The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Travel guidebook recommendations to ensure an exciting trip

3 min read
By ALEX CLEGG This past weeks #TravelTipTuesday for my personal travel blog was about guidebooks and their limitations.


This past week’s #TravelTipTuesday for my personal travel blog was about guidebooks and their limitations. I mentioned how they were great stepping-stones but were not material one should live by or base an entire trip off of. What I did fail to mention were all the different types of guidebooks out there, especially the ones that are focused on specific topics, such as culinary or adventure.

Luckily, one of the readers of my blog made me aware of this mistake, so I have decided to write this piece as a supplement.

My guide will hopefully help you narrow down which book to get a hold of and what each brand is known for. I will analyze both the good and bad of guidebooks, and you can make the decision yourself if you think you need one or not.

For an entirely new destination, guidebooks are great if you have no idea what to expect. They will give you a little background on the new country, city or region you’re traveling to, so you do not walk in completely oblivious of cultural norms and regulations.

In addition, they will include things like safety tips, public transportation information, exchange rates and the likes. These tips are invaluable, and if known prior to departure, will typically make your trip that much smoother.

All guide books that I am aware of come fully stocked with maps of the area. These can be as broad as country maps but can be as specific as city maps and even smaller if you are looking for a specific part of town. Having the maps in your book will keep them pristine, and if you are anything like me and you like to write on your maps, it will become a great keepsake of your travels.

However, there has always been the temptation to live by guidebooks; to do everything and anything the book suggested because those who wrote it are professionals, right? Well, yes, that may be accurate, but each traveler has his or her own taste.

What these professionals may find intriguing or exciting might not be the most interesting thing to you, and vice versa. It is important that you venture off yourself, outside of the book, and find something that you really enjoy.

For those of you who like to visit all the tourist destinations in Europe, Rick Steves Guide Books are the ones you should look for.

Steves does a fantastic job of outlining the attractions, provides a little bit of history and shows you how, when and what to see at each locale. His books go as in-depth as the certain city, but are as wide ranged as the entire continent as well. Each book serves a different purpose; you just need to know what you’re looking for.

If cost is not an issue and you like great food, Michelin Guides are right up your alley. Although too expensive for most budget travelers, Michelin specializes in culinary travel, identifying and locating the best restaurants of each destination. Be weary, however, some of the restaurants they propose will need reservations far in advance.

Probably the ones that appeals to my own heart, Lonely Planet Guide Books, are written for the wanderer, the one who likes to roam around, see obscure things, eat some unique food or visit less-known land marks. In my humble opinion, I prefer Lonely Planet not because I am some brand-loving snob, but because I think they give you the most bang for your buck and the most information without spoiling the whole activity for you.

Finally, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, Fodor’s has got it all. I would say it is the best mixture of activities for the wanderer, for the foodie, for the budgeter and for the affluent. This book is the epitome of travel stepping stones, providing all the information you need to get you on your way.

Choosing a guidebook is all up to personal choice. What you put in is what you get out. I hope this will keep you from making a foolish mistake and spending $30 on something you may never read.

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