How much do you rely on your iOS devices on a daily basis? Is the device capable of taking you on a long vacation without printing a single travel document? I decided to test the capabilities of my iPhone 5 and iPad mini with Retina on our recent vacation to Kauai. Every reservation we made for the trip needed to be recallable on one of my iOS devices. My wife and I have travelled numerous times and seem to never use the documents we took the time to print. Early on in our vacation, I thought this was going to be a very unwise choice. Our first hotel stop was putting my iOS capabilities theory to the test.
Early on I realized just how vital my email accounts on my iOS devices were going to be for our vacation. This realization came when we attempted to check-in at the Westin O’Hare, our first hotel stop prior to leaving Chicago. Somehow the initial reservation we made was confirmed on the wrong date, so we had to cancel the first reservation and make another for the correct date. Apparently both reservations were canceled and we thought we were going to be heading back home for the evening since the hotel looked extremely busy.
I make a point to create a specific folder in iCloud mail for each individual trip. Any and all emails I create, send, or receive concerning a specific trip are moved into that folder. Now I have one specific place for all information. This is exactly what I opened when the front desk agent said they didn’t have our reservation. I showed them the email confirmation they sent us and they honored everything I was quoted in the original confirmation email. A few keystrokes later and we were presented with room keys and an apology for the confusion. When all was said and done, we were in our room ready for vacation about 15 minutes after entering the lobby of the Westin O’Hare.
Next up, we needed to check-in on our flights and get boarding passes. Once we were all squared away in our hotel room, I used my iPad mini to check-in on our US Airways flights. I hoped we would be offered the option of smartphone boarding passes, but I never found this option. No worries though; we were checked-in and would have the US Airways agent print them when we checked our bags in the morning.
Check-in and printing our boarding passes at the airport was a breeze too. The line was extremely short since it was 3:30 a.m. and our flight left at 5:15 a.m. Since I needed to recall the reservation number to print our boarding passes and check our luggage, I simply went to the same email folder to quickly access confirmation numbers needed for this portion of our vacation. Boarding passes in hand and luggage now making their journey to the plane, we were in full vacation mode.
Prior to our flight, I did a little research. My wife is amazing at vacation research (Check out her Disney travel Facebook page). However, due to the level of technology involved I knew I was on my own finding this information. If you’ve flown in the past couple years, you’ve probably seen Gogo Inflight internet. I’ve never used it before, but felt it would be important for this extremely long trip. In all, we were expected to have about 10:30 hours of traveling ahead of us.
Getting a day pass and trying Gogo Inflight would help distract me for a good portion of the day. You can sign-up for a day pass prior to getting on your flight for a reduced price ($14.00 is what I saw in February 2014). I chose to forgo the savings and get the full sign-up experience while onboard the aircraft to see how smooth it would be while in flight. Gogo Inflight was extremely easy to use! When you are allowed to use your portable electronic devices, if you’re not already connected, simply go into the settings of your iOS device and select the Gogo Inflight wireless network. Once you try to access a webpage, you’ll be automatically directed to a sign-up page with all the information you’ll need. Pick the pricing right for you and enter all your information and you’ll be online in no time. You’re allowed one device connected for service. I learned this when I passed the iPad to my wife and pulled out my MacBook and connected to Gogo…she lost connection, frowned, and went back to reading about the Bachelor in her celebrity gossip magazines. Everything worked flawlessly from ORD to PHX (US Airways 602), but our next leg didn’t share the same story.
While in Chicago, I made sure to find out if both flights would be equipped with Gogo Inflight. I gave our flight information to the US Airways employee and was assured both flights were equipped. Excellent! Once we got on our second flight (US Airways 684), we were instructed Gogo Inflight was currently down and wouldn’t be available. I knew we would lose connection once we got out over the Pacific Ocean, but not while still over land. Armed with that information, I wouldn’t have purchased a full days pass, just a couple hours would’ve sufficed. Now my wife and I resorted to the same entertainment- magazines; only mine are about tech and hers are still about Hollywood gossip.
Once we landed in Lihue, I turned on my iPhone 5 and immediately got an email welcoming us to Kauai, informing us our car from National Car Rental was waiting. This email included all the information we needed to quickly and easily get to the rental location. Thankfully I had entered all our flight details when I made the reservation or I don’t believe we would’ve received this extremely helpful email. I immediately moved the email to the appropriate vacation folder for fast access later on all my iOS devices.
As a member of the Emerald Club with National Car Rental, we bypassed the check-in counter and went straight to selecting any car from the executive aisle. We were in and out in less than 10 minutes. We left so fast from National that it felt like we had stolen the car, not rented it. I was impressed how quickly we got on our way. All our information was stored and ready for the attendants to access. All the National agent had to do was simply open the appropriate gates and offered directions. Since I had our resort loaded on the Maps application on my iPhone 5, all we had to do was hit start for directions from our current location.
The drive to our hotel was only 5 minutes from National Car Rental. We stayed at the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club on Kalapaki Beach in Lihue, Hawaii. Check-in went smoothly thanks to having the confirmation email from the hotel. Like everything else for this vacation, confirmation details were in the vacation folder I created. I gave the confirmation number and we were on our way to our room for the week. Our vacation was in full-swing.
So far our vacation without having to print out a single item was running pretty smoothly. At this point, the only part of our trip requiring any more confirmation information was our trip home on Alaska Airlines. Since I didn’t have confirmation numbers on paper, just digital copies, it was important to take extra good care of my iOS devices during the week. I’ll admit I was concerned about losing or damaging them during the trip, but I made sure to be extra cautious, but always knew I would have access to the folder with all the information as long as I could get to a computer with internet. Since we were traveling in the U.S., I felt everything would be all right if I misplaced anything, not to mention our hotel had internet access. I don’t believe I would’ve tested this theory if I were traveling internationally; well, not yet anyway.
Over our 10 day vacation to the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, we never printed anything. The only items given to us on our entire trip on paper were our boarding passes for our flights. I tried to get US Airways mobile boarding passes, but they were never offered. On our return flight on Alaska Airlines, I checked in and got mobile boarding passes. The check-in agent at the Lihue Airport said she needed to reprint our boarding passes, which rendered our mobile boarding passes useless- bummer.
I did reach out to Gogo Inflight while in Kauai via Twitter. I sent them my email information and it took a couple days for them to get back to me. Actually, I had to send them another direct message via Twitter to see if they were able to offer me anything due to partial service. We were leaving the next day and I wanted to get everything squared away for our flights. Gogo Inflight sent me a promo code for $10 off. Immediately I went over to their website to purchase an early day pass at a reduced rate of $14. When I got to the final step in the purchase process, I discovered there was not a place to enter a promo code as seen when purchasing inflight. I thought I would be able to get this day pass for only $4. Instead, I was informed the promo codes are only good while inflight. Displeased with this information, I decided to forgo Gogo Inflight on the way home. They already got $18.95 out of me for one flight; I wasn’t going to let them get another $8.95 for only one more leg from SEA to ORD (service is only available over the continental U.S.).
If I were to travel again in the U.S. only I would definitely go paperless again. In the past, I’ve always printed out items for each portion of our trip so we would have a hard copy of everything. Over the years I noticed we never really used printed information. Ninety-nine percent of the time the information was always recallable by businesses using our last name. Carrying around your travel documents is not painful; it’s becoming less necessary. With as much as I rely on my iOS devices for so many other things throughout my day, why wouldn’t I put my faith in them while traveling? I’ve always done most of the work anyway by putting it in the correct email folders so I could quickly recall the information. The very few times I’ve actually needed the printed information it’s tucked away in a carry-on bag that I end up rummage through to find. At least when its on my iOS device, I can quickly navigate to it in a time of need with little to no effort. Simplicity is what I’ve always found useful in my iOS devices. Now I can officially say, my iOS devices are making my U.S. travel life a little bit easier and stress free.
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