I’ll admit that when my college roommate whipped out a guidebook on a trip to Croatia a few years back, I was skeptical.
Who wants to lug an unnecessary book across international borders? I’m very attached to packing light. Plus, don’t we have the internet for that?
But half a dozen trips later, I’ve realized that she was right and I was wrong.
A cheap guidebook is a travel must-have, and now I never go without one.
• It has everything: maps, restaurants, beach directions, stories, advice on rental cars … all in one place. If you put your phone on airplane mode like I do when I travel, this is super useful.
• No matter where you find yourself — plane, train, automobile, cafe — you can page through and do “research.” And you definitely missed something in your pre-trip Googling.
• Even if your style is “land and figure out where to stay and what to do on the fly” (not for me, thanks) it’s useful to have a resource with local emergency numbers, guides to customs, and directions to the neighborhood in which you’ll find the charming cafe of your spontaneous dreams.
• If you lose it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s a $9 book that will cease being useful on the plane home, unless you wanted it as a souvenir or point of reference to label your unrealistically ambitious photo book post-trip. In that case, maybe just buy another one.
My go-to is Lonely Planet — interestingly, its books are much easier to deal with than its website — but you can also grab Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Rick Steves … the list goes on. And frankly, you don’t need the newest version. I’ve always been fine with one from a few years back. If the idea of lugging around a physical book appalls you, there is almost always a Kindle version available.
When I’m headed home, I donate it to my hotel or Airbnb, for future visitors to use and enjoy. It’s a low-stakes, low-cost tool that’s made every trip I’ve taken that much better.