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Excessive guide book weight

I try to pack light. I'm often surprised by the large fraction of the weight from guidebooks. The guidebooks all seem to go for glossy pictures on dense paper. Even Rick Steves has succumbed to this. For example, for this trip: 'Pocket Florence' weighs in at 7.9 ounces (nearly half a pound); Italian Phrase Book & dictionary: 7.6 ounces (again almost half a pound). That makes almost a pound between them for thin 6x4.5 inch and 5.5x4 inch tomes. That's at least twice as dense as typical mass market paperbacks. I can try to strip out extraneous material from them, but it won't make much difference.

If you are serious about packing light, these are ridiculously heavy. You get glossy pictures, sure, but if I want that, I can buy heavy glossy guides for reading at home. For travel, I want light, light, light and small, small, small volumes. Black & white on thin stock works fine.

I'm sure Rick Steves' company is responding to market pressure, but please consider lighter weight alternatives. I *don't" need color pictures or maps. B&W/grayscale works perfectly well. Travel guides have limited useful lifetimes, so they don't require dense archival quality paper. In fact, Rick encourages ripping up his guides for trip-specific purposes. If the guide is printed on dense, heavy, glossy stock though, you still end up with an excessively heavy package.


Posted by
635 posts

While traveling I only carry guidebooks in electronic form, on an iPad and iPhone (some use Kindle). Not as easy to read, perhaps, but the reduced weight and bulk are worthwhile.

Posted by
681 posts

I never travel with an intact guidebook for just that reason. I have the spine cut off at Fed Ex and, then, I reassemble the book with only the pages I'll actually use on my trip (no glossy pix). I have it spiral bound with the smallest spiral that will work. It's lighter and much easier to use. I also tear out pages as I leave each area, so the book gets smaller and lighter as I go.

Posted by
1994 posts

I would guess that the photos in the brief travel guides are for people who don't plan before the trip. The photos probably help them once they arrive.

For years I've taken guidebooks to Kinko's/FedEx, had them remove the spine, and spiral bind only the pages I need. I'm always gone 3 to 4 weeks, but it's amazing how little of a standard guidebook I need. I'm not traveling with kids, spending a lot of time shopping, or interested in clubbing, so all of those sections are left home. Also, I never take his museum guides because they are somewhat quirky, and I don't need the hotels or restaurant lists. I would estimate I take less than 20% of a country guidebook and less than 30% of a city guidebook.

Posted by
3551 posts

I know and understand the weight prob. For guidebooks i only take the pages of the book that i may need. Imdo not like to tear out pgs in books but this makes sense.
Digital while handy makes a tourist a target.
No perfect answer.

Posted by
8 posts

I use those tricks too. The problem is that things like RS pocket guides and language guides are already pretty minimal - not much to cut - but printed on very heavy weight dense paper with unnecessry color. Regular RS guides are better, mostly B&W on poorer quality paper, and slicing & dicing them saves weight pretty well. The pocket guides are cheaper, but much more expensive in terms of weight.

Posted by
9766 posts

Interesting -- who would think that a pocket guide would be so heavy!!

Posted by
2768 posts

Ebooks. Really. I love and prefer paper books too but you're right about the weight. I buy paper versions for planing sometimes, but these stay at home. The kindle version comes with me. I can highlight it, search it, If I lose it I can just download it again. I actually prefer reading site tours at the site on kindle - easier to hold. Other times I'd prefer paper, but it's a trade off. The Kindle version works on iPhone and iPad too.

Downsides are that the maps don't always look right and sometimes you just want to flip through a book. But the weight and space savings are worth it. Plus I can bring as many novels as I want as well as guidebooks, with no extra weight!

Posted by
8994 posts

Just take photos of the pages you want with your ipad or iphone. Easy to see, you can make them bigger and you can sort them the way you want.

Posted by
7050 posts

Glossy paper or not, the best way to reduce weight is to be more judicious with content, IMHO. Sometimes less is more (or a good enough trade-off).

I think the entire lodgings and restaurants sections should be removed, especially lodging. It's a space hoard and almost completely useless as it's fairly easy to more accurate pricing info right from the web instantaneously (once you book lodgings before the trip, why have all that info tagging along with you on the trip? you won't even read it at that point or act on it). I don't use either of those (lodging and restaurant) sections in almost every guidebook, although some folks swear by everything that Rick recommends. There are simply too many alternatives to find more accurate lodging/restaurant info and guidebooks don't have any monopoly on that (they don't even benefit from having reviews posted from actual users). If a guidebook writer spends money every year to update hotel and restaurant prices and make sure they're accurate, that doesn't seem like a good use of effort since it's bound to be out of date no matter what - prices are available real-time thanks to the internet. Also, hotel pricing is much more dynamic these days with tiers of various discounts available (not just AAA or typical guidebook references)...and then there is airbnb and other alternatives.

To me, the core value of a guidebook is to paint the picture of the cultural and geographical wonders of the country and to "tell a story" that will engage me and encourage me to travel there (I can find a place to eat and sleep on my own).

Posted by
118 posts

I used the books on my iPad, just returned from a 3 week trip. Much easier to read the maps and also to have wifi in the hotels. I would map out my day with the wifi and then use it through out the day with out wifi.

Posted by
56 posts

As convenient as eBooks are, I still read the old fashioned way...except when it comes to travel and guidebooks. My recollection is that when you buy a guidebook from Lonely Planet, you get both the paperback and an instant download of the eBook. I'm not sure if Rick Steves has the same option. In my opinion, paper guidebooks are a tool and meant to be used, torn, ripped, written on...and whatever is left over, passed on to the next traveler. While the historical references may remain constant, the hotel, restaurant, and practical day-to-day recommendations may change rapidly. As hard as it may be to witness FedEx or Staples mutilate the binding of your book, you won't feel guilty if doing so means you have the information you need to find a nice hotel or meal.

Posted by
524 posts

For those of you who take your guidebook to Kinkos and have the sections you do one for each city you are in, or one for all of them? I have the RS book and will be going to Venice, Rome, Positano and Naples. I'd also like to use the pages that might be beneficial as far as info.

Since Rome is so many more pages, maybe I should do 2? One for just Rome and the other for everything else. I will be taking it with me during the day, so would like for it to be light.

Posted by
3614 posts

Except for when I'm going to spend a lot of time in an area covered by a guidebook, I photocopy the relevant pages. I toss them as we go. I once checked the fed ex/kinko option; but I rejected it because, I think, it seemed too expensive.

Posted by
16894 posts

Rick's publisher, who is an expert on such things, knows that there is a market for the colorful pocket books, separate from the market for the "regular" books. Staff here recommend that you continue to use the traditional, plain-paper Florence book to get more info in the same 8-ounce weight, and rip it up to suit your trip. For a trip incorporating more of Italy, the Italy book has enough Florence info for most people.

Posted by
3521 posts

I get the Kindle version of the RS Book I need for my tour and read it using the Kindle app on my iPhone. Works acceptably except the fold out maps don't fold out. :-)

Posted by
77 posts

Are the RS guidebooks available in Kindle version on or somewhere else?

Posted by
14157 posts

Ray, yes the RS guidebooks are available on the Kindle pages of the Amazon website.

Posted by
399 posts

RS himself has recommended tearing up the guide book into smaller sections. After all, it was probably starting to be obsolete on the day they printed it and a year or two later who knows. I once went to see a famous person's house in Florence based upon a two year old guidebook. It was gone, and they were building a new 'replica' of the house.

I carefully remove the ages for each part of my trip, staple them together and tape the edges of the front and back pages to help preserve it. If I have my accommodations reserved I don't bother to bring that part at all. I do bring the eating and shopping recommendations and the maps. Each smaller section is maybe 8 to 30 pages max. This way when I am touring Venice I don't have to carry the weight and bulk of Rome with me. :-) When I leave the city, I toss it. I also keep the general discussion pages and information on phone numbers, railroads etc. in my suitcase so I don't have to lug it around. A descent guide book is easily 1-2 inches thick and takes up to much space in my day bag.

Oh, about a week before leaving check the publisher's website for updates to the guide book. For example, I have found that public transportation changes occur more often than I expect.

Posted by
1420 posts

for those going digital, you can always carry a print map, I bought Ricks Italy map to take along....quite lovely

Posted by
19148 posts

Of course Rick wants you to tear up his guidebooks (and then buy new ones). But for me, a guide book is only for the early planning stage, figuring out where I want to go. (I don't think Bacharach or Rothenburg have moved since 2001, the date of my last guidebook.) Once I know where I am going, I use the Internet (town websites) for up-to-date information (they have far more accommodations listed than do Rick's guidebooks, and I prefer to find restaurants by just walking around). I download information from the Internet to my netbook. OK, I know, my 2# netbook weighs more than a guidebook, but I use it for much more - it has my journal, my expense spreadsheet, train schedules. I also use it to update my own website and to follow this forum when I am in Europe.

Posted by
1625 posts

I am so tied to my paper resources in all areas of my life that I am afraid to just rely on a device to access information. My guidebook was invaluable on my 1st trip to Europe 8 years ago, everything from how to dial the US to which train station to use. While doing my research for our upcoming trip I have relied on the websites for attractions, transportation, food recommendations, open/close times, best way to travel etc (forums). I agree with a PP who indicated that the guidebook is great for the initial planning and it helped me wrap my head around the purpose of my visit, the places I wanted to see, the lay of the land so to speak. I love the idea of ripping out pages and stapling them together, because I know my next trip to the places we are visiting will not be in the next two years and the guidebook would have been updated by then. I think I will use this trip to wean myself off of the paper by using 1/2 technology (I did not have a smart phone or bring a notebook last trip) and 1/2 paper. Thanks for all the great ideas and experience, I leave in a month and need to start focusing on this stuff.

Posted by
985 posts

I leave for Europe Thursday. I have been busy, busy these last two weeks, and the thought of spending half the day tomorrow stripping and binding pages out of the guidebook had me running for kindle. Ahhhh!

Posted by
11613 posts

Nance, go with Kindle! You can add books as you travel if you need to.