IMHO the iPad Mini is the absolute perfect travel device, bar none. For me, it's exactly the right size for travel: bigger than a phone, just big enough to feel like a real screen that's usable for anything. It's super-light, and even fits into a pocket (tight squeeze in some pockets, but I can slip in it my back pocket or side pocket on "cargo pants", shirt or jacket pockets). I've been using my Mini as my primary travel device for years. It. Is. PERFECT.
I was so relieved to hear that Apple has just (like, a few days ago) resurrected the iPad Mini line with an updated model. My old Mini version 2 is old and slow now, and it struggles a bit with some of the more demanding software. Apple has left the Mini without a meaningful update for years, and I have worried that they had abandoned it; I have been hoping against hope that they would come out with an update, and they just did. The new update, while lacking some of the most high-end features, looks very solid to me and like a good value. Costco is about to start selling them (wifi models only, I think -- I will opt for one with cellular). I will be buying one of these before my next trip this summer.
A big, bulky case for these sounds awful - the whole point of any tablet is to keep things slim and light. IME you really do not need any "case" for these as long as you are careful (a screen cover, yes, but anything with "defender" in its name makes me wonder exactly who or what you expect to attack your iPad?). The thin, light cover Apple sells is probably adequate.
I love love love my iPad Mini. The best device invented for travel since the airplane.