It has been a busy month and I will likely be finishing it with a short blog post on travel guidebooks. I enjoy reading guide books, but I do question just how useful they really are in the age of the Internet?
I have a shelf full of Lonely Planet guidebooks, with a few Rough Guides thrown in for good measure. If I am thinking of visiting a country I don’t have a guidebook, I will buy one. I cannot recall the last time I went on holiday outside of the UK without one, they almost feel like an essential.
I read the Slovenia Lonely Planet guide book as I write this blog post. It’s informative, for sure, however information is not always easy to piece together. Lake Bohinj was by fair my favourite day trip from Bled; Bohinj and Bled are naturally included but the guidebook by itself does not connect the dots. Yes Lonely Planet suggest itineraries, but these feel too rushed to me. Spend 15 minutes on Google or ask a question or two on the TripAdvisor forums and you have enough information to put together your own draft itinerary at your own pace.
The maps in Lonely Planet books also leave a lot to be desired. This is not to say they are useless, but in a day and age when mobile phones have Google Maps and most hotels having paper maps readily available, they do feel a little redundant. The noted exception to this being the city guides, or at least the city guides with a pull out map included.
They are carefully put together and written by people who really know their stuff, but it has not gone unnoticed that I am struggling to find a real positive to write about guidebooks. Maybe I don’t need to say anymore, curled up in a cosy chair they make an interesting read but as a useful tool to plan a holiday, I cannot help but feel that at the very best they serve as a physical supplement to the wealth of information available on the Internet.
It would be interesting to hear the opinions of others who have in years gone past been reliant on Lonely Planet and their competitors. Are they relevant today? Do you still buy them? Me, I will continue to buy them but perhaps for no reason other than it wouldn’t feel right to travel without one.