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guide books -- why do I want to carry them?

I know this is sacrilege to ask. I leave for RS Berlin, Prague & Vienna tour and places beyond in 2 weeks. RS Tours send me a city guidebook for each city -- 3 books, 1 pound each = 3 pounds worth of books. For the past two tours, I ripped out pages from the guide books to take, hauled them to Europe and never looked at them nor have the guides referred to them. Since these are city books, they don't tear up as easily, too much detail in too many pages.

I really don't want to take the added weight of guide books or pages. I need to cut a few more pounds from my carryon and tote so I can easily lift luggage overhead or haul it up stairs. I already cut my camera, extra shoes, 1/4 of the clothes I usually take from my packing list. Drugs and supplies are diminishing weight as the trip moves along, to be filled with a few souvenirs.

I read the books (pertinent info), downloaded the RS Audio app, listened to the walks and talks, have sightseeing for the tour and independent travel plus hotels and restaurant ideas bookmarked in Google Maps and researched much on websites. I actually like wandering around since I'm lost half of the time anyway. The RS website and internet are available when I have WiFi or want to pay for data. Is there any good reason I want to haul the extra weight around?

Thanks for your advice and opinions.

Posted by
1910 posts

If in the past you ripped out pages and never looked at them, don't bother taking any. You can always take a photo on your phone of relevant info, or make some brief notes and email them to yourself.

Posted by
6202 posts

Hi, I’m preparing for a RS tour, and I have reduced the one guidebook down to almost a ridiculous tiny amount. (I tore out the cities where we will be; then I went page-by-page within the section and removed any page that wasn’t critical to keep.). I weigh everything before placing it in my luggage, so I was happy to do a couple of reduction iterations on the pages I am taking with me - 3.5 oz for a 14-day tour, and I still will do one more reduction. Other than a few pages, I will probably not keep the pieces covering each city after we have moved on from that location.

Think about each of those cities. During your free time, do you already have plans? If I took your books away from you, what do you need? It’s probably only a few pages of each.

One piece of the guidebook that I do like to bring with me is the two-page map of each location we’re visiting. I’ve always been a map person, and I will mark notes on the map for places that might just be a few hours stop along the way. And it’s always good to mark where we’re meeting back up! ; )

Posted by
8950 posts

If you didn't look at them before, don't take them now.

Posted by
10953 posts

Any chance you could go with e-books? I bought into Kindle over a decade ago and haven’t looked back. All of my books, all versions, easily accessible with book marks and highlights.

Posted by
2941 posts

We just got back from an independent trip to Germany. I throughly reviewed the RS guidebook before the trip and was going to bring it along. But, I forgot it and didn’t miss it. There was one time I thought it might have been useful ( for restaurant recommendations), but that was it. However, we always have data with us, so I can easily search on my phone for anything I need answers to.

Posted by
4019 posts

To answer your question first, nope.

I used to try to do the same thing, tossing the parts we were done with as we moved along, until it became obvious that the guidebooks I had the pages from were different from the ones the guides had, even though I got them when I signed up for the tour. Older? Newer? I have no idea except that the page numbers didn’t match. And of course the digital ones I got didn’t have matching pages either.

I stopped taking any kind of similar paper long ago in favor of doing my planning in ways similar to what you describe. I suppose the smaller and lighter pocket guides might be tolerable but it sounds like those aren't the ones you mean. The books are just too dang heavy and have as you said, "too much detail in too many pages." And some of the information is out of date before it's published.

That's why I often recommend that new travelers start with the Travel Tips and Explore Europe sections of this website as well as the Forums to have a greater probability of current information. Our friend Google can also help.

My first job out of college (1967) was doing research for a new historical and cultural museum. One of the things I learned from that job was that the descriptions accompanying exhibits and artifacts need to be very short and specific or almost nobody will read them. Sometimes it's harder to get to the heart of what is needed to know than we might think -- including for me when I write responses to Forum questions. 😁

Posted by
2109 posts

One thing from the guidebooks that I always use on the tour is the Useful phrases page. I tear it out and laminate it.

Posted by
5192 posts

I have access to Hoopla and Libby through my local library. I can get digital copies of most RS guides thru Libby, for free. I can also get other guidebooks on Libby and Hoopla

They can be downloaded and used offline

Posted by
4019 posts

I like those parts of the books, too, but there are many similar options online. For example, I found these (among other) sources by Googling useful travel phrases french, useful travel phrases german -- you get the pattern. One nice thing about this source is that you can hear the pronunciation. Another is that you can download the content as a free PDF.

108 French Travel Phrases for a Smooth Trip to France

137 Useful German Travel Phrases, Expressions and Vocabulary Words

Posted by
1980 posts

I travel independently and don’t even bring paper copies with me. After spending all that money to have a guided tour, I would let the tour guide handle the details. I’m guessing they sent the books so you can read up, get excited, maybe think about what you might want to do in your “free” time.

Posted by
68 posts

I just created Notes for each of our destinations and did scans (using the phone) of the pages needed. I overdid it because it doesn't take up any physical space. I will download the notes as we visit places and then delete them from the phone, freeing up space for photos, etc. I will still have the pages for doing my journal or photobook, but nothing physical. This is a first for me, but with 4 countries, I am hopeful it will work well.

Posted by
4042 posts

I also migrated to e -books about five years ago . I bring a 7 inch Samsung tablet with any travel information , and a pile of books , as I am a voracious reader , and have access to the news , and sources for anything I might want to look up on my trips , For me , its the only way to go

Posted by
2678 posts

I find the RS maps very useful. They are small so you’re not standing on a corner unfolding an unwieldy map. They take little room so I rip them out, use them then discard. I stopped taking the full guidebooks a while ago because of weight and space.

Posted by
3909 posts

Nope, there isn’t. If you don’t want to travel with a guidebook, don’t. Don’t carry what you don’t want to carry. One of the things I like about RS books is that the paper stock is very lightweight unlike DK Eyewitness Books for example. So it hasn’t been a problem for me.

I think it’s criminal to destroy a book; it’s akin to book burning. Instead, one could use her/his smartphone to take photos of pages that have info one wants to have on a trip.

Posted by
294 posts

What about when you add days before or after a tour, or use a tour as a point of departure?

To me the thought of "scanning" pages of a physical book by taking a photo and then trying to organize your " scans" sounds like more trouble than it's worth.

Since you get the books for "free" [they're included in the price of your tour] you should be able to afford to purchase the Kindle edition and have it on your tablet or laptop.

People taking tours should suggest to the RS powers that be that they offer the option of electronic copies of the books - as part of the RS sustainability initiative.

Posted by
46 posts

I have used the RS guidebooks for many years before I ever went on a tour. But only carried the books on trip twice. Now before I leave I buy the current E-book and that works just fine. I use the physical book while planning for several months but I recommend just investing in the E-books to use while actually traveling. As for maps , I often use Streetwise. Also, just discovered how great the National Geographic maps are. Florence is the best.

Posted by
4527 posts

I’m with all the others that advocate eBooks. I carry some on my Kindle and one as an EPUB in Apple Books. The nice thing is that you can get them from the library and bring them along on your trip. I also like the fact that you can access websites of various sites and restaurants by just clicking on the link in the eBook. It makes it very handy to check out hours, addresses, and so on.

markcw, I think that’s an excellent idea about Rick Steves offering the option of an e-book to his tour patrons.

And if you dislike eBooks, I would go with the suggestion of just ripping out the pages you want. I have never understood those who say that you are desecrating books by ripping them up. It’s not like it’s the Gutenberg Bible. It’s a mass produced book that can be treated like every other mass produced item in our society.

Posted by
12717 posts

I like the paper books for planning but take the guides with me on occasion as e-books. Occasionally I’ve had a guide say “go to page 413 in your guidebook” which I just ignore. First it feels like the guide is being lazy and second, too much like high school and third, the ebook pages don’t match and 4th that kind of thing puts me right to sleep!!

TBH for opening hours of museums/churches/venues I go to the websites now. Much more accurate and up to date than any guidebook.

I’ve been traveling now for 4 weeks and have not needed to refer to a guidebook yet. I have been to all manner of websites for individual venues. Frankly, having data access is more important to me than a guidebook for my current travel.

Posted by
8083 posts

One of the reasons they send you the guidebook and hope you will bring it on the tour, is so that you will have some idea of what you want to do in your free time, without having to crowd around the tour leader and ask them what to do every time. I had one RS tour leader tell this directly to a group of tour member.s who were clamoring for ideas on where to go for lunch, or how to get to whatever. He was visibly annoyed and said "why didnt you bring your guidebooks? That's what its for."

I tear out the parts relevant to the stops on the tour, and discard them along the way after we're done there.

Posted by
6202 posts

I appreciate your timely post, Horsewoofie! After reading people’s comments, I’m going to just bring the map pages with a few notes on them and the phrase page enlarged. Thanks!

Posted by
2335 posts

Hi Everyone. Thanks for your great ideas. Here's what I think will work best for me, based on last year's RS tour + independent travel + your input. Unsurprisingly it's not very different than what I list originally.

*No books -- too heavy
*No pages in page binders or stapled pages -- I didn't use them, need to cut every ounce possible.
*No e-books, which I hadn't thought about-- only carry an iphone and my "yes's" seem to do the same thing.

*Take pictures if there are pages I think I need, then store them in Notes -- another post recommended doing this for tickets which works for tickets that won't migrate to Apple Wallet and travel documents. Those same tickets are in emails or apps in case the venue's scanner can't read them.
*Google Maps -- saved locations and made notes about hotels, sightseeing, restaurants for tour, free time and independent travel.
*Apps downloaded -- transportation (plane, train, local), translators, more maps, RS Audio, insurance, banking.
*Web bookmarks by city -- for events/sights I am visiting, interested in and general information.
*iPhone calendar -- detailed itinerary for each day for tour, free time, independent travel which helps manage my time.
*Paper itinerary -- can note more details than calendar, use to make travel notes instead of journal. I haven't fully transitioned to digital.
*Read the forum a lot -- I always learn so much from everyone. Thank you!

Like many of you, I start planning months in advance, buy plane tickets and book hotel rooms early. I buy the pertinent guide books and have read most or at least part of them way before the tour kit arrives. I rework my itinerary as things change. A two week tour is a three to four week trip for me, adding days prior and post tour. By the time I fly out, I'm working on information overload but have access to what I learned. If nothing else, wing it, be flexible and enjoy.

Posted by
6202 posts

Hi Horsewoofie, I take a lot of screenshots of information or pictures on the internet when I’m researching a trip independently. I place those into an iCloud folder for the trip. I even did some screenshots when I watch Cameron giving a RS Monday night video on the Adriatic tour.

As I’m working through an itinerary or narrowing down my interests, I begin deleting about half of the iCloud folder pictures/screenshots.

When I’m within three weeks of the trip, I copy the iCloud folder into separate cities’ folders. So, I can either find something in the trip folder or faster in the city folder. As I finish a city, I delete that folder and just keep the general one. My trip last June was 11 cities, so the individual folders really help keep everything accessible & organized!

I do still bring paper tickets and a 1-page spreadsheet that contains everything- hotel addresses, reservations & times for a specific day, plus 2-3 “could do” activities for flexibility.

Posted by
2424 posts

“I actually like wandering around since I'm lost half of the time anyway.”

I laughed when I read this sentence! That describes me too. I just returned from 4 independent days in London before taking the Rick Steves Southern England tour. I did find wandering repeatedly in the same place or neighborhood I became more comfortable with navigating my way around.

I tore up the England guidebook as well as the London one and put the needed pages in a binder and put that binder for that day in my purse. I did consult the binder occasionally. For me that works. I may try an ebook from Libby my next trip and see how it works.

By the way, you will love the Berlin Prague Vienna tour!

I think traveling is an ongoing exercise in adapting and refining your individual style that gives you the most pleasure.

Posted by
59 posts

We are currently on tour now—Villages of Italy. Before leaving home, I broke the binding of the Italy book and tore out the pages of our towns and stapled them separately. Then put them in little plastic report covers from Office Depot. Can toss them out along the way.

I have used them frequently! There is lots of time on our own in each town and we love having a “filtered down” list of sites and restaurants to explore on our own. Also the guidebook map is way easier to navigate.

Another tip from a fellow tour member…
Before leaving home, download Google map to use offline for each hotel on the trip. That way when you are out exploring, you can always find your way back.

Posted by
211 posts

This is such a personal issue. I honestly really like guide books. I hate spending more time looking at a screen than I have to. Not a kindle fan, or phone map app fan for that matter. I tend to read up on a trip using Time Out guides, Lonely Planet guides, Eyewitness guides, Insight guides, and RS guides. Sometimes Moon guides. I will usually bring the RS guide with me, and sometimes one of the other guides, particularly if it focuses on a city. I wouldn't bring one of the super hefty RS guides, but more likely one that focuses on a region. I have yet to do a RS tour, so not sure if it would be redundant to be on a RS tour with the RS book. I have never really done a Europe trip where I have needed multiple guides--I usually just need to concentrate on one area that I am visiting, so haven't had the experience of trying to take a library. But I do like to have the book with me. It then becomes a keepsake once I get back home. On several occasions I have opened a RS book years after a trip and a momento has fallen out--a metro ticket, a theatre ticket, a beer label, an entry stub that I had forgotten about. I recently opened my Tuscany guide and a postcard of David fell out. I remember the museum said you couldn't take photos of David so I bought a postcard of the statue instead.

Posted by
530 posts

I've torn out pages from my books but kind of regret it now. Never ended up referring to them during my trips. I just download the Kindle version of the book and highlight the info I need.

Posted by
98 posts

I always read the books before my trip and I make notes on my iPad on the things I want to see and places I want to eat in my spare time. However I like having the book in case I have to/want to do a “Plan B”. Also, all my friends wait with bated breath for my Facebook posts (oh, the pressure) so the guidebook is great for including information about the sites that I might not have absorbed completely while listening to the guide. Enjoy the Best of B,P,V Tour. I took it last September. Cesky Krumlov was so pretty!