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Should I… Pack Books?

world book

One of the most stressed-over items on the packing list for my Australian working holiday was my vast book collection. I knew I would want something to read, but how many is too many? What about guidebooks? I came to a decision of bringing books with me, despite the advice of my friends and family.


I brought three paperbacks in addition to my guidebook, so four in total. It was probably too many, but I’m such a bookworm that I couldn’t help it. The good thing with these is that you can give them away when you’re done. If you’re traveling somewhere that doesn’t speak English, it’s good to have at least a few books to keep you occupied until you can find more English language titles. I also love being able to highlight, mark and fold down pages, which you can’t do with e-books.

Amazon has a big selection of bargain books, some for less than $5. There could also be a benefit on your income taxes if any of the books you purchase are related to your job. (hint hint, travel bloggers)


Whether you have a Kindle, iPad or are just reading from your computer, e-books are an easy and cheaper option, especially considering how many are available for free. You can even download sections of Lonely Planet guidebooks if you don’t want to lug thick guidebooks around. The Kobo store offers free classics that come loaded on your e-reader or can be downloaded for other formats. Project Gutenberg offers over 36,000 free e-books available for download.

On the downside, e-books need more care, since e-readers tend to cost upwards of $100. They need Internet access to download new books, which can be hard to find in some parts of the world, and you don’t want to worry about it getting damaged or stolen. Popular new titles can also end up costing almost the same amount as a paperback if you buy through the Amazon Kindle store.

Book Exchanges:

Once I finished the original three paperbacks, I took full advantage of hostel and community book exchanges. Most of them were full of chick lit or foreign language titles, but you can occasionally find a good read. The book exchange I found in Cairns also served as a used bookstore if you didn’t have one to swap.

If you’re traveling with a group of people for a set amount of time, like a tour, it’s nice to be able to borrow one another’s books once you have finished them. Even if you spot one of your fellow travelers reading a book you’ve had your eye on, it can’t hurt to ask to take it off their hands once they’re finished.

Choosing Books

So now that we’ve determined how best to acquire books, how do you decide which ones to bring on your trip? If you’re worried about your guidebook taking up too much room, you have a few options. As I mentioned earlier, some are available in PDF formats that you can access online. Another way would be to write down pertinent information, make copies of certain pages or just rip out a chunk of your guidebook.

To get the most out of your reading experience, it might be a good idea to pick one big book to bring, which will take you longer to read. Didn’t you always mean to read War and Peace, Anna Karenina and Gone with the Wind but never got around to it? Now seems like as good a time as any.

>>See also 5 Books Worth Taking Up Space on Your Packing List.

If you’re still looking for some reading material, here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Her Packing List Recommends:

Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi: This nonfiction book is about 18 year-old Aebi’s post-high school sailing trip around the world. And oh yeah, she did it completely alone. Maiden Voyage makes even the most adventurous feel like wimps.

The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman: Friedman’s book is the younger generation’s Eat Pray Love, about a girl who graduates college and says, “What now?” From there she travels around the world with her best friend.

Tales from the Expat Harem by Anastasia M. Ashman and Jennifer Eaton Gokmen: The tales in question are 29 stories from women living as expats in Turkey, dealing with cultural differences and language barriers.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: Easily the most popular travelogue of the last few years, Gilbert’s book describes the dissolution of her marriage and her year spent living in Italy, India and Indonesia.

>>Check out 19 more wanderlust-inducing travel books here.

Caroline Recommends:

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts: Every aspiring long-term traveler should read Potts’ manifesto on how to attain this lifestyle. He includes recommended nomad reading, helpful websites and countless words of wisdom.

Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story by Tony and Maureen Wheeler: Ever wondered how Lonely Planet got started? Whether you love or loathe the guidebooks, this book is worth reading to hear about the couple’s first overland journey that inspired their business. They went from arriving in Australia with a little more than a dollar to their names to building one of the most successful publishing companies in the world.

The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner: This is one of my favorite travelogues because it brings together three very different personalities and each of their takes on their round-the-world trip. Each of the girls had a successful journalism career in New York when they decided to leave for the “adventure of a lifetime.”

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor: Another book written from the perspectives of more than one author, Traveling with Pomegranates is a mother-daughter travelogue spanning ten years. Writer Kidd and her daughter Taylor travel to archaeological sites in Greece, France and Turkey. The story is about an emotional journey as much as a physical one.

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Travel Resources

HPL Learnables

Handbag Packing Masterclass – Learn to pack your lightest bag ever in this revolutionary packing class run by HPL founder, Brooke.

Creative Ways to Minimize Your Toiletry & Beauty Kit – Practical tips alongside DIY recipes designed to help you pack lighter, smaller & with fewer liquids. (Also included as a bonus to Handbag Packing Masterclass.)

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Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions


  1. Christine says

    GOod thing you brought some–books in Australia are crazy expensive! I finally gave in and got a Kindle 3G and I’m loving it so far–super convenient and light to carry and I’ve been able to access the store anywhere, even in the middle of the Outback and in remote spots in Bali! Highly recommend.

    • Brooke says

      Good to hear that Kindle 3G is working out for you! Would love to have you do a write-up/review of it for the site if you ever have time 🙂 Let me know!

  2. chamekke says

    I took my Kindle 3G on a recent trip to the UK. Because I don’t have a smartphone, this ws a really great decision because not only could I use the Kindle as a portable library (still its greatest feature) — I also loaded it up with travel documents and links to travel-related webpages. For example, I was able to check all my train connections on the fly, confirm which platform my train was on, if there was an 8-minute delay! I also used the Kindle for storing maps, a scan of my travel insurance brochure, emergency info, hotel and plane confirmations, lists of local wi-fi hotspots… everything you can imagine.

    I won’t ever go on another trip without it. Hundreds of books and free 3G connectivity to boot? Fantastic!

    BTW I do recommend travelling with the Kindle cover that has an embedded light. Not only was it great for reading in dark situations (e.g. on the plane with a stranger sleeping in the next seat), the cover helped protect My Precious from the many biffs it received. It does double the weight of the Kindle, mind you, but I felt the advantages outweighed the drawbacks.

  3. cindy says

    i would recommend creating a dropbox account (free) and store all your ebooks on their free cloud storage! then using your smartphone, you can access the dropbox app and download all your books at any time! fast, free, and mobile!

  4. MEISSOUN says

    Since I already bring my iPad with me anyway, this is how I usually read – unless I go to a beach / pool. Not only is the light there too bright to read on an iPad, I also don’t want to leave it alone while I am swimming. This is when I will bring a paperback with me. If I forget to buy one, I just go to my bookshelf and take out an old Agatha Christie – after some years I forget “who did it” and can read them again 🙂


  1. […] Books are damn heavy though. On a two-month trip around South East Asia I once took eight paperbacks. Now, the average paperback novel weighs in at around 12 oz (340 gms) so on my Asian adventure I was carting almost 6 lbs (2.7 kg) of Eat, Pray, Love and Karin Slaughter murder mysteries. That 6 lbs doesn’t even include guidebooks – some of which could be used as doorstops. Any girl knows that even just a little extra weight can turn a manageable pack into nightmare. When you’re on a long trip or short weekend away, luggage space is always at a premium. […]

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