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How Often Do You Replace Your Guidebooks?

Every year there are a new crop of guidebooks to buy. If you travel to Europe frequently, how often do you buy the new edition? I love Rick Steve's books (and Lonely Planet) more for general information about places to visit and travel routes. I'm not so concerned with firm prices or specific hotels and restaurants. Even though history is one of the main reasons I travel to Europe, it's a changing place and there are new things each time I return (especially with travel methods). How long does a travel guide last? Planning my trip to Italy in 2020 and wondering if I need new guides.

Posted by
11437 posts

I don’t buy them anymore .

Years ago I bought my first one - Europe on 5 dollars a day ! So you can see that was many years ago lol

I bought my first Rick Steve’s book about 15 yrs ago - not sure exactly - but it was his first “ Europe through the Backdoors” book - a small secondhand paperback - I enjoyed it very much - as I do many travel books - but I’ve never relied on them much .

I have since purchased probably 5-6 recent( within last 10 or so years ) RS books for various places - I am sorry , I don’t buy new ( I am such a book hoarder the costs would make me poor if I bought new books all the time ) I never use them for hotel suggestions so it doesn’t matter to me if books are recent or not .

Posted by
1552 posts

I use guidebooks as guides, not the final word on a place. Even if it is old, the main attractions are the same. I just get an idea of sights that interest me and go directly to their website for up to the minute information. I am using an DK Eyewitness travel book for Montreal and Quebec I purchased a few years ago when we visited. I mark up the book with new times, prices, days closed, etc. The location never changes. I will purchase new updated books only if I don’t have a previous one from earlier travels.

Posted by
6236 posts

If the assumption is that a guidebook has a short shelf-life (no pun intended), then it doesn't make much sense to buy them at all because they're already depreciated by the time you purchase one (that makes for a terrible investment). Since I don't want to collect old relics, I go to the library and "rent" the latest year they have available. I'm fine with guidebooks that are 3 years old or so. I fill time-specific info on the internet and use the guidebook only as a reference or framework for further research. I don't use any part of a guidebook that deals with restaurants or lodging, so that's wasted on me as well.

Posted by
2355 posts

If I’m traveling to Europe I buy the newest Rick Steves guide available. He and his team spend a lot of time and effort updating these. Compared to the total cost of the trip it’s a rounding error if that. If you are going on a RS tour it’s essential to have the latest version.

Posted by
3004 posts

If you have a relatively current Italy guidebook, I would get the 2020 or 2019 version from the library and just update the relevant pages. There may be some new details or sites you are interested in that can be added in the margin or on a sticky. Regardless of the newness of the guide, often details are out of date before production, so always double check details like times and prices from the actual website.

As we know here, some of the city passes change and can't be used in the same manner as even 5 months ago.
I do not frequently revisit a country, so I get a new guide most visits (I do my own DIY trips), but not always the RS guide.
I have an upcoming cruise with 10 different cities. I will admit, I got books out of the library and photocopied relevant pages. I have 3 days in Venice, but most likely will rely on some printed maps, audio guides and the internet. No books coming with me.

Posted by
2513 posts

We rarely visit the same countries or cities every year, so our guidebooks may be 3-5 years old before we return. If 3 yrs old, I may just check the updates. At 5 years, I replace them with the current edition.

Posted by
173 posts

It depends. I am planning a trip this September to Prague, Vienna and Budapest, and looked at the used book store in town for an older RS guidebook, with no luck. I ended up buying the brand new RS Eastern Europe guidebook on Amazon prime day, with a discount that was offered, and paid about half the cover price. When I went to Italy a few years ago, I purchased the latest pocket versions for Rome and Venice. I often will buy RS (and other brand) guidebooks when I see them at rummage sales or at the used book store, even if it isn't about a destination that I'm currently interested in.

Posted by
11700 posts

I just get an idea of sights that interest me and go directly to their
website for up to the minute information

That's what I use mine for as well 'cause NO book is going to be up to date for things like hours, entrance fees and (lately) mandatory reservations and changes to tourist passes. 🙄 I also use DK guides for the pix as they help me visually identify what I'm looking for, and appearances don't change much so they don't need updating very often. Self-guided walks stay pretty much the same, and I never use them for restaurants or hotels so.... I'll take old copies and just make notes in them here and there.

Then again, if your copy has ticketing info for the chariot races, then it's probably time for a new one. 😉

Posted by
6236 posts

The decision should not be framed in terms of cost of a new guidebook as a percentage of total trip cost (sorry, that's the wrong reference point), but rather the cost of incremental improvement(s) from the prior edition one has access to versus the cost of a brand new book. So it's worth comparing the old and new books to see what's changed - then put a price on that "value" and compare with the price of the new book. If the old book is totally outdated, then perhaps a brand new book is warranted, but I doubt a 1-3 year old book has been updated so comprehensively as to make it worthwhile to pay for a brand new one. Too little incremental improvement to justify cost. This is just like college text books which are updated every year (edition 2 to edition 3 etc..) to justify jacking up the price in excess of the marginal benefits.

Posted by
2355 posts

. So it's worth comparing the old and new books to see what's changed - then put a price on that "value" and compare with the price of the new book. Oh, I see. Go to the library and check out the old book. Get the new one (without buying it? Neat trick) then compare each section to see if the incremental improvement meets some “value” test. Exhausting. I’ll go to the RS store fork over the $20 and be done with it. Different strokes.

Posted by
20718 posts

We are in Alan's camp. Always like to the most up to date information. What is a few dollars for a current guidebook?

Posted by
6236 posts

What is a few dollars for a current guidebook?

Dollars that can't be spent elsewhere that may be more valuable to someone. Everyone is different. A lot of people don't even use guidebooks at all, so let's not pretend that each person values guidebooks (up-to-date or not) the same way.

Posted by
3144 posts

We never buy travel books. When you have access to a good library, you can take out the latest travel books for planning & maybe take one of them if needed with you on the trip.

Moreover, websites of the locales (museums, churches, theatres, bookstores, restaurants) we want to visit and websites with public transport information are accessible on my iPhone and iPad.

Posted by
2463 posts

Doug, yes the updates are posted on-line. Go to the Shop Online, Guidebooks, and the guidebook you're interested in. It also tells you when the next one is being published. I need the one for France for a trip next year, so am waiting until November when the new one comes out.

Posted by
835 posts

I bought a Baedeker guide for northern Italy. It is not very useful, as it was printed in 1896.
But it is great fun.

Posted by
2513 posts

Doug Spindler:

Frank does Rick put updates to his books online?

Of course there are updates. Go to the Explore Europe forum. Select your country. Select "Plan". There is a subsection titled Guidebook updates.

As for ebooks that's fine for people such as yourself who can't bear to be separated from their electronics. I prefer something that doesn't depend on battery life, and where I can just rip out the necessary pages for a given day. It's good to have options.

Posted by
20718 posts

CJ is right -- for us -- we don't carry the electronics. For the past 40+ years we simply relied on paper. Old habits are hard to break. The paper is always there, didn't have to shade it from the sunlight, and never have to recharge. We are comfortable with that approach and it has worked well for us in the past.

Posted by
36 posts

I always buy and bring the most current guidebook I can find as well as pocket maps. I also do a lot of research in advance, both through my local library and on the web. Although lots of material is readily available electronically, I like to make notes in my guidebook before I go to emphasis why I want to go to a place and during my trip to annotate my travels. I use a tablet in my hotel room or AirBnb to double check site details before I head out to be sure there was not an unexpected closing.
Evelyn

Posted by
178 posts

Wow, so many responses to my question. I love it! And I agree with everything said. Go figure how I can do that. Anyway, I think I just like to buy guidebooks but I'm trying to not be too silly with basically buying the same thing twice. Thanks, everyone!

Posted by
364 posts

I go to ebay and get ex-library books that are one generation old (1-2 years) for about $4 each, including mailing.

I look most major things up online and I verify hours, etc, at the website, so I make my own edits, if needed (which is rare).

I rip out the sections of the travel books which relate to the places we are going to.

Last year, for Spain, I only had to bring 1/3 of the book.
I bought Rick's binders
https://store.ricksteves.com/shop/p/guidebook-page-binder
and put the daily pieces in the "books"

In Spain, we went to 7 cities, so I threw away the old/prior city's guide section and inserted the next upcoming section in it.

Ditto for this year's Italy trip.

Posted by
1878 posts

I go to Europe on average once a year, but might not visit a specific country for seven, ten, or more years. So it’s usually obvious I need to purchase a new book. I did return to Budapest in 2014 after visiting in 2011, and used the same book. But when i returned to Italy this year after last visiting in 2017, I bought a new book. Less margin for error in Italy. The cost is trivial so why not. I see the updates on this site do refer sometimes to older versions but what a hassle to have to constantly check.

Posted by
3838 posts

So I'm cheap and don't want to carry the extra weight. I use my library app (Overdrive) on my ipad and borrow brand new guides electronically from the library. I'm mostly just looking at them for sites to see and maybe places to eat - I pin what interests me on my map app (CityMaps2Go) and make notes if need be on same app. And if I need to know something about opening times, I can look that up while I'm on the road. If there is something like a walking tour, I screenshot the 'page' and can zoom in as need be.

For our upcoming trip, I 'borrowed' 2 different Prague and Vienna guides, a Venice guide, a Rome/Florence/Venice guide for the Venice section, an Italy guide for the Bolzano region, a UK guide for the Oxford region and a few London guides just to see what's new since last year and get a few restaurant ideas. So that was 10-11 different guidebooks and it cost me nothing.

They have everything from Frommer's to DK to Top 10 to Fodor's and Rough Guide. For London alone there are 7 guides dated 2018-2020! Most seem to be constantly available, so if I want to 'borrow' one when we're away, chances are good I'll be able too.

Posted by
57 posts

We think it is worth the investment to have the latest information and guide books at our disposal. If we go back somewhere it is normally 5-10 years after our last visit.

Posted by
2521 posts

Seldom. First of all I have found the updates on this site adequate for updating older books. Second- there’s soooo much info on the web. Third - the more I travel to Europe, the less I visit sights covered by his books. Last trip included Trieste, Bologna, Parma, Turin, Val d’Aosta, the Langhe region of the Piedmont. None are covered in Rick’s guides. Maybe that’s why there were fewer tourists!

Posted by
7737 posts

As is pretty obvious, this is totally a matter of personal preference. It cracks me up to see people arguing for their way as if it's the way for everyone. The OP asked us what we do. Personally, I prefer guidebooks that aren't more than a few years old. New sights are being opened or enhanced across Italy all the time, plus some of the logistics change, as well as lodging recommendations. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Happy travels.

Posted by
3436 posts

Guidebooks, and maps too, are outdated before they even get printed. So yes, I do always want the latest version so I am less out dated. I buy a highly rated one for where I am going every time I go.

Of course the major sites are still there and are not going anywhere. But opening hours, ticket prices, and other similar things do change. How to get money, or even if you need to get any at all, continues to change at a rapid pace. Some books only 10 years old still suggest Traveler Checks as the best way to carry your funds for your trip. Anyone who has recently tried to use one has found out that info is incorrect! Hotels and restaurants close, change owners, go from highly rated to stay away in a flash.

Using the internet has its drawbacks as well. You have to be careful who is providing the information you are reading. Most of it is false or at least misleading.

So yes, if you are one who uses guide books to plan trips, always get the most recent and current one you can find. You will be a lot better informed.

Posted by
668 posts

I collect older guide books. Tourist attractions go in and out of fashion. For instance you will hardly see any references to the city of Tarquinia, just outside Rome, in a contemporary guide book. But its in my 1980 Rand McNally Pocket Guide. Its a gem of a city and older than Rome.

Posted by
176 posts

Aussi, if ever in Toronto, consider visiting the downtown Reference Library---it has all the pre turn-of-the-century Baedekers ever published, every country and every region. You'd be welcome to sign them out individually for on-site perusal.
Nickelini, your city's equivalent library has a decent selection of all the major guidebooks. You could do a survey there for your upcoming trips, as long as updateness does not mean too much.

I am done. The end.