Best Kept Traveller Secret: iPad Mini

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This past summer I was lucky enough to travel to the UK for an entended visit with family and friends and for the first time I decide not swap out my iPhone SIM card. I even left the 15″ MacBook Pro at home and travelled only with the iPad and some camera adaptors for the dSLR. As I was going to be travelling with four kids and my road bike, I wanted to keep the load as lihght as possible. And since he iPad tucks in so nicely into my Kata camera bag, the choice seemed so logical. However it wasn’t until we had spent a few days in London visiting the castle and soaking up the royal fanfare surrounding the birth of young Prince George that I realized that I had the wrong tool for the job. You see what I should have brought was the iPad Mini and here is why.

Although the pemise of the trip with purely for pleasure, I had also decided that it was time to move my Mother in law off of her aging PowerPC Mac Mini and on to something a little more modern. Most of what she does is email, surf the web and use Skype so it only made sense that she no longer be shackle to the small comuter desk in the corner of the dinning room. After much discussion , the family agreed to get her a 32GB iPad Mini with WiFi and 3G/LTEm in white of course. So during the mini trip to London, we got her iPad kitted out with a SIM card from O2. For only £10 you get to use 1GB over 30days on a pay as you go plan. Wow that is pretty slick deal $16CDN for data anywhere in the UK. No brainer right. Well, let me tell you exactly how awesome that deal actually is. We used that iPad mini all week as our map, travel guide, food finder and to research the perils of London’s congestion charging. We also used it our GPSor SatNav, as the locals call it, for the trip back to the coast. In the hotel, we used it as a personal hotspot to get around the Hotel’s one device per room restriction on their heavily congested WiFi. This is little 1GB plan saw us through the whole week anbd even served my Wife and the kids when they travelled to Wales at the end of the trip. I guess that I havd never realised how little data we actually use while on the go. Granted, we never streamed any Netflix or Spotify while on the road, but for normal internet usage that 1GB plan was more than enough for a busy family of sightseers. The other thing that I had not realised was that the iPad Mini’s size mad eit so much easier to travel with, it fits so much beeter into a camera bag or purse than the bigger iPad and when you pull it out in public, you draw very little attention as it’s about the same size as a Kindle or moleskin notebook that most commuters seem to be carrying on the Tube. In fact, this was one of the trips to London that I felt pretty safe using a high end electronic device, even my dSLR wasn’t getting much attention amonsgt the crowds of princely gawkers.

So when I got back to Montreal and started to look into pay as you go plans for travelling, I was rather impressed at how Apple had managed to negotiate similar deals with at least one carrier per country. And since all iPad are sold unlocked, there is no roadblock to simply buring through SIM cards as you need them. The deals vary a little from place to place but in the end it always seems to be a good deal compared to smartphone plan and international roaming agreements. And since you are never making a phone call from the device itself, but rather a VoIP client like Skype or Google Voice, throwing the cards out at the end of your trip is never an issue.

So here is what I have been able to find out so far about the deals. _Note that these prices are form October 2013 and are most likely going to change at some point in the future. Please do you own research before you leave for your trip._

Best International Roaming Deals for iPad’s • October 2013
Country Provider Plan Data Cost
Canada Bell, Rogers, Telus pay as you go 1GB $20
USA AT&T, Verizon per month, no obligation 3GB/2GB $30, $20
UK O2 pay as you go 1GB £10
France Bouygues Telecom pay as go 7/30 days 2GB/4GB 20E/40E
Spain Vodafone pay as you go 1GB 10E
Germany O2 pay as you go 1GB 15E
Australia Vodafone pay as you go 3GB A$29
New Zealand Telecom pay as go 1.5GB NZ$29
Japan SoftBank, b-mobile pay as you go 1GB Y4140/Y3980
Brazil TIM Pay as you go 800MB R$49.9