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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Travel Dilemas: When to Open the Guidebook

A friend and reader of this blog raised an interesting point recently when discussing how to carry a guidebook when visiting a city.

Do you definitely draw attention to yourself as a tourist and peruse the book while standing on the street corner? Or do you sit in the hotel room and memorize every detail of the selected pages so you won't need to refresh with a peek at the book? Maybe you just take your chances without the book and if you get lost, well, you get lost.

He also mentioned ripping a few pages out of the book and carrying them along. While I haven't done that, I will admit to at times pulling the book out of my backpack while on the subway or bus or sitting at a park bench. Yes, it screams lost tourist, but sometimes when you're, you know -- lost! -- you sometimes have no choice, at least if you want to get unlost.

But I also try to have my own mini-travel guides that are easy to fold up and stuff in my pocket. One of the more common things I do is before leaving for a trip I will pinpoint on Mapquest the city, neighborhood or area that I will be traveling to and print it. Then, on the blank corner or back of that sheet of paper I will write out a guide of restaurants, shops, sites, subway stops and any other points of interest and number them. I will then put the corresponding numbers on their respective spots on the map.

So I have a small sheet of paper that I either fold or roll up and slip into my pocket. Yes, I might be standing on the street corner studying a map, but to you I could be poring over a take-out menu.

I'd love to know what you do.