How to Choose a Guidebook

Thrifty Travel Mama - How To Choose a Travel GuidebookOnly two more days left in November.  It may as well be December with all the early Christmas hoopla.  This holiday cheer has you feeling edgy.  Edgy and.. daring.

Well, I double-holiday-dog dare you to travel with your kids next year.  Nope, sorry, driving to Aunt Mabel’s for Christmas doesn’t (really) count.  I want you to sink your teeth into that adventurous holiday spirit and hog tie it with the impossibly tangled web of Christmas lights.  There’s no getting out of THAT grip, dontchaknow.

Now, you’ll need to pick a place to go.  I can’t really help you there.  But do I need to?  I know you’ve got that secret list scrawled away in the back of an old journal somewhere.  You know, that if-I-had-only-waited-a-few-more-years-to-have-kids-and-travel list.  And, while we can’t return the kids, we can learn to take them with.

Once you’ve picked the place (or even region – being flexible usually helps reduce expenses), you need a guide.  You could hire me, but I’m terribly busy and awfully expensive.  And since I want you to see the world on the cheap, let’s just stick to a book, ok?

My all-time favorite guidebook series is the DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 series.  I really wish I had been paid to say that either in cash or in an entire set of these books.  Alas, that is my own opinion.  I like these because they’re personally tested.  My dad bought me Top 10 Vienna in 2003, and I’ve been using the series ever since.

Do big guidebooks overwhelm you and make you run back in the Starbucks line at Barnes & Noble for another pumpkin spice latte?  While I love the pictures, sometimes I can’t stomach 300 pages.  Top 10 solves that – it’s about the size of a diaper and about as heavy as a full one though (thankfully) not as stinky.

My top secret, ultra-sophisticated system involves a stack of super sticky post-it notes.  Just put one of those puppies on the pages you find interesting, look up hours/directions/prices/etc. later, and jot them down.  If you find something of particular interest but the Top 10 doesn’t deliver enough info, look it up on TripAdvisor (search the forums), and make more notes.

Though DK has over 120 Top 10 books, you may be visiting an entire country or region and need a bit more than the skinny can deliver.  If you’re jetting to Europe, definitely pick up Rick Steeves.  He might have a rather annoying, obviously American fashion sense in his DVDs, but this guy knows his stuff.  Case in point: he absolutely nailed the best place in London for fish & chips.  Doc Sci and I ate the pipin’ hot fried food on a bench outside the place to save a pound.  Yep, we are that thrifty.

My third pick is a tie – DK Eyewitness Travel (non-Top 10) and Lonely Planet.  I love DK for their oodles and oodles of photos and handy maps.  Lonely Planet is more in-depth without boring you to tears (sorry, Frommers – this is you).  This company also has books for destinations that other companies won’t touch.

I own Lonely Planet Germany.  It was recommended for expats.  I can see why – it has sleeping/eating/grocery recommendations in several budget categories for almost all the little towns in the country.  But, in general, it’s not my favorite.

Some of you loooooove Lonely Planet.  Why did I place it so low?  Well, it’s not so good for travel with kids.  I think Rick Steeves is the most family conscious of the bunch.  All other guides list kids’ activities and considerations as an afterthought.

And this is where famous bloggers get to say, leave a comment and one of you will win a guidebook of your choice from DK.  I’m not famous.  And there’s nothing to win.  But for the love of travel and, well, just for the heck of it, leave a comment with a place you’d like to go using a Top 10 guide.Signature-Marigold

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2 thoughts on “How to Choose a Guidebook

  1. Oh you know for me I am still biding my time to get to South Africa or really anywhere in Africa… I am rounding up some S.A. friends here so that I can go and visit them on the cheap! Miss you!

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