The Four Things I Do Before Every Trip

1: Buy a guidebook (yes, the printed version)

Whenever I get serious about taking a trip, the first thing I do is go to a bookstore and purchase a travel guide dedicated to my city or country of interest. Not too long ago, this was the normal thing to do. Now, in our Trip Advisor-dominated era of shared content, committing to the written word of a single travel expert feels antiquated – even risky. What if I miss out on [insert: the greatest experience ever] because I didn’t read that one person’s blurb?!

One time I did miss out on seeing petroglyphs in Joshua Tree because I failed to reference multiple sources ahead of time. However, having a single point of view helps me focus, which is critical when I’ve been given the keys to a new universe, but only a finite amount of time to explore it.

Rather than overwhelm myself by haphazardly flipping through an endless stream of online photos, reviews and unofficial guides, I prefer to invest my first $20 of the trip in a printed guide. The book will start out as a glossy and sleek roadmap to the endless possibilities that await me in my new destination. By the time I’m finished, it will have doubled in size from dog-ears and look like it’s been dropped in the bathtub (which it probably has been).

The guidebook’s physical transformation is representative of my own personal journey from a woman with an idea to a woman with a plan. These books are a bit like traveling with a friend who knows her way around and can take you to the spots overlooked by most tourists. Sure, you may miss the petrified dinosaur prints in North Coyote Buttes, but you knew enough to get yourself there in the first place.

Luke and I have been talking about visiting Belize for a couple of years now, but didn’t officially commit to planning a trip until we bought the guidebook together this fall. I took it home and set it on our coffee table so I could read a little bit each morning with my breakfast. Over time, the book warped and scuffed to my exact liking as I absorbed its rich information.

A recent cold snap trapped us inside for nearly 48 hours and I decided to practice a little yoga to keep my hyperactive self from crawling up the walls. In the middle of dancer’s pose, I spotted a pristine copy of my Moon guide to Belize sitting on the bookshelf. I carried it into the bedroom and located the battered copy I was reading the night before sitting on my nightstand.

If buying a guidebook is a signal of intent, then accidentally buying two copies of the same exact book means we’re long overdue. We booked our flights two days later.



Add yours →

  1. I do the same! It’s fun to have a physical stock of the places you’ve been/are going to look at as well.

  2. Don’t completely rule out a quick websearch on-site for more specific wealth of info. I recently discovered a sweet hike into Bryce Canyon that wasn’t listed in a guidebook because it wasn’t “Official”. It did however enable me to hike for miles without coming across the masses and truly enable me to experience an unfettered exposure to the park.
    Totally, understand the rabbit-hole that the web can be but if wait till on-location you’ll be forced to view and choose to follow or not quickly!

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