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Traveling with the iPad

WiFi on the LimoLiner

Our friends from Spain came to the States for a visit last month and asked if we would meet them in NYC for dinner. Never to pass up a reason for a road trip, we agreed to pop down for a night. Since it was a only an overnight trip, we cashed in some points and got ourselves into a nice hotel. We also booked ourselves on the LimoLiner so we didn’t have to drive. We packed light because we would not be checking into the hotel right away and so would have to carry our bags around for the day. Normally we would take at least one laptop, but we decided we’d leave all of them at the office. Instead, we brought along the iPad. We were curious to see how we would get along with just it and nothing else. We took the Kata ErgoTech and the Built bags to see which worked better for the iPad.

We have taken the LimoLiner to NYC before, but from the Back Bay departure point (outside the Hilton in Boston). This time, we thought we would catch it from a Framingham to see if was any more convenient. For folks leaving from the city (or any place that has easy access), the Back Bay location is the one for you. The Framingham pickup is more for folks who live in the suburbs. The advantage of catching the LimoLiner at Framingham is that you can park your car in their lot as long as you get the LimoLiner parking permit when you make your reservation.

We got there about 30 minutes early and there wasn’t much of a crowd, but by the time the bus pulled up, we had pretty much a full load. For those not familiar with  LimoLiner, it is a luxury bus service between Boston and NYC a number of times a day throughout the week. The buses have luxurious seating, free WiFi, and food service. We got a light breakfast (croissant+juice) on the morning bus down and two snacks, lunch, and a drink on the afternoon bus back. Not quite sure why there was such a difference in the food, but if you take the early bus, you might want to bring a sandwich.

Typing on the iPad on a moving bus was an interesting experience. We didn’t have the iPad in any kind of a case and the aluminum back was quite slippery, so it was not very stable when just resting on the seat tray. The vibration made it move around and typing on it was hit-or-miss. Moving the iPad to a human lap did dampen the vibrations, but did not make typing very comfortable. After awhile, we gave up trying to answer emails and found a movie on Netflix to watch instead. The WiFi on the LimoLiner was good enough for general surfing, checking email, and the like. However, the connection was a bit spotty in parts of Connecticut and the Netflix movie kept cutting out. Next time, we’ll bring along the Bluetooth keyboard and load a few movies into the iPad for the trip.

Finora and Patrick met us at the Hilton. We walked half a block and decided we better stop for lunch. Did we mention that we didn’t get much to eat on the way down? Our copy editor can get very cranky when she is hungry. Good thing NYC has a food truck at just about every corner. For $4.00, one can eat like a king in that city!  Once we had defeated the hunger monster, we spent the rest of the afternoon drinking and sightseeing with our Irish/Spanish pals. It was such a treat not having to lug a laptop around with us while we were traipsing about the city. BTW, after playing with our iPad for about 10 minutes, Finora and Patrick bought one the next day at the Apple Store and brought it back with them to Spain.

The main thing we learned about the iPad is that it is an excellent travel accessory. The battery life of the iPad was nothing short of amazing. We brought the AC charger along, but we didn’t have to use it at all as the iPad still had about 40% of battery life after two days of use. It was much nicer to read the news and surf the web on the iPad than the iPhone. It also meant that we could leave many of the magazines we usually take with us at home. Reading the digital version on the iPad was as good as having the hard copy in hand. We also learned a few by only taking the iPad on this trip:

  • Bring a keyboard if you plan on doing a lot of typing
  • Get a case for the iPad
  • Load a few movies onto the iPad itself
  • Only book hotels with free WiFi in the room

Finding free WiFi was not really a big problem in NYC. There were plenty of free hotspots around the city. We were surprised, though, to learn that not all of the hotels had free WiFi. The Hilton did not have free WiFi in their lobby, but the Marriot Courtyard down the street did. Where we were staying had free WiFi in the lobby, but not in the room. Some would argue we should have gotten a 3G iPad so we could connect anytime anywhere. However, we felt the extra expense (monthly contract, higher iPad cost) was just not worth it.

We have had the iPad for almost two months and we are still surprised at the many ways in which it seamlessly integrates itself into our day’s workflow. What we are starting to realize is that the iPad is not a replacement for anything we have, but it makes many of the tasks we do often more convenient. It also enables us to do it from wherever we want (almost). Tasks such as doing a quick Google search, answering email, or scanning Craigslist can often be shifted to the iPad. Sometimes it is nice to stop typing, put our feet up on the desk, lean back, and watch a YouTube clip on the iPad. This is especially true when there is a time or CPU-intensive task happening on the main computer (compiling, file download, etc…).

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