Which Guidebook is Right for Me?
Whether you are planning a tour through France or a road trip through Montana for your honeymoon, chances are you are going to need a little help along the way. There are so many guidebooks today that it’s hard to know which ones will be best for what you are looking for.
Rick Staves: European travel guides that not only share with you information on local landmarks, accommodations, and dining, but also teaches you how to be a good tourist. It’s no secret that Americans can sometimes be unpopular abroad. Staves shows his readers how to appreciate the culture around them, while showing respect for the locals. All of his guides offer many maps, are well-organized, and information-heavy. If you are looking for images, however, this is not the book for you. The images that are included are small and black and white.
National Geographic: Travel These books, available for many foreign and major U.S. destinations, are among some of the most beautiful guidebooks today. The pictures are large and high-quality. Often, the local historical sites are covered through diagrams in painstaking detail. There usually are some maps, but they are fairly cursory, and it is not as heavy in practical tourist info. These books are perfect to use as inspiration before you travel, to get ideas about where to go and to have an early grasp in the local culture.
Insight Guides: You would be hard-pressed to find a popular global destination that Insight Guides doesn’t cover. These guidebooks general have a good amount of images and maps. Insight Guides also has a line called Insight City Guides. These are smaller, more condensed guides with detachable maps and the most basic info.
Lonely Planet: These guidebooks definitely have their own voice. Not simply straightforward travel information, the Lonely Planet offers common sense and interesting tips in each locale. One of the most unique features of these books is the ability to pick your destinations based upon your interests, or what is interesting to you about that city. For example, in the Paris book, you have the opportunity to build an itinerary reflecting literary Paris, shopping, or theatre.
Fodor’s: Many of these books are probably not suited to take you with you for the day in a backpack. Japan’s book, for instance, is an excellent resource for everything from where to eat to proper Japanese etiquette. As such, it is large; tourists would be better served to copy key pages out of it ahead of time to take with them on daytrips, and leave the whole book behind in their hotel. These books generally have a good balance of information and images.
Let’s Go: Aimed at younger, budget-minded travelers, the Let’s Go series offers recommendations for affordably priced dining and accommodations. Particularly if your honeymoon is a backpacking tour of Europe, the Let’s Go books are a great resource. There are a minimal number of images, but a fair amount of maps.
DK Eyewitness Travel: Gorgeous (and usually among the more expensive) travel guides filled with images, diagrams of popular destinations and maps. Like the National Geographic guides, you could certainly use this as a practical reference, but it is naturally more suited to serve as inspiration. The condensed version of these, the DK Top 10, are city-based guides. They usually are so lightweight that they fit easily into a backpack or purse, and offer all the basic info you will need on a day trip through your destination.
Moon Handbooks: These guides are low in quality images, but make up for it with a wide array of maps and interesting presentation of an exhaustive amount of local history, tourist information, and travel info. They are also usually among the more affordable of the travel guides. Where other guidebooks might have a lot of diagrams, graphs, and sidebar information, Moon Handbooks are more straightforward. So, although the writing is excellent, you need to enjoy reading simple text to appreciate these books.
Unofficial Guides: Most popular of their coverage of the Disney theme parks, the Unofficial Guides offer books for select U.S. and foreign destinations. These books are geared towards those interested in family-friendly activities. Unofficial Guides are very thoughtfully researched and written books. They offer honest reviews and tips on how to travel the destination in the most comfortable, efficient, and enjoyable way possible.
Best Places Destination Guides: Available for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, this guide book is really more of a recommendation book for dining and accommodations. Generally, the recommendations are honest and level-headed. It is rare that a restaurant that receives a mention in a Best Places guide is not already a local favorite.
1000 Places to see in the U.S. and Canada Before You Die: Not really a series, but definitely a reference to take advantage of if you are planning a domestic travel honeymoon. Organized regionally, these books offer the best highlights in each area, and with the maps at the beginning of each section, you can easily decide if something can become a priority to see.
MTV Road Trips USA: A fun guide book for popular U.S. roadtrips, organized by interest and region. The information gathered is suited for the twenty-something crowd with interesting cult museums, bars, inexpensive diners, and pop-culture landmarks.