How to get the most from a tablet on vacation

How to get the most from a tablet on vacation

Summary: The tablet can be a good companion on summer vacation. Here's how to do it right.


You may be taking a relaxing vacation this summer to recharge your battery. Getting away from the stress of everyday life, and especially work, is something we all need to do each year. Vacation means leisure time, and the tablet is tailor-made for such activities. With a little preparation you can make the most of having your tablet on vacation.

Be prepared

It's a good idea to give some thought to making sure you get the most out of having the tablet on a trip. It doesn't take much effort to take these steps before heading out to the beach or wherever you might go.

If you are lucky enough to be going to a beach with white sand and azure water, be aware that neither is kind to the tablet. Bring a plastic bag with a zip closure that is large enough to put the tablet inside and zip it closed. This isn't waterproof by any means but it will do a good job keeping sand away from your precious. It will also protect it from inevitable splashes.

You can interact with the touchscreen through the plastic bag without trouble. When you come back from the beach your tablet will be nice and clean, and without those nasty smudges on the screen. This works for reading books while soaking in a tub, too.

See related: Hotel operators: Free wi-fi is no longer an option | Six must-have travel gadgets | Traveling with mobile gear: Tips from a veteran

You're bringing the tablet, whether it's the iPad, a Samsung or other Android tablet, or the Kindle Fire HDX, for leisure. On a vacation, that usually means listening to music, watching a movie, or reading a good book. Load the tablet up with all of that media before leaving home. Connectivity while traveling can be spotty or expensive in hotels, so download a few movies and books before you leave. If music is your thing, make sure you have plenty of your favorites on the device. For the reasons mentioned don't count on streaming music on the trip.

For listening to music, leave those earbuds behind. I recommend a pair of earphones that are worn in the ear when going to the beach. They keep sand out of the buds and the ears, and block background noise.

During the trip

It's hard to believe that connectivity can still be a concern on a trip but it certainly is. Many hotels charge exorbitant fees for wifi in the room, and even when provided without charge hotel networks can be terrible.

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If that's what you discover when you arrive at your hotel, don't fret. Most smartphones can operate as mobile hotspots and this can keep your tablet online when needed. It's a good idea to test it before you leave to make sure it's set up properly if you've never done so, and that it works well. These connections can be shared with multiple devices if your companions on the trip need to get online.

You've got your tablet in the plastic bag and you're heading for the beach. Be aware that some screens are hard to view in direct sunlight, so make sure you get enough shade to see it. Even if you do, some sunglasses will turn the tablet display into a big artifact rendering it illegible. Sunglasses with simple plastic lenses won't do that so make sure that's what you use. You'll be reading a good book sitting at the beach under a shady canopy, sipping a colorful drink with a little umbrella in it.

Back at the hotel, make sure you have enough outlets to charge everyone's phone and any tablets. I showed a good way to do that from just one outlet. There are other tips for travelers that might be helpful in that article.

Enjoy the vacation

The most important thing about a vacation is to unwind and enjoy yourself. While a tablet can help in that regard, don't forget to regularly put it down, along with your phone, as I detailed in a recent article.

More important than getting some good leisure time with your tablet, it's far better to enjoy time with family and friends. There's this thing called conversation that is wonderful, and so much better than doing things on a screen.

If you have a tip for traveling with a tablet, share it in the comments below.

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPad, Samsung, Tablets

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  • Offline content

    microSD cards and/or USB sticks and/or external harddisks are your friend. 1 GB USB harddisks are quite cheap nowadays, and there are lots of good tablets that can use them without any adapter. Just pack your entire movie library and a HDMI cable to play tablet content on the hotel TV.
  • What I've noticed recently is that

    hotels are now accommodating charging devices much more readily. You may still want to bring your own decent charger, but the hotel may have USB charging ports available.

    [though I'd be a little careful on using unknown USB ports in "shady" locations]
    • I've even noticed this

      in starbucks now. I never thought about the "shady" USB port idea though- not sure if that's paranoid or very smart to think about.
    • Security 101 FAILURE!!

      Last thing you want to do is hook up your device to some random, insecure USB port (or charging station).
      • power only USB

        2 easy solutions
        1. Power only USB cables. They don't have the data pins connected.
        2. Use an USB to USB power adapter dongle. Its a tiny adapter about an inch long that you plug your USB cable into which isolates the power pins so there can be no data comms when all you want to do is charge.
  • Background noise?

    >>For listening to music, leave those earbuds behind. I recommend a pair of earphones that are worn in the ear when going to the beach. They keep sand out of the buds and the ears, and block background noise.

    I dunno... blocking out the sounds of sand and surf (as well as the approach of someone about to step on you in order to catch a Frisbee) sort of misses the point of going to the beach...
    • maybe it's just me

      but I can't stand earphones that go in ear. they feel like they're sucking my brain out.
  • personally I wouldn't bother with a tablet on vacation

    on a plane or train and I want to read a book or listen to music? phone. want to watch a movie? ultrabook (or macbook air if you prefer). I don't want to hold a tablet the whole movie, let the ultrabook hold itself up. going to the beach? sun is going to wash out your screen anyway- if you really want to read on the beach you should get a kindle paperwhite. they're cheap and small and you can go so long without charging them. and if a wave washes it away you're out a lot less than a tablet.
    • Holding a tablet while in flight??

      Ever heard the words "origami case"? You can get some decent ones at a low price.
  • also

    not a bad idea to bring a tap for AC sockets (that is, a device that makes more useable plugs from one provided plug receptacle) and having one designed with "octopus" cables, makes multiple charger units concurrently use-able even if their shapes otherwise cover up the other receptacles in a lot of wall sockets.
  • A plan for those who (like me) cannot read the future and plan accordingly

    1. Buy a protected tablet, something like Experia Z.
    2. Provide remote access to the home PC, something like Chrome Remote Desktop.
    3. Store all passwords in a nice cloud vault, something like Enpass.
    4. Check that the home PC restarts after a power failure and all external storage is on.

    There are other potentially helpful things like access to a cloud storage or packing the charger, but all that can be done later as necessary.

    Alternatively to 1, take a credit card with you and purchase the right tablet if/when you really need one.
    • Talk about being insecure

      Insecure software (Chrome remote desktop)
      Storing passwords in the cloud
      Remote logins using insecure networks (hotels).

      You definitely failed the basic security test.
      • Oldshool

        ... or you can leave it at home.
        - Bring several books (yes, they are still printed)
        - Bring camera (yes, they still exist. and make better pictures than any phone)
        - Bring Nokia 3310 ;)
        - talk with people

        In my humble opinion, there is no place for a tablet (or a smartphone) on the beach.
        If you can not live without them, you have no time for beach. And you are lying to yourself. You have NO time for vacation!

        On the other hand, you are on vacation. Leave high tech behind, and rest. Sleep. Eat. Bathe/sunbathe. Be oldschool tourist. Even try to avoid TV...

        And don't burn me instantly. As an IT administrator, I must take my laptop on vacation...
        • time for a break!

          Exactly, the whole idea of taking a holiday (vacation) is to get away from the daily grind. Take your tablet if necessary (for emergencies, I also am an IT professional and occasionally have to be available), but lock it away securely and go out, smell the coffee, see the sights, and get some R&R. Otherwise you might as well stay at home and save the money for a session of therapy :)
          Jimmy S
  • Vacation.

    Vacate (vacation) the normal, and live without the tech for a fine rest. I would say a smartphone for tethering, along with Chromebook or iPad would be fine to use back at the hotel for a couple hours. Camera and smartphone for pics is something to take, but really the object is to escape the hustle and bustle ..... or is it. I sound like I am preaching, and in reality some may enjoy the fast moving and high tech vacation, so who am I to judge :) Have a great Summer !
    • I can understand reading on the beach

      that's relaxing. but as I said above you really don't want a tablet on the beach anyway.
      • reading at the beach

        I'd rather listen to audio books. (one hearbud only )
  • My tip

    Zip the tablet in a plastic bag when at the beach, as described in the article, and leave it zipped, in the hotel room. If you can't go to the beach without your tablet, there's no point in going anyway, just buy a couple of postcards so you'll know what you missed seeing.

    And by all means, use it instead of a camera, especially if it's a 10" monster in a fold out case. You'll look really smart and impressive lugging it around everywhere you go, and holding it up for every photo...just be sure to wear your black knee sox, plaid Bermuda shorts, and sandals to complement the picture.

    In fact, there are already plenty of photos of where you're going, so instead of walking around with your nose in your tablet (dangerous!), stay in your room, with connected Wi-Fi, and just look at the pictures of the things you wouldn't have seen when you were walking around gawking at your tablet, trying to figure out the best route to the highest rated Thai food restaurant.

    Of course, it's no different than walking around with your nose buried in your phone, but a tablet is much more noticeable, so when you're fooling with it in the checkout line taking twice as long because your attention is divided, the others will forgive you because it will be obvious you're using an important electronic device and must do it right at that moment because you no longer know what to do without the electronic stimulation.
  • LOL at tablets in plastic bags

    Just get an Experia Z Ultra and leave both your phone and tablet at home