Those of you who know me may think that the title of this column reflects the fact that I have lost a fair amount of weight over the last 18 months. Although that would certainly be a reasonable interpretation of the title, it actually refers to the amount of technology I carry with me when I travel (which, as a percentage, has decreased even more than my own weight).
I still have trips that necessitate certain tools—and therefore require me to use a larger, generally wheeled bag to move my “mobility” equipment from one place to another—but more and more frequently I travel with a small, relatively light messenger-style over-the-shoulder bag that accommodates all the technology I need for the trip and a few extras as well.
What has enabled me to do this? Simple: I started practicing more of what I have been preaching and using my iPad instead of my laptop when I travel. There are certain times when I simply must have my laptop and other times when it is more convenient to use the laptop, but I have learned to make do with the iPad more and more often for an ever-increasing number of tasks.
Although I would not want to do serious document creation and/or revision on the iPad, it works just fine for most of the other things I do when I travel. I typically will use the iPad for e-mail, note-taking, reviewing documents, reading e-books, watching videos (movies or television shows I missed), taking education courses (CLE and other), and occasionally listening to music and playing games. When I have a WiFi connection, I can even use it for videoconferencing, although, in truth, I do not do that much videoconferencing. Owing to the Internet functionality of the iPad, I can also interact with my home and my office computers, transfer my data to and from my cloud server, transact banking business online, and do a little shopping in my spare time.
The iPad also functions as a travel agent and concierge. Available apps and Internet access allow me to make hotel, airline, car, and restaurant reservations, check in for my flights, and get travel guide information, weather information, directions, and public transportation system schedules and maps. In the airport, I can find my flight’s departure gate number, where they have hidden it in the airport, and whether my flight will depart/arrive on schedule. I can also locate food and other commercial enterprises in most major domestic airports.
As an e-reader, my iPad has Apple’s own iBooks app and books available through it as well as Amazon’s Kindle app and Barnes and Noble’s NOOK app, giving me access to my NOOK and Kindle libraries as well as all the e-books available free online or for purchase through the Apple, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble online bookstores.
If I want to do work when I travel, I can connect to my billing system on my iPad (I use a cloud-based system called Clio) and make entries on the road. I can do legal research and review deposition transcripts, documents produced in discovery, contracts, and other documents and make notes, comments, and changes. I have even started to use the iPad in court for various law and motion and trial-related matters.
When I travel now, I pack my iPad in a protective case, slip it into the messenger bag along with my iPhone, stereo headset, and MiFi (cellular-based WiFi hotspot), and I am good to go. As I have an AT&T cellular connection on my iPad and a Verizon MiFi for my laptop (the MiFi also works with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch), I have the best of both worlds in terms of connectivity and access.
If I plan to do any significant amount of keyboarding on the trip, I will also pack a Bluetooth keyboard—I prefer using that to the iPad’s virtual keyboard when I have more than a casual amount of keyboarding to do. Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard works very well. Zagg has just released a very nice protective case for the iPad 2 with a removable Bluetooth keyboard that is a bit smaller but still very adequate for the job. The package of the case holding the iPad and the keyboard is very well designed, very efficient, and protects both the iPad and the keyboard, making it a more convenient package to carry than the iPad and the Apple Keyboard (Apple offers no case for its keyboard, but you can find third-party protection). I usually also pack a small stand for the iPad to prop it up vertically or horizontally (portrait or landscape mode for those of you who remember those designations) so that I can more easily see the screen when taking notes and typing on the keyboard. It also works well in terms of reviewing documents, watching videos, and reading books.
Because all my electronics charge via a Micro USB port or an Apple Dock, all I need is two cords and a charger. I have both an AC plug and a DC plug that will accept two cords, so I can charge two devices at a time by plugging them into a car or an electrical outlet. If you will not have access to a charging port for a prolonged period and worry about running out of power, you can always add a small portable power pack to your bag (think external battery).
All in all, it is a very effective and an extremely lightweight kit to pack and to carry. All told, it weighs five or six pounds. I have owned laptops that weighed that much, not counting the ever-present power brick (named for its size and weight more than its function).
Just to give you some perspective, when I travel fully loaded with electronics gear including a laptop, a projector, an iPad, etc., my briefcase generally weighs about 20 to 25 pounds. By contrast, the iPad-centric mobility package weighs less than my first portable phone (not car phone, but portable), together with the three extra 20-minute batteries I regularly carried.
For those of you wondering about that small messenger-style bag I mentioned earlier, the one I like best comes from my local Tumi store (also available online). It is part of the Alpha line and goes by the name Flap Zip Crossbody (style number 22112, list price $175).
Other bags with similar functionality come from many manufacturers. Another of my favorites is Levenger’s leather Bomber Jacket Tech Traveler ($179). If you want similar functionality at a lower cost, check out Timbuk2’s Quickie for Laptops/Netbook case ($50). If you want a bigger selection, go to the Amazon website and check out the several pages of options.
If I really want to travel light, I can leave the iPad and just take my iPhone—most (but not all) of the apps that I use on the iPad also work on the iPhone. Although I will do that from time to time, the larger screen of the iPad makes it much easier for me to work on and much more enjoyable to play games and watch movies on, but the iPhone takes up much less space and weighs a lot less. Owing to its more diminutive screen and shorter battery life, I do not recommend relying solely on the iPhone when traveling, but it works nicely for short trips such as a 20- to 30-minute commute—assuming, of course, you are not driving and using it at the same time.