You Might Never Look at a Travel Guidebook the Same Way

If you have been reading ThreadTripping for some time you probably know that I have a bit of a soft spot for, and fascination with, travel anachronisms. That is, travel-related items that still exist, but are sort of out-dated and old-fashioned.

Things like postcards and passport stamps.

Souvenir Ideas Worth Stealing
Imagine If You Will a World Without Passports

Printed travel guidebooks might be rapidly entering into this category. Though they probably aren’t there yet.

What with iffy internet connections and costly international roaming charges still a reality, a hard-copy travel guide can and is a handy accompaniment on many a trip. In fact, what got me to thinking about travel guidebooks at all was a thread on the Slow Travel forums wherein Panda is inquiring as to how long a typical guidebook retains its usefulness.

We are having a much needed filleting of some bookcases and, whilst successfully ruthless about lots of fiction and abandoned hobbies, I am having trouble culling the travel guides, maps and language books. … What is a rational timeframe ? Or other cull basis !

Sentiments vary, but interestingly, many place minimal emphasis on the recency of the publication date when determining which guidebooks to keep.

It’s certainly hard to let go. The Works Progress Administration guides to U.S. states from the 1930s have been reprinted, and hold a certain fascination. The same with reviewing how prices used to be. When I went to Berlin, I wished I had access to guidebooks explaining what the process for tourists wanting to visit the East used to be. So it’s mainly for historical interest rather than guidance on what to do in the present day. ~Andrew

Well, I still keep some guides with the Berlin wall and some other places that read like travel adventures. ~itarchivarius

The one set of older books that I always keep (and still buy through used book stores/sites) are the older Michelin Green Guides. I find that their layout and content (especially history and background information) are better than the newer versions, which to my mind have been seriously dumbed-down. ~Kevin Clark

It’s an interesting discussion, and personally I know it will change the way I select guidebooks in the future. Not only will I be looking for books with somewhat useful information about the place being visited, but I will look for books that provide deeper descriptions about the people and the culture, that include prices, and that are well-written.

In short, my future travel guidebook purchases will be based not solely on their current usefulness and price, but also on the expectation that I might like to read them again, years later, when things have changed and my memories have begun to fade.

What about you? Do you throw away your guidebooks? Do you even purchase hard-copy guidebooks anymore?

Read the thread in its entirety: How long to hold on to travel books ?

So many to choose from” by Richard Cornish. CC BY-SA 2.0.


  1. We still buy physical guidebooks, they are easier to flip through, dog-ear pages than e-books and work without power or a cell/wifi signal. We keep our old ones too, not sure why, maybe nostalgia.

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