Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Your guide(book) to the world

Travel Writer
Troy Media Corporation
July 22, 2009

It can be a little bewildering when you start looking for a travel guidebook. There really are as many types of guidebooks as there are types of travelers. Where do you start to find the right one for you?

Traditional guidebooks make up the largest chunk of your selection, and there are plenty of these. They usually contain lots of good information, some black and white maps, key areas to see, and diagrams of significant buildings. You'll usually find a few color pictures and maps too.

Before choosing your travel guidebook, or books, think about where you're going so you can zero in on only those locations. If you are doing the Grand Tour of several European counties, check out the travel guidebooks that cover whole countries or even the whole continent.

Some guidebooks focus on individual cities, so if you are going to London and Paris or any other city. Some guidebooks combine two or three neighbouring countries like Southeast Asia with Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam all in one book.

But choose the guidebook that will suit your trip; there is no need to carry that "continent-of-Europe" tome around if all you're seeing is a couple of cities. Two slim city guides will do and be so much easier to pack and carry.

Some guidebooks are far more visual than others. They tend to have lots of pictures and less information. The information is good, just not as in depth as other guides. If you're taking a quick trip somewhere, those pictures can tell you in an instant if something looks like what you want to see. And if it's a quick trip, you probably don't have time for long detailed explanations anyway.

There are plenty of specialty guidebooks. These won't give you as much general information, but if you have a special interest it might be worth carrying one along. You can find specialty books for birdwatchers, or wine tasters. There are books that specialize in fancy restaurants.

There are whole books on castles to stay in or luxury spas, guides to gardens or camping spots or great hiking trails. If you have a special interest, look online and visit travel bookstores: you'll probably find a specialty guide in just the field you're interested in.

It won’t be long before digital guidebooks are available. In fact, some are already here. The publishers are still trying to figure out the best way to handle distribution. Somecan be downloaded and read on your mobile phone, but the little screens make for eye strain when you're trying to read a map or the fine print in the descriptions.

You can download some onto your laptop, but carrying your laptop all day will be a drag. You can download them and print them out, but then you might as well take a published guidebook.

Keep your eyes open for digital guides in the future though. Once some of these paperback sized reading devices, such as the Amazon Kindle, become easier to carry around, you'll be able to download just the areas you want, the specialties you want, and link to GPS technology.

Never get lost? Then you just might be missing the best part of your vacation. Sometimes part of the fun of travel is getting lost and having great experiences you didn't expect.

For now, however, choose the type of printed travel guidebook that will work best for you, and enjoy your trip.

Letter to the Editor: Your comments are welcome.

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