For this year's family vacation we decided to take a 10 day road trip. The plan was simple, pack light and make it to the Grand Canyon and back at a relaxing pace. Usually on any vacation I bring my laptop, but due to space constraints I left with only my iPad. At the end of the trip I can safely say that I was not disappointed!
First, I will get the obvious out of the way. The iPad is small! It easily leaned against the center console on the floor in the front seat. My wife's bag of books was much bulkier. Even though it is small, it is very functional. I saw a few travelers using net books during our trip, and I could see the strain on their faces as the read the small screens. They also seemed to be in awkward positions to make it work. Anyone who has used an iPad knows that this isn't an problem for them. Whether sitting at a desk, watching the kids at a pool, or riding in the front seat of a car, the iPad is comfortable to use.
The most important use for the iPad on our trip was reserving our hotels each night. We were traveling in some sparsely populated areas, and cell service was an issue. Sometimes we would have to wait until we got into a city and sit in a parking lot to finish reserving our hotel. Generally, I found AT&T's data services slow, and I missed my Verizon Wireless internet card. My experiance with Verizon in Lafayette has been good when compared to AT&T. Whie it is possible to use Verizon on an iPad with their mobile hotspot, the monthly fee is twice what AT&T charges for the unlimited plan for the iPad.
In our 10 days of traveling we stayed in 6 different hotels. All but the hotel at the Grand Canyon offered wireless in the rooms. Our hotels were modest, and we generally never spent more than $100 a night. What I did notice was that the iPad struggled with the hotels that had terms of service pages you had to accept before you could use their wireless service. The Day's Inn and Best Western's connections seemed to have the most problems. At times it took the iPad 10 minutes to connect to the wifi service. We ended the trip at a Holiday Inn Express and it was a relief to have fast easy to connect to Internet for once. While it was not impossible to get the iPad to work on the wireless at the hotels, it wasn't easy. I am hoping that Apple improves on this at a later time.
Because of the iPad's portability, I found that I used it much more than I normally use my laptop on a trip. I read books in the Kindle app, I read a newspaper every day from the PressReader app, and I kept up with everyone with Facebook. I also wrote this article the last day of our trip in my PaperDesk app. Occasionally, I connected remotely into the office and checked on things. I discovered that the Wyse PocketCloud app worked well, but only when connected to a good wifi signal. When my iPad was on AT&T's service, it was painfully slow.
At the end of this trip, I have decided that I will not update my 4 year old laptop this year as I had planned. The iPad has given me such a renewed level of portability, that there is no need to replace my laptop unless it dies. I do use my laptop for technical work (remote connecting into offices to fix problems, and running a couple of PC apps in Fusion), but a majority of what I want to to do can be accomplished on the iPad. The only limitation that I ran into was when I needed to access a webpage written in Flash. I don't see that limitation going away any time soon, and I think the only way it will be resolved will be for the websites to write non Flash based pages.
If you are debating about getting an iPad and you are afraid that you will be too limited, stop worrying. While I am not denying that you will have some limitations, you will have a greater number of enhancements. It really is like comparing a sports car to a full size SUV. Sure you can move a small apartment in one load in your SUV, but how often does that happen? Wouldn't you prefer quick acceleration, and often better gas milage on a daily basis? That is the iPad. A great tool for daily work. Just don't be surprised when you occasionally have to bring out the SUV to move that old friend who hasn't spoke to you in 10 years.