Saturday, September 03, 2011

Just returned from a great trip to Europe visiting Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France.  The weather started out rainy in Germany and The Netherlands, but eventually the sun did come out and the temperatures during the entire trip were pleasant and tolerable for summertime.

I used the iPad 2 to keep track of all my documents, itineraries, maps, phone numbers and travel plans.  I also had my iPhone along, but found the handy iPad screen to be easier to see and zoom in on the various city maps.  I kept my iPhone in airplane mode and used only with wifi connections to avoid any large data download fees that would be associated with 3Gs network mode.  I felt confident that if needed for that emergency call, that it could be retrieved from my pocket and used.  My son also reminded me that I could always use a hotel or restaurant to call a cab when needed.

My husband had purchased the maps for Europe for his handheld GPS unit.  On the occasions when I didn't go along with him and my daughter, they managed to get lost.  Once he forgot to turn off the GPS unit while they were out exploring Amsterdam's many museums. They walked in the wrong direction when leaving the museum only to realize that my daughter had dropped her paper map somewhere along the walk, and he had no power left to consult his GPS.  When I was along, I was able to wake up my iPad, run GoodReader app where I had conveniently downloaded the city maps in pdf form for offline viewing.  We were always able to find our way.

I find that the best way to travel is to pre-plan by finding city maps, travel ideas and such from the internet sites and uploading these to Google Docs.  I am then able to download these to my devices as needed for the cities that we visit using wifi or pre-load all of them prior to leaving the US.   I also kept my other itineraries for accommodations and travel loaded for easy access.  All the important confirmation numbers an such were very easy to access online or offline from my iPad or iPhone.   If you have the mobile me email account, you can also email any pdf files to yourself before you leave and have access to those documents offline as well from your iPhone or iPad.   I would have liked to use my iPhone with some of the travel apps I had downloaded while out and about, but didn't want to take a chance on incurring large fees on my phone bill, so I studied suggestions while using wifi in advance of the days outings.

We all downloaded an mp3 guide to the Louvre Museum and tried using our headsets to listen to the tour while exploring the museum.  The Louvre is a great museum to see and we saw Mona and Venus, the two attractions that draw the most crowds.  Everyone was crowded around the Mona Lisa trying to take an iPhone photo alongside.  The number of iPhones I saw on this trip was astounding.

Here is a photo, my granddaughter took while in The Louvre Museum with my iPhone - she called it - "Baby World."

And of course, on the ten hour flight from the US to Europe and back, the granddaughters were easily entertained with Talking Tom, coloring apps and some favorite games.  They also texted messages from the ship to their family while using wifi and the TextFree app.  The ship we were on had excellent wifi coverage, so we were always connected via iPad, iPhones and MacBook Airs.  

As I sit here today, I am longing for the new iOS 5 that will allow me more features for my future travels.  I am envisioning that life abroad can be entirely possible if I am able to stay connected to family, friends and the internet.