In between all the hectic last-minute errands and general pain in the neck aspects of moving, getting ready to live overseas is ridiculously fun and exciting. In addition to dusting off my language skills by talking to myself in French for long stretches of time, one of my favorite pre-trip rituals involves researching and purchasing a new guidebook. New guidebooks are full of possibilities, and there's nothing like a bit of pre-trip reading to get you in the mood for travel. Needless to say, when my copy of The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget finally arrived in the mail I literally jumped for joy.
With all the options out there - guides for Europe, guides for just Western or Eastern Europe, country and even city-specific options from multiple travel guide sources - it can be difficult to make your final selection. Lonely Planet and Frommer's are perennial favorites, and Rick Steves is a reliable expert on Europe. Personally, I used to love the Let's Go series. My college friends and I would read their cleverly written histories and descriptions of upcoming destinations to each other while riding the rails in France, Spain or Italy. This time around I wanted a book that better fits my post-student travel lifestyle, and the Rough Guides line came recommended. If you're traveling through France, you should always pick up a copy of the Michelin Guide. Especially useful on road trips, Michelin rates food and lodging throughout the country, from swank Parisian hotels to traditional bistrots in the tiniest of French villages. If it wasn't for Michelin, I might never have spent a night in a 14th century Cisterian monastery. Be sure to look for the Michelin Man symbol, not stars, if you want to go budget.
Selecting a guidebook can be a very personal decision. Like other travel gear, such as a backpack or a camera, you have to get a good feeling about it; you have to have a connection with your guidebook. After all, it's going to be your constant companion, helping you find a place to sleep, food to eat, and sights to explore. When it comes to guidebooks, everyone has their favorite. What's yours?