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  1. #1
    Hey techies!

    I'm considering purchasing a tablet type computer and would appreciate hearing from any of you that have and use one of these for travelling.

    I'm not a Mac person, so I doubt I would get an "I" anything.

    I don't want to get a smart phone because I don't think I'd use it much at home and don't want to pay the monthly fees.

    I'd like something I can use for internet access and e mail, maybe learn how to use Skype, and to download books, guidebooks and use as a GPS.

    I'm not in a major hurry to purchase one. I'll be leaving for Italy in about a month and am not going to try to have one for this trip.

    I'm wondering how convenient the tablets actually are as opposed to hard copies of guide books and maps. I know they would be smaller and lighter and hold a lot more info, but I'm guessing you can't get them wet and heaven forbid you drop one. I'll bet they would attract a lot of attention too, I mean, who would want to steal a guide book as opposed to a tablet computer?

    So I'd love to hear from travelers who are using these in their travels. How practical are they? Are you using them when out and about or mainly in your rooms or when you are indoors somewhere like a restaurant? Is the info easy to access or do you find yourself searching all the time? Have you used one in inclement weather or ever dropped yours?

    I like the idea of one, but I'd hate to buy it and then discover that I still need to carry my other stuff and that it's just another cool gadget.

    CindyP.

  2. #2


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    Books don't like getting wet either

    The 7inch tablets aren't much bigger then a large cellphone. Or a large GPS. Some companies are showing phones with 5" screens these days.

    They're easier then maps IMHO. With maps you need to figure out where you are first. The built in GPS will find you. Often you'll find that things are linked. For example on my phone I have an app that finds the nearest or cheapest gas station. It sends the info to the GPS part and I get directions. Other things can do that to.

    Email is easy.

    Books? If you have a scanner you can scan the important stuff and saved it to the device.

    Many of them have voice functions so you can use them for voice calls with the the ear piece.

    When you're ready look around odds are their will be options. Ranging from cheap and cheerful to high end.

  3. #3
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    First thing I would check with your IP provider the cost for data roaming abroad. When you use the tablet as a book reader, camera, etc., there is no problem. But as soon as you use it for roaming purposes outside of a free- WiFi location, you start incurring roaming charges.

    One more thing: not all tablets allow both WiFi and 3G or 4G connections.

    Mine (Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7") allows both types of roaming but the cost where there is no free WiFi is outrageous.

    Using the tablet as GPS device is wonderful (at least on mine) but, again, it is using data roaming all the time it functions as a GPS device.

    I am not a techie; maybe others will chime in and prove me wrong.

  4. #4


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    If she gets an unlocked one she can get a local SIM. Ä2 or Ä3 a week is enough for Italy.

  5. #5
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    I would encourage you to not reject the iPad so easily. It does everything you want and even more that you would like. It is not at all difficult--in fact, it is super easy. You can buy a sim for it as Nick recommends and have internet access wherever you are. Doru is totally correct in that you do not want to use the US or Canadian sim outside the countries.

    With the ipad you can get a wifi capable only or both wifi and 3G. It is wise to get the second, I think.

  6. #6
    Ok, I feel even more inept now! I didn't know you could get sim cards for these things! That sounds like an option I would want to have.

    Is getting an unlocked tablet an easy thing or is it something I would need to do or have done after I bought one?

    I still have to buy a phone for my trip in October and I'm getting an unlocked quadband from ebay. I'll have to get a sim card for that. Is that the same type of sim card? As long as I'm talking about phones here, do I understand correctly that if I buy a sim card for Italy I can't use it in the US? Would I be able to tell what the phone number is before I get to Italy? If not I guess I might as well wait and buy the card in the Venice airport?

    OK, technology is supposed to make life easier, right?

    CindyP.

  7. #7


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    Only the ones with 3G modems built in take SIMs. In Italy finding unlocked tablets is very easy. Not sure about the US.

    SIM type will depend on your phone and tablet. Most use a standard SIM that fits either. Some use a smaller one.

    You can use an Italian SIM in the US but you'll be roaming . That's a cost issue only. TIM prints the phone number on the SIM . The other companies don't seem to.

    Usually cheaper to buy the SIM in Italy.

  8. #8
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    Is getting an unlocked tablet an easy thing or is it something I would need to do or have done after I bought one?
    I can only speak for an iPad, but my understanding is that they are all sold unlocked -- unlike the iPhone. But you do have to be sure you get the AT&T iPad, not the Verizon one. You don't have to turn on the 3G service in the US, or if you ever wanted it you can turn it on and off by the month. But you can't use a European SIM in the Verizon iPad.

    I would say that if you want to use a tablet instead of a laptop on your travels, it would be worth considering. But if you mainly want something to use while you are out and about in lieu of guidebooks, a tablet is not all that easy to carry and you would be worrying about it all the time, as you say.

    I have used an iPod Touch to store travel info -- both ebooks and scanned or downloaded articles, maps, etc. It is kind of like an iPhone without the phone part, so it's very easy to stick in a pocket or purse. Of course, the screen is a bit small, but that's the portability tradeoff. You can, in fact, even use it to make phone calls with Skype if you are in wi-fi range. And it is cheaper than an iPad.

    - Roz

  9. #9


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    I've taken iPad on trips, along with a laptop, but I've never taken it out of the hotel room to use while I'm out for the day. Already carrying photo gear and other stuff so never thought about doing it.

    The tablets with 10-inch screens like the iPad are bigger sellers than the ones with 7-inch screens. The bigger screens are better for browsing, reading, viewing videos. The smaller ones are obviously more portable.

    iPads are sold unlocked but the ones with 3G cost more than the Wifi-only models.. Other brands of tablets do have 3G radios but they may or may not be unlocked. Some of these other brands are sold like cell phones, with contracts so they may not be unlocked.

    Simplest way to use them would be to use with Wifi, in a hotel that offers it in the room. But hotels often charge for Wifi and it's slow and the signal may be weak in your hotel room.

    So the tablets with 3G could be attractive, though they can be significantly more expensive than the Wifi-only model.

    In countries with really affordable 3G data plans (requiring no contracts), you have more options than relying on Wifi. Italy has good and cheap prepaid mobile data plans while France does not.

    One option would be to get a Mifi device to use with a Wifi-only tablet. Then you can feed the data connection to several devices at a time.

  10. #10

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    I would also recommend the iPad for travel. It is a marvelous travel device with an established ecosystem of 100,000 apps available for it. Itís great for books, travel guides, photo management and sharing, maps, and a thousand other things. When you compare apps, price, features, ease-of-use and performance I donít you can beat the iPad. And my friends using Windows tell me that it works fine when syncing via their PCs (the new iOS that is coming out soon wonít even need a computer for syncing).

    While I've pretty much left the iPad in a hotel room or apartment, I have a camera bag that has a big pocket into which the iPad can be inserted. This is really great for the times when I might want a device during a photo shoot or any other specific use.

    The iPads are sold unlocked. My iPad has both 3G and WiFi capability but I, by far, use it mostly with WiFi. The 3G works fine but my experience with most 3G networks (both home and abroad) is that they are generally slow with the kind of data transfer that the iPad often requires. 3G is probably fine for email and maybe browsing a few pages on the Internet or other utilitarian uses but service is very uneven. Using the iPad for long periods via 3G would be probably be unpleasant.

    We bought a AT&T International dataplan for our iPads and it was pretty much unused. We had better WiFi access (lots of it free) than we thought we would. Still, the 3G capability does come in handy when you need it.

    Lots of iPad apps offer offline capability options and store information on your computer without the need for Internet connectivity. This is quite useful for reference materials like travel guides. Be sure to check that out before you buy apps with maps, reference materials, guidebooks, etc..

    I would echo what Roz said about using the iPod Touch (or iPhone) as a lightweight travel device for maps, guides, articles, notes, etc.. That is a very viable option!

    Ė Mark

  11. #11


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    Actually, I found that in a country like Italy, the 3G networks have good coverage and prepaid data SIMs are very reasonable.

    But you encounter hotels which charge you for Wifi and often, the speeds in the hotel room are not that great, especially smaller hotels which do not have coverage in all the rooms.

    They also use a login scheme which is a hassle to use.

    When I went to Sicily this past June, I used a TIM prepaid data plan and it was more reliable than Wifi in some of the lodgings, where Wifi was nonexistent or weak.

  12. #12
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    When we went to Italy for 7 weeks this summer, I had planned on getting a TIM plan for my iPad but decided to try just using wifi first. For us that worked excellently well. We had strong wifi connections in each of the places we stayed at no additional charge. We were in hotels and apartments. Of course, to do this, you need to make sure where you plan to stay has wifi. It is not difficult to find places with it.

    More and more wifi is pretty available throughout much of Italy; with the caveat that we have not tried it south of Rome at this point. We had both an iPad and iPhone and were able to use the iPhone with SKYPE using wifi (well, the iPad does that, too.)

    I think that as wco811 says some hotels do charge but I believe that is at the big name places--Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt, etc--which don't seem to understand that not having wifi free is a deterrent to some people.

    The places we stayed had easy sign-ons --just needed to get the password from the owners or managers. So, based on WCO's experience, there seems to be some variations for signing on which is true in the states, too.

    So, back where I started, we did not find it necessary to get a Tim plan for the iPad. My advice is to see what is before getting one. You can get one quickly at any TIM store if at some point you find you need one.

  13. #13

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    So we leave for Turkey next Wednesday. This far we have travelled with a laptop and cell phone (getting a SIM card locally) and find free wifi more and more easily accessible everywhere. On our last trip to Croatia, it was available every night/every place for free. Mainly we access the internet for travel related information, my private e-mail (do not usually read work e-mail while on vacation) and ocassional gchat/skype with our son. Books are audiobooks on my ipod when I travel. Really we spend very little time at the laptop when travelling (reminds us too much of work :-)

    So this time, since we have an ipad, we are planning not to take the laptop and only take the ipad. We do have a separate GPS. So will we miss the laptop for anything? Based on what I read here no? I do have skype and facetime on the ipad too.

  14. #14


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    Originally posted by letha:
    So will we miss the laptop for anything? .
    Tested it at home. Just do everything on the tablet and see if you find the need to use the laptop. If you can manage at home this way you can away.

  15. #15

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    I have actually been doing that at home for a few weeks now i.e not switching on my laptop when I get home except for specific work related stuff and largely it seems OK...just wondered if I was missing out somethings that would be an 'oops' when I am actually on vacation and without my laptop.

    Well, we'll do it....

  16. #16

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    coming to this thread late.

    I took an android tablet on my trip earlier this summer. Specifically a Motorola Xoom. (10")

    Mine does not have 3g- so internet and email was only good where there was wifi. But it was great for e-books, movies, games, taking notes, transferring pictures to it, etc. Even when there was no wifi.

    There was no easy way to add a usb dongle type wifi adapter since the xoom doesn't support that. It has a micro USB port - but it doesn't support network connections through it.

    I would absolutely take this tablet instead of a laptop on all future vacations. But I might invest in a mifi or similar type wifi hot spot that I could load with a local sim.

  17. #17

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    I just got back from a long trip to Arizona and a hike into the Grand Canyon. While this was a relatively short-distance domestic trip I found the iPad to be indispensable. The only time I didnít use it was down in the canyon itself (too bulky and heavy for a four-day hike). I noticed, in particular, that cellular-data speed and signal strength seem to improve each time I make this trip (this was the seventh-annual hike into the canyon). While my friend brought along a bulky laptop, we both used the iPad (when not driving) for the long car ride.

    I have all my canyon hiking and geology books on the iPad and Iím now starting to collect recipes, guidebooks, novels and cookbooks for our stay in a Venetian apartment come this December. Iíll also make quick edits on photos so that I can blog while Iím there.

    The iPad has lightened my travel load and made it easy to do a thousand things.

    Ė Mark

  18. #18

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    Cindy, have you thought about the Kindle Fire? You could put it in one of those Moleskine-type cases (i.e., Dodocase) and it would look more or less like a book.

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