How (and when) to use a guidebook

People all over the world go to a lot of trouble to write guidebooks to help the rest of us with information on a location, hotels, restaurants and general information. However, guidebooks are also limited by several factors.

First of all, what one person thinks is a ‘must stop’ might not be meaningful to you and what a guidebook lists as a top restaurant may or may not be something you consider to be good. It’s all subjective. But, a good guidebook provides basic information and along with the internet you can usually decide what places to visit, where to eat and hopefully you make a good guess of where to stay.

Some guide book companies who have books to check out include Rick Steves who not only extensively travels Europe but has friends/contributors to provide some of his content for travel books, Fodor’s, and Lonely Planet. If I can buy more than one tour book, I will do that because I can look at overlap to help me make decisions, but truth is that the Internet is a very helpful tool. There is also Trip Advisor and other companies that people provide real life experience to help you decide not only what to do but what not to do.

We suggest to buy a guidebook for where you are going and rip it up. Yup! Mark it up, rip it up and only haul around the parts you actually need. Guidebooks can add weight to your backpack and a large amount of the information may not be pertinent to your trip. So, go ahead – go against the grain — do what your mom always told you not to do — rip up the book. EEEEK!

Cathy and I always buy a guidebook, read it for ideas and information and then make decisions on what we want to see in a specific area. When we arrive at our location, we rip out the pages from the book and take those with us for the day, and then toss them once we return to the hotel. After all, we won’t need that information again. Actually, even before we leave for our trip, we tend to look through tour books and rip out pages of places that we won’t be visiting. Why drag around a book with places that we won’t be going to?

Even if we are hiring a private tour guide, we usually will pull out the ‘walking tour’ of a location to take with us. When you have a map of a walking tour, it can help you orient yourself as well as help you get back to an area if you want a second look.

In general, we don’t find the hotel and restaurants recommendations helpful. I’m a Marriott loyalist anyway so if I can find a Marriott, that’s where I stay or at a Hilton, where Cathy is a loyalist, depending on locations and pricing. We also will stay at unique hotels such as former monasteries. As far as restaurants, I prefer to do research because we like to eat well when we are travelling, including Michelin restaurants. We’ve eaten at some real stinkers based on trusting a guidebook. I prefer reading reviews on Yelp, Open Table, Resy, Dine Out, among other resources to make those decisions. Eating well and at interesting places is part of the experience.

Guidebooks have their place and they also have their limitations. Use it as an ‘idea’ book rather than a definitive ‘to do’ book. And unless you are seriously attached to it, toss it in the hotel recycle bin before you head home.

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We love to travel and especially encourage women to go out and see the world! We love history, archaeology and understanding the different cultures throughout the world.

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