By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
Before leaving for Spain and France two weeks ago I researched the technology I would need to economically stay connected and I thought I had all the bases covered. But as is usually the case, things did not turn out quite the way I planned.
We brought one netbook, two BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computers and three BlackBerry smart phones (my husband was testing a new model). I downloaded four movies and four books to my PlayBook. I also planned to download the daily newspapers to my PlayBook whenever I found wifi.
Here is what happened:
BlackBerry: I paid $200 for a OneSimCard for my BlackBerry with 200 MB of data. When it didn’t work, I discovered that the SIM does not support BlackBerry servers. Although the company representative pointed out that this information was on the website, he agreed to make an exception and reimburse the cost.
At that point, my only option was to purchase two, one week packages with a total of 50 MB of data from Rogers for $200. To make effective use of the limited data available to me, I used wifi whenever possible. When wifi was not available, I turned data roaming on and off. I still had a few MB to spare when I boarded the flight home from Paris.
Books: I bought seven electronic books on the Kobo reader on my PlayBook. They averaged about $12 each. Since most of them were new hard cover releases, the ebooks were cheaper than hard copy, and they were certainly easier to carry.
I loved reading this way because the screen is backlit and I could up the font size when my eyes were tired. However the definite downside is that I can’t share the books I have read with other family members.
Also, the battery gave out after six hours on the way over. But on the way back in a newer Air Canada plane there was a plug on the back of the seat so I could continuously charge the device.
Newspapers: I had hoped to download full issues of daily newspapers using the PressReader app on my PlayBook. The advantage of this approach is that once the whole paper is downloaded, an internet connection is not required to read individual stories.
In fact, free wifi was much less prevalent than I expected so I only got full issues of the newspaper a few times. However, in our Paris hotel we were able to score unlimited free internet because there was an open wifi for a conference of international financiers across the street.
I like this method of reading the paper so much I’m considering switching my subscriptions.
Movies: I couldn’t watch movies on my PlayBook on the plane as the engines and other ambient noise drowned out the soundtrack. However noise cancelling headphones helped and I was able to watch a movie on the train from Lyon to Paris and in the Paris airport.
Of course without my husband the engineer and all around tech support guy, none of this would have been possible! He brought all the right cables and kept everything charged and operational.
And in spite of our tech toys, we did find time to tour Barcelona, cruise on the Rhone River through southern France for a week and eat way too much in Paris at the end of our trip. Minor glitches aside, I definitely think being able to share my experiences and my pictures when the images were still so vivid, made it even better.