Travel Guide Books vs. the Web
Which do You Use?

Do you still use real travel guide books when planning an overseas trip? I do.

There’s something gratifying about holding a destination in your hands, marking pages to remember, and knowing they’ll be with you when you travel. 

There's no doubt, published travel books continue to lose ground, rapidly moving toward extinction.

The reason, of course, is our current age of all things digital, where planning travel for an overseas trip continues to be dominated by online booking sites, mobile travel apps, destination podcasts, and other online travel media.

We know it's coming: the complete demise of 'hands on' travel guides.

But for now, thanks to Amazon and a few other hard-copy travel book sellers, we can still find published travel guides that let us dream, plot, and plan to our hearts' content, without our face stuffed into a machine.

We can dog-ear the pages, highlight tips and suggestions, and rip out portions to take along with us.

We can picture ourselves in the glossy images, while excitement creeps in and our plans take shape.

What Does a Guide Book Give You?

A good travel guide book shows you when and where to go, which sights are im-portant to see, how to navigate the places and events that will help you create the trip of a lifetime.

They point you to time-tested touristy things: those very things that draw you to your destination:

  • the iconics of history,  
  • the immortals of architecture,
  • the art of the Masters,
  • the must-see landmarks.

All those things that are culturally and historically important - and what you travel to see.

The best travel guides also lead you behind the tourist veil to places beyond the trodden path that so many travelers never see: the side street micro-museum, the visited-only-by-locals café, the centuries old chapel where locals commune....

Germany Old and New

Just for the record, I'm not some old-school traveler, out of touch and unfamiliar with the wealth and variety of travel resources online.

I know the web like the back of my hand.

I've scoured it for years from inside the travel industry: planning, researching, organ-izing data, while booking trips and leading tours.

I’ve learned the world on the web and educated myself both for my clients - and for my own overseas travel.

I concede...there may be more information on the web.

In fact, it’s easy to spend days rabbit-trailing through sites, locating mountains of facts related to where you’re going, with dreams of seeing it all.

But you won’t see it all. You can’t. There’s not enough time.
And once your basic research is done, all that rabbit-trailing is nothing more than quantity over quality, contributing little to the end result. And what you’re left with is a collection of disconnected, impersonal facts.

Too many pages. Too many sources. Too many choices.

But great travel guide books give you a beginning, a middle, an end. They introduce you to your destination and awaken you to where you're going.

Good travel guide books are a progression of historical background, cultural highlights, key attractions, and places worthy to include in your visit. They tell you succinctly where to go, what to do, and what to see.

[And what’s barely worth your time.]

A good travel book helps you find your way with onboard maps, neighborhood walks, specific locations, prices and schedules, while also providing you 'been there, done that' recommendations for hotels, restaurants, shopping, and what not to miss.

The best travel guide books are your #1 traveling companion, the nucleus around which you build your trip.

Are Published Travel Guide Books a Thing of the Past?

Reality tells you there are untold numbers of online travel guides with reams of digital data free for the taking.

The travel information on your electronic device may, indeed, be more timely and current, while 'publishing' costs are practically zero.

But the web is a single dimension. It gives you the facts with no emotional connection, then leaves you to sort the wheat from the chaff: collect, collate, bookmark, and print whatever you need. No beginning, no middle, no end.

And if you happen to want a travel book beyond the current year of publication, it’s likely the only way to get it is download only.

A few years back, Google acquired the rights to the well known travel guide empire known as Frommers.

Within weeks, the writing was on the wall [sadly, not to be in the travel books]. Google would move away from print, and Frommers travel guides that were currently being written or updated would no longer be published in hard copy.

With few exceptions, the popular Frommers Guides would for evermore be found only in the digital cloud.

Rather than see his life’s work diminished, quickly and quietly Arthur Frommer, founder of his travel book dynasty many thousands of travelers ago, re-purchased the rights to his trademark back from Google and today continues to publish both print and digital versions of his namesake travel books for all to enjoy.

Western Coast of Ireland

The Essence of a Great Travel Guide Book

Real travel guide books are more than words on paper. They give substance to your trip. They teach and excite you about where you’re going and what you’ll see.

They narrow your options to manageable choices, showing you how to organize your trip and your time. They provide you with ideas and suggestions given by writers who’ve been there and know the ropes.

They teach and discover, illustrate and explain, the rich adventures awaiting you when you travel.

In a word, they make your trip real....

Are there reasons to use the web when planning overseas travel?

Of course.

Too many to name.

And rather than carry pounds or kilos of 'in hand' travel books that weigh you down and cost you money when you fly, your favorite electronic device can carry them all – lightly, conveniently, portably.

Whatever information you don't find before you travel, you can call up online at a moment’s thought: restaurants and clubs, directions and transport, neigh-borhood walks and city tours, current events and impromptu happenings.

But for me, give me real travel guide books I can hold in my hands.

Let me savor the feel of a travel friend, pulling me toward my destination with hands-on wisdom and knowledge.

As I organize my trip, let me lose myself in the expertise of those who’ve lived there, traveled there, connected there.
Let me go 'local' with the direction of a writer who’s seen my destination with her very own eyes and knows the value of immersive travel.

Allow me just a while longer to travel on my terms, rather than be guided by the emotionless viewpoint of a digital brain. 

As a lover of in the trenches, one-on-one travel experiences, let me enjoy my real travel guide books just a while longer and delay the day I'm forced to rely on the cold, impersonal keys of a device that thinks it to knows more of what I want to do, than I do.

Maybe then - when there's no other choice - I too, will travel in the digital cloud.

For more info on real travel guide books with reviews of some of the more popular printed and digital volumes please see this section.

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