OK, I know we’ve slacked off on our blog posting duties. School has begun and between my studies and Rae’s kids back in school, well, we’ve been busy. But here you. Our latest post by Rae.
Have you ever seen a place on TV or heard a friend talking about their amazing trip and thought “I’ve got to go there someday”? Then you sit down to plan your trip and become completely overwhelmed. Where should I stay, where should I eat, what should I see, what should I do, is this place really all that interesting, is it appropriate for my family, . . .AUGH!!! Ok, take a deep breath, relax, and take it one step at a time. My first step is research, and for that I turn to travel guides. They simplify the planning and in the process get me really excited about my trip.
Here is a rundown of the travel guides I use. I always try to reference several guides on a location as each offers a different perspective.
Audience – Educated audiences looking for a cultural experience
- Suggested Itineraries to help you know where to start
- Includes maps, both street maps and sketch maps of the mentioned sights so you can get the lay of the land and see where things are in relation to each other.
- Rates the worthiness of attractions
- Thorough information that is personally researched
- Cultural insights throughout
- Section of recommended books and films
- Lots of useful practicalities including on the ground tips for saving time and money
- Insight features with in depth cultural and historical information
- Only covers Europe
- Sparse on pictures
- Their popularity causes what my husband calls “The Rick Steves Effect” where the out-of-the way places he recommends then become populated with American tourists
Comments – Rick is my all-time favorite guide series. He matches my interests and travel style.
Audience – Middle class North Americans that stay strictly on the beaten tourist path
- “Best Of lists” giving you the top experiences, restaurants, museums, etc.
- Suggested itineraries to help you know where to start
- Ratings for the sights so you know what is worth the time
- Tags for the special finds and kid friendly sights
- Solid information with an easy format
- No pictures
- Few cultural insight side bars
- Keeps you solidly on the tourist path of “popular” attractions
Comments – I always use Frommer’s as a starting point for my itinerary and for the solid info.
Audience – People who are visual
- Nice color pictures throughout. They really help you see what a sight is
- Good features on the food of a locale and sometimes on shopping or entertainment
- Nice maps
- Good diagrams of the top sights
- The “Traveler’s Needs” section at the back is useful
- Except for the top sights, everything is given equal weight leaving you to guess if it is worth the time or not
- The information on sights is not very interesting or thorough
Comments – I always consult these for the food feature and for the fun of looking at the pictures to get a good visual. I’m always more excited about a trip after looking at these.
National Geographic Traveler
Audience – Travelers interested in culture, nature and authentic experiences
- Beautiful photography and lots of it
- Many in-depth features on culture and history (once I read all the features in the Vietnam book and I’m not even planning a trip there)
- Suggested experiences, not just sights
- “Not to Be Missed” list for each section of the guide
- “Further Reading” section
- Solid information
- Layout is not as easy for a quick peruse as some other guides
Comments – These beautiful guides make for great pre-trip reading
Audience – Upscale North American tourists
- “If You Like” section listing interests such as history or shopping with good places to pursue those
- Easy to use layout
- Thorough information with all the essential features
- “Fodor’s Choice” ratings for the top picks and tags for family friendly sights
- On the dull side
Comments – I’ve never really connected to Fodor’s style, they cover the essentials, but don’t interest me.
Audience – The backpacker crowd
- Special section “With Kids”
- The standard necessary information
- Nice color photo section of the top sights
- “If You Like” section to help customize your trip
- Often the only guide covering more exotic destinations
- Gives suggestions for experiences not just sights
Cons (which could be pros if this is your style)
- Geared toward a younger more liberal crowd
- Includes lots of physically adventurous ideas
- Geared towards going on the cheap
Comments – These guides are useful as an additional resource and for adventure ideas. I take them with a grain of salt, keeping in mind my style and who they are written for.
Remember, guides are only your starting point to help you make a rough itinerary. However, I find them to be the most fun part of the trip planning process. We’ll cover the rest of the process in another post. Happy Travels!