the ipad is that you see more & more people using them in hostels but they seem to not be as good as my trusty ACER netbook.

    Example; a girl at the hostel was helping one of the staff with an assignment for his university class, he had info that he wanted edited but her ipad didn’t have a USB port so she asked to use my netbook.

    Another day she needed to edit her CV, couldn’t open her file on her ipad so once again netbook to the rescue.

    Ipad appears to me like an overgrown iphone & not really sturdy enough for travel, more an expensive toy than a tool, so this computer illiterate traveler will stick with his tried & true ACER netbook!

    • Gary says:

      Like I said, the iPad doesn’t do everything, but what it does it does well. If you want to edit documents, then it isn’t the best choice. I’d just go visit an internet cafe for an hour if I needed to do that.

    • Fiona S says:

      I think once the iPad integrates either a miniUSB or USB (tucked away like Macbook Air) many storage/transfer problems will be solved!

  43. Stephen Hope says:

    Interesting to see how things are working out for you with the ipad – I remember when you got it. I’ll have to look at Osmos for the ipad – it started life as a PC game, so it will be interesting to see how it’s changed if you can’t see how it would work on another platform.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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