There was a time in my life when I shunned buying guidebooks. I always thought of a guidebook as an unnecessary, expensive product that was obsolete thanks to Google. Overtime, and with experience, my views have changed and here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to spend a few bucks to improve your overall travel experience.
I remember very clearly the first trip I took to Europe spending an incomprehensible amount of time planning accommodations in particular. Over subsequent trips the pattern continued of pouring through hotel and AirBnB listings. Now, I start with a guidebook and if I can’t find something suitable, I stick to the area they recommend and then find a place. The amount of time and headaches I have saved is immeasurable and I have been able to find better overall accommodations that we have been consistently happy with.
Most books offer a list like how to see Rome, for example, in 1 day, 3 days, 5 days etc. These help me plan an itinerary for our travels that Google perhaps cannot. They often include walking routes and plans that optimize the best time of day to see sites and integrate into a tried and tested itinerary. I don’t always follow these plans step for step, but they give me an initial plan to deviate from.
Prioritization of Sights
When you may not have a lot of time in an area, guidebooks can give you the lowdown on things and usually offer a rating of the site overall. As an example, when I was in the Normandy region of France last summer, I never would have thought to go to the US Ranger Memorial at Pointe du Hoc, but as it was rated highly in my guidebook we went and it was a highlight of the trip. Rather than wasting time at a bigger name site you have heard of, you may be inspired to head somewhere different and have a better experience. For a great story about lesser known sites, check out Avebury and the Beauty of Visiting Lesser-Known Sites.
A One Stop Reference Source
A guidebook can provide you with a one stop shopping experience and overall save you a lot of time. You can try to put together your perfect agenda, and from experience, something’s may work, others may not, or it may work out as perfect as you hoped. The time you invest in this can be rewarding, but when you travel as much as I do, while having a family, and a full time job, your time is precious. I have managed to give up my need for control, save time in the process, and make the planning experience faster and easier.
This is a very personal decision and requires a little self-experimentation to discover what you prefer. I prefer two particular brands, Lonely Planet and Rick Steves. Lonely Planet guides are impartial books that are excellent, almost encyclopaedia type reference. Rick Steves offers a more personal take on travel and his writing style may not be for everyone. His writing is full of dad jokes, cheesy puns, and personal stories, which I usually find amusing.
Guidebooks, in my opinion, are a great investment and a drop in the pond to the overall cost of our travels. Having good reference material lately has made my job easier and planning more enjoyable.
Safe and happy travels.