I just came back from a one week trip in Israel. After discussing various options for connecting on social media and keeping up with my email, I decided to bring my iPad mini on my trip. This post will examine where it worked and where it did not. In the comments, feel free to offer your own travel advice.
Connecting with the iPad in Israel
Originally, we were supposed to stay with my cousins most of the time. However, due to circumstances beyond their control, we stayed with a relative by marriage (who was an absolutely wonderful hostess). She had great wifi in her apartment, so when we came back after our busy days we were able to both re-connect and re-charge our iPads (I was traveling with my eldest son, and we both have iPads). The three prong adapter seemed to do the charging better than the two prong, so I would suggest buying a three prong adapter if you are traveling from the U.S. to Israel. I bought the adapter easily on Amazon. If you stay in a hotel, I would assume most of them will have great wifi available to guests. Verify before booking your place.
Israel-Railways: I loved traveling on trains in Israel. The wifi is free, although I discovered it is not very strong, and you may not have any if you sit in the “wrong” part of the train (is the corner not a good spot? I would need the locals to help with this). Even when I did get decent wifi on the train, it was not strong enough to upload a photo. So save your photo sharing for the strong wifi locations.
Tel-Aviv Art Museum: Yay, Tel Aviv! The art museum had its own wifi, so we were will able to look up the museum website for more information while viewing. The Israel Museum did not have this feature. I might write a post comparing the two museums in general. Both were wonderful. In general, the Tel Aviv municipality has approved a budget for free wifi in the city, in parks, main streets and commercial centers (coming soon in 2013?).
The Galil seems to have less options for free wifi than the central part of the country. This is not surprising, as the Galil is more rural.
You can sit on the Ben Yehudah mall in Jerusalem and depending where you sit, it is not hard to find free wifi. The Jerusalem bus station had enough wifi for me to load one Google map of Jerusalem unto my iPad, then it went away or asked for a password.
One friend I visited had computers but no wifi. I Googled connecting my iPad via her networked computer, but it didn’t seem so simple to do. One techie friend said I would probably have needed to add iTunes to her computer. I certainly didn’t have the right administrative privileges to do so, but the truth is, with guest privileges I could check email and Facebook, so what more did I need?
Ben-Gurion airport had free wifi while we waited to board (leaving Israel). When we got off the plane (arriving), we had none, but my cousin came right away so there really was no time, anyway.
Setting up your iPad for your trip
In some ways, my iPad was prepared properly. In other ways, I would have done things differently. I downloaded a few games that required no wifi for the plane ride. I got fairly good at Bejeweled Blitz on the plane – I don’t have the patience to read books on planes. I only got through a few pages of Jane Austen’s Emma (which I had downloaded for free in advance via Free Books app).
A big mistake I made in preparing my iPad for the trip was that I set up my email to work, but I only checked incoming mail and not outgoing. I couldn’t get the setup for outgoing mail in Israel for my regular mail, so I depended on my Gmail account. If you regularly use Gmail, just download the Gmail app in advance. I prefer to do work correspondence with my leoraw account; for future travel, I will make sure I have outgoing mail set up properly as well.
Facebook and Twitter on the iPad are easy: just download the apps in advance and make sure they work properly. I found it nice to take a few photos with iPad as I traveled. Then, when I had the chance, I shared one on Facebook and one on Google+. Most of my photos I took with my Canon Rebel. But I wasn’t planning to utilize those photos until after my trip was over – the ones on my Canon I will probably edit a bit before sharing.
On turning mail accounts on and off: I share the iPad with my daughter. I added my email accounts to the iPad a while back, checked them, and then turned them off. For the trip, I turned off her email account. Now that I am back, I should turn her email account back on and turn off my email accounts.
I actually bought a pocketbook for the trip in which my iPad mini fit exactly. So it was simple to carry it around – it even came with me on the hike on Mount Meron in the Galil. I have great photos of flora and of views from that hike. The famous red poppies were in bloom for me.
Planning the next trip
Although it may be a while before I go on my next international adventure, I am still thinking ahead to how I might plan differently next time. By the time I next travel, I suspect I will have a different smart phone. I will probably want to get some sort of SIM card for the smart phone so I can connect almost anywhere instead of searching for wifi. But the truth is, not being connected everywhere is not so terrible. It’s OK to just enjoy nature without needing to look on Facebook. If I don’t use my smartphone in Israel, I would spend more time getting a better Israeli phone for rental. The ones we rented I would not recommend.
What is your travel advice?
I am sure some of you have traveled more than I have. What have you found useful for connecting online? What questions would you advise to a traveler anticipating a trip?