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In 2010, the world of communication changed for many with the launch of the iPad.
In the blink of an eye, everything became easier. Other companies jumped on the bandwagon and now a range of tablet devices are available.
No more lugging massive travel books around the world with you, with this thin piece of gadgetry, the world is at your fingertips.
Travellers love them: Suddenly luggage is lighter, they are portable, have many of the same features as laptops, batteries last infinitely longer and no longer will you queue for hours at sleazy internet cafes just to check email.
If you are yet to realise the full benefit of these devices or would like to get more out of them in travelling, lets explore the benefits together.
Missing friends and family? Install Skype to make easy video chats.
There's a range of apps you can download: Many that will make your life easier including: Foursquare and wenzani for suggestions on things to do and restaurants.
Check for tourism apps in the locations you are travelling to, many of which will be completely free.
Camping with a bit of luxury: We recently purchased an iPad docking station, which the iPad slides into when we are camping. It has built in speakers and converts the iPad into a small movie screen. Great to keep the kids entertained, especially on rainy days, without the need to pay for an expensive trip to the movies.
Do a little homework before you go and download several family friendly movies and then some treats for the adults once the kids go to bed. You can even download your latest TV shows.
Travelling in the car:
Road trips are a whole lot easier with the ability to download music and ebooks before departure. Load a couple of kids movies or ebooks, give them both an iPad with some speakers and you'll have a serenely peaceful journey.
This is one tip I have personally resisted, thinking that car trips were journeys of family sharing, adventures and opportunities for family discussions. Whilst I do still believe this, on a particularly long journey a while back where the bickering got to the point of "muuuuuum, he's breathing my air", I resorted to flinging an iPad at each of them with speakers.
My husband and I suddenly felt relaxed, the car went quiet, we could chat, listen to peaceful music, enjoy the scenery and when their movies finished, they were both quite ready to share with us again. An amazing discovery.
If you absolutely love books but hate the thought of carting endless tomes about, consider a Kindle. They are light, small, battery lasts for up to a month (as they only use it up whilst turning pages, not the reading of them) and you can download hundreds of books on to the one device. Many of them completely free.
However, even books can be downloaded and stored in your iPad. You can even read PDF files - such as from the tourism offices or travel guides.
One of my favourite aspects of the iPad is the navigation application:
It enables me to locate where I am, where I'm going and how to get there. In the car or walking, it will track my path and show me where to turn and travel. You can even locate points of interest or restaurants and it will lead you straight there.
Recently I was in a strange city, needing to quickly get to the train and couldn't work out the direction to travel. I opened the iPad, held it out in front of me, took a few steps and I was off in the correct direction and caught the train easily.
You can even use maps, including TomTom GPS, Google Maps and Lonely Planet City Guides to assist your travelling ease.
If you are travelling, or just out for the day, all devices are generally fitted with wi-fi, which will connect through any hot spot. Many of these being found in restaurants, shopping centres, cafes and take away food locations. Many of these are free.
If your device has 3G, you will need to take out a plan. I purchased an initial $30 start up plan, then $150 for 12 months. I have endlessly used it writing reviews and being online for hours on end each day and am yet to come anywhere using up my data within the 12 month period. I now have an iPhone 4 which has quite a large data pack included, so I will use this as a wireless hotspot once the iPad plan runs out.
If you are taking your device overseas, check if you are on a plan in your home country, as they may turn on data roaming which can be hideously expensive. Many a traveller has come home to find their inexpensive holiday has been ruined with a data roaming bill of many thousands of dollars.
On my last journey to Kathmandu, I checked and the outgoing calls from one hotel worked out to be the equivalent of around $27 (AUD) per minute.
Something you definitely want to check before using.
My rule of thumb is my data pack within Australia (as an Australian resident) and then wi-fi anywhere overseas. I disable the roaming option once I leave Australia so it cannot accidentally click on.
Alternatively, you may pre-purchase an international data SIM or buy a local data SIM at your destination.
Now you have this fantastic device, you want to protect it and keep it safe:
The front of an iPad is glass and whilst they are lighter and easier without a case, if dropped, chances are they may break.
Many cases are available either from apple, retail stores or fairly cheaply on Amazon or eBay.
One that stays on the iPad is my preference, I think if you need to remove it from a case each time to use it, it is increasing the risk of dropping. You can now buy dust proof and shock proof covers that may be worthwhile, particularly if backpacking.
As you travel through any locations, theft is always a concern:
Keep it safely as you would with a passport. In busy markets or places filed with people, put your backpack on the front of you rather than on your back. Be aware as to what is going on around you when using it.
As well as physical theft, internet theft is also an area to be aware of. Install a password to allow access to your device and make sure you require passwords each time to log on to Paypal, internet banking and personal accounts.
We are generally aware of backing up our laptops and PCs but many forget about the need to back up their devices. Ensure you make a back up regularly of your addresses, contacts and personal information.
Apple have now introduced iCloud as a back up. This is a handy system allowing you to save your information directly on to Apple's servers. Other services include Dropbox or Box.net which allow you to upload files directly and access them or save them online.
A handy program can also be log me in. As long as the main computer is switched on, you can wirelessly access it from any computer anywhere in the world (with password encryption). You log in and control the physical computer as simply as if you were sitting directly in front of it. It is quite a strange experience if you are on the computer and someone else logs in from elsewhere. However it is perfect if you are wanting to teach someone something, or show them how to find things on your computer or if you wish to only have 1 file accessed from the same location each time.
Back to the iPad, did you know it has a feature called 'find my iPad' which allows you to track and locate where it is at all times. Not so handy if you are hiding from someone, and I certainly wouldn't suggest you use it to know where your children are at any time (cough, splutter, ahum).
One of the terrific benefits of this feature is should your device be stolen, you can wirelessly erase information from your device. However, this feature must be turned on previously.
In the event of a loss whilst you are travelling, most insurance companies will cover you, however it may be worth checking if you need to take out additional cover or specify the item and value.
If you aren't actually travelling and do not have travel insurance, it may be worth checking out your home and contents insurance to see if you are covered.
If you are travelling to extreme places, your devices may not work particularly well. On a past journey I took into far north China, the temperature plummeted to below -30degrees. Nothing worked, we had our cameras stuffed inside our jackets and got them warm enough and (if you were really quick) you could whip it out and snap one image before the mechanism froze and ground to a halt.
Your tablets may well be the same and Apple suggest that extreme temperatures will drastically affect the battery life. It is a good idea not to expose your tablet to sudden temperature changes, including in the hold of an aircraft. Therefore take it with you in hand luggage, monitor sudden temperature shifts and do your best to acclimatise your devices gradually.
Passing time at an airport, download several games, puzzles, and suduko onto the tablet before you leave and you'll be well looked after with activities. Add some books, use the note book feature to write up your travel diary.
With a finger flick you can email your day's adventure to yourself or a friend or easily upload to a travel blog.
I'm currently sitting at the beach, writing this review for WeekendNotes, if you could see my 'office' view right now, I bet you'd think it was pretty special too.
I've checked email, advised staff of things to do, sorted out our eBay orders for the morning and am off now for breakfast and a walk on the beach.
Whether you use your tablets for gaming, work, travel, (looking up weekendnotes.com for things to do near you today or in the future), connecting with friends and family or storing photos and making terrific albums, they have changed the world for many of us.
Please feel free to add in comments here about apps you love, things that make your life easier, ways your travel experiences have changed due to tablets and devices. Happy adventures.
Thanks for all these great tips. I don't (yet!) have an iPad but I do find my laptop really useful when travelling and I can imagine an iPad would be even more versatile. I love being able to download photos onto the laptop from my camera - I can then easily do a little slide show for friends/relatives I'm visiting. A friend has an iPad and I've been really impressed at how good it is for showing photos.
Nice article. I use my iPad for taking photos. I love the big screen and it's great for photos taken inside as generally no flash is needed. For travellers, you've got some good tips, I also have XE currency converter loaded which is a good one for having when overseas.