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5 Reasons to Buy a Travel Guide Book Before You Go on Vacation


Travel guide books to London, Cancun, Yucatan, Carribean, Belize and Israel

My travel guide book collection

While the internet has just about everything you could need to know when you are planning a trip, I’ve found that picking up a travel guide is helpful too.

For the last half-dozen years, I’ve traveled with a netbook or iPad on every trip. Even though I can’t imagine taking a trip now without access to the internet, I almost always left the netbook or iPad in the hotel room during the day. Instead, I take my travel guide book with me when I head out for the day.

5 Reasons to Buy a Travel Guide Book for your Vacation:

1. Carrying around a tablet or computer isn’t a good idea on vacations. 

Traveling with heavy backpack

Carrying expensive electronics with you on vacation is an invitation to thieves 

Carrying around a computer isn’t practical. It’s heavy and it doesn’t connect easily to the internet since you have to either find a wifi connection or power it up with a hotspot. Plus you aren’t going to pull out a computer on the bus to decide where to go next.

A tablet is much easier to carry with you, but let’s face it, tourists are targets for crime and an iPad is a big temptation. If you aren’t comfortable pulling it out regardless of where you are, then you won’t have information available to you when you need it.

Having a travel guide book with you means you don’t have to find an internet connection and no one is going to try to steal it. 

2. Trying to research where you want to go next on a phone isn’t fast. 

iPhone website - bad mobile website

Cell phones have small screens, and many websites aren’t optimized for navigating on a cell phone. Even websites or apps that work wonderfully on a cell phone aren’t going to help you quickly see all of your options so you can make a decision fast.

Let’s face it. Most of us have limited time on our vacations and we want to make the most of the time.

While we might schedule in some time to just sit at a sidewalk cafe and do some people-watching, no one wants to stand on a sidewalk for 20 minutes trying to decide which museum to go to.

Having a travel guide book with you means you have access to all of the major attractions along with your highlighted favorites and tabbed pages. 

3. Sometimes you can’t (or don’t want to) get on the internet when you are traveling. 

Maya Palms Resort in Mahahual, Mexico

My Mom using the internet in the open air lobby at Maya Palms Resort in Mahahual, Mexico

You might have a phone that doesn’t work in the country where you are traveling. I used to have a Droid 3, and it didn’t work in Europe at all.

While my phone did work when I traveled to Chetumal, Mexico, the data charges would have been so high that I was warned by Verizon that I should turn it off before I landed in Mexico.

Plus, if you plan to do any traveling outside major cities, you might not be able to get an internet connection. During most of my first trip to visit my brother in Mexico, there wasn’t an internet signal.

Having a travel guide book with you means you have access to everything you need to know even when there is no internet available. 

4. Unexpected events sometimes mean your pre-planned schedule needs to completely change.

Stonehenge view from the rural highway

Surprise view of Stonehenge after we decided to ditch Bath, England and head to Winchester, England

I’m sure that some of you are saying that you can plan what you will do each day in advance so you don’t need access to the internet or a travel guide book while you are out and about.

Most of the time, that’s true.

But what happens when…

  • you show up at a museum that is unexpectedly closed
  • you plan several hours for an attraction and are ready to leave after 30 minutes
  • you talk to someone who suggests something that wasn’t on your agenda, and you end up across town from your original plan
  • you don’t like the town you are in and decide to pick another town to explore (this happened to me in Bath, England)

Having a travel guide book with you means you can change directions on a whim, making the most of your time. 

5. It’s hard for 2 people to read at the same time on a phone.

Couple using an iPad

Can you imagine trying to make a decision together about what to do next when you are both trying to read on the same phone?

You either end up passing it back and forth or you bump noses trying to read the screen at the same time. Or you have 2 people searching on separate phones, landing on completely different websites but trying to make a joint decision.

What is most likely to happen is that one person tells the other what they found and want to do, and the other person feels left out of the decision making process.

It’s so much easier to sit down on a park bench or at a cafe and scan a book together. Yes, I know my picture above is of a couple sharing an iPad. You get the point.

Having a travel guide book with you means everyone has an equal say in what to do next. 

Picking Out a Travel Guide Book:

When I am planning a major trip, I visit my local bookstore and thumb through all of the guides. I’m looking for one book that covers everything I need.

I spend a lot of time comparing the sections that are most important to me.

Which book gives me all of the attractions that I think I’ll want to see?

Which book offers tips on restaurants, neighborhoods and other things I’ll want to do besides the major attractions?

Which book is written from the perspective that I want? Budget travel? Family travel? Fine dining and high end shopping?

Don’t get me wrong. I do a LOT of research for my trips on the internet. I bookmark website that give me good information and I’ve even started using Evernote to help with my travel planning.

One of my hotel requirements is that I get wifi in my hotel room. Every evening before I got to bed, I open up my iPad and figure out what I need to know for the next day.

I save notes so I can pull them up on my phone when I’m someplace I can use it. If I won’t be able to get on the internet, I might even hand write some notes to take with me.

But the travel book will definitely be in my purse too. Just in case.


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