Where to Go

Travel Planning Tools

Deciding Where to Go

You need some tools to help in deciding where to go and where to stay once you are there. The travel guidebook is an indispensable tool for this. Because every travel guidebook is limited by space, and because each one has its own perspective and target audience, I usually consult more than one for my information. The ones I consult most frequently for "where to go" are Fodor's, The Rough Guide, Insight, and the Michelin Green.

Most guide books are written at the level of an entire country, although you can get some that cover all of Europe and others that cover only a particular region. Typically, the smaller the area covered, the more detailed the information, and vice versa.

Fodor's has the most extensive texts, and covers things from the upper-middle class tourist's perspective. It covers most of the sights of interest, subject to the limitation of space. It doesn't carry many pictures, and sometimes looks at locations through rose-colored glasses. The Insight guides are also written from the classic tourist's perspective, but offer many pages of full color photos of locales, art, and architecture. The Rough guides reflect the perspective of the student and intellectual. They tend to offer more realistic, and even sometimes critical, perspectives of the more popular tourist sites. They also tend to give a bit more of the historical perspective on locales.

These are all general purpose travel guides, with sections covering all the essential details of planning a trip to the country in question. They are organized by regions within the country, focusing on the sights and towns within the region.

The Michelin Green guides are also general purpose travel guides, but are organized alphabetically by city rather than geographically by region. For France, the Michelin guides cover specific regions rather than the entire country. They therefore offer information on a larger number of cities and towns.

Finding Hotels

For deciding where to stay, the general purpose guidebooks offer a limited amount of hotel information. We have found two other tools that are much more helpful. For traveling in Italy or France, there are a series books that we consider absolutely the best: "Hotels and Country Inns of Character and Charm in Italy" and "Hotels and Country Inns of Character and Charm in France". These two books are our bibles for lodging in these two countries. Although they aren't infallible, we have rarely gotten bad advice from them. We have frequently chosen the towns where we stay overnight simply on the strength of these recommendations. The properties listed in these books are usually smaller hotels in older buildings in picturesque surroundings with charming furnishings. On the downside, there may not be an elevator, and the plumbing may not be as efficient as you are used to at home.

Unfortunately, there are times where you want to visit a city where nothing is listed, or the property listed in "Hotels and Country Inns" is out of your price range. In those cases, we like to use the Michelin Red Guide for the country. The Red Guide lists and rates almost all of the hotels in a given city. It provides a rating (from 'simple' to 'luxurious'), lists the number of rooms, the amenities, and the basic rates for each hotel. It also provides a city map with the locations of the hotels marked.  


Copyright 2001 Harry B. Rowe