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An iPad is the ideal travel companion, particularly compared with the traditional laptop. Your tablet has better battery life, takes up less room in your bag and can accomplish most of your travel-related Internet needs in a few taps.

It’s easy to forget about your tablet in the rush to pack for the rest of the trip, but it can be a costly mistake. Without a bit of forethought, your iPad won’t be at its most useful when you need it most.

Here’s how to travel smart, light and touchscreen.

Leaving The House?

If your tablet-usage habits are anything like mine, your iPad rarely leaves the house. In the time I’ve had it, I haven’t taken it further than the distance between my sofa and the bedroom. Because of this I’ve simply not bothered with a passcode. This is fine if you never let it out of your site, but not so much when travelling.

Head to Settings > General > Passcode Lock to set a passcode if you haven’t already.

Grab Some Travel Apps

Downloading everything you need before you need it is generally a good idea, and if your iPad only supports Wi-Fi then this is all the more important. Take a moment to consider what software will be most useful to you during your trip – which will inevitably depend on the nature of the trip itself.

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For maximum connectivity, a Wi-Fi hotspot locator like Skype Wi-Fi, Boingo or the basic Free Wi-Fi Finder will get you connected in no time. It’s also worth looking into services local to the country you are in, as many companies over access to a large range of hotspots for one flat fee.

Consider tracking apps like FlightTrack ($4.99) or PlaneFinder HD ($5.99) if you are travelling a lot, or will be meeting people or waiting for connecting flights. If you suddenly find you need to book new tickets, Skyscanner is your best friend, and can find you the best prices at the last minute. For hotels on the go, something like Hotel Reservations or Expedia are both handy to have around.

Consider keeping a journal while you’re on holiday, using one of the many iOS journaling apps available 5 iOS Mobile Journals for Capturing Your Daily Experiences and Thoughts 5 iOS Mobile Journals for Capturing Your Daily Experiences and Thoughts My current mobile journal of choice is Everyday.me, mainly because it merges my private journal entries with my social network posts, but there are several other equally useful and well-designed mobile apps that journal-keepers should... Read More . I’d personally recommend Day One ($4.99) which syncs with an equivalent Mac version (a separate purchase), supports image import and looks and feels beautiful in use.

Consider Offline Usage

If you have a Wi-Fi only iPad, or you don’t fancy paying extortionate data roaming fees, you might find your tablet’s main lifeline cut-off for a good portion of your trip. Whether you’re sightseeing or sitting on the beach, you should be just as prepared to do things offline as you are online.

Offline maps can really be a lifeline, and there are few better mapping solutions than Google Maps. You can download maps offline in Google’s app by finding the area you want to save on-screen, then opening the search box and typing “ok maps” without quotes. You can see how this works in the screenshot below.

Google Maps is just one of many solutions though, Maps With Me ($4.99), Galileo (free trial, $5.99), City Maps 2Go ($1.99) and OffMaps ($0.99) are all quality universal apps designed with offline mapping in mind.

It’s not just mapping you’ll have to do offline – what about Wikipedia queries? Helpful app Wiki Offline ($9.99) allows you to download the whole thing if you’re that-way inclined.

Stock Up On Entertainment

Only you know what your preferred ways of spending downtime are, and generally speaking long flights offer plenty of time for you to relax in the company of your favourite devices. As tablets comprise of decent-sized screens and very little else, you should stock up on movies and TV shows, particularly if you’re always disappointed with in-flight options or terrible plastic headphones.

Arguably the quickest way of filling your iPad up with video is to download the free VLC for iOS, enable the WiFi Upload option and drag and drop media files across as you see fit. You can always do it the old fashioned way by connecting to iTunes, but VLC will play a lot more media formats (.MKV and .FLV to name but a few) and provides a multitude of transfer options.

Reading is another of your tablet’s strengths, but a good eBook reader makes all the difference. Depending on your allegiances you might find Amazon’s Kindle (possibly combined with Calibre How To Manage Your Ebook Collection For The Amazon Kindle With Calibre How To Manage Your Ebook Collection For The Amazon Kindle With Calibre The biggest problem with an eReader like the Amazon's Kindle is that it requires unreasonable effort to move books between different devices. Before Kindle, I fell in love with Calibre. A bit on the heavy... Read More ) to your liking, it syncs with your Amazon account and was recently updated to include Collections New Kindle For iOS Features Make It A Serious eReader For Studying New Kindle For iOS Features Make It A Serious eReader For Studying The latest update adds features to the iOS version of Amazon's Kindle e-reader that makes it more useful than Apple's own iBooks for reading eBooks and PDFs. Read More for better organization. Marvin is another dedicated eBook reader, and another that doesn’t include a store (instead featuring free books courtesy of Project Gutenberg Project Gutenberg : The Ultimate Source of Free eBooks Project Gutenberg : The Ultimate Source of Free eBooks Read More ) but comes with plenty of customisation options.

Apple’s iBooks app is always handy to have around, not least because it’s one of the few apps that allow you to purchase books from an actual store. If you do find yourself low on reading material while away, iBooks will help you download more. For recommendations before you go, hit up LibraryThing or GoodReads before you leave.

Protect Your Property

One of the first things you should have done when you got your iPad was enable the many iCloud services offered to you by signing in with an Apple ID. By default, Find my iPad is enabled and will allow you to locate and wipe your device remotely provided it has a connection to the Internet. Before you go away, make sure it’s still enabled under Settings > iCloud > Find my iPad.

With this enabled, iOS 7’s activation lock feature will keep your iPad safe should someone attempt to disconnect your Apple ID (a feature you can read all about here Buying or Selling a Used iPhone or iPad Running iOS 7? Read This First! Buying or Selling a Used iPhone or iPad Running iOS 7? Read This First! It's no secret that iOS is a secure operating system, but Apple's latest firmware update adds yet another level of protection for consumers. Read More ). If your iPad is stolen while abroad, there’s a good chance you won’t be getting it back and in these instances it’s important to make sure you have adequate insurance cover.

Rather than relying on blanket coverage, most travel insurance policies allow you to insure individual devices. This involves generally submitting your serial number and paying an additional fee – usually a flat fee up to a certain value. Depending on the length of your trip, this can really increase the cost of travel insurance; though it’s still nowhere near the price you’d pay for a new iPad.

Buy Accessories Before Travelling

Despite being full of shops, airports don’t make great shopping centres. While duty free and cheap booze is one thing, paying over the odds for electronics and last-minute items is another. Don’t be a sucker and buy your accessories in the airport – do it before instead.

A case seems like a no-brainer if you’re going to be travelling, and depending on what you’re going to be doing your protective needs will differ. We’ve already taken a look at eight compelling smart cover alternatives 8 iPad Cases That Will Make You Forget The Smart Case 8 iPad Cases That Will Make You Forget The Smart Case Buying an iPad is a predictably expensive decision, and once you’ve paid for your tablet, you’ll realize you’re not done: what about a case? Your new tablet will need protection from the drops and bumps... Read More  and lightweight cases that won’t bog down an iPad Air 6 Featherweight Covers For Your IPad Air 6 Featherweight Covers For Your IPad Air The newest iPad Air weighs only 1 lb (470g), and you can find some pretty amazing cases that won't encumber your lightweight tablet while still offering some protection. Read More , but even Apple’s basic (and overpriced) accessories provide better protection than a “naked” iPad.

If you plan on using your iPad as a laptop replacement How To Make Your iPad a Laptop Replacement How To Make Your iPad a Laptop Replacement In an interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he no plans for developing an iPad that transforms into a laptop. But that certainly doesn't keep many iPad users from using the device as a notebook... Read More while travelling, even for responding to email, you may want to invest in a Bluetooth keyboard. It can really speed up your typing, and you can leave it in the hotel room when you don’t need it. Angela compiled a list of affordable Bluetooth keyboards for tablets Need An Affordable Keyboard For Your Tablet? Here Are Some Good Options Need An Affordable Keyboard For Your Tablet? Here Are Some Good Options If you're getting a fair bit of use out of your tablet and looking for a keyboard to go with it, you may have no idea where to start. There are plenty of options out... Read More , and more recently Mihir rounded-up the best keyboard options for an iPad mini 4 Mini Bluetooth Keyboards For iPad mini Typists 4 Mini Bluetooth Keyboards For iPad mini Typists A keyboard is what you need to prep your tablet for productivity, so we went looking for a few Bluetooth keyboard cases for your new iPad mini. Read More .

Last but not least, if you’re going to be away from your hotel, hostel or chalet for a significant amount of time, a battery pack like the Mophie Powerstation provides spare charge at the cost of extra bulk.

Have A Great Trip

Your iPad is there to enhance your experience, not overshadow it. Despite our reliance on devices, we used to get by just fine without them and we still can. Don’t forget to look up from your screen and remind yourself why you took your trip in the first place.

Image credit: bm.iphone Via Flickr, Passengers (Dani Sardà i Lizaran)

  1. Winski
    March 10, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Twice... Once coming back from Asia, and another from Finland...

    • Oldtimer66
      March 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Well, Winski,
      I think it is time for you to contact the Homeland Security department and make sure you have not gone to places you shouldn't have or meet people on their prefer guest waiting list for Guantanamo or done some unsavory things against the rest of us..... Maybe, then, you can keep your gadgets next time.... question: they NEVER returned the devices?

  2. Win ski
    March 9, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Sorry Tim.. Just personal experience....

    • Tim B
      March 9, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      So customs have seized and taken your devices in on re-entry?

  3. Loksch
    March 9, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Not certain if you have not already done this.....but, could you do a similar travel pack set-up for an Android WiFi tablet???

    • Tim B
      March 9, 2014 at 11:19 pm

      I will let the guys and their robots know you'd like to see a similar guide :)

  4. Winski
    March 9, 2014 at 1:30 am

    IF you take ANYTHING abroad except a burner cellphone EXPECT to be hacked and probably harassed, and possibly have ALL your tech copied, by the US Customs folks on your return...

    The above advice is lunacy.

    • Tim B
      March 9, 2014 at 11:18 pm

      This is tin-foil hat level 5 right here. I've travelled extensively with a MacBook and iPhone over the last 3 years, and not had so much of a peep out of security or customs. These are devices that can really help you out in a pinch, particularly if you're a tourist or business traveller.

      What basis have you for snubbing this article other than your own paranoid world view?

  5. Davin Peterson
    March 8, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    You can't assume everyone has an iPad. What about Android & Windows Tablets? The Google Nexus 7 is better than the iPad mini

    • Tim B
      March 9, 2014 at 11:13 pm

      Sorry, but this is an article aimed at iOS users with some iOS-specific advice. I have nothing against any other platforms, but I also don't complain about content aimed at Android or Windows users when they're not relevant to my own personal use cases.

  6. Dann A
    March 8, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    All good things to think about! I've used City Maps 2 Go a number of times, and I find it really useful when I don't have a data connection. Another thing that I'd recommend is an app that has information on the public transport in the city you're going to. I just went to Prague, and having a map of the metro system was really useful.

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