Everyone knows Lonely Planet. Even if you aren’t a big travel buff, I’m sure you’ve seen these blue bound books at some point in your life. They are something of a gold standard when it comes to travel guides, and for good reason.
Lonely Planet began in 1973 when Tony and Maureen Wheeler put together their first book Across Asia on the Cheap when they only had 27 cents between the two of them after their epic journey. This idea of firsthand travel advice grew into the Lonely Planet empire, and today their guidebooks, apps, and electronic content cover virtually every corner of the globe.
My first real experience using a Lonely Planet book was in 2014 when we were trying to decide on our honeymoon. Sean borrowed the Caribbean book from the library and spent days going through every single option you could imagine. This was also one of my earliest experiences with Sean’s need to explore every – and I mean EVERY – option before making a decision. Don’t get me started on the great Thanksgiving lamp search.
We’ve since used Lonely Planet books to help us get started planning trips, particularly New Zealand, and found them immensely helpful. Each book begins with the author’s top 10-20 must-sees for the country or region in question. Then, the book is broken down by country, city, and/or region (depending upon how broad a scope the book covers as a whole), and contains recommendations for everything from sightseeing, hotels, food, transportation, entertainment, festivals, shopping, and nightlife.
We’ve also taken to using Lonely Planet guides to get a general feel for the regions of the world we would soon inhabit for two years. I’ve read the Central Asia book cover to cover at least twice, and poured over the Tajikistan section more times than I can count. We also purchased the Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan book for preliminary research before our next overseas move. They are the perfect place to start if you don’t know anything about where you’re going.
That being said, in my opinion, they should be used as simply a starting point for future research. Sometimes the information in the books is few years old and some of the recommendations might not be reliable anymore. We found this to be the case more for the Central Asia book than for New Zealand, but that doesn’t really surprise me.
Overall, I like these books. I think they are worth the time it takes to comb through their dense pages, and I like keeping them as a memento for that time before a trip is fully planned. When it’s still a dream and enigma in your mind, and when everything is open to every possibility.