The iPad has Many Uses on Local Trips and Trips to Foreign Countries
By Joe Mehaffey
Rev 5,  January 19,  2013

Since about 1992, my wife and I have been going on extended holidays both in the USA and overseas.  We have always carried along a Laptop Computer.  Since about 1996, some sort of Internet connectivity has been generally available for email communications and from about 2002,  wired ethernet and increasingly wireless WiFi and Cellphone Data connectivity has been available.  In the last two years we have enjoyed taking along our iPad on trips instead of a Laptop.  The iPad has many advantages for our uses.

1) The iPad 2  and accessories weigh about 1.75 pounds vs about 10 pounds for a normal laptop with charger and other accessories.  On an airliner, the iPad fits in the seat pocket whereas the laptop had to be clogging up the foot room under the seat in front of me!  The 10 hour battery life of the iPad means we do NOT have to carry a 12v to 120vac converter (or even a 12vdc iPad charger) for the days when we will be driving a long distance and would have had to charge up the laptop battery whilst en route.  Neither do I have to worry about if the airline seat has a power outlet on long flights.
2) When we take our laptop on trips, when we turn it ON, Windows 7 often needs a half-hour to update software before it is ready for use.  When we turn the iPad ON, it is always READY right away!  Thanks Apple!
3) We bought the GSM Cell Data version iPad 2 since 95% of the cell data world is using GSM.  If you buy a CDMA (Verizon) iPad, you will be able to operate the 3G data feature in only the USA, Korea, and Japan.  The GSM version will operate in all countries where data service is available INCLUDING the USA, Japan, and Korea. Newer versions such as the iPad 4 and the iPad Mini MAY have the capability of using both GSM and CDMA depending on which version is purchased.  If  it matters in your country and you buy an iPad from Apple, be sure to ask if the version you are purchasing will support both CDMA and GSM.  All iPads purchased from Apple are Unlocked and will work with a variety of vendors depending on model purchased.

4) We use our iPad Tablet Computer for a multitude of applications when on our trips.   Here are the a) to z)  features we use.
    a) email is used to communicate back home and to take care of business matters whilst we are away.
    b) We use Skype as the major voice communications tool back to the USA and also to call friends in the countries we visit from wherever we happen to be.  I arrange with Skype for an Atlanta area phone number and even when I have no Internet (WiFi or 3G) connectivity,  people from home can leave us voice messages and we can call both ways for just a few cents per minute when we have an internet connection.  The quality of Skype call audio has improved dramatically and is usually quite good even on a reasonable 3G connection.  There is a Skype for iPad app that you can use.  You might prefer to use the "Skype for iPhone" App instead and it works fine on iPad.
    c) My wife and I often drive around foreign countries investigating interesting places and spending the night where convenient.  Hotel accommodations are arranged by us at the end of the day.  (No.. We have never slept in the car!)  The iPad facilitates this by i) allowing us to search the internet "on the fly" for interesting museums,  places,  and events to visit.  and ii) As evening approaches,  I usually get on, or  or similar and find a reasonably priced hotel in a nearby town along our route.  Sometimes I make the reservation via the *.com booking agents, but because they typically charge about 25% for their services,  I often use a direct call to the hotel via Skype or Cell Phone to save a bit of money on the booking. 
    d) There is a new iPad/Google App called Latitude.  This App allows the iPad to periodically report its GPS position to the "Google cloud".  Then our kids and a few others,  who we authorize, can log into our account at Google Latitude and follow our progress on the Google Latitude Map.
    e) Both my wife and I are avid readers.  We take a collection of books,  Tivo TV programs,  movies and games with us on the iPad.  Using these, we can play scrabble with remote friends,  read a book,  watch a TV show or movie as we drive along the highways.  We also keep up with local Atlanta news via the Atlanta Newspaper App and via various *.com news outlets.  We routinely receive and send email whilst on the highway and often from planes and ships.  It is impossible to be bored!
    f) The iPad truly does give us a battery life of 10 hours or more in our applications.  We do have to make sure that we turn OFF either 3G or WiFi depending if we are in a hotel or other WiFi location or on the road where we use 3G data services. 
    g) In the USA, most WiFi in all but luxury hotels is free to guests.  However, many hotels, and especially in Europe, charge large prices for WiFi services.  On a recent trip, one hotel charged UK 5 pounds an hour!  More typical is UK 8 pounds a day. (A Pound is currently about US$1.60.)   We do NOT use such services.   We look on the booking websites for hotels promising "free WiFi".  Usually they are not hard to find.  Generally, in Europe,  3G Internet service can be had for maybe 10 Euros or 10 Pounds for 1GB of data service for a one month period.  Shop on the internet for low prices for "GSM data services" for your coutry of interest.  One Gigabyte of data service lasts me about 10 days when I do not use WiFi.   With an unlocked iPad, changing the microSIM card as you move from country to country is a 3 minute task.  Note:  iPads bought from Apple are never "locked".  As far as I know, ipads and Ipad 2s ARE NOT locked no matter if you buy them from Best Buy, Walmart, AT&T or another carrier. Can someone confirm this?
    h) The iPad 2 has a fairly good fixed focus camera included  (about 1 megapixel).  The iPad Mini and Ipad 4 have a 5 megapexel camera.  On our last trip, I took about 450 pictures (350 were of pre 1905 motor cars at the Veteran Car Run in the UK.).  With the new iCloud service, each night when WiFi connectivity is available AND the unit is plugged in for recharge, all the new photos are automatically shipped off to my iCloud account for safekeeping.  (See sample photo below.)
    i) If you have your "find your iPad" feature turned on,  you may be able to give information to police so they can find your iPad unit via its GPS location system if it is lost or stolen.
    j) If you care to carry along the small video adapter and a few cables,  you can connect your iPad up to many TV sets and play your movies and TV programs stored onto a hotel's TV screen.
    k) If you carry the tiny SD card adapter, you are able to upload all your external camera photos into the iPad for viewing and limited editing.  Then these photos are easily emailed back home as desired.
    l) Normally, we carry our Garmin GPS on trips.  Still,  the passenger finds it very useful to have the various iPad Map programs to use to investigate potential routes and view attractions along the various routes without interfering with the driver's GPS guidance unit. My wife frequently browses for points of interest as we drive and uses MapQuest to select and plan side trips off our main travel path.
    m)  When the time comes to check into an upcoming flight, we use the Delta App (or various airline websites) to check into our airline flight.  Then (for some airlines), all we have to do upon arrival at the airport is to show the iPad screen at the luggage check-in counter.
    o)  All along the way we use the App to check the local weather.  So far, wherever we have been, has worked fine.
    p)  The YELP! application is pretty good at locating restaurants.  However, in Europe, it has but a small fraction of the available options.  We find that asking the locals is still the best way to find the sort of restaurant you want.  There are a number of restaurant apps specific cities worldwide.  Check for them on the app store.  In Australia, in the small towns, for a good restaurant, you ask about the RSL.  The Returned Servicemen's League frequently has the best restaurant in the smaller towns and "foreigners" are usually able to gain free entry.
    q)  The SPARK RADIO App is a good way to listen to streaming audio from the world's radio stations.
    s)  We found that Pandora Radio did not work in Europe.   (I was able to setup a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in my Peplink Router.  By this means, I can route particular internet traffic such as Pandora through my home internet service and use Pandora worldwide.)   The UK's Classic FM App did bring in good Classical Music wherever we went.  Unfortunately it is no longer possible to download the Classic FM App unless you are in the UK or have a suitable UK proxy server to work with.
    t)   Fairly often, We would need to translate a webpage from a hotel or restaurant or for a Museum or other attraction.  There is no APP currently to do this. However, I was able to access the Google Chrome web browser remotely using the PocketCloud App to access my home computer.  Then I would use the Google Chrome browser to access the webpage using the Chrome's Translate feature.  It worked pretty well, but did not translate words contained in webpage images. 
    u) The Kindle, Nook, and iBooks Apps on the iPad are useful for reading Amazon, Barnes and Noble and free electronic books.
    v) The Clinometer App is good to use to measure how much the ship is rocking.  :)
    w) I often use Dragon Dictation to compose email.  It is not perfect but it learns and gets better as you train it. 
    x)  Use the Data Usage meters under SETUP to keep track of how much of your data plan is left.  It helps you to be frugal.
    y)  At times when you are not using the GPS (or features which need your current location), turn Location Services OFF so you conserve your battery power.
    z)  Use the "Airplane Mode" under SETUP to turn off all data services during takeoff/landing of airliners.

We find the iPad to truly be a "Magical Device"!  It is much more useful than a laptop and due to its size and weight and long battery life AND, it is easy to carry around.  Some say it is just an iPhone with a big screen.  To a great extent, that is true.  Yet, the big screen makes it much more useful to we who have less than age 21 eyesight and who have big fingers.  I do still use my laptop, but I would never carry a laptop on a holiday trip again.

3G Internet Service Providers with GSM Services for iPad.
Note Carefully!  If you use your USA (or other country's) microSIM card to ROAM overseas.  Be prepared for the largest data service cost you can imagine when you get back home!
1)  USA>  I recommend AT&T for GSM service for iPad in the USA.  They offer the best nationwide coverage.  They offer 2GB of data service for one month for US$25 on a non-contract basis.  Remember to Cancel before the end of your month in country as renewal is automatic if you do not!  About 3GB of data should go for about a month while motoring around in the USA as most USA hotels, especially the low to medium cost hotels, have free WiFi services.  Just sign up for the 2GB amount.  You can always buy more later if you need it.   Note: If you have a late model iPad which supports 3G and 4G and LTE services, ATT provides these on your month's agreement at no extra cost.  The 4G is noticably faster than 3G.
2) UK>  In the UK, I recommend the THREE(3) iPad 3G service.  This services are priced in the range of 10 pounds per 1GB of data service.  You can "top up" your THREE service at any bookseller, tobacco shop or THREE store.  UNLESS you have a UK issued credit card, you cannot "top up" from outside of the UK.  However, (for example), the WH Smith Bookseller in all UK airports and major UK train terminals can give you a top up code in a couple of minutes upon arrival if you already have your THREE microSIM card.  Other iPad microSIM GSM providers in the UK are 02, Vodafone (expensive), among others.
3) Germany> 2011: I used Vodafone but it was expensive at 10 Euros for 1GB for 10 days.  Plus, they charged 10 Euros for the micro SIM card!  I would say "look around for a better deal" in Germany.  Germany 2012: I still have not found a reasonably priced 3G data plan in Germany.  This time I paid 30 Euros for 2G of data for one month.  Help!
4) Austria>  2011:  I used the THREE(Austria) network here.  They were 10 Euros for 1GB for 1 month. This included the microSIM card. During our two week stay, I gave out of the 1GB and was forced (due to my remote location when we gave out) to buy an A1 microSIM card for 20 Euros for 1GB for 1 month.  The moral here is to plan ahead!  PS>  The Austria THREE data service roams to the UK and to Portugal with no charge for roaming. Austria 2012:  This time I used Tmobile for my iPad data plan. The cost was 10 Euros for 1GB of data and the coverage was excellent.
Data Plan Suggestions from Others:
5)  Singapore:  M1 is the telco company that sells a S$20 (about USD$16) 1GB data plan SIM card for iPad. It is good for 30 days from the date of activation.
6)  All Countries:  This site claims to have up to date iPad data plan information for many countries of the world.

If "you guys" will send me information on the costs/providers for iPad data services in countries not listed above and updates on any information provided above, I will be pleased to add them to this webpage.  Thanks

email Joe Mehaffey with Comments/Corrections/New Information

Sample iPad Photo from the UK Veteran Car Rally, November 2011.  Camera Buffs fuss about the quality, but I think it does pretty well for a less than 1 megapixel camera.

    The 1904 ENGLISH MECHANIC Automobile at its arrival at the Rally Finish Line in Brighton UK, November 6, 2011
Photo using the one megapixel camera in iPad 2.  The iPad Mini and iPad 4 have five megapixel cameras.