Turning Pages the Old School Way – Why I Use a Guidebook

I am a book lover. I’m not referring to an e-book or audio book (bite your tongue), but rather an old-fashioned crack-open-the-spine-and-turn-the-paper-pages-with-your-fingers book. I’ll read an electronic book when I’m desperate, but I strongly prefer to check a book out of my local library and hold it in my hands while I’m skimming its pages. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I love travel guidebooks as well. When Bob and I are planning a trip, we’ll have two or three guidebooks sitting on our end tables until a few weeks before we depart, when we realize we’ve got to get cracking and make some plans. Customers always ask for my favorite guidebook series, but I honestly don’t prefer one type over another. Rather, I like to take home several and cross reference them, to make sure I’m getting the most information about where I’m going. Here’s an example.

We’re headed out in a couple of weeks to Southern Italy. We’ll fly into Naples, spend a few days there, then rent a car and head south. I’ve been poring over both the Lonely Planet for Southern Italy, as well as Rick Steves Naples and the Amalfi Coast. I’m a big fan of Rick Steves guidebooks, and always take a copy with me if he’s published one for my destination. But Rick is very opinionated, and if he doesn’t think a place is worthwhile, it likely won’t make it into his guidebook at all, so I always use a second guidebook in my planning.

Even though I might not book lodging based on a guidebook recommendation, I still get a great deal of information from them, and can’t imagine planning a trip without one. Rick Steves offers detailed, self-guided walking tours in all major cities. Most Lonely Planet guides provide excellent information on hikes, like the Walk of the Gods hike on the Amalfi Coast, which is not mentioned at all in Steves book. There are excellent restaurant recommendations, detailed descriptions of the best exhibits to see in museums, and shopping suggestions beyond your typical tourist trinket store, to name just a few. Thanks to a guidebook, we’ve bought pastries from a cloistered convent where we never saw the person selling us the goods, we’ve shopped in a hundred year old pottery store, and we’ve skipping a several hour ticket line for the Sagrada Familia.

Guidebooks also provide invaluable information on public transportation, including discounted options for multiple day local transport tickets, ways to skip long ticket lines at museums and other popular sites, how best to plan an itinerary, detailed street maps of cities and towns, and so much more.

Yes, you can find virtually all of this information on the internet. And you can buy electronic copies of guidebooks, and even, from Lonely Planet, chapters of guidebooks online as well. But I’m a strong believer in having as much information in the most accessible place possible, making it as convenient for me as I possibly can. Let’s be real, I aim for everything in my life to be as convenient as possible. The $40ish dollars I’m going to spend on two guidebooks for a several thousand dollar trip are more than worth it in my book. Pun intended.

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