So, I got an iPad Mini…

For someone that works exclusively online I’m embarrassingly technologically illiterate. Yes, maybe compared to my dad (who still wonders why none of his faxes seem to be going through to me) and my mom (who just learned how to use iMessage, much to my chagrin), but compared to the rest of the world I sure am a bit tech challenged.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve become a bit of an Apple fan boy, and that’s probably because of how technologically illiterate I am. There’s simply less that can go wrong on an i[insert any word] than another electronic device.

But one thing I do pride myself in when traveling is to minimize what I take with me as much as possible. As my mom learned the hard way on our trip to Bali (or more accurately as I learned the hard way, since I was the one lugging the bags around), every item you pack actually has to be lugged around for the entirety of your trip, even if you only use 10% of it.

Anyway, up until now I’ve had a MacBook Air and an iPhone. I’ve resisted getting an iPad, almost with a passion. My reasoning was simple — I don’t think an iPad fills much of a gap between a MacBook Air (which is a really small laptop) and an iPhone (which is good enough for checking email, Tweeting, etc.), and is only one extra thing to lug around.

But a couple of months ago I broke down and bought an iPad Mini. I figured it was smaller than an iPad so wouldn’t be much of a burden on my laptop bag. I got the one without cellular data (I didn’t want to pay for a monthly data plan), and to be honest I’ve actually found it to be totally worthwhile.

It’s not making me more productive by any means, but it sure has kept me more entertained. Before I got it I couldn’t picture many circumstances where I’d use it, though I’ve found it useful way more than I ever expected:

  • My mom is addicted to solitaire and can’t sit still, and on our trip to Bali I think my iPad Mini (on which I installed solitaire) kept her entertained for half of her “relaxation” time. She played it for half of the Cathay Pacific flight, while sitting at the pool in Bali, etc.
  • An iPad Mini is great for the gym. If you’re in foreign countries and the only TV station on the treadmill in English is the Disney Channel, it sure is nice to have your own entertainment… well, assuming Hannah Montana isn’t on.
  • When I’m taking Greyhound Alaska down the west coast, they seem to start boarding about two days before departure. I know this might sound silly, but I think I’ve caught up on just about every TV show I’ve ever wanted to see just during the boarding process of my flights. Yes, that probably means I fly too much.
  • An iPad Mini actually makes intra-Europe travel tolerable. When you have aircraft that are equipped with virtually no entertainment, it’s nice to have something to keep you entertained.
  • I’ve played countless hours of solitaire in cabs, on trains, etc.

So I realize I’m probably stating the obvious here to the tech savvy, but I’ve actually found it to be totally worthwhile and am happy I picked one up. I know a lot of you are probably thinking “Lucky, don’t you ever read?” Well, sad as it might be I mostly just read the internet due to how short my attention span is… wait, what was I just talking about?

In all honesty, I do have aspirations of one day loading a few books onto my iPad and actually reading, though I first have to find a book interesting enough to commit several hours to.

Would be very curious to hear how many of you use iPads during your travels, and what you use ’em for!


Filed Under: Advice, Travel
  1. Interesting. I’ve held off not getting a iPad or iPad mini for the same reasons you state here. Maybe I’ll go check them out.

  2. I have an iPad, and it sounds like we use it the same way. I tend not to have a lot of time to watch TV normally, but being stuck on a long-haul flight gives you plenty of time to catch up.

    I also enjoy reading on an iPad. At first, I really missed the tactile sensation of a book. However, the benefit of being able to bring many books with you without any increasing physical weight was too much of a draw for me to stick with the dead tree variety.

    Finally, as an Android phone user, the iPad allows me to use all the iOS travel apps not available on the Android ecosystem (FlightTrack Pro).

  3. I have begun to only take on trips my iPhone and non-Mini iPad (instead of my MacBook Pro). I use it for everything. If I need to use Microsoft Office I can do so via the app CloudOn in conjunction with my DropBox account. If I want to post pictures to Facebook I can do so in bulk via iLoaderHD – pics get on my iPhone via PhotoStream or a handy memory card adapter. I’ve got the Kindle app for reading, no games really. Magazines, newspapers loaded in so I get my subscriptions even when away from home. Tumblr app to update my blog. And of course all the necessary travel apps that used to only be on my iPhone. Honestly when I’m sat somewhere w/ WiFi my phone really stays away since I can iMessage from the iPad too.

  4. I have a pretty short attention span too, so I like reading magazines on the iPad. Since I’m a photographer, I look at magazines voraciously. At any given time I probably have at least a dozen on it. And no more to carry on a trip!

  5. Very interesting, as I use my iPad for the exact opposite of you (rarely games/entertainment and primarily emails, drafting documents, and internet research). I’m fully aware the iPad is not the best tool for what I use it for and admittedly I end up frustrated with its capabilities more often than not, but my laptop is ridiculously heavy and so I make do with the iPad.

  6. I’ve been traveling with an iPad2 and cell phone for the past 18-20 months and love it. Granted it is a fullsized iPad, vs the Mini, but I’ve found it to be a suitable substitute for a laptop. The one frustrating thing is – for airport security some countries require you to take out your iPad, some (like the US) do not.

  7. Ben, I think your Mini has wifi, but you mean you got one without cellular, yeah? They all come with wifi.

    The only idevice I own, and will EVER own, is an iPad. I just recently traded up from my iPad 1 to a mini, complete with a grandfathered in unlimited data plan šŸ™‚

  8. I have an iPad (not the mini) and I now take it with me on trips instead of my Macbook Air. Most of my trips are leisure, not work-related, so all I really need is a way to keep myself entertained in transit with TV shows, books, and movies, and maybe send some emails/browse the internet for info. An iPad is perfect for that.

  9. I love the front facing camera on the iPad. Yes, the quality is terrible, and yes it isn’t as good as the HD camera in the Air….but it’s so nice to be able to facetime or skype from anywhere with the iPad vs. trying to use it on the iPhone.

    I also use iPhoto – and find it very easy to edit pictures on my iPad. I bought the pin to SD card adapter that plugs into the bottom of the iPad (I’m sure there’s a lightning to SC Card version too), and can download pictures right from my camera to my iPad.

  10. I’ve had various iPods and iPhones. Never any iPads. I travel for leisure but I have to be able get real bill-paying work done if something happens while I’m gone. The only thing Apple makes that can do real work and travel easy is the Macbook/Pro line. If you can pay your bills with nothing more than a consumption focused device like an iPad then you must have it much easier than any job I’ve ever been paid for.

  11. I’m not an iPerson, but I must admit I can’t travel without my iPad anymore. The tablet format is just so convenient! I really think you should invest in a full-sized tablet and lose the laptop!

  12. I mainly travel shorthaul in Europe, and spend a lot of time on the road.
    Since getting an ipad mini I no longer bring a laptop away with me.
    My current electronic device cache consists of:

    Ipad Mini- TV series, films, web browsing
    Kindle- Books
    Iphone- phone, web browsing, games etc

    Definitely a lighter backpack these days!

  13. I used to love travelling with my iPad2, but forgot it on a AA plane šŸ™

    I am now in the process of onboarding to Android devices – changed from iPhone to the GS4 and could not be happier – and my next tablet will also be Android, just waiting for the new Nexus 7 to hit the market.

    BTW there is FlightTrack Pro for Androids.

  14. As as Seattle resident, I’m surprised you didn’t get a Microsoft Surface or Amazon Fire ; )

  15. I use my iPad Mini almost exclusively when traveling. As you mentioned, it’s great for entertainment (Movies, TV shows, music). I don’t think I ever turned on the TV in the hotel for our last trip. I also like the mail app better than the iPhone if I have to type more than a “sounds good” reply. Yelp and Google Maps are also necessities when traveling. We also have a MacBook Air but it’s my wife’s work computer and she usually needs to work when we are on the road so she gets to use it most of the time.

  16. OMG to the person who uses the ipad camera.. DON’T.. JUST DON’T… worst thing ever about tablets..

    i bring either my full sized ipad or nex7 with my in place of my laptop now whenever i’m doing non-work travel. they work great for random gaming, web surfing, twitter or facebooking. Anything more intense where i have to write out documents, do power point, etc.. i bring my laptop, but for lightweight stuff, tablets work great.

  17. Adding to TheBeerHunter’s comments, I have the iPad 3 with wifi and cellular with AT&T, but when not traveling or needing cellular, I call AT&T and they disable the cellular costs so there is no charge for having it if not needed.

  18. I had an iPad before getting a MacBook Air. After getting the Air, never used the iPad again.

    I am thinking of getting another one, however. I’ll use it almost exactly for all the same reasons you got one, and it will be an iPad Mini this time. I do think you made a mistake about the data package. That’s my biggest frustration with the current iPad, not the form factor or lugging stuff around, but the fact I have to plug it in to get new content or find a WiFi connection.

  19. I have an iPad and love it as a content consumption device. I use it for reading and games mostly, but also just for checking in on things without pulling out my laptop. It’s mostly a late night/early morning/airplane device for me. Definitely has a place in between an iPhone and a laptop.

  20. Still haven’t taken the plunge to get an iPad because I have to travel with my work laptop and cell phone… BUT may switch over. Can anyone comment if they like the mini more than the regular iPad for the $170 savings? In the long run i dont think $170 is a huge difference if I am using an i-device.

  21. @Felicia: The normal-sized iPad (4th edition) is much faster than the mini. It also has a HD/Retina display, which is very helpful when reading small font.

    If you prefer the smaller form factor though – wait a little until Apple introduces the new iPad mini. They probably will this fall.

  22. I purchased a Nook Color a few years back (love the magazines, scrabble, and sudoku). Since then, I purchased an iPhone – contract was up for renewal, and my husband purchased an iPad to go along with his Android OS phone. Now we have all of the major players covered.

    I use the iPhone for coupon sites, travel apps, and restaurant apps, and we have loaded games, movies, books, magazines, and other interesting items on the iPad. We hesitated purchasing an iPad too, but we have no regrets now.

    P.S. the GyPSy guides for Oahu and Maui were FANTASTIC during our trip to Hawaii! Felt like we had a personal tour guide.

  23. @Felicia: To add to what Xandrios said, the downside to the normal-sized iPad is that it takes much, much longer to recharge. Since the higher-density screen and more powerful chipset suck up a lot more power, Apple put in a battery that is considerably larger. Of course, this means longer charging time.

    If don’t plan on editing videos from your iPad or playing (relatively) expensive action games, the faster chip isn’t really much of a selling point.

    @lucky: Have you considered getting a mini keyboard for your iPad? The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover Mini is pretty nice and would be useful if you need to bang out a quick post or email.

  24. I use my iPad for travel mainly to surf the web, read travel blogs (lol), read books, magazines, listen to music while waiting for the slow boarding process on Alaska (I’m in Seattle, so I feel your pain). I also buy and sell on eBay and take photos, which hasn’t been an issue for me. I don’t have a cellular plan because the hotels and airlines typically have wi-fi, at a price of course.

  25. I have an iPad Mini, an iPad, an iPhone and a Dell laptop. I’ve started taking just my iPad Mini and iPhone on business trips. Couple this with a Bluetooth keyboard and I’m finding the laptop really isn’t required anymore. I can do nearly everything on the iPad and be just as productive, if not more. Plus I save space in my bag, and it’s one less thing to take out in security. Give it a try sometime.

  26. The one thing I do miss when I travel with just the iPad is a mouse. It’s a real pain trying to work on a spreadsheet with only touch.

  27. I was ( am ) getting ready for an Ipad since Florida has a sales tax holiday of 750.00 for computer. Well I was told that iPad dont qualify ( ??? ).

    Guess it is going to be online now and using ultimate rewards.

  28. I’m not lucky enough to have a MacBook Air: I have a Samsung that by itself uses up my carry-on allowance. So, I like to leave it at home. My iPhone is great, but has horribly battery life, especially when playing games or watching video: the things I use it for during flight.

    So, I have an iPad (the ‘normal’ one, not the mini), which I take with me all the time while traveling. I find it awesome: put the air show on the display in front of me, while I can watch the shows/movies I want. As I travel mostly with Lufthansa, you know that an external device is necessary ;).

  29. If I do a short trip, it’s the iPad and iPhone alone; longer trips, I just pack the Apple Bluetooth keyboard so I can work on longer projects that require more typing.

    I initially bought the iPad as a treat and thought it would be a fun “toy.” While I do play games on it, I find that it is a useful work tool (I write and edit for a living) — The Pages app will allow a document to be saved in Word. In addition, I have a MagicJack Plus app that allows me to use a US phone number when calling the US from anywhere there is WiFi. No wall connection or headset needed; no roaming charges; and only a small annual fee.

    In addition, I read the San Francisco paper, magazines, and books. Plus, I use it for email, web browsing, Twitter, Facebook, travel information, banking, and Web news.

    And, you don’t have to take it out of your luggage at the TSA checkpoints — it is treated as a phone.

  30. I bought the original ipad when it came out in april 2012 and I haven’t looked back. I have the ipad mini and the iphone. I use a hotspot with my iphone and don’t have a data plan for either of my ipads. I mostly read newspapapers, magazines and surf the web with it. It has been great!!! I don’t miss a laptop

  31. You can read a book for as long or short a time as you want. šŸ˜‰
    They do get heavy for traveling, though.

  32. Two books to consider when finally taking the plunge(not exactly the best books ever, but given your hobby/job…):
    Aerotropolis by John Kasada (perhaps a little dry, but an interesting concept) and A Week at the Airport by Alain de Botton who somehow managed to get the title of Heathrow’s writer-in-residence.

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