You don’t have to resign yourself to hefting unnecessary equipment through airport security or sweating out the frustrations of hotel computer connectivity. These veteran travel tips can make traveling with your Apple gear much more fun.
1. Ditch your laptop
If you don’t want to lug your laptop with you on a trip, consider bringing an iPad (or even an iPhone), along with a Bluetooth keyboard such as the £57 Apple Wireless Keyboard (store.apple.com/uk) and a lightweight and compact iPad stand such as the £19.95 Incase Origami Workstation (www.goincase.com), Michiel Cornelissen’s €14 (£12) PadFoot (www.michielcornelissen.com), or the £10.99 Arkon iPad Travel Stand (www.arkon.com). That way, you can answer email and do other keyboard-intensive things without the extra weight of a laptop.
2. Make your own WiFi
If the hotel where you’re going to stay doesn’t have wireless connectivity in the room, consider bringing a £79 Apple AirPort Express (store.apple.com/uk) along. Hook an Ethernet cable into it and then use the AirPort to transmit a WiFi signal, so you can use your laptop, iPhone, or iPad from anywhere in the room. As a bonus, use the AirPort Express’s USB port – designed to let you connect a printer – to charge an iPhone or iPod (though not an iPad).
Optionally, if you’ve brought a laptop and have an additional wireless device – an iPad, for example – create a wireless network on your Mac that you can then share with your iPad.
3. Use 3G when WiFi is too slow
Even when hotels provide free internet access in the room, it’s often horribly slow. If you’re toting an iPhone or iPad with 3G, consider using its 3G connection as your access point rather than the hotel’s broadband. You may find that it’s faster than what the hotel delivers. You’ll need to have signed up for a tethering plan with your network provider to use the device to connect your laptop to the internet (beware of astronomical fees if you use this solution abroad).
A lightweight stand like the Incase Origami Workstation makes it easy to use a wireless keyboard with your iPad
4. Skip the hotel pay-per-view
Bring an Apple Digital AV Adapter and an HDMI cable along with your iPad or iPhone 4. If you’re staying in a hotel that has HDTVs, you can plug in and play your own videos right off your device rather than relying on the hotel’s pricey pay-per-view system to play a mediocre romantic comedy. (See ‘How to watch iOS videos on your HDTV’ at macworld.com/7310 for tips.)
Note that some hotel TVs are set up incorrectly – they’re configured to display a resolution such as 420p that’s less than they’re capable of. If the picture doesn’t look right, try to access the TV’s setup screen and increase the resolution.
Another option is to take Apple’s £30 Component AV (store.apple.com/uk) or £30 Composite AV cable (store.apple.com/uk), or Scosche’s £45 Sneakpeek II combination cable (www.scosche.com), which might offer more compatibility with the range of TVs in hotels.
5. Minimise your adaptors
An iPad charger can also charge an iPhone, so if you plan your charging carefully, you can carry along just one adaptor to charge both. (Yes, an iPhone charger can charge an iPad, but it’s much slower than the iPad’s own charger, so be sure to go with the iPad charger.)
Bring along an AirPort Express, and you can set up a WiFi network in your hotel room
6. Try a travel-friendly cable kit
Whether for charging or connectivity, cables are a must, but they add both weight and clutter to your travel bag. Instead of paring down the number of cables you pack – which means you run the risk of not having the cable you need for some vital task – you can make those cables smaller and lighter. For instance, instead of a 2m USB cable, try a 20cm version; leave behind your iPhone’s long USB dock-connector cable and instead bring a 10cm version.
Keep travel-friendly versions of your cables in a special bag and leave the long cables plugged in at home. That way, your light and tidy travel kit will always be at the ready. (See an example kit at macworld.com/5074.) You can get short cables from vendors like Amazon.co.uk, dabs.com or Maplin.
7. Sync with kids in mind
An iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad can be a perfect family travel companion in aeroplanes and cars, but do you want to pass one of them to the backseat and have your child fire up Scarface? Commonsense though it may seem, parents busy with road-trip preparations often forget to pack their devices with kid-friendly content.
Consider creating holiday playlists in iTunes to sync with your iOS device right before you leave. That way, you can prepare special content without messing up your work-a-day settings. (Just sync to your normal playlists when you return.)
For suggestions of child-friendly apps, see our favourites for toddlers and pre-schoolers (macworld.com/7314), as well as for primary school
kids (macworld.com/7315). We’ve also rounded up some great interactive books for younger kids (macworld.com/7316). Browse through a selection of app collections at macworld.com/7317.
Don’t forget to include child-friendly videos and apps (such as Tozzle, seen here) on your iPad or iPhone before leaving on a family trip
8. Bring a battery backup
With your iPhone or iPod touch loaded with kid-friendly fare, the last thing you want to see is a ‘10 per cent battery remaining’ warning. A cheapish, rechargeable battery pack – such as the iPowerCase 1500 (around £25, www.ipowercase.com) – that plugs into the dock-connector port can double the time your kids spend playing Tozzle, reading virtual Dr Seuss books, and watching Pixar flicks.
Remember tricks to extend battery life, too: go to the Settings app, and choose Brightness to dim the screen as much as you comfortably can. While you’re in the Settings app, turn on Airplane Mode to disable WiFi, 3G, and Bluetooth whenever possible.