After three years of curtailing our traveling while my wife was undergoing cancer treatment, we decided to celebrate the successful completion of her treatment with a long trip to France. As president of a small company, a long trip can be a bit of a hassle, and from a technology perspective I wanted to travel light, so needed to make some decisions on what to do.
I work with a great staff, so knew they would cover 99.9% of my day-to-day functions without me, but I wanted to be available for the inevitable work “fire”, and of course be accessible to family and friends as well.
The first question was whether or not to take my laptop. I travel a good bit so I have a nice laptop (Lenovo T420S with solid state drives) that is light and fast, but like most executives; have laptop, must work. That was clearly counterproductive to the reason for this particular trip, so the decision here: no laptop.
The next question was whether or not to use my smartphone. After checking to see how much it would cost my company for me to use my smartphone while in Europe, I was shocked at how much it would cost, particularly for data. As I receive literally hundreds of emails a day, it could reach the GDP of a small third world country. In addition, I would have to call my provider and have international data plan added to my phone, and then once I got back, call again and have it removed. While my work pays for my phone, I didn’t think it appropriate to have the company pay that kind of cost for a personal trip, so the decision here: no smartphone.
One reason I felt comfortable leaving my laptop and smartphone behind was my iPad. While I am NOT an Apple disciple in any way, I have to admit that I AM an iPad devotee. I think the number of solid apps is what currently sets it apart from its competitors, and this trip is what really sold me on that fact.
While the smartphone data plan was pretty expensive, for the iPad, I could add a One-Time International Plan right from my iPad. Depending on my proposed usage, it could cost between $30 and $120; not exactly cheap but at least I wouldn’t have to worry about crazy <a href=”http://metro.co.uk/2013/07/11/done-roaming-girl-runs-up-3800-bill-using-facebook-on-holiday-3879684/” target=”_blank”>overage charges</a> that you often read about. I assumed (correctly) that there would be enough wifi spots to ensure that I didn’t burn through my data plan unnecessarily.
Without a smartphone, one the first things I needed to do was ensure that I could be reached by phone if needed. The best solution for that was of course to use the Skype app for the iPad. However the limitation with Skype has been that using Skype makes harder for the technically challenged among us (ie, my mom) to be able to contact. However, for a few bucks a month, Skype supports the use of a direct dial number that will forward to my Skype account. I was able to provide a standard US 10 digit number for my co-workers, family and friends to access while we were out of the country, and they had no problems being able to reach me during our time away.
Another Skype option that was helpful was Skype Wifi. With that app, I could use my Skype credit to access wifi option with their partners all around the world, of course including France. While I found that the coverage left a little to be desired. I had hopes that this might be something that will improve with time, but the jury is out on that at this point.
Occasionally as part of my job there are documents for me to review and execute, and that would not stop while I was traveling. For that, I used <a title=”PDF Expert” href=”http://thevirtualdude.com/?p=471″>PDF Expert</a> to read, complete, annotate and sign forms and documents.
Lastly, as my company uses ShareFile to securely store, manage and send confidential documents and files, it was a simple matter to download and sign into ShareFile’s app to allow me to access company files as needed. This was better since ShareFile will alert me when files are ready and I can download them, whereas just attaching them to email would eat up my precious data amount as the email downloaded.
Of course, the iPad manages all my emails, calendar, etc. perfectly fine. And from a “non-work” perspective, traveling with it was a big help. I could take, edit, and upload photos, monitor the weather, look for good restaurants, look up directions, information, even translate a little bit. I was able to leave my laptop and smartphone at home and celebrate a very important milestone in my family’s life, all the time ensuring that I didn’t come home to disgruntled co-workers, unhappy clients, and any unpleasant work surprises.