Frugal Traveler: Organizing a Vacation: Guidebook Vs . the Web

I lately questioned my friend Doug if he nonetheless utilizes guidebooks to strategy his outings overseas. He’s a smart guy and a veteran traveler, so I figured he would have a considerate explanation a single way or the other. He did not.

“I probably really do not use guidebooks due to the fact I’ve essentially neglected they exist,” he said.

I’m guessing Doug is not alone. Income of international travel guides in the United States are down 42 percent given that 2006, according to the Nielsen BookScan Travel Publishing Yearbook. As on the internet assets have expanded, I’ll wager lots of people have shifted their travel organizing to the world wide web with no giving it any believed at all. And I suspect some who still use guidebooks believe they are wasting money for what they could discover on the web cost-free.

But are they? I made the decision to try an experiment: I would purchase a brand name-new guidebook, comb through it, then to try to replicate or increase on what I found in the cost-free but chaotic bounty of the World Wide Internet. I acquired and read most of the Lonely Planet’s Hungary information (which I chose since Lonely Earth is well-known between Frugal Traveler visitors and I know practically nothing about Hungary) and then obtained to perform.

My 1st quit was, the place I was relatively shocked to uncover most of the articles I had just paid $ 24.99 for was free of charge on the web: a part on the country’s history, practical info, details like airport transport in Budapest, and several more listings for lodges, eating places and attractions than had been in the e-book. (The site experienced evaluations for 200 dining establishments in Budapest while my e-book experienced only 48.)

Nevertheless, a handful of issues ended up lacking — important factors. The dozens of indexed metropolis and town and neighborhood maps ended up absent. Recommended itineraries were absent. There was no glossary of useful Hungarian phrases. (A spokeswoman for Lonely Planet explained some guidebooks experienced drastically less on the web.) And, even though the website was wonderful for locating anything particular, it was clumsier to look through by way of and get a come to feel for the region, especially on a mobile gadget. The formatting also tends to make it challenging and time-consuming to duplicate, paste and print your way to a selfmade guidebook.

Even now, Lonely Planet’s sturdy web exhibiting does not implement to all guidebook firms — Rough Guides, for instance, gives minimal content material online. So I also experimented with an à la carte strategy.

For lodging, the clear initial quit was, which replaces a guidebook’s curated listing of tightly created evaluations with free of charge-for-all consumer evaluations, only partly controllable by tools that filter and rank results by value, availability, place, sort of reviewer (household, solo, people in your Facebook network) and far more. and also rely on buyer reviews. Is that a valid substitute? To many, it is. Even if you favor curated picks, there are totally free websites like, with critiques writers add by themselves or cull from guidebooks and articles or blog posts. (Of program, as with flights, the most up-to-date info on hotel prices is on the internet.)

For sightseeing info, there have been unlimited possibilities, and I only scratched the floor. I checked Hungary’s official vacationer site,, which experienced great if minimal suggestions, but was lacking functional information like charges. My following stop was, which is operate by the Wikimedia Basis and is the closest point I found in format to an on the internet guidebook. It had a lot of tips for Hungary, although the duration and quality of descriptions were erratic, the writing was boring and functional details was yet again scarce.

I also attempted the person-produced critiques on, which permits you to see rankings by people in “tribes” like yours: funds travelers, “trendsters,” “spiritual seekers” and the like. Not negative.

But to me, the website that came closest to replicating a guidebook encounter, while even now harnessing the energy of the Web, is Sights and activities (and accommodations and restaurants) are separated by group, and there are curated guides by the site’s editors, customers and neighborhood specialists (“Family Entertaining in Budapest,” for example). Ideal of all, you can simply click to include any product to your personal “city guide” the result is a personalised itinerary, full with customized map, that can be downloaded to your cellphone and utilized without having piling up cellular data.

There are so numerous ways to uncover dining establishments on the internet, I do not even know where to begin. I presently had culled ideas from the sites I’ve described. Following, regional assets: with a straightforward Google search, I found a few compelling web sites in English (, Greatest of Budapest,, as effectively as content articles published in newspapers like this one. Chowhound’s dialogue boards had what sounded like well-informed Budapest guidelines. And I haven’t described the energy of Facebook, Twitter, Couchsurfing and on the internet travel discussion boards for getting personalised guidance.

It could sound like the world wide web was blowing away my guidebook — but not so rapidly. Virtually: It’s not so quickly. Marking up the guidebook took a few several hours and came to an obvious finish (the last web page). But I could have sifted through these internet sites eternally. For some men and women, that’s good: it’s been proven that organizing a excursion in fact tends to make us happier than the trip by itself. But choice can be paralyzing. For people who want the deciding accomplished for them, a trustworthy guidebook brand wins, at least in planning an agenda.

The score was much more or less tied in some other regions, like overviews on culture and background, collections of some useful phrases and essential cultural mores like tipping. Wikivoyage by yourself coated most of individuals.

Nevertheless, I discovered 3 approaches that a guidebook stomps the world wide web almost each and every time:

First, people curated maps. No internet site I attempted — Google, Michelin, Bing — could match the book’s maps, even soon after currently being personalized to pinpoint accommodations and dining places and sights. If you do want to print out city or city maps and mark them up yourself, I located Bing Maps to be by far the cleanest-hunting and easiest to print. (Use the complete-display screen feature, take a display screen shot and print.)

Second, guidebooks provide data you might never feel to look for on-line. In the Hungary ebook, I took place on a segment about common vacationer scams in Budapest, and an article on Budapest’s Jewish inhabitants — neither of which I would have thought to look up on my possess.

Ultimately, there’s straightforward convenience. A guidebook signifies an extra pound or so in your bag. But it is all in one particular place, does not run out of batteries or go out of range or use intercontinental information and is not likely to be ripped out of your hand by a thief. And for infrequent tourists, it doesn’t have a steep learning curve.

If the internet is a entirely stocked kitchen exactly where an seasoned chef provided sufficient time can generate a amazing meal, guidebooks are an vitality bar, packing all the nutrients you want into a handy deal that can be tossed into your bag. Of system, there’s one particular capture: at $ twenty five, that is a single pricey energy bar.

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