iPad travel: guide to taking your tablet abroad

4th Aug 2011 | 11:20

iPad travel: guide to taking your tablet abroad

iPad abroad - roaming, insurance, charging and apps

iPad travel: Before you go

Wherever you're going and however long you'll be straying from home, there's no excuse for overpacking.

So how to reduce the bulk? We pack with our iPad in mind. Whatever your device – iPad, iPhone or iPod touch – it's the smart way to dump your maps, books and travel guides without feeling stranded and lost.

With an iPhone in your backpack, you can download the local Lonely Planet to iBooks, log on to a travel blog or check out a hotel's latest reviews, all while you're standing on its doorstep. The results that you get will be more relevant, more timely and altogether more useful.

You needn't stop there, though. Swap your CDs for downloads and transfer a handful of TV shows and films, and even the longest flight will fly by, without you having to pay an excess for stuffing too much in your bag. You needn't finish your digital packing before leaving home, either.

Open, wireless networks are becoming more common by the day – as is reliable 3G coverage – allowing you to buy new books, songs and even the latest edition of Tap! magazine as you travel.


IBOOKSTORE:Buy your books either before you travel, or when on the move

You can save money by emailing photos rather than sending postcards to your friends and family, and you can also update your online travel journal as you move from beach to beach, city to city or station to station.

With summer in sight, we've dug out the best gadgets, apps and games for today's savvy traveller, and over the next nine pages we'll reveal the digital adventurer's perfect packing list. We'll also show you how to stay online and in touch overseas without busting your hard-earned holiday budget.

iPad travel insurance

Travel can take its toll on even the toughest tech kit, so don't skimp when it comes to insurance. Check your existing home and travel policies for any exclusions that might leave you out of pocket if you lose your device. Specialist agents such as Protect Your Bubble offer worldwide cover for water damage, theft or loss of an iPad starting at £4.88 a month.

Similar cover for iPhones is offered by insurance2go.com from just £3.99 a month, or £34.99 a year, with an option to add cover for any unauthorised calls made on your account. Insurance won't help you recover your device if it goes walkabout when you're far from home, so register for Apple's free Find My iPhone service by following these instructions. It also works with the iPad and iPod touch.

Once registered, your device can be tracked online, remotely locked and wiped to remove any sensitive data. You should also set the Passcode Lock (Settings > General > Passcode Lock) for the duration of your travels, so that nobody can gain access without entering a four-digit PIN. Make sure your data is backed up online by syncing with iTunes before you leave, and consider making an online copy of your essential data.

The simplest way is to use Apple's MobileMe service (me.com), but at £60 a year it's far from cheap. A free alternative is to sign up for a Google account and follow these instructions to set up syncing on your iOS device.

You can download new iBooks, albums and films as you travel, but this might incur fees if you do so on a foreign 3G or Wi-Fi network, so think about the books and albums you want to take with you and download them before you leave.

You should also consider using Instapaper (free) to archive web pages you want to read later through the companion iOS app (£2.99, universal). If you're paying for web access by the minute, rather than the amount of data used, this lets you save money by archiving content to read offline when you're no longer being charged.

Get your iPad online abroad

If you're paying for a monthly contract, you'll almost certainly be able to use your iPhone or iPad abroad for browsing and email, and, in the case of the iPhone, for calls, too. Check with your network before you leave that you don't need your account unlocked for international use.

If you're a pay-as-you-go customer, you may have to switch to a monthly contract before you can enjoy the same benefits. Your network may have a preferred local partner in the country to which you're travelling, through which you'll pay less than on the other available networks. Check whether this is the case before you leave and, if so, choose the preferred network through Settings > Carrier. If there's no preferred carrier, leave this option set to Automatic, so that your device can switch between them at will and you'll avoid the annoying 'network lost' pop-ups.

If your device is unlocked – which it will be if you bought it direct from Apple – then consider buying a local SIM when travelling abroad. This will let you pay local charges rather than roaming ones for data services. Make sure you buy the right SIM for your device.

The iPad and iPhone 4 use a micro SIM; the iPhone 3GS and earlier take a regular full-size SIM. Don't forget to take the SIM-changing tool from your iPhone or 3G-enabled iPad box with you. If you've lost it, you can use an unwound paper clip instead. Check out our tips for managing your overseas data use on p30 and see the table below for the best overseas deals.

iPhone and iPad navigation, mapping and more

iPad navigation and maps

The perfect app for hikers and drivers, ForeverMap (£1.19) uses OpenStreetMap to help you find your way around most of Europe by car or on foot. Download the relevant maps before leaving home and you can use your device's Location Services to plot your position anywhere in the continent without 3G or Wi-Fi access.


USEFUL:ForeverMap offers free maps that include Wikipedia links

The maps are free and include a gazetteer and Wikipedia links. If you'd rather let the train take the strain, you'll want DB Navigator in your pocket (free, iPhone and iPad).

With timetables for 200,000 stations around Europe, it can identify your closest station and which trains you need to take from there to get to your chosen destination. Its itineraries are truly impressive, taking into account changes, borders and timezones, walks between stations, and the platforms you'll need to find at larger stations. If you're travelling further afield, Kayak (free, iPhone and iPod touch) will help you book hotels, flights and cars.

Find a flight that meets your requirements and it'll use the destination as a start point for hotel bookings. Each hotel has ratings, reviews and photos, so you can check them out before you check in. When it's time to come home, you can use its integrated flight tracker to see if your flight's on time. You'll need to keep your device fully charged, so check out Apple's World Travel Adapter Kit.

This £31 plug set will power and charge every iPhone, iPad and iPod touch in the US, Japan, China, Europe, Korea, Australia, Hong Kong and the UK. You can pick and mix the various parts, so needn't carry the whole kit on every trip. All you need now are some games for the kids – the most effective weapons against the cries of 'are we there yet?'

Getting your iPad on Wi-Fi abroad

Roaming can be expensive, but a few simple measures will help you manage your costs. Turn off Push services and Notifications through Settings, so that your device isn't constantly polling the server, and switch off cellular data when you don't need it, turning it on through Settings when you want to go online. If you're travelling with both an iPhone 4 and an iPad, consider enabling data on just the iPhone and using this as a wireless access point for the iPad.

This will work out cheaper than accessing data services on both, and will also get non-3G iPads online; our guide to setting up Personal Hotspot on p86 explains how to get started-. Up to three devices can connect over Wi-Fi, so friends could share a single connection.

If your hotel doesn't offer Wi-Fi, there are probably plenty of other places that do, and Wi-Fi Finder (free, universal) will help you locate nearby hotspots. It also gives you details about each, including the price. Save on costly hotel phone bills by using Skype (free, iPhone and iPod touch) to call home over Wi-Fi. Call rates start at 0.8p a minute to UK, US and European landlines if you take out a 400-minute monthly subscription at £2.99.

Wi-Fi finder

FIND WI-FI: Various apps enable you to locate Wi-Fi networks

Cheaper options start at 79p a month for 60 minutes, and you can pay as you go at 1.4p per minute. Use the same app to book hotels and restaurants in your host country at local rates, but avoid using it over a 3G connection or you'll incur roaming fees. If you're driving in an unfamiliar place, a turn-by-turn navigation app will help prevent you from getting lost as you explore.

TomTom Europe (£69.99, iPhone) isn't cheap but stores all the maps on your phone, so there's no need to have a data connection to use it. As well as turn-byturn directions, you can pay to get live traffic information in some countries (this service does require a data connection). An alternative is Navfree GPS UK & ROI (free, iPhone and iPad), which uses the user-generated OpenStreetMap database to guide you. Again, the maps are stored on your phone, so you won't need a data connection for turn-by-turn instructions.

iPad travel guides

Once you've reached your destination, it's time to see the sights, and many of the excellent city guides from Lonely Planet (£3.49, iPhone and iPod touch) have been ported to the iPhone.

With 132 titles to choose from, they encompass regular guides to Valencia and London, a student guide to Birmingham and phrasebooks for a bewildering choice of languages. They're all exhaustive, with advanced planning tips and advice on budgeting, and there's also background and historical information on every destination.

Regular guides and phrase books cost £3.49, audio guides cost £1.79, and sponsored guides are free. Whichever one you choose, supplement it with an augmented reality app such as Wikitude (free, universal). Hold up your iPhone and the landmarks you can see in the view from the rear camera will be overlaid by relevant links to Wikipedia, YouTube, Booking.com and more. Tapping each one brings up a summary and a link to a more comprehensive entry.

Google Earth (free, universal) doesn't boast augmented reality, but it does help you to put everything in context. Zero in on your location and you can see the lay of the land by tilting your device so that you're no longer looking down, but across the landscape.

Google maps

SAT VIEW:Find your bearings with Google Earth and tilt your device to see a side-on view of the map

This is particularly effective if you enable the terrain layer. WeatherPro (£2.39 for iPhone and iPod touch, or £2.99 for WeatherPro for iPad) is more comprehensive than the default iOS weather app, presenting the next seven days' weather as a series of graphs plotting temperatures, wind speed, precipitation, and even the hours of sunlight and when they're expected to fall. All of this helps you to plan not only which day you should head to the beach, but whether you should go in the morning or afternoon.

Weather permitting, you'll no doubt want to boast to those left at home in the rain. Postman (£1.79, iPhone and iPod touch) lets you use your own photos or a grab from Google Maps as the picture on a digital postcard. With your greeting on the front and a message on the back, you can post the results to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or the web, and email them to friends. If you can't get online to send your postcard right away, save it back to your library and send it later on.

Finally, SitOrSquat: Bathroom Finder (free, iPhone and iPod touch) points you to the closest public toilet to your location from its database of 95,000 facilities. Each is reviewed, and you can filter them down to just those that are currently open. Wi-Fi Finder enables you to locate the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot – and gives you directions to get there.


First published in Tap! Issue 04

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