Call me old-fashioned, but I like to look at good ‘ole guidebooks and I usually take at least one with me when I travel. I know everything is online, but sometimes the amount of information available online gets a little overwhelming and I want someone to organize it for me. Choosing a guidebook isn't easy.
I spent much of last weekend looking at options for an upcoming trip to Athens. I Googled, I went to TripAdvisor, and finally, I spent some time at my local Barnes and Noble. I found a table, grabbed a coffee, powered up my computer, and went to the shelves to grab Athens and Greece guidebooks.
There are books for just Athens. There are pocket guides for Athens. There are huge books for all of Greece that include Athens. Some have thick paper and color photos. Others have thin paper and are black-and-white. Some have pullout maps.
Every guidebook is set up differently. Some jump right in and give information, others set the scene a bit.
Here’s what I like in a guidebook.
- Size matters: If I am taking a guidebook with me, I am looking for one that just includes what I need. I often carry the book with me all day and don’t want it to be too large and heavy.
- Color: I don’t like books that are just black-and-white have no photos or color maps and headings.
- Organization: I like it when books set the stage for the city or country I’m visiting. Tell me a bit about its history, what’s hot, and what’s not.
- Visually Pleasing: The font should be easy to read with bullets, photos with descriptive and helpful captions, highlighted boxes, section headers, things like that.
- Maps: Basic maps to show me the areas and sites the books talk about really help me visualize things. This way, I can come up with a basic plan to hit all of the things in one geographic area. I don’t want to waste time backtracking or be upset I missed something I walked right by.
- Basic planning guide: Tell me what I should do if I only have one day in the city. What should I add if I have two? Three? This helps me know which places I have to see, and what is optional.
- Walking tours: I love when books have walking tour routes what show me exactly what I am going to see and explain a bit about it. I don’t need to know absolutely everything about a place, but a few key details are good. Pictures are helpful here as well.
- Information about key sites: For Athens, including detailed information about the Acropolis is great. Tell me how to get there, what ticket to buy, how much time I should plan to spend there.
- General information: I like a section about practical things like currency, helpful phrases, tipping advice, how to get a taxi and how much they should cost, metro maps, etc.
- Index: A good index is very important to me. If I see something while I am walking along and want to know more, I want to be able to look it up.
After looking through all the books, I bought a pocket guide to Athens that had everything I wanted in it. It will fit in my purse and should help me have a great time in the city. I’m sure I will look at it often when I am out and about.
Do you still consult books before trips? What about during the adventure? What do you look for when you’re deciding which book to buy?