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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.
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 [No Longer Available] ($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. 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) to your liking, it syncs with your Amazon account and was recently updated to include Collections 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) 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). 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 and lightweight cases that won’t bog down an iPad Air, 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 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, and more recently Mihir rounded-up the best keyboard options for an iPad mini.
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.