The Traveler’s Guide to the iPad

by Mark on October 10, 2010

Traveler's Guide to iPadWhen the iPad came out I wasn’t convinced that I wanted/needed one but as the days progressed and my co-worker flashed his cool new toy around, I decided to buy a 64GB Wi-fi model. After nearly five months, I am not advocating it as a laptop replacement or the must have gadget for everyone but I am convinced it’s the connected traveler’s best friend. As someone who has traveled over 150,000 miles this year and taken over 100 flights the iPad has been my most valued travel possession.

If you travel a lot you know that pulling out your laptop is a hassle in the airport and the plane. Nothing’s more frustrating when the person in front of you reclines and you need to tilt your screen at an unreadable angle. However, the smaller form factor of the iPad allows you to still use the device, and effectively process email, edit documents, read books and watch movies. Ironically, when I am home I don’t use it as much, I mainly use it to read electronic books (it’s awesome since the backlit screen allows me to keep reading after my spouse turns out the lights).

A number of my friends are buying iPad’s and asking me for tips, so I thought I would pull this together for them, unfortunately I have been keeping notes for the last few months so their might be some updates I am not aware of.

Hardware

Here are the accessories I am using including my iPad model I use though I am sure there will be many more.

iPad Model: 64 GB Wi-Fi

I chose the 64 GB model because I like to bring along movies on long trips and wanted the extra storage space. Though if you don’t have  a lot of multimedia like songs and movies you can probably get away with a 16GB or 32GB model. I guess the 3G model would be fine too but more on the connectivity below. (Cost $699)

The Case: Griffin Elan Passport Folio

Griffin Technology Elan PassportThere are tons of iPad cases out there but one of my requirements was to have a pocket and ideally a business card holder in my iPad case. The Griffin Elan Passport though not made of the finest leather is still nice enough. It provides a couple of business card size slots and a pocket that’s just big enough to hold my airline boarding passes. The folio also has a nice closure to keep things from falling out.  On top of that you can leave the folio part of the way open and stand it up in landscape view to watch movies on the plane or in your hotel room (Cost $49.99). If you really want a bluetooth keyboard with your iPad so you can use it as a true laptop replacement than I would probably recommend looking at the AidaCase which I don’t own but have been looking at seriously. The case includes a silicon bluetooth keyboard and case combo turning the iPad into the same form factor as a notebook PC. ($99.99)

Connectivity: Verizon Mifi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot

Verizon Mifi with SnapOn CaseI originally was going to wait for the iPad 3G to come out but that’s one more data bill to pay per month. I already had a USB modem through Verizon but that was only good for my laptop, the solution was to convert to a Verizon MiFi 2200 so I could use it with my laptop, iPhone and my laptop at will. I also highly recommend the clear snap-on case ($14.99) that you can buy for the Mifi with a carabiner to snap it onto you bag or belt loop. ($269.00 or $49.99 with two-year contract)

The Stand: Umbra Facile Easel

When I get back from my trips set my iPad on my desk I don’t want it falling over so rather than dropping a bundle on a special iPad stand, I found this cool Umbra Facile Easel that allows me to rest my iPad in either portrait or landscape mode without taking it out of my case. ($16.00)

The Stylus: Pogo Sketch

One of my problems using the iPad is that I have big fingers and sometimes tap the wrong key. However, by using a stylus I can hold the iPad in one hand and type or navigate menus with the greater precision using the stylus. That’s why I chose to use the Pogo Sketch capacitive stylus. Ideally I would like something that has more of a pen point but the stylus seems to work well enough. The stylus itself works well with the the iPad but the stylus itself is pretty lightweight and I would prefer something with a little more heft. Also, the clip on the Sketch is plastic and tends to break rather easily.  ($14.95) If you are a little more enterprising you might want to make your own, which is what I eventually did, see my do-it-yourself stylus howto using a lead holder and some capacitive foam.

iPad Apps for Travel and More

Here’s my list of applications that help me stay connected when I am on the road. You’ll see from the list that I have a number of applications I depend on. By virtue of having the maps application already iPad is very helpful when you are in a strange city, and just having a portable web access point is helpful.

While not necessarily an  application TripIt is an excellent tool for any travel. TripIt gives you the ability to track all your travel plans in an easy to use portal. The free service allows you to forward confirmation emails from your lodging, flight, car rental and other travel vendors and then consolidates them into a neatly organized travel calendar. You also can create a network of fellow travelers so you can arrange meetings or have a meal with a friend or colleague when in the same city.

Flight Tracker ProTravel Tools

  • Flight Aware – This application lets you track the status of a flight. (Free)
  • FlightTrack Pro – I like Flight track Pro to interact with my TripIt account. it will give me not only the status of my flight but an interactive map that shows the status of my flights in the air. ($4.99)
  • AroundMe – This is an iPhone application but it allows you to locate local stores, restaurants and the a coffee shop. (Free)
  • Yelp for iPhone – There is no Yelp app for iPad but when you are in a strange city the Yelp application is a nice quick application to get a restaurant review.
  • 1000 Ultimate Experiences – This Lonely Planet application has some nice pictures and some tips on places to go but isn’t a very useful guide for traveling, just mainly eye candy so probably not worth what I paid. ($3.99)
  • TripDeck – Another free application from Mobiata (they make FlightTrackPro) that gives you a neatly organized list of your itinerary as listed on TripIt. Also this is a application is only designed for iPhone so you’ll need to  (Free)
  • Accuweather – There isn’t a native weather application on the iPad like there is on the iPhone so you need to add one or search via the web. The Accuweather application for iPad is beautiful allows you to add multiple cities, you can look-up the 15 day forecast, weather maps and tons of other content from the Accuweather website.  (Free ad-supported version, paid ad-free version available for $.99.)
  • CoPilot - One of the more useful features of the Ipad is the GPS, and the Maps application works pretty well but CoPilot is a step avoe and really a good value at the price, there are also many in app upgrades that can be made (E.g. maps of Canada) to extend its capabilities. Still at this price you can hardly go wrong.($4.99)
  • TripIt for iPhone – No iPad optimized application but another application that pulls your TripIt information into a cleanly formatted (Free)

Utilities

  • Mi-Fi Application for iPhone and iPadDropbox – Dropbox is a file sharing service that allows you to share files and folders across computers and mobile devices. The easiest way I have found for sharing documents between your desktop and your iPad and other devices. I work on documents on my iPad all the time then save them to my Dropbox on the iPad. (Free, requires free Dropbox account)
  • MiFi (iTunes Store link) – If you go the way of the Mi-Fi for providing connectivity to your iPad this app (iPhone native) gives you a reading of the battery life and network signal. (Free)
  • LogMeIn Ignition – Probably the most expensive of any application you might by for your iPad but it does give you access to your PC. I find performance to be slow but if you need remote access it’s decent. ($29.99)

Readers

  • Amazon Kindle for iPad – As a former Kindle user I really loved bringing a whole library along on a trip without taking up a ton of space, that experience has informed my use of the iPad as a book reader.  I haven’t tried Apple’s iBooks yet other than the included Winnie the Pooh book but it seems to be a decently simple to use application.
  • Instapaper – One of my favorite bookmarking applications is Instapaper, you can bookmark a page and Instapaper will store it for later reading. I use this all the time on my laptop. However, it seems like I get the most time to catch up on the plane. So having it sync’d and catch up on articles on the plane. Also the app keeps getting better and better. (Free, Instapaper free account required)
  • NetNewsWire – Newsgator’s popular news reader for Mac, now runs on iPad you can use NetNewsWire to read your Google Reader RSS feeds and sync them to Google when you are connected. ($9.99 but soon going to $14.99)
  • Pulse News – Since being featured in Steve Jobs keynote at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference Pulse has been a media favorite as a visual news reader which allows you to read either clean text or click-through to the original content. You can also sync with Google Reader and Instpaper. I am not sold on this one yet, I am a NetNewsWire guy but this definitely takes the cake for eye candy. ($3.99)
  • Flipbook – Yet another eye-candy app which takes your social media feeds and turns them into a eMagazine, ideally this would function offline so you can read RSS and other content offline but that functionality is limited.

Productivity

Notice that I include the Pages and Numbers applications from the iWork suite, but don’t include the Keynote application. I simply don’t edit Keynote or PowerPoint applications on the iPad so I just don’t know. You should be able to view Powerpoint presentations in Goodreader.

  • Pages – The Apple iWork equivalent of Word is the best word processor for iPad but if you are going between Word and iWork formatting is going to be a little off. ($9.99)
  • Numbers – The Apple iWork equivalent to Excel works fine on the iPad, if you need to edit spreadsheets it’s a must have for editing spreadsheets offline. ($9.99)
  • Alarm Clock ProGoodreader – Goodreader is the swiss army knife of document readers, that does everything from read large PDFs and TXT files, Office documents, high-res images, even audio and video. (Free)
  • Evernote – One of my favorite applications, Evernote is a note taking application that syncs to a hosted service. You can then access Evernote from your computer or mobile device. The client for the PC has a better formatting editor but overall Evernote does a good job on the iPad. (Free, requires Evernote subscription which is free for the first 2GB of storage)
  • Alarm Clock Pro – I have a hard time figuring out all the alarm clocks in the various hotels that I stay but with this app, you can turn your iPad into an alarm clock easily and choose to play a sound or music when you wake. I leave my iPad in landscape mode to make the numbers very readable. ($.99)

Entertainment

It’s nice to have a diversion on the plan or in my hotel after a long day, these are some of my favorites.

  • NetFlix – Probably one of my most used applications on the road. I like to stand up my iPad and watch an episode of 24 or a movie on demand while working on my laptop. (The application is free but you will need a Netflix account to view content)Plants vs. Zombies
  • Plants Versus Zombies – I wasn’t keen on trying this game due to the goofy name but after reading a few reviews I caved in. The premise is that zombies are attacking your house and your defense is to plant organic defenses around your house to prevent them from eating your brains. It turns out that the game is really well done and you get a ton of game play with progressive levels and other challenges. ($9.99)
  • Field Runners – Field Runners is a “tower defense” style game where you create mazes of weapons to waylay invading soldiers and prevent them from reaching your base. Though originally developed for the iPhone this game is awesome on the iPad with numerous improvements to take advantage of the iPad platform. Fieldrunners sports incredibly good graphics and many game boards.  This game will give you hours and hours of game play and their are multiple skill levels so you can ratchet up the difficulty as you get better at protecting your base. I think this is one of the most entertaining  ($7.99)
  • Scrabble – Just like the Hasbro board game, Scrabble works on the iPad in single player (against the computer ) or multi-player mode(you can also play with your Facebook friends). There are very few deviations from the board game other than the “Best Word” feature which will suggest the best scoring word with the tiles in your rack (you have up to four times to use this helper per game). ($9.99)
  • Conquist – What can I say I loved to play risk as a kid, I like this knock-off, the graphics are nice and the game play is a bit easy but good and the price is right. ($0.99)

I am sure there are plenty of other applications that are helpful to travelers and I will probably update this post as I discover them. Feel free to leave me a note on other applications you find helpful.

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