On walkabout in life and technology

Recent Travels and Tech

My wife and I have been on vacation the past two weeks, the real vacation kind where you go to exotic places and are too busy seeing, trying, doing, eating and drinking things to keep up with email, tweets and blogging. We travelled to three European destinations with four iPhones, two iPads, a MacBook Pro and two plug adapter sets. Here’s how they performed.

The MacBook Pro

I brought the laptop along “just in case” I needed to jump in and fix any software issues while away. It was a stupid decision as I only turned it on once to backup my camera SD card (I have an iPad camera connection kit that could do it, but left that at home). The laptop was a bulky, heavy item that had to be removed and replaced at each border post and was never needed.

Had I needed to fix a server, my iPad has Panic’s Prompt installed. If any code needed work, Textastic can handle simple bug fixes.

Laptop: Not coming next time (unless I get an Air)


Both of us used our iPads about twice a day to check email, catch up on the news and twitter. WiFi was available everywhere we stayed, so connectivity was not an issue. A lot of the time, we used our iPads to research where to go or eat during breakfast, and then we would drop them in the hotel safe and head out. We did not carry them with us. And we most certainly did not use them to take photographs!

iPads: Perfect for downtime email, news and research.


We each carried our newest AT&T iPhones as we travelled, as well as an unlocked old iPhone 3 each. I had synced the old iPhones with our address books before we left, so that we could install a SIM anywhere and still have access to our contacts, emails and calendars.

For the AT&T iPhones, we both turned off data roaming before we left to ensure we don’t get nailed with the blitheringly insane data roaming charges (US$20/MB, i.e. a single 2.5MB iPhone 4S photo would cost US$50 to email via cellular data). We did use them to receive and make the odd call and of course, maintain text contact.

Finding a cheap SIM for the old iPhones was easy everywhere in Europe. One deal I particularly liked was a Europe-wide unlimited data-only SIM plan that would enable us to use cellular data without a phone number (and Skype for free). What we found was that most of our friends had spare prepaid SIMs that they use for when their families come to visit, and we borrowed these instead.

But the biggest use of our iPhones was for photography. I carry my trusty Nikon D80 with its lovely 18-200mm VR lens everywhere when I travel. I use a Nikon Hand Strap with it, so it is literally handy. But there are times and places where bringing out the big gun was not necessary, and the iPhones came out. We would then Facebook a photo of our current statuses directly from the iPhone via local free WiFi, which meant our poor suffering friends could follow our adventures in semi-real time.

Oh, and the low light performance of the 4S seems better than the D80.

iPhones: Will carry both again, good to have the usual US phone number for work, with the benefit of local data on the other one.

Travel Adapters

All these gadgets require juice, especially the iPhones after a hard day’s vacationing. We took only one adapter set, but needed a second to keep the tech juiced.

Adapters: 1 per traveller, for each country visited.


The final element in our tech package on this journey was Facebook. We used it to share some of our adventures photographically. I think maybe this is what Facebook really excels at, allowing us to share our journey with friends and family, and for them to join in on the journey. A friend of mine is in Japan right now and is sharing pictures of the lovely inn they are staying at, and I am looking forward to his next post. From both the traveller’s side and the friend’s side, this workd great.

Facebook: Share the journey, and travel along.

Well, we’re back now, processing the photos in Aperture, updating all computers and installing Creative Cloud, ready to go back to work.