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Tips for traveling (or not) with the iPad


Gary Arndt has written an interesting blog post about traveling with his iPad for a year. In it, he offers some very helpful tips to world travelers who carry Apple's wonder device with them. As a fellow world traveler (I've been to 30 countries in two years) it was interesting to read and contrast his experience with what I've found. First, some of his tips I agree with:

  • "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."
  • "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."
  • "If you [have a Wi-Fi-only iPad] 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."

Arndt also makes some good points about what the iPad isn't good for while traveling. While he likes reading books, he's found, like I have, that the iPad isn't that great as an ereader if you're not sure where your next charge is coming from). I've written about this before (and actually wrote this post on my iPad while flying from London to Porto, Portugal). As Arndt points out, yes it's great to be able to carry dozens of books with you on your travels, but what's not great is the limited battery life your iPad is going to give you while reading (blame it on the LCD display, which is much more power-hungry than the e-ink screens of many dedicated ereaders). If you're a huge reader, stick to a Kindle or my preferred choice, the paperback.

Reading books aside, there are some great things I've found the iPad useful for while traveling, most obviously not having to do with the device, but with the apps:

  • Worldly - An Offline Travel Guide: Anyone who travels knows about WikiTravel. It's a free online travel guide other travelers edit -- a Wikipedia for travelers, if you will. It's a great resource, but one you obviously can't access without an Internet connection. That's where Worldy comes in. It allows you to download the entirety of WikiTravel to your iPad. Goodbye guidebooks. Worldy is US$2.99.
  • Galileo Offline Maps: This app solves another "no Internet connection" problem. Galileo allows you to download and save OpenStreetMap map tiles to your iPad. However, unlike the above tip for saving cached Google Maps tiles, Galileo allows you to download maps tailored to particular purposes like tourism, walking, driving, and cycling. Galileo is a free download.

However, as much as I love having WikiTravel and offline maps at my fingertips, when I resume my travels early next year, I'll be leaving my iPad back in my flat. Instead I'll opt for traveling with an unlocked iPhone 5 and an 11" MacBook Air. Why? Simply because the iPad is too bulky to carry with you all day while you're traveling a new city. I've seen an iPad, with its larger, harder-to-secure form factor, suddenly ripped out of a traveler's hands in a plaza in Madrid. I want something I can slip in my pocket and hold with one hand while walking around, like an iPhone.

But the biggest reason I won't be taking my iPad with me is because I do a lot of content creation on the road. I write books and for blogs and magazines. The level of writing I do makes the touchscreen keyboard on the iPad impractical -- and the 11" MacBook Air a godsend.

The iPad can definitely be good for traveling, but it just depends if you're on a short jaunt, or on a round-the-world trip, and also what kind of work you'll be doing (if any) while traveling. At the very least, an iPhone or iPod touch is a must while traveling, but it's a toss-up between an iPad and MacBook Air and your answer will come down to the amount of work you'll be doing on the road.

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