How To Buy a Guidebook

graveyard featuredOriginally published on KSL.com

The best vacations are those that are personalized to meet your interests and finding the right guidebook can be the first step to making sure that happens. But how do you know which one to buy? The choices can seem overwhelming and it’s hard to know which book will most closely match your own personal travel style.

Here’s what to expect from several of the most popular guidebooks and how to know which one will be best for you, with whatever kind of travel you enjoy.

If you’re a starving student hiking your way across the world, the Lonely Planet or Rough Guides series are probably the guide books you’re going to want. Rough Guides and Lonely Planet both started out aimed at penny-pinching backpackers and that flavor is still there, though in recent years they have diversified to include more mid-range hotels and restaurants.

Younger travelers spending a few days to a few weeks abroad will likely want the Lonely Planet books, as they include much more information about nightlife, hiking, adventure-based activities and off-the beaten track sites than most of the other guide books.

Rough Guides are also aimed at younger travelers, and are thoroughly researched, entertainingly written and huge. If you are spending several weeks in one country, this is the guide for you. You’ll be able to squeeze every last experience out of your trip. For shorter stays, though, the amount of information in each book is likely to be overwhelming rather than inspiring.

The more experienced traveler will probably gravitate to Fodors or Frommers guides. Both supply options for hotels and restaurants ranging from fairly cheap to very extravagant and offer solid advice about the most popular and most worthwhile sites and experiences. Both guide books are also well organized, easy to navigate and fairly impartial. These guides are a great help to those who have done a bit of traveling already and know exactly what they want from their trip.

Rick Steves‘ guides are wonderful for those venturing out of the country for the first time or those who usually book package tours, but would like to try booking a solo trip. Steves’ guides are intensely personal so it’s very much like having a real-life guide along with you.

This can be great if you want someone to help you plan each aspect of your trip and narrow down the overwhelming options, but can be irritating if you want to venture outside of Steves’ narrowly-focused itineraries. If planning a trip seems like an overwhelming task, give Rick Steves a try, but if you are usually more of an independent traveler his books probably aren’t for you.

Parents who will be traveling with kids might want to check out Eyewitness Guides. These guides are somewhat less popular than the others listed. They feature color photos and lots of “peeks inside,” making them pretty, but with less less information. This might seem like a bad thing, but if you are traveling with kids, these books will give you the must-see locations without giving you guilt over missing the 100 other things Rough Guides will tell you to do in the same town.

Eyewitness Guides are also great for teens or tweens to read, since they have lots of pictures and give a stronger sense of what kids can expect from your destination. Their Top Ten series is especially helpful if you are only visiting major cities within a country, giving you a very portable pocket-sized guide to the most important experiences within the city.

So what if you still can’t decide which guide book is right for you?

One easy way to check compatibility is to head to your local bookstore and look through the guidebooks for your own hometown. Which one lists the restaurants and locations you love? Which one would you recommend to tourists coming to your state for the first time? That’s often a good indicator of which one will most closely match your own travel style when you venture abroad.

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One thought on “How To Buy a Guidebook

  1. Ananth Natarajan

    Very useful. Alas, this post comes just two weeks after my first ever “foreign” holiday.
    I really did consider buying the LonelyPlanet guide to Britain, but finally just went with reading up from various online resources, including TripAdvisor.

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