Bringing Technology to Travel: Part Three, Tablets

My phone has really changed the way I travel and how I do my work as a tour guide. I wondered last year if a tablet could up my game in the same way that a smartphone did. After about a year and a half of use, I can honestly say that it is one of the best purchases I've made. Is it as good as a smartphone? No. It's different. Each has pluses and minuses. Together they are like a symphony. Do you need a tablet for your travels? No, you don't NEED it, but there are benefits and considering how inexpensive some models are these days, it's not a bad investment.Shopping for a tablet is a dizzying experience. There are too many choices. You can pay almost any price, I actually got one free recently from my cell phone provider. I've done a lot of investigation on this topic for myself, so what follows is an opinion based on the wisdom gained from a trail of tech tears.KindleIf you're new to technology and don't want to spend gobs of money, I like Amazon Kindle. I think I've owned at least four of them...which is maybe not a great endorsement. I must admit that this was a game-changer for me. I used to carry piles of books for reference and for reading on tour. I would not be the packing-light spokesgirl I am today without this invention because I cannot get by without books while I'm on the road. With a Kindle and my iPhone, I can do pretty much everything I need to for work and leisure. A basic Kindle reader is a fantastic product to simply replace books and store documents. You can buy books from the website and they are automatically beamed to your Kindle. The e-ink display is the best replacement I've seen for a book, easy on the eyes and mimics pages well, although I still miss turning the page. My library system, Seattle Public Library, loans Kindle books which self destruct at the end of a lending period. If you're a member of Amazon Prime (and you should be!), you get to borrow a book for free every month as well. A standard Kindle runs about $80. I'd probably splash out for the Paperwhite if I were in the market for a new one, it has a nice backlight for reading in bed. My only gripe is that I've broken more than one Kindle, so either I'm clumsy or they aren't built to last. Probably both, certainly the former.Kindle Fire is a decent tablet meant to compete with an iPad. As with the iPad, it's a screen like any other, so reading is not as comfortable as with a standard Kindle. It has more capabilities, though. You can buy apps for games and entertainment, many of them come free. You can store music and surf the Internet, even if it's a little clunky in comparison to an iPad. Considering that it starts at $49, this is a great choice for a travel tablet. If you do go with a Fire, be sure to buy the Amazon Prime membership, the tablet is sort of programmed to be integrated with the Prime program anyhow. You get lots of TV shows, movies and music included, plus the free shipping deal. It's worth it and cheaper than Netflix.I've had a Fire for about three years. I thought about getting another rather than an iPad but a salesman put it perfectly- Fire is for entertainment, iPad is for work and entertainment. So I gave my old one to my son and bought an iPad.iPadiPads are a splurge, let's face it. I paid almost $600 for mine. That's more than a new laptop or desktop computer. But since I've gotten it, I don't even use my laptop anymore. It does everything and more that my laptop does. The size and weight are great, not too heavy and a big, bright display. I bought the standard sized iPad because I like to use it while I'm guiding, to show photos to my group. I like the size also because the keyboard is a decent size for normal typing. I've got no problem typing on the glass display, but I know some people don't like it. There are cases available with an integral keyboard or wireless keyboards that you can add if that's a problem for you. So, what can it do? Movies, music, games, books, all the things a Kindle can do. Word processing, spreadsheets, Internet, photos....and on and on. It can do everything that a normal computer user needs to do. I'm sure it can do things that I'm not even aware of. The apps for travel are only getting better every day.I have a cell phone chip in my iPad, making internet connectivity possible almost anywhere. Buying a tablet without a cell chip is silly, the concept with tablets is that they are a conduit for information stored elsewhere. Without the internet, a tablet is not nearly as useful. Also, if I were to do it again, I'd get more memory. I have 32GB and I'm always having to delete things.Even if I love my iPad and use it every day, in reality my iPhone does almost all of the same things. Not every app works on both devices, but most do. I like the combo of both because they compliment each other and are wirelessly integrated. Documents and photos, for instance, are available instantly on both devices.Overall, the question still remains- do you need a tablet? No. You don't. You don't need anything for travel other than a passport, credit card and toothbrush, although deodorant is polite. Will a tablet make your life on the road better? Yes. It will.You can dream about iPads here:// can find the Kindle on my wish list here: // prime is pretty cool and I'll teach you how it use it in Europe in later posts: