Which is better for for US vacation - iPad or MacBook Air

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by koerk, May 22, 2014.

  1. koerk macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2013

    in two weeks my girlfriend and I will travel to the US for three weeks. We are planning our trips and different reminders, notes etc with evernote which is synced to her 32GB iPad 3 Wifi with offline capability in evernote. So the plan was to bring that and be able to look things up on the road etc. Navigon software for navigation runs on my iPhone.

    We have a Canon Bridge Camera with 32GB SD Card and I really want a reliable way to make sure all of our photos come back safe to germany - this is the greatest, most expensive and most desired vacation of our lives yet. :)

    So if we bring the iPad, we could save the photos via camera connection kit. What already concerns me is to manually tap on every photo within the CCK picker... The photos should stay on the SD card as well as long we don't run into storage problems - can't really say if 32GB will be enough or not.

    In addition I thought into uploading the photos to dropbox or onedrive when we have wifi in our various Inns and Motels. Do you have any experience how fast the wifi at average motels is? Except for LA, Phoenix, Las Vegas and SF we mostly stay at non-urban areas in California, Arizona, Nevada. Would this be an option to store them off-site?

    Sometimes I think, it would me much less of a hassle to just bring my 13" MBA to do all these tasks. It could run evernote, empty the SC Card, eventually upload to the cloud. But its not as light and easy to handle on the road, for example. At times where we are on the road or hiking, all of the equipment must come with us in our bags if it's not supposed to melt in the parked car :)

    What do you think, what would you do? Do you have any experience?
  2. flynz4, May 22, 2014
    Last edited: May 22, 2014

    flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    When we took a trip to Ireland (from the US)... I brought both my iPad and my MBA. There were 4 of us, and I had the job to safely store our photos.

    For physical media, we did the following:

    1) Never reuse an SD card, until after the trip was compete.
    2) End of day load of all pictures onto the iPad using camera connection kit
    3) End of day load of all pictures onto the MBA/Aperture.

    The MBA had Crashplan+ installed... so photos were automatically backed up to the cloud. We stayed in B&Bs, and some nights (or string of nights)... the backup could not keep up with demand. Then we would move to a B&B with a good internet connection... and within a few hours, several days of backlog would back up.

    I always made sure that my MBA and iPad were in different locations. We had a small daypack that we would carry around during the day... and the iPad was always there (with us). By contrast, we would leave the MBA back in the B&B (if we were stationary) or locked in the trunk of the car (if we were traveling to a new B&B). Hence, even if either the MBA or iPad was lost/stollen, we always had a 2nd copy in a different location (plus the SD cards)

    I would occasionally do organization of our photos on the MBA. When we returned home to the US... I imported my Ireland Aperture projects (including any organization that I had done to date)... and once my home iMac was fully backed up to 3 locations (local, remote physical, cloud). I was free to erase the photos on the iPad, MBA, and SD cards.

    One more thing that we could have done... would have been to mail the SD cards back to our home as they filled. We didn't do this, and in our case, it would have been overkill.

    Hope this helps.

  3. mfram macrumors 65816

    Jan 23, 2010
    San Diego, CA USA
    Not sure why you can't just bring both. I agree that if the data is really important to you, having a computer gives me a better feeling of control of the data. Either way, make sure to have the appropriate connector for the power supply of your device. The Apple power supplies deal with all world voltages, but the connectors are different. If you can't find the U.S.-style connectors outside the U.S., you can get them here at Apple stores. Sometimes for free if you ask nicely.

    As for hotel Wi-Fi, don't expect very fast speeds. Probably under 1 megabit per second per user. And you will almost surely have to go through some kind of "login" portal where you agree not to do anything stupid on the network.

    In the U.S., we have an interesting hotel Wi-Fi market. Typically the Wi-Fi is free in cheap hotels but generally costs extra money in more expensive hotels in bigger cities. Why? A lot of the travelers in the more expensive hotels are there on business, so the Wi-Fi is going to be expensed to a business anyway. Hotels with primarily pleassure travelers generally have free Wi-Fi!

    Are you going to Yosemite National Park? Maybe see the big Redwoods in California? Sound like a great vacation. California is so beautiful. I count myself lucky to live in San Diego. Well, except for the wildfires which attacked last week. Remember, cities are probably further away than what they look on the map to a European. There so much space.
  4. koerk thread starter macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2013
    Thank you both so much for your interest and advice.

    I guess we still underestimate the wideness of the country. We are going to do a 3300km trip (day trips not counted). Yosemite is our last NP and I really look forward to this one. In addition we visit Joshua tree NP, Sedona, Grand Canyon, monument valley, cedar city and Bryce Canyon. Then sequoia, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe before we depart from SF back to Germany.

    Bringing both devices would be overkill and I don't want to carry both. And I don't really see myself carrying the MBA with me during a day trip hiking the red rocks of Sedona :) when I look at the temperatures there I can't let any electronic device in a car for hours.

    I'm currently leaning towards the iPad. I did some research and found out that the camera connection kit only imports photos that have not yet been imported when you tap "import all" - that's a plus. Couldn't see myself tapping every single photo in the photo picker.

    I would try to use photosync to upload the pics to Dropbox or onedrive. Maybe even over night. Don't know, maybe it would offer some peace of mind when they are mirrored on the iPad and I have a backup when one storage location fails, gets lost/stolen.

    More suggestions? Anything I'm not seeing?
  5. Soulman macrumors member


    Dec 16, 2006
    Detroit, Michigan
    This response is somewhere between...

    Fantastic and Excellent!

  6. mfram macrumors 65816

    Jan 23, 2010
    San Diego, CA USA
    Wait, you're going to be doing all that driving? That's a lot of driving! I would be exhausted after all that. Good luck! Sounds fabulous though. I've been to most of those places in my lifetime. I can't imagine trying to do it all in one vacation. Remember, California by itself is larger in area than all of Germany. And some of those places are in neighboring states.

    Going to and from Bryce Canyon you should be passing through Zion NP. Bryce is really nice though. And Las Vegas is in that area. More fun!
  7. koerk thread starter macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2013
    Yeah it's even more than that I only mentions the NPs. LA, Phoenix, Las Vegas are on the list as well. It will most certainly be exhausting but you don't get that chance again so fast, maybe never, to visit these places.

    Thanks for the Zion heads up, maybe we can work it in somehow ;)
  8. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Whatever your plan is, make sure you try it out first at home - and confirm that it's working before you leave home. Then you'll more time for fun instead of tech support on holiday.

    WiFi speeds in motels and hotels can be all over the place. If you don't get a good connection in one location you will get a good one later one. Fancy hotels will charge you for WiFi generally... but sometimes they will have a direct ethernet connection in the room.

    Leave time to get off the main roads and explore the small rural areas between the NPs. If you are looking for the 'real' America you'll find it in small town's annual fair for festival. Or by having pie and coffee at a diner in a local neighbourhood. Once upon a time I spent several months driving around my southern neighbour - and the most vivid memories are from the side roads and the accidental encounters with American Culture. The NPs are nice - and I visited those too... but I stayed off the main roads to get there. Though I know that 3 weeks is not a lot of time.

    Also (shameless plug here) when you starting to get overwhelmed with just how big the country is, and how far apart things are in the US... I tend to find the US a bit cramped and overpopulated. Even out in the middle of nowhere, there is someone living near by. ;)
  9. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    I've knocked around the West by car any number of times.

    Here are a few things I've learned:

    -- don't count on cell reception everywhere. You'll find yourself in areas where there's no coverage at all. What carrier will you use? In my experience, Verizon has wider coverage than AT&T. In the towns it's unimportant, but out there on the roads, I've found a big difference.

    -- use the interstates only when you must. There are many wonderful smaller roads. The old US highway system (that is, the system marked as "US Route XX") is often an excellent choice. But the two-lane roads are great if you're not in a hurry. In many cases you'll be able to drive on them almost as fast as on the interstates, if that matters to you.

    -- be sure to get a road atlas or a set of paper maps. Yes, it's hard to beat GPS, but out in the west you'll find that when you zoom out on your GPS you quickly lose the smaller routes you might want to use. I've had many instances of driving along, thinking about cutting over somewhere, looking for a small road to get over to the next highway, and only a paper map would give me all the roads over a wide enough area to see what best to do.

    -- buy a cooler (ice chest) and keep it filled with bottled water or whatever you prefer. The West is dry.

    -- make yourself a small emergency kit and keep it in the car. As other posters have said, the American West is big. Very big. When you get here, just buy a cheap bag of some kind (not a backpack, because that's theft bait) and fill it with things like flashlight, batteries, water, energy bars, paper products (like toilet paper and paper towels), a couple of "space blankets," a good-sized pocket knife, something like a Leatherman multi tool. Put it in the trunk (boot). You may never need to use any of it, but if you do, you'll be glad to have it.

    -- the desert is hot during the day but it can get cold at night.

    -- keep your gas topped up. Off the main roads, you could easily find yourself where there's no gas for a hundred km.
  10. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    The most important bit inmonokakata's very good advice is the water. Lots of water. You can be lost for a few days be fine as long as you have enough water. We don't want to scare you… but it happens more often than you'd think… someone goes down a small road, gets stuck and lost. Every few years they don't get found (well the car gets found at least) for a few years. Much more often, folks just get lost for a few days or a week. Or two. Bring water, and the other supplies and you'll be fine.
  11. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    I would invest in another two or three SD cards -- one 32 GB card is not going to be enough! That way you can safely leave everything on each card when it's filled up and then use a different card.
  12. s15119 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2010
    I took my iPad on vacation and used Camera Connection Kit to move photos. It worked brilliantly. Didn't feel like I needed the Air. Unless you plan on trying to get some work done, the iPad is a great device for vacation and the Air is a little bit overkill. Your milage certainly may vary.
  13. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    You'd have the same issues with Wi-Fi speed whether you were using iPad or MB, and as a hiker myself, I definitely prefer the iPad. The real issue is storage space. I have little trouble filling my 16gb iPad with photos after a few days of travel. After that, it's "upload or die." I've been on trips where it's been impossible to upload for several days, whether due to available Wi-Fi speeds, or not having the time to get it done.

    SD cards are cheap, and trips like this are priceless. I prefer to have just one day's worth of images in the camera - if the camera or iPad is lost or stolen, I don't want to lose the entire trip. So, change the SD card daily, and be prepared to keep the "exposed" cards in a separate location.
  14. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Another reason for the iPad is that is a 2nd camera. There may be times when carrying a full camera kit is not practical, but having an iPad handy can be useful. Not every photo needs the award winning full DSLR treatment.... sometimes you just want a snapshot.

    I've got an iPad Mini that I can slip into a coat pocket. Often I'll bring it along when I don't feel like lugging my 'real' camera about. It is a much better camera than having no camera at all.

    You may be going out for a nice dinner and a night out - someplace that a full camera would be unwieldy and inappropriate. However, an iPad may be OK. That said... if you have a decent camera phone... then I suppose this is redundant.
  15. Dizzler macrumors regular

    Apr 28, 2009
    Some news for you: you will have to skip Sedona. There is a huge wildfire there right now and the whole area is up in flames--including Oak Creek Canyon up to Flagstaff. What a pity. It's a beautiful area. These things have been happening a lot because of the lack of rain in the western states. Make sure you stay current with the news reporting. Good Luck.
  16. koerk thread starter macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2013

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing. Just contacted the travel agency and they said that we might have to move the Sedona section of our journey - what a pity. Really wanted to see cathedral rock.

    Thank you all so much for your advice. I think I will go with the iPad as a backup and the occasional Dropbox upload here and there. Just checked, 32GB account for almost 10,000 photos with my camera which will most certainly be enough. The iPad has 13GB left of storage which can be expanded if i temporarily delete iLife and iWork and some games.

    Just switched from buggy Evernote to onenote for planning and organizing everything. Once synced, the data is in the iOS apps of onenote, right? Meaning I don't need an internet connection to see everything?!
  17. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Or you could print out a paper copy of the itinerary, with a couple of sheets with plane and hotel confirmation numbers? No batteries, WiFi needed.....
  18. koerk thread starter macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2013
  19. Abroad macrumors newbie

    May 20, 2014
    I say MBA and a few more, larger, SD cards. Memory is cheap and with where you are going you will be taking tons of pictures. Plus depending on how many files you have, transferring could be faster with a MBA.

    Me.. I like having a computer around to upload and store my pictures then transfer to cloud storage each day, especially when I'm traveling. That way if something went wrong and all files where lost, you still have digital copies online.

    Things to consider-

    If you are going to be doing a lot of hiking, then weight is the biggest concern. And while hiking I would imagine you would not bring an iPad, MBA and a camera while hiking. (My choice would be the dedicated camera) Image quality is a big deal to me though. Plus with a tripod and a simple use of the timer, you can get you and her in the picture with great scenery in the background. Not so when trying to take pictures with an iPad.

    If you are going to be driving more than anything else and weight is not an issue, I guess take both and have multiple backups. But if you are worried about electronics and heat, then either you will have to carry them all or something will get left in the car.

    Just my thoughts…

    Oh and depending on when you are going to Yosemite, and you want to see something else, try and time it to see the Milky Way. I'll be up there in June to do the same! :)
  20. Dc2006ster, May 26, 2014
    Last edited: May 26, 2014

    Dc2006ster macrumors regular

    Jun 9, 2011
    Alberta, Canada
    I have toured those parks within the last year. I used my iPad 2 and carried a bunch of CF cards. Worked well for me.

    When you get to your first national park buy an $80 annual pass. Good for up to 4 adults in a group and pays for itself very quickly. It covers all US National Parks and National Monuments.

    At Bryce drive to the far end of the park and work your way back to the gate. That way you avoid most of the crowds and parking problems.

    The road between Bryce and Zion can be very slow. In one section groups of cars are escorted, one direction at a time, by rangers. We live close to the canadian rockies and have seen lots of mountains so Zion was underwhelming.

    Last fall the road west of Page was washed out, check road reports and possible detours.

    Did you consider visiting Mesa Verde in Colorado? It is just a few hours drive from Monument Valley and offers something different.

    Sounds like a great trip. Have fun.
  21. koerk thread starter macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2013
    Yes we will buy the annual pass when we get to the first
    NP, thanks.

    Thanks for your detailed tips, I will write them down and try to consider them.

    Like I said, the MBA sure would feel easier and safer to work with. But it WILL be taken with us and not left in the car at 40°C. So iPad it is, I must decide at some point. :)

    We will take a camera with tripod with us. Some
    iPhone snapshots will also be taken. None with the iPad itself.

    I guess 10000 photos will suffice. On the other hand, a 32GB sd card is only 15€ or so. We will see...

    Thank you guys!
  22. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Get a cheap cooler there (even a $3 throw away styrofoam one). If you have to leave electronics in a hot car, pop them into the cooler. The insulation keeps hot air out. You can keep your extra water there too - so it's something less than boiling temperature when you get back. The water will also work as a heat sink to absorb some of the heat that does get in. I wouldn't put an ice pack in, due to condensation ....but even just keeping your stuff at room temperature will be protect it.

    I'm sorry you'll not be heading north... there are some great sights north of the border too. Next trip perhaps?
  23. koerk thread starter macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2013
    That's actually a really good idea, be it iPad or MacBook staying in the car/cooler.

    We already do have to make so many sacrifices with our trip because we want to see so many places. We always have to remember what we ARE able to see and not what we aren't.
    Maybe we can travel there somewhere again but from where we come from it easily is a years savings to make a journey like that.


    ... My current savings... ;)
  24. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    My wife and I just got back from vacation. We took along our iPhones, iPads and a point and shoot camera with two 16 GB SD cards. I only filled up 2 GB worth of one card. We had to charge the camera batteries every other day. When we got home, I popped the SD card into my MBP and got all the photos off in a matter of minutes. I still haven't pulled all the photos off of our Photostream from our iPhones. Maybe I'll get around to it this week.

    For a trip to the US, I wouldn't worry so much about transferring photos from a 32 GB SD card to a 32 GB iPad unless you are going to sit someplace and let photostream push them all to the cloud for you. And you better have a Mac turned on at home caching them for you or they might not all be there when you return due to the 1000 picture 30 day expiration policy in Photostream. We took over 500, 12 megapixel photos and only used 2 GB so you would need to snap 8,000 photos to fill up just one 32 GB SD card. If you are putting them on dropbox or google drive and have paid for upgraded storage then fine but if you are thinking of relying only on Photostream, think it through carefully. Perhaps a better strategy would be to bring extra SD cards and make sure you don't lose them.

    BTW, we found the iPad to be just fine for travelling. No need to consider the MBA unless you want to do "real work" on vacation (tsk tsk tsk).
  25. koerk thread starter macrumors regular


    Dec 14, 2013
    I'm not planning on using photo stream because I don't think it's reliable enough for what I need it to do.
    I have 10gb in Dropbox and 7 on onedrive. If that's not enough there is still 1TB on flickr although I don't want to use that if it's not necessary.

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