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We tend to read several guide books prior to booking a trip. Although it might seem like overkill, we thoroughly enjoy this part of the planning and often find that different guidebooks offer complementary information as they don’t always cover different sites/cities with the same level of detail. Using more than one guidebook also helps in allowing you to form your own opinion about places/activities/itineraries and to do more research, instead of just blindly following the suggestions of one book. Instead of finding someone else’s top things to do in a city, it can help you find YOUR top things to do in the city, and thus helps you get away from the typical one-size-fits all itinerary typically proposed by most guidebooks.
Lonely Planet (LP) has traditionally been our go-to travel guidebook, which covers most around the world. LP generally offers comprehensive no-nonsense facts with low- and mid-budget listings. Rough Guides are fairly similarly to LP, and can be a good alternative. We generally try to pick up at least one of these two, and depending on the destination, pair with either a Rick Steves’ guidebook or a Bradt. Bradts specializes in off-the-beaten-track destinations (e.g. Namibia), generally have exceptional depth of information, and are usually written by genuinely knowledgeable enthusiasts about the area. Their downside is they are less visually esthetic then some of the other guides. Rick Steves’ guidebooks focus on European destinations, and tend to be much more opinionated than alternative guidebooks. We are fans of his pyramid rating system to highlight can’t miss sights and activities (this inspired our star-rating system in our trip highlight sections) . We also find that Rick Steves’ make the best restaurant suggestions for our taste. There are tons of other guidebooks out there too, and more comprehensive list with comparisons can be found here.
Another great resource are the Tripadvisor travel forums. If you have an unanswered question, chances are someone has thought of it before and you’ll be able to responses through the search function on the forum. It’s also great for asking advice on itineraries or on how much time someone should ideally spend in a given city before moving on. You might end with a lot of different opinions, but in general responders are trying to be helpful. Pat can occasionally be found responding to queries on the Namibia and Sicily forums.
Google My Maps
Planning a roadtrip with lots of stops and highlights you don’t want to miss? We you are going to remote areas and want to document where the gas stations are? Want to know where all the can’t miss sights are in a city when strolling around? Then Google My Maps is your friend. Using My Maps, you are able to fully research anything you would normally search on google maps, and then add them to your personal map by adding personalized pins for multiple locations. It highly customizable, and can be used both to create a trip itinerary and to navigate on the go. There are also several video tutorials to help you set up your first map.
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