Have iPad, Will Travel

vacation car

I’ve just got back into the office today, after taking a nearly five week vacation. (Yes, I really can accumulate a LOT of vacation time.) I lumped in a good deal of time staying around home, taking care of yardwork and such, and spending quality family time too. However, I also took a thirteen day road trip out to Saint Louis alone, and that made for an interesting experience that I wished to share.

Preparing for my trip, I made what is for me a momentous decision: I would not bring a laptop with me on my travels.

I’ve lugged laptops with me on flights before, so deciding against bringing a portable computer with me on a car trip where space was not at a premium was very out of the ordinary. I wanted to see if I could live entirely out of my smart phone and iPad. Short answer? Yes, I could, and I felt good about the experience.

Naturally I didn’t have much call for computing resources on the three days drive out to Missouri, nor on the two days drive home from there. But each night in my hotels during the trip, wireless network was no problem, and my iPad was fully able to keep me in touch with my personal email, Facebook news, Twitter feed, and even work emails. (When I got back to the office this morning, I actually had zero unread messages. How sad is that? I hope you don’t let work eat up your off time attention as much as I do.)

My smart phone did a bang-up job of keeping me in touch with my family on my travels as well. I’m currently using Sprint, and with the exception of right around the border of Arizona and New Mexico on the I-40, I always had good cell coverage. And, as I said, wireless network in the actual hotels, as well as the convention center I visited during my stay in Saint Louis, was plentiful and free.

The only thing that didn’t work perfectly for me was typing on the iPad. This is no surprise, as I did not bring a bluetooth keyboard or keyboard case – I was just using the iPad itself. Even then, the virtual keyboard was sufficient for the amount of typing I did need. However, if I’d been in the position of doing this over again, I think I may have gone ahead and used a keyboard case.

Now, why do I think this is worth sharing with the faculty here? Well, I’ve now vaulted from the ranks of “it should work okay” to “it works just fine” when talking about travel without a laptop. And, with the inline Assignment grading available soon in Blackboard, I could even have been marking up student papers if I’d needed to. (Sadly, the Blackboard Grade Center still does not play nice with tablet browsers, on either the iPad or other devices. That problem point really has to do with the way the independently scrollable grade grid is nested within a scrollable web page, and that problem does still remain.) Recent improvements in the way the iPad allows browser access to files in Dropbox even allow for uploading content if needed… although if I truly needed to compose a new document on my travels, I’d have stopped by a hotel business center to use a real computer for that part of the work. (However, I did use the Scanner Pro app on the iPad to scan to PDF my receipts, which worked very well. Direct upload the PDFs to Dropbox automatically, and I didn’t need to keep the paper receipts around cluttering up my car.)

So if you’re contemplating a trip this summer, and trying to decide if you need to bring your laptop or if you can just get away with an iPad… leave the laptop. I did, and it was marvelous.

3 thoughts on “Have iPad, Will Travel

  1. Hi David,

    Thanks for sharing. I will definitely consider this option when planning my next trip.

    I was wondering if there will be a drop-in time this summer for help with blackboard online course development?


    1. Oh sure, we’ve generally got somebody around who can assist with course development. I’d recommend that you open a ticket on our helpdesk system (https://www2.palomar.edu/atrc/helpdesk/) and let us know what days and times would work best for you. That way, one of us techs can schedule an appointment with you. Alternately you could just gamble that someone is available and simply show up… but I’d really recommend the appointment model instead.

  2. I have used my bluetooth keyboard a lot when traveling and find that having a good keyboard and a protective case it really worth have it along on any trip. Wow that is a lot of vacation. Good for you.

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