By Reba Hull Campbell
I’ve long been a collector of travel guides. There’s a stack on my bookshelf of books about Spain, Mexico, Italy, Thailand, France, England, Scotland, Israel and Egypt among others. Then I stopped buying travel guides somewhere in the mid-2010s when the internet put travel planning at my fingertips in real time.
In today’s digital world, old fashioned travel books may seem to be obsolete. Who wants to travel with a 300-page book when the same info is available right on your phone? Not to mention, so much of the info in a hard-copy travel guide is outdated the day it’s published.
For recent post-covid travel, however, I’ve become a fan of travel guides again. I enjoy going to the library and checking out a stack of books about my travel destination. I vicariously pre-travel to my destination running fingers over the colorful maps, pondering the adventures to be had in various parts of a new city. Then I pick my favorite book of the bunch and buy a copy at the local bookstore (my latest Paris book came from All Good Books).
Once I’ve got my own travel guide in hand, my purple pen gets to work. I turn down pages, making scribbles on the sites I want to research further. I often use the book to find the less traveled tourist attractions – the smaller museums that might have shorter wait times or the exquisite gardens hiding behind a seemingly locked gate. Then, I save my list of places I would like to visit in Google maps for each city I visit. These maps are also great to share with friends looking for advice about places we’ve visited.
I’ve particularly enjoyed the 2023 Fodor’s Paris guide for planning a July trip. For example, it has a nine-page section dedicated to prioritizing a visit to the Louvre. It gives several tour options that ensure a visitor can not only hit the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa but also find hidden gems like the little-known collection of the museum’s only Impressionist works. The book also has a primer on French cheeses and great suggestions of books and movies to check out before the trip.
The best part of purchasing a travel guide is the hard copy map attached in the back of the book. I love nothing better than plotting out my day on the hard copy map that eventually comes back from the trip frayed at the folds.
I imagine most travel guide fans have a favorite brand. Right now, mine is Fodors, although Rick Steves’ books run a close second (and his app is definitely the best). Lonely Planet books are easy to travel with because of their more compact size and sometimes off-the-beaten-track recommendations.
I love sharing my travel books with others. The only caveat is returning them with notes I can use to plan my next trip.
In 2022, Reba Campbell set out to get off the screens and back to books for the summer. She set a goal of reading a book a week. Her accountability was writing short Blink Book Reviews (so short you can read them in a blink). John Reba’s Blink Book Review Facebook group to follow along for the 2023 summer series. Reba is president of The Medway Group can be reached at [email protected].