Guidebooks are the ultimate way to plan your next adventure, and some travelers treat their words like gospel, even when they may already be two years out of date. I saw a girl in Cambodia neatly crossing out unnecessary information from her guidebook with a pen.
So should you bring your guidebook with you on your trip, or should you do your research in advance and then leave it behind? It takes up precious room in your bag, particularly volumes on entire continents, so is it worth it? In my opinion, guidebooks are like jeans or your blow dryer, which are total judgment calls.
I’ve brought them with me repeatedly but rarely find any information I couldn’t find online. Although it is nice to have options, maps and information with you at all times, and without the need for internet access.
Pros to Bringing Your Guidebook
The advantage of bringing your guidebook is that the information is all in front of you. You don’t have to worry about that slip of paper where you wrote an address or about not having WiFi to use the map of the city. You also have multiple options for places to stay and detailed information on the destination’s attractions. Most also include key phrases in foreign languages to help you better communicate with locals.
Cons to Bringing Your Guidebook
On the other hand, your guidebook takes up valuable space in your bag. You don’t want to have to worry about it getting wet or pieces falling out of it. Parts of it may be useless once you’ve already visited one place. They can also be years out of date by the time they go to stores and could potentially be biased.
Alternatives to Traditional Guidebooks
The best way to receive the most up-to-date information on your destination is through the Internet. While not all websites are reliable, I typically get information on attractions through travel blogs. This gives you an idea of how recent the information is and typically has more useful pictures than your guidebook. You can save relevant links and information into a notebook on Evernote, which you can access even when you’re not online.
You can also purchase e-book versions of your favorite guidebooks for your Kindle or smartphone. Most major companies like Lonely Planet and Rick Steves offer web versions, as do smaller companies like UnAnchor that offer short city itineraries for all over the world.
If you’re still not sold on the idea of not bringing a guidebook, you can always bring it and throw out the pages you don’t need once you’re finished. You could make copies of important pages and leave the rest at home. It’s also smart to read your guidebook entirely before leaving home, which will give you an idea of the places you want to visit. Write down the details and leave the hard copy on your shelf.