As I write this the view out of the window next to me looks similar to the photo on the right (snapped with my iPad camera moments ago) and I am writing this on my iPad seated in 3A at the front of the main cabin of an Airbus en route to Los Angeles from Fort Lauderdale.
Unusually though, even though this was a business trip, I do not have a laptop with me. Normally I would have my trusty 13″ MBP in my bag, but this was a quick trip (I was in Florida for a little over 24 hours), and I did not need to present anything at either of the conference sessions I was speaking at (both were panel sessions).
Instead, I brought just my iPad, my TwelveSouth Compass stand, and a Bluetooth keyboard in case I needed something more than the on screen one.
So how did it work?
The iPad is a great choice for use on a small tray table, leaving space for a drink (be careful when in turbulence!), but the Bluetooth keyboard is a no go (I could not find anything that indicated that Bluetooth was allowed in flight, even though the plane offers in flight Wi-Fi). Battery life is also not a concern with an iPad, at least on domestic flights. In this case though I had in seat power.
The Compass stand is also great, giving me the option of slightly tilted for typing, or near vertical for watching movies. And, of course, I can pick up the iPad and recline my seat if I just want to read.
One gotcha, apparently my iPad started auto-updating some of its apps last time I had it connected to Wi-Fi, and didn’t finish. Right now my Evernote app, which I was hoping to use on board, is stuck in limbo with the word “Installing” under its icon. In future I will need to pay more attention to that since my options up here are limited now (I could pay for the on board Wi-Fi, but that’s an expensive option since I don’t need it for anything else).
Tip: Take a USB charger rather than relying on the seat USB. My iPhone had real issues with the USB jack on the plane, asking me whether I wanted to trust it, and randomly popping up a message about it being an unsupported accessory. Apple devices are prone to this nonsense when all you need is the power, so I carry a Photive USB charger with me too. Good for charging everything at night in the hotel too, from a single outlet.
At The Hotel
All I needed on this trip was email, Google hangouts (for our team video call), a browser and access to my Dropbox for some documents I needed to read. The iPad did all of that with ease. I actually used my phone for most of the email, but it was nice to have the bigger screen sometimes. I never used the keyboard (that may change when I get to Los Angeles as I have a long layover there).
Although the hotel I was staying in this time had an in-room safe big enough for a relatively large laptop, I have stayed in some with much smaller safes. The iPad will almost always fit in an in-room safe though for peace of mind while dining or attending social events.
At The Airport
At least in the U.S., iPads do not need to pulled out of hand luggage when passing through security; nor do accessories like Bluetooth keyboards. That makes the security process easier to navigate. The one wrinkle in the plan though is the little TwelveSouth Compass stand which almost always attracts unwanted attention from the security folks. Sometimes I remember to take it out of the bag and place it the tray with my shoes and liquids; when I forget, my bag almost always gets pulled out and they want to see what it is.
For trips like this one, where the more serious computing power of a laptop is unnecessary, taking the iPad was a great option. If I had needed to present something visual, and especially if that presentation needed work, or if I had wanted to work on some code and needed development tools, the laptop would still be required.