Finding the right Guidebook

August 30, 2012

Planning, Travel Tips

How to Choose the right Guide Book is different every time for me.  I think of how much has changed over the years and what guidebooks I’ve used at different ”stages” in my life.

When I took that first backpacking trip with a girlfriend at age 19 to Europe we used both the Let’s Go and Lonely Planet guidebooks.  Lonely Planet had great things to do and Let’s Go had better food suggestions.  It was a win-win with two of us traveling as we each could have our own suggestions and our own book to carry.

However, when I took that first backpacking trip ALONE at 25 for 6 months in Europe I used Lonely Planet.  Lonely Planet got me through some pretty hard times.

When that guy in Romania was stalking me at the train station to stay on one of his properties, Lonely Planet had told me that he actually had valid places to stay.  I ended up staying at his house with his family in my own room for $10 per night and he drove me around to see the sights for cheap as well since I had limited time (and was tired at this point in my trip).  He also ended up putting up at his brother’s house some other travelers that I had met a couple weeks before and so we were able to reconnect.

Lonely Planet was by far the best to me during my single days on a shoestring.  It was my only daily companion on that backpacking trip.  As an American woman who was traveling alone and during which 9/11 happened, I could not have been more happy with having a “guide” to help me work my way through Europe and home again.

Since then, I have gone back and forth between Lonely Planet and Frommer’s.  I think as I have gotten older Frommer’s has appealed to me more and more.  There is usually a kids section in most of their books and hey, it’s not so “lonely”.  I think it’s geared more toward families, but I also think that these guide books have really been about how I look at them through the lenses of my life.

In planning our day-to-day activities while in California last year, I used Frommer’s Day By Day guide books.  We bought the Napa & Sonoma Day By Day and the San Francisco Day By Day guide books.  These are great because there is background information/small history on each destination, contact and address information, and recommended itineraries.  Yes you can find this online but when you are tooling around the destination, it’s a nice-to-have.

We go solely off what and Frommer’s advises that has to be booked ahead.  Ah, TripAdvisor, now that I would be lost without!  The honest reviews have helped me try new hotels and activities that I would not have ordinarily tried before.  If I book somewhere that there were some negative reviews given, then it’s my own fault when I am disappointed!

I have yet to try Rick Steve’s guides but have heard good things about them.  I have also not tried the Rough Guides.  I suppose I’m not so off-the-beaten-track when I travel or adventurous enough which may be why I have yet to buy these guides.  Or maybe I am and just don’t see these guidebooks enough when I am actually traveling?

I also have yet to try Fodor’s guides which are similar to Frommer’s but when I am at the bookstore I always end up choosing Frommer’s over Fodor’s.  I have no rhyme or reason here except that I know my parents have used Frommer’s more than Fodor’s so I guess I’ve been previously influenced (and I’m old enough now that I don’t do the opposite of what they do!).

I know there are a myriad of travel guides out there but these are the basic books that I am exposed to as an American traveling.  What about you?  What is your favorite travel guide to use and why?  And has it changed over the years?

- It may be old school but I recommend going to the local bookstore and browsing through the guidebooks in detail on what you like and don’t like about each one.  This way you not only compare content but weight, whether it includes maps, etc.  I think the choice of a guidebook is a personal decision!

3 Responses to “Finding the right Guidebook”

  1. Adam Says:

    My favorite travel guide these days is pretty much what I find through Google or Wikitravel – blogs and the like.

    Did you see Frommer’s was bought by Google? I suspect that will change quite a bit in the travel guide market.


  2. Emily Says:

    Yeah, I definitely like Let’s Go and Lonely Planet at this stage in my life. I used to like Let’s Go more, but since I’m not a student anymore, have found myself parting ways with it (though I still like their cheap activities suggestions). Wikitravel is another great one – always check it when I’m on the trip. Also, since I’m a big tourist, I go to the local tourist station in bigger cities for free maps & coupons.



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