Please sign in to post.

What to take on a trip - guidebooks/maps

Hi all, first I apologize for the stupid questions that follow... I'm taking a 6-week trip to cities all over europe this summer and I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out what kinds of guides and maps to take with me. Is it better to buy maps in the cities upon arrival? I would prefer to use little pocket maps rather than big fold-out "HELLO I AM A STUPID TOURIST" ones. Are these available in big cities? I know that Eyewitness makes pocket city guides that contain maps - does anyone recommend these? Final dumb question is, which RS book do people prefer to take with them? ETTBD or the Best of Europe? Thanks in advance for any advice/opinions/suggestions!

Posted by
576 posts

Debra,on my last trip I made my own "guidebook".I photocopied all of the walking tours I was inter-ested in(enlarging,Rick's small pages to full size,easier to read while you're walking!).I copied everything on both sides of the page to minimize weight.I put everything for the entire trip into one large notebook. Then each day I took out each typed daily itinerary,plus all of the relevant pages from various guidebooks,Budget travel magazine,etc.,and put the pages into a small notebook I carried each day,throwing away each page as no longer needed.This approach is time consuming before a trip, but every day I had exactly what I needed,no more or less.By combining only the relevant parts of each guidebook, I wasn't weighted down with tons of books.It truely made everyday go much easier.Each day I had a plastic pocket for each city's map in a clear plastic sleeve.I buy maps ahead so I can mark and enlarge relevevant places,making it easier to get around unfamiliar cities.

Posted by
258 posts

Terri's plan is right on, as far as I'm concerned. I do the same in order to keep the weight down--photocopy or tear out pages. Also, consider Mapquest, although there are some glitches with it at times. Discarding used photocopied pages along the way is wise.

Posted by
473 posts

Those are definitely NOT dumb questions. My wife and I are the "planner" types, so we like to have our maps ahead of time. This way, we know where we're at from the start. And we don't spend valuable sightseeing time hunting down a map. We love the Streewise map, www.streetwisemaps.com. They are plastic-coated and fold accordian-style, down to the size of a business envelope. No experience with Eyewitness, so I can't comment there. I would suggest taking the Best of Europe book. Once your in Europe, you'll need to know the location of sights, how to get there, etc.

Posted by
421 posts

I agree I did the same I made my own guide book...
photo copied pages, took information from the net and created word files with the info i needed and printed it off.
Also in some cases I have even found great on line maps in PDF format or various formats that you can save to your hard drive adn print.
Easy, you don'e wreck your guides and when you are done with that particular part of the trip you can throw it away, yet you still have the orginals at home.

Another thing is that if you need driving directions for example use michelin as you can get detailed directions and maps which you can print off.

Posted by
84 posts

If you want to avoid looking like a tourist, you might also look at the ones that download onto a PDA in PDF or other format. That is a VERY discreet way -- just looks like you're on the phone.

I found some great ones that are tiny, seem to be detailed enough and have pens included: I found them at Brookstone, believe it or not.

http://www.brookstone.com/store/product.asp?product_code=INSIDE_MAP&search_type=search&search_words=map&prodtemp=t1&cm_re=Result*R1C1*T

The final size is about 4" x 6", and they included a pen and a compass in the spine, so you knew which direction to head!

Posted by
196 posts

We also like the laminated fold-out maps (have used Lonely Planet and Streetwise). I also cut out the RS/other guidebook pages for each area/city as well as hotel reservations and put each city in a separate ziplock. As we go on to the next spot, the pages get tossed but we keep the maps.Obviously, these ziplocks go in our carry-on bag. If you're driving, the detailed Michelin maps are awkward, but I just re-fold as we go, and I like having all the little towns and roads at my fingertips. We buy the Michelin maps here because we like to get a better idea of roads/routes beforehand.

Posted by
473 posts

As far as how (and whether or not) to plan your days, a lot depends upon your personality. From your questions, you sound more like a "planner", which I am too. My method is to make a list of sights I want to see, along with the days and hours that they are open, in order of importance to me. I'll then look at a map and see which sights are close to each other. I'll then guesstimate how long it will take to see a sight. Most churches are about 45 minutes max, cathedrals can take a little longer, most palaces are usually about 1.5 - 2 hours, art museums can vary greatly, depending upon your interest level. Based upon these criteria, I'll plan out which sights to see on which days. FYI, this will be a good way to occupy some of your time on the flight to Europe.

Posted by
1003 posts

Thanks, Rick, yes I am a planner! Mainly, I am nervous about getting lost in these cities (I know getting lost to a certain extent is part of the charm, but still...), so it would be nice to acquaint myself at least with where my hotel is in relation to things, etc. Thanks for the tips on the various maps and whatnot, I will check them all out in the bookstore tomorrow. One last question - is there a good website to get downloadable/printable pdf maps? I've looked and haven't had much succcess. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
473 posts

Hi Debra. Getting lost in a small town (or Venice) is fun. Getting lost in a big city is usually annoying. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of a site that offers downloadable maps. One thought would be to try the tourism web sites for the cities that you're going to. Google "tourism CityName" where CityName is Paris, London, etc. That will usually give you that city's official tourism site. FYI, even with our maps, we sometimes get lost. We've had good luck just asking local folks, especially people who are waiting for a bus. They usually have nothing else to do while waiting, so they are usually glad to help. If they don't speak English, just point to your map and tell them where you want to go (or write it down). That does
the job.

Posted by
89 posts

I LOVE the popup maps! I try to get one for any city I visit, they are great because they list popular monuments/museums, shopping areas, sometimes even hotels are on there. It's very easy to find streets and the best thing is they fold up so small they fit in your pocket and you don't have to unfold this huge map on the street. Also, many include subway/metro maps on the back. Just make sure you get the most recent edition (they usually have copyright dates somewhere on them) I was using an old one for New York City once and quickly realized that there were new subway lines running that were not on my old map.

Posted by
334 posts

While I usually take Rick's book, as is, with me, I often cut Lonely Planet apart for daily or per country/city use. I print any confirmations and print a "mapquest" or similar map on the back for hotels. If you buy maps, be sure to buy European ones that have names in the language of the country you will be in. Having that information also helps when looking up rail stuff on die bahn. We usually pick up a city map once there, but often get lost first. One trick we've learned, but not had to use, is to take a business card or other "freebie" from the hotel to carry with us in case we can't find our way back (or remember the name of the hotel).

Posted by
3 posts

I'm another one to add to the long list of photocopiers. I didn't even enlarge just cropped the paper in half, didn't bother with a note book either, we just put a staple in the top corner and flip away, it takes up less room. It stashes easily in your day bag and when we flip to a map we can fold the paper or any info we need. I admitt to doing all my planning with RS books but I do like the colorful Eyewitness books while in a city for specific info I want to learn about like the special painting in this abbey is... or this door post is signifigant because... The color pictures and diagrams are so easy.

Posted by
1003 posts

Thanks again guys! I have ordered the Best of Europe book and I think I'll take the advice to rip out the reelvant pages and just staple them together to take up less weight/space. Karen, thanks for the reminder about making sure the maps are in the local language. that makes perfect sense but I probably wouldn't have thought of it myself. I have a folder with a different pocket for each city with all the hotel/flight confirmations and other stuff, so I think that will help me stay relatively organized.

Posted by
104 posts

Enjoy the planning; I study for a trip like I'm back in college preparing for finals. I read histories of that city or country, literature by well-known authors from there, find that memoirs about places are the best. Hint-find them used on the net. Getting organized for the trip is the best anti-anxiety remedy there is and helps whet the appetite. As for maps, I love maps anyhow and love to know where I am and where I'm going. I'm absolutely love the Penguin Mapguides (only have them for London,Paris & Amsterdam-have to order on line)and also like the Let's Go maps and Knopf Mapguides. But if I were only spending 1-2 nights somewhere, I wouldn't buy or pack them-just use stuff from books and TI offices. Have a great trip.

Posted by
131 posts

I like the laminated foldup Streetwise maps. Prior to the trip I mark where the various attractions are located for a "bird's-eye view" of how much walking is involved and what to lump together in one day. Especially for dealing with museums or big attractions, I found the RS guide incredibly helpful for days and hours of operation as well as the tips of best time of day to go. (I do double check online, if possible, to confirm since this can change.)The map marking also helps for transportation planning (i.e. metro or a day when a splurge for a taxi will be necessary)After literally plotting out the places we want to see, it's so much easier to put together a day-by-day itinerary. Then I rip out the relevant pages from the guide book(s), and as other posters have suggested, staple each city together at the top left corner. I put each in a ziplock, with the map.

Posted by
258 posts

For in-depth (almost scholarly) information, try the Blue Guide series.