When I’m prepping for a big trip, I like to read up on the history and culture of the area I’m visiting. If I’m headed to a big city, I also try to figure out what the major neighborhoods are and what the vibe is like in each of them. A great, time-tested tool for finding this information is a well-written travel guide. While I rely on websites/apps like Trip Advisor, Yelp, Google Places, Urban Spoon, etc. for specific business recommendations, a travel book from Frommer’s, Fodors, Lonely Planet or the like fills in the necessary blanks and provides important context that helps me further appreciate my vacation.
Because I try to travel pretty frequently, I can’t abuse my wallet by always buying the latest and greatest travel books. Instead, I often turn to Thrift Books to find deals on lightly used travel guides. What I love about Thrift Books is that they don’t charge any shipping fees in the U.S., and there’s no minimum purchase. Plus, their prices are usually dirt cheap. For example, an edition of Frommer’s Mexico 2009 is available in “very good” condition for just $3.99!
Keep in mind: Look for the publish date of the book before buying, and don’t purchase if it’s more than a few years old. Also remember that even in books published fairly recently, some of the restaurant and shop listings might be out of date. For this reason, I use these guides mainly for background information, and stick to more current online tools for specific recommendations.
Bonus tip(s): Amazon has a huge marketplace of used book sellers, but note that each one has its own schedule of shipping charges. If you don’t want to squeeze a book into your luggage, download some e-book travel guides–prices for these are usually less than the cost of a new hard copy.