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Travel guide books--do you collect or clear out?

One of the topics posted today was about looking for older editions of Europe Through the Back Door. It got me thinking about the bookcase I have that contains all the guidebooks from most of my trips in the US, Europe, and Latin America, some going back into the 90s. I find it very difficult to get rid of my guidebooks--I know that the information in many of them is super outdated, but I feel like each guidebook is sort of a souvenir of the time that I took that trip. Even when I buy an updated guide for that location, I still can't part with the older edition. Other kinds of books I can donate no problem, but for some reason travel guidebooks that I read and went with me in many cases to that country or state I can't get rid of. Do all of you keep your older editions or do you get rid of them as soon as you no longer need them?

Posted by
10323 posts

I understand your feelings. We have moved a lot and thin the guidebooks out when when moving.
I save some for places I may return to and others for reference and historical information such as for Egypt. They are hard to get rid of but storage space declines with each move. I decide which ones to keep very carefully.

Posted by
163 posts

I agree, Pete, I find they are witness to my travels. Just seeing the cover of one guidebook tossed me back 20+ years to the family UK trip. Maybe I should put the cover in a book with photos...Sometimes I have returned to old books to see if I can find highlighting or marks on the accommodations to aid my memory. I have gotten better at following RS advice to only take needed sections and to leave them along the way. That doesn't always make sense if you're revisiting soon, or if you are freespiriting and need most of the book, however.

Posted by
763 posts

I have found that some of my older (Fodor's France 2006, for instance) guide books contain many more details about old/ancient sights that my newer (Fodor's Essential France 2021) guide books do not! Soooo, I hold on to them.

Posted by
5104 posts

I get rid of guidebooks I buy after 5 or more years, and the only reason I keep them that long is in case anyone I know is traveling and needs one (although I must admit I wish I still had my original Rick Steves guidebook and my Let's Go Europe just for the novelty of it). :)

What I keep are my travel journals. Before I started writing them online, I wrote copious notes each day in a notebook, usually while I was on the train or sitting alone at dinner. Those are the books that bring back memories for me.

Posted by
6445 posts

Two houses ago I kept all of the guidebooks I used to plan trips or on RS tours. Several had small sections removed, stapled together and then the pieces returned afterwards and the book rubber-banded back together.

As others mentioned, moving to different homes were excellent chances to clear out anything we wouldn’t be using in the next few years. As I was deciding, I realized that I liked them on the previous bookshelf, but I never opened them again.

During my latest trip - the wonderful RS Adriatic tour, I tore out and tossed most of the book after reading through all off it at home. For the small amount I brought, I just used the handy small RS folder to carry a few pages of the book each day.

What I treasure and keep are the photo books created & printed. I also keep paper tickets, brochures, etc. plus a printed trip report of each trip in a titled colored large envelope folder.

Posted by
781 posts

I have left behind guidebooks in apartments or hotels, but only if there is a nook with that kind of info for guests to use.

Posted by
691 posts

I keep them for reference and because a lot of the information in a guidebook doesn’t change, such as basic info about sights and transportation, I may use them again if I am returning to a place. I never pay attention to restaurant or hotel information anyway, and can always google other newer information such as opening times of museums and such that I am interested in.

Posted by
1629 posts

I have kept about half of them. Whenever I sort through them I put them in a Free Little Library just down the block from me. They are always gone within a day or so.

Posted by
60 posts

I still have a lot of my Lonely Planet books from 20 or more years ago, mostly because I think those editions were better than the modern versions. These are for places that I plan on visiting again. Other than Rick's, I'm not too big a fan of most guidebooks these days. I can look up hotels, restaurants, or the hours and prices of museums online in mere seconds, so I don't need a book for that. What I would like a guidebook for is tips, opinions, cultural context, history, arts, discussions about food & drink, etc., so older guidebooks still work very well for these.

Posted by
1726 posts

I get rid of my guidebooks after a few years. However, I do sometimes cut out sections and paste in my journal, particularly if it gives the history or points out specific things I enjoyed. I will add though I will never get rid of my "2-22 Days in Great Britain" guide book from Rick in the mid 1980s!

Posted by
3099 posts

I really wish I had "collected" my Access guides to various cities. Those guides offered a detailed block by block description of neighborhoods in various cities, with a good bit of background information. When I was living in the Marina district of San Francisco, that book was my bible.

After 9/11, the series withered and died.

Our most recent trip was to Vancouver, BC - the Fodor's guide was nothing special - I left it in the room.

Posted by
1206 posts

I just recycled some of mine yesterday. Cleaning out the office. I will be buying the new edition if I go again so just can't justify keeping them. Complete ones of places I haven't been yet I did keep for future trips reference.

Posted by
865 posts

We clear out when we update. I take the older ones to GoodWill. We don't have room for them, plus- we've used them once and if we return to a place, we get the updated version. We are at the stage where we are downsizing and find old guidebooks clutter.

Posted by
4477 posts

I toss any guidebooks more than 5 years old. If I need to reference something from a previous trip, I look it up in my travel journals.

Posted by
4077 posts

My husband is the packrat, not me. He has his pay stubs all the way back to his first job! Thank goodness he retired in 2004.

To answer your questions:

Clear out.

IF I have a paper guidebook, it gets torn up into the very few pages I find useful (which I toss along the way) and the rest goes into recycling.

Truth be told, I don't need 90+% of any guidebook from the beginning. That's not because I know everything about where I'm going but rather because I find more current practical information online. Having said that, I recently noticed that even some of the information in the Travel Tips here is dated and that Forum participants are often way ahead of what's there.

As for trip souvenirs, I'm far more likely to come home with something very light in weight that I can easily pack in my carry-on. Examples tend toward the useful and wearable with a few fun refrigerator magnets thrown in. Everything I've ever brought home from about 50 weeks in Europe since 2009 combined probably weighs less than 2 RS guidebooks.

Posted by
50 posts

I love my guide books. And I keep them for longer than needed but when I have an updated version, I have found myself lately giving older editions to friends and service providers I a happy to work with who talk about traveling to Europe . Everyone should dream about an adventure. IMO. Sometimes I am sharing them with potential future travel companions so that we can begin planning or at least thinking of planning way way ahead of time. Planning for an out of country adventure is half the fun. My fallback would be the public library for donations.

Posted by
975 posts

I keep mine. They are memories of old trips. Sometimes if I am thinking of going back to an area covered by one of them, I look through it for some ideas. My favorite old travel guide just to bring back travel memories is my first Europe Through the Back Door.

Posted by
465 posts

As a natural declutter, I would usually toss anything I haven't used in a few years. But not guide books. If they're the same old same old, like an outdated guide, where I have bought a more recent version, sure. But not the archaeological guide to Angkor Wat that's out of print, or my Alaskan wildflower guide with all the pressed flowers inside. I've kept all the wonderful maps you can only buy locally, like many small regional maps that I might forget when I travel to the area again, so that's obviously not the reason. It must be nostalgia.

Posted by
67 posts

I get rid of my travel books on my trip as soon as I don't need them anymore. I usually stay at hostels and most have a bookshelf where you can leave books or pick up books. I might as well let someone else use them if I'm not using them anymore. Also, it lightens the load in my backpack.

Posted by
15 posts

I have a few old guidebooks, I used to collect them in the past, but now I don't really use guidebooks anymore, so my collection isn't very big, I think I have about 10 to 15 older guidebooks.

Posted by
3553 posts

I keep my old guidebooks. The information about historic sights, buildings, prehistoric sights, never changes, except one should check their websites to see if hours of opening & closing have changed. Hotels and restaurants that are in these older editions can go out of business, but I'm going to research those on the internet anyway before my next trip.

The maps in the Rough Guides and the Lonely Planet books are excellent. If I did have a book that I was going to throw into the recycle bin, I would cut the maps out first, and put them in a sliding spine notebook to take on future trips.

When I do part with old guidebooks, I donate them to the Friends of the Library book sale. This gives the library extra money for coloring books and art supplies needed for their "extra" programs and activities for children/toddlers.

Posted by
48 posts

I have moved many times and have downsized my library considerably. Children's books and travel books I can not part with. I make a lot of notations and observations in my travel guide books. (Usually at the end of a travel day or on a flight home) They help with advice for friends who may travel after us but also serve as a wonderful help with tiny trip details such as the secret door in Rome that saved us a half hour walk to view Palestine Hill or the restaurant in Amboise located in the shadow of the castle that had the most amazing cheese plate. My RS guidebooks are my favorite souvenirs. I store them in a large map covered box with other treasures from our travels. Someday my kids will have to make the decision to keep or toss but I feel these books are a bit of my history. When I see travel books at used book sales I look for notes from other travelers. Books may get updated but I still can not part with the information and memories!

Posted by
1258 posts

Almost always, I get guide books from the library. I used to xerox the pages I needed, later on I scanned them and printed the pages up at home, now I just photograph them with my phone. But I bought the Cadogan guide books and enjoy re-reading them --- so funny and opinionated, and the really outdated parts are either amusing or sad now.