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Are Guidebooks' Recommend Length-of-Stays Realistic?

This is probably an odd little question, but here goes.

You know how guidebooks usually recommend how much time to spend at a given destination? Do those times accord with your own expereinces? Are they realistic?

Because they don't accord with mine. I see books telling readers to "linger" over a place for, say, 3 days. Yet, when I was there, I was ready to leave after a day and a half. I'd seen the sites and walked the walk and that was it. Time to go.

For example, I see books recommending that we spend half a day in some cute little English villages. Now, I know some cute little English villages rather well. You can walk through them in 10 minutes. Unless you are there to complete some specific and specialized task, I can't imagine what you would do in such a place to consume half a day, other than hanging out in the local pub. And, if you do that, you'd better plan on spending the night.

Now, maybe that's just me. Maybe I just rush around too much. (I don't think so. I go walkabout, see the sites, talk with people, stop when something interests me, and eat three meals.)

But, I've got guidebooks telling me to spend several days exploring place that I've already visited, and I can't imagine what I'm supposed to do for all that time.

This is a factor when planning a tour of an unfamiliar destination, of course. Have you ever found a guidebook's recommended length-of-stay to be way too long?

(Have to say the Steves books seem more in line with my tastes. E.g., while he lays out a 21-day tour of Britain, I've got other books that recommend a week for the western half of Cornwall alone. Not that they ever say what's supposed to take so much time)

Posted by
9363 posts

Many of the times seem long to me, too. But that's what i like about traveling solo -- I can spend as much or as little time as I want in a place. If I'm using a guidebook I usually plan two main activities for a day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. If I can tell from the book that there are numerous things I might like to see, that would guide my decision on number of days. My two-a-day rule gives me plenty of time to dawdle or to fit something else in if I come across something I didn't know about.

Posted by
320 posts

J.C. -

The way I see it - it is my trip and I'll go when and where I choose.

I use the guidebooks and online resources (like this one) and chatting with my travelling friends to plan ahead before I travel to Europe.

If you plan ahead and learn about your destinations you'll know once you are there how much time you'll want to spend. Only you can tell when you've seen enough of one place or another.

Have fun.

Posted by
204 posts

I don't think most writers of guidebooks, certainly not Rick, intend that their suggestions be fiat but rather only what they say, ie, suggestions. That said, I agree that the times suggested often seem too long. For example, Venice, to me, has very little to offer but Rick loves it. Rome on the other hand I have been going to practically every year for some years and still don't feel sated. I know that Rick, as intelligent as he is and as experienced too, would say a minimum stay to really become knowledgable about a place will tell you if it is, FOR YOU, a Venice or a Rome.

Posted by
970 posts

Point taken, Charles. For rxample, I really like the San Francisco area and can easily spend a week doing things others would do in 3 days.

I've been reading some guidebooks prior to working out an itinerary for a UK trip. I know the place rather well, but haven't been there for 6 years, so the books are primarily to get a feel for what might have changed. Many of the suggested "linger" times strike me as excessive.

Posted by
221 posts

I think it depends on if you just want to see the historical and/or tourist sites, or let the way of life and culture sink in. If the latter is your preference, you need to stay awhile.

Posted by
934 posts

It seems to me the reason I like to drive in Europe is I can stop anyplace that looks good and can stay as long as I want.Tours tell you how long and where.They are fine for some people but not for me.

Posted by
1315 posts

I suspect the guidebooks err on the side of slowing you down, partly because most people will want to try to fit far too much into a single trip to begin with.

It also depends on your mindset at the time. When I went to England years ago, we tore all around Bath like crazy people at the beginning of the trip but by the time we reached Scotland a week later, I was ready to spend half a day rummaging around in a cute little Scottish village.

Posted by
3551 posts

I agree RS is great at durations to hit the high points.all others pale to his guidebks. I wish he supplied books for the rest of world. However I do find that I am slowing and savoring the destination more. of course now I am in my 50's but I have been traveling all my life to wonderful place.

Posted by
683 posts

How long u stay in a given place depends on your preferences. In could be that a town not worth much of your time is nevertheless a good place to just stop for a breather- a rest before continuing. We used Ravenna that way. We found it deadly boring but we were tired of trains over the preceding few days. Sometimes there isnt much there but the surroundings are magical. You wind up spending more time than you had thot. There are also times when you meet people who just make you want to stay forever!