Travel Tip Tuesday: Travel Guide Books Decoded Part II


Many people, including yours truly, think a guide book can make or break a trip. Particularly when we are traveling to a new country or unknown destination, we look to our guide books for expert advice on where to stay, where to eat and most importantly where to shop. (wink wink)

Guide books should be entertaining and helpful. They should offer us a personal insight into this new destination. They should teach us, guide us and show us the location before we’ve ever stepped off of the plane. There should not be a learning curve when reading a guide book – it should be easy to follow and user-friendly.

Is this asking too much?

Well, even if it is – I’m asking it. I’m adding to last week’s travel guide book reviews with a few more of my trusted favorites.

Frommer’s has a magazine, an interactive website and a whopping 20 guide books in their series, including Great Walks, The Unofficial Guides and my personal favorite The Irreverent Guides. Someone bought me The Irreverent Guide to Paris before I relocated there and I chuckled throughout the nine-hour plane ride and enjoyed the book almost as much as I enjoyed my first day in Paris. Almost. The original Frommer’s books tend to favor travelers with a healthy budget and word on the travel writing street is that only 1/3 of the listed points of interest have to actually be visited by the author.

The Green Guides are my absolute favorite for uncovering the history and culture of a new destination and for prioritizing my list of must-see attractions. Their rating system never fails and they have useful maps and fun pictures. We trusted the Michelin Green Guides when we visited Sicily last winter, I devoured my Paris Green Guide and the last guide book I purchased before I moved to Italy was Green Guide Italy. That being said, the text is long and rather dull and you absolutely must be interested in the history to get through them.

Fodor’s I searched high and low for the perfect guide book to accompany us on our Belize honeymoon last November. The winner? Fodor’s Belize. History and cultural tidbits were sprinkled throughout the book, as were glossy prints of the Caribbean, snorkeling sites and Mayan ruins. The “Top Reasons to Go” sections were instrumental in helping us choose specific regions and itineraries while the “Word of Mouth” inserts from real travelers confirmed our choices. Additionally, we used the Fodor’s Choice stars to select a hotel and were blown away by our resort.

What about you? Do you use the Internet or guide books to research a trip? What do you depend on more, expert guide book authors or “real travelers” advice? Do you think the Internet is hurting or helping the guide book industry?

Until next time … Buon Viaggio!

8 Responses
  1. I love I usually travel by myself and find that website more useful than most guide books, especially when it comes to places to eat. Bloggers are a great resource as well.

    I have a new rule to avoid most places Rick Steves recommends unless a local gives it high marks. I don’t like going to a restaurant when NO locals eat there. I’ve had my worst meals in places like that.
    I’ve also noticed that if you ask locals where you “should” go to eat they will direct you to the touristy places. If you ask them where “they” eat, you will get a great hole-in-the-wall or family joint. I used to travel by myself quite a bit and I LOVED it. In fact … I kinda miss it. Shhhh …. don’t tell Peppe!

  2. I use the internet more and more, not only for travel info. but also for recipes. (It was a hunt for a recipe that first introduced me to blogging.)

    I don’t think that it will totally replace guide books, though, because it’s better to have maps, etc. in your hand when you’re out and about in foreign places.
    I use the Internet for recipes, as well. I like having a guide book, not only for maps and pictures, but also as a little reminder of the trip. I like a good collection!

  3. My favorite guides are the Eyewitness Travel books – I buy them as a “book” and not really a guide. I use them for their wonderful color photos and historical information and I know that at least that doesn’t get outdated! If I need something more recent, like a restaurant or hotel recommendation, I will check the internet or buy a (more recent) guide. But not often. The Eyewitness books stay a part of my library and I lend them out to guests visiting.
    True that, Sara. The history shouldn’t change, right??

  4. Thanks again for this. In advance of this trip (only three more sleeps!) I did use the internet a lot, using the tourism site of the city of Paris and the city of Tavara. Great sources of information that gave us some great ideas.
    Oooh, it is getting close. I hope you have a great time. Bon Voyage!

  5. I use almost anything I can get my hands on. Frommers & Michelin guides are great. I rarely buy a guide book anymore as I have so many on France and Italy it isn’t funny!

    Trip Advisor is a great resource, but there are now soooo many others on the intenet too. The possibilities are endless.

    And pictures are a must!!
    So are you saying there can be too much of a good thing?? 🙂

  6. I do both. I love carrying around a book with me everywhere when I am on the go, but I research a trip on the Internet – like travel forums – especially on the more out of the way places.

    Nice website 🙂
    Thanks, Pink Ink. And I love travel forums, too!

  7. tripadvisor is indispensible for my planning & has been on my blog’s sidebar since my blog’s inception. that site has saved my hide on a few occasions! but…i still cannot do without good old hardcopy to highlight, rip up, & clutch in my travel greedy hands!
    Tripadvisor is awesome, you are right. I like to hear what “real travelers” had to say about a place. Then, take that with a grain of salt.

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