Travel Guides and Other Books to Ponder on the Road

One thing I always take with me on every longer trip is a guidebook. Even with the web around, I still can’t imagine travelling without one.

Each brand of guidebook brings back memories.  A collection of old travel guide booksFrommer’s Mexico on $XX a Day was my first go-to guidebook. I loved their writing and their recommendations for hotel and restaurant ‘splurges’ that were worth every excess penny. MEXICO ON $5 AND $10 A DAY, along with a decent map, was used for my first road trip through Mexico in ’76. Their guidebooks accompanied me for many more trips after that, Mexico being one of my favourite countries to visit although after that we always took the bus. Below is Frommer’s guidebook for Mexico 1983-84, Mexico on $20 a Day. Frommer's travel guidebooks for Mexico 1983-84The route plan for a trip to Mexico in 1986 taped into the back of a Frommer’s guide. On this trip we took the bus so nothing more elaborate (or accurate) was needed. At some point Frommer’s changed their $XX a Day to a Budget Travel for Older Travellers which didn’t appeal quite so guide books: route plan for a trip to Mexico in 1983Let’s Go, which featured a hitchhiking thumb as their logo, went with me to Europe in ’78, along with my backpack (and my hitchhiking thumb). Their current site states: ‘written by Harvard students on a shoestring budgets’ which clearly explains their philosophy, although the hitchhiking thumb logo has been replaced with a hot air balloon one. The thick books got pretty cumbersome to carry around with me every day, so I tore out sections to use for that portion of the trip, replacing them in my ‘master’ book when I had been there, done that.Let's Go Mexico 2000When Al and I started heading to Asia in ’93, the guidebook Lonely Planet, based in Australia, had a head start on the region. Lately I’ve been using mostly Lonely Planet, primarily because they have the best maps, and probably the most comprehensive backstories to places, history and whatnot. If I run out of books to read I just read my Lonely Planet with all its interesting details. I used one for Ireland in 2015 and Denmark in 2018, scribbling notes all over the maps as we drove along.Travelling through Zealand, Denmark May 29 on my Lonely Planet MapI don’t bother with their accommodation recommendations – it’s so much easier to book online. And I don’t like their restaurant reviews; they seem to be be picked more for their interesting history or architecture, definitely worth a look for the atmosphere but usually with very disappointing food compared to the little hole-in-the-wall places that I adore.

Which brings me to Moon Handbooks. More recently their current guidebook on Mexico City was used for its superb restaurant recommendations on our trip there in 2018.

Balcon del Zocalo sign, a highly recommended restaurant in Mexico City

Balcon del Zocalo sign, a highly recommended restaurant in Mexico City.

I see other names in that stack of books. The Rough Guide was used for my first trip to Portugal. Based out of England, I haven’t used their guidebooks much, but they’re still out there and available.

For a road trip to northern Spain in 2014 I got hold of Eyewitness Travel’s Back Roads Spain and we liked it so much that we bought the one for France in 2015 as well. The ‘charming’ places to stay were often above our budget range, but their out-of-the-way towns and sights were a delight, especially after we figured how to trick our GPS into taking the smaller roads, and of course booking is all online these days.DK Back Roads Spain Book: Sacred ShoreOf course, that’s not the only reading material I take with me. I always pack a selection of novels and I hope someday to have lists of my choices for every country. Here’s my posts so far…

At some point I started taking photos of the books on site, like this excellent novel Burmese Days by George Orwell, part of my must-read list for Myanmar.
Burmese Days by George Orwell along with Beer, fruit shake and salty soy beansThen there’s this book for Thailand, one of about 15 ‘to read on the road’ posts I haven’t yet gotten around to publishing. a Book for Bangkok: Bangkok HauntsAnd then there’s my journals/sketchbooks. Maybe someday I’ll write my own novel!Wales journal with wild flower drawingMore of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Books or Paper.

9 responses to “Travel Guides and Other Books to Ponder on the Road

  1. I covet my travel books! I like Lonely Planet and the DK books. The DKs give me photos, Lonely Planet gives me ideas of what to do! In fact, I need to go buy some new ones for a trip to Europe – hurrah!

  2. I love your books. I like to buy travel books as souvenirs and memories, though I rarely take them with me. But I do take maps. Google Maps is good but nothing beats viewing and planning your route on a “real” map.

    • So true – I buy real maps for every trip – trying to figure out what is going on on a small screen vs a real map, really impossible to compare the experience when you’re actually out there trying to figure out where you are and where you’re going!

  3. When I was young and saving up to travel I loved to read guide books. I had a couple of guides to New York that I’d read and could almost visualise myself there. I still haven’t been there but at least I had my imaginary trip. When we went to the UK we had Let’s Go Britain and Europe I think. We met quite a few other travellers who carried those too. The travel section at the bookshop was a great place to browse and dream.

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