“The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes ‘sight-seeing’.” – Daniel J. Boorstin
Once I have decided upon a travel destination, the next thing I usually do is purchase a good travel guide and start doing my homework. With so much information available today at the click of a mouse or by simply downloading an app, you may wonder if the “old-fashioned” print travel guide is even relevant–much less worth the twenty-five or so dollars it can set you back. Although I rely heavily on the internet for information when planning—TripAdvisor, travel blogs, web sites about specific points of interest—I still find that a travel guide in book format is the most efficient and comprehensive tool for gaining a snapshot view of and general feel for my destination. A worthy guidebook will include a brief history of the location; a summary of the culture and customs; maps; photos; attraction information; recommendations for accommodations, entertainment, and eating establishments—all indexed and organized for quick and easy reference. These travel guides come in many different formats and may be obtained by various means; the majority are available in local book stores or online. Many states offer free guidebooks through the department of tourism or some similar agency. You can usually receive one fairly quickly through the mail. I have also picked up guidebooks along the way during my travels—for example, I obtained “Plantation Homes of Louisiana” during a visit to Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. I find that a print guide book is most useful when traveling overseas. I am a big fan of Rick Steves’ guidebooks as I find them to be well organized, relevant, and extremely readable. His conversational style makes the experience seem like a visit with a friend, including inside tips and information gained during his extensive travels. His books are updated annually so it is possible to readily get your hands on current information. I particularly like the way he includes the lowdown on such things as TIs (tourist information centers), WCs (restrooms), public transportation, hours of operation and admission fees, and theft alerts—the little details that make a huge difference. While I am a big fan of internet travel research and engage in it frequently, I feel that the paper travel guide has its own niche and remains relevant and useful.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of a paper travel guide book…
Offers a broad overview of the location including history, cultural enlightenment, points of interest, etc.
- Generally written by travel experts and based on research and first-hand experience
- Portable, offering immediate accessibility during travel
- No internet access required
- Detailed and compact
- Organized and indexed
- Can be bulky and heavy to carry
- Can be fairly pricey
- Information may be updated less frequently than online travel sources
All in all, I consider a reliable travel guide to be a worthwhile investment–especially if I am investing a sizeable amount of time and money in traveling to a particular location. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject…