Travel the world at your library |

Travel the world at your library

special to the daily

Now is the time to begin planning next year’s vacation, and the best place to start that process is at our libraries in Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne, where more than 122 shelves are filled with travel guides. So let’s head for the travel section (910-919 in adult non-fiction) and see what’s there.

Yikes! Where do we look first? Ah, we’re in luck, for they’re arranged geographically by continent, beginning with Europe and proceeding through Asia and Africa, before breaking up North America into Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean on the one hand and the USA (sans Hawaii) on the other; then come South America, Australia and the South Pacific, including Hawaii, and finally Antarctica.

Yikes again! What do we want to do on our vacation? We can find guides for skiers, foodies and gourmets, travelers with pets and/or kids, scuba divers and snorkelers, photographers, hikers, bikers, walkers, backpackers, campers, RVers, as well as bad girls and women alone and loners of both sexes, gay and lesbian travelers, dummies and idiots, partiers, seniors and cruisers, not to mention movie lovers, archaeology buffs and wine drinkers. And more. So if you’re one of those specialty vacationers, you can start reading.

But what about the rest of us who just want to see the sights? Well, because we constitute the largest class of travelers, publishers cater to us, and so we have a plethora of guides from which to choose. We can expect to find in all of them serious overviews of history, geography, culture and what’s to see and do, information on costs and currency as well as on local transportation and how to use it, lists of recommended lodgings and restaurants, perhaps even some tips on shopping, and of course some maps.

“DK Eyewitness Guides” are the most lavishly illustrated (“Insight Guides” are a close second) and give us what we want first – a good look at historical sites and buildings, museums, churches, castles, parks, etc. They are arguably the next best thing to being there and are thus a means to deciding whether to go there. They don’t make good traveling companions, however, for they are too heavy and bulky to carry and are too skimpy on lodging and dining choices. Fortunately DK also offers “Top Ten” guides that include, inter alia, their choices for the top 10 hotels and restaurants; these smaller guides and their pull-out maps fit easily into any pocket.

“Frommer’s” and “Fodor’s” guides are like old friendsoreliable and comfortable to have around. Photos are conspicuous by their absence, but descriptions are thorough and inviting and the custom maps adequate. The guides emphasize what to do rather than just what to see, and their lodging and dining sections cater to travelers in all income brackets. We would be well advised to check out both guides before heading off into the wild blue yonder.

“Rough Guides” highlight contemporary culture and entertainment venues, whereas “Off the Beaten Track” guides deliver the goods on what the title promises. “Let’s Go” guides include sections on work and study abroad, and “Lonely Planet” guides offer tips on inspirational and sustainable activities. “Mobil” and “National Geographic” guides have the United States covered from sea to shining sea. “Rick Steves’ Guides” are as down to earth as he is on TV and are billed as “a tour guide in your pocket.” He gives astute advice on transportation, provides explicit directions, and keeps a watchful eye on your expenses. Best of all, he has a knack for almost always pointing out something neat to see or do that other guides omit.

Since Italy is the top travel destination for Americans in 2010, let me highly recommend “Karen Brown’s Italy: Charming Inns and Itineraries.” The inns are indeed charming – I’ve stayed in a half dozen – and the itineraries are fun. Finally, if all the information packed into these guides is a bit overwhelming, take a break and yuk it up with “Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need.” Bon voyage!

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