To make the most of any trip, even if you’re going on a group tour, a good guidebook is a must. Fodor’s and Frommer’s are both good choices, geared towards travelers with a mid-to-higher range budget. Rick Steves, also a popular choice, offers books with more of an emphasis on getting off the beaten path. Dorling-Kindersley puts out beautifully illustrated travel guides that will make you drool and vow to go everywhere that they’ve written about, but these books can really weigh you down on a walking tour. Blue Guides are low on logistical info like hotel costs, but having one is like having a private tour guide for sights both great and small.
Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Moon Guides, and Footprints are all geared towards adventurous people with a variety of budgets. Lonelyplanet.com has a plethora of resources for travelers, including the ever-popular Thorn Tree, where you can get practically any travel-related question answered within hours (just search by topic first to make sure that the question is not an oft-repeated one.) Let’s Go guides, edited by Harvard students, are known for scouting out the cheapest possible accommodation and food, although they do include a range of choices. If you’ve traveled as a student, chances are you recall this yellow-spined favorite.
Your local library or bookstore will also have great, inspiring travel classics by such authors as Eric Newby, Bruce Chatwin, Pico Iyer, and Beryl Markham. For U.S. travel, Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon is a classic, and paints a compelling picture of an all-but-vanished America. For a humorous look at travel in the U.S. and elsewhere, check out Bill Bryson. For comedic and sometimes harrowing stories of travel gone horribly awry, search “travel humor” at Amazon. You’ll come up with a long list of anthologies devoted to travel. Some will make you vow never to leave your comfy chair again, while others may inspire you to quit your job and be a nomad. You have been warned.
For further inspiration, visit the National Geographic website, which has amazing photography and interactive features. TripAdvisor.com offers tremendously useful information on accommodation and dining, whether you’re traveling far or staying close to home. If you want to blog your own trip, Travelblog.org and Bootsnall both offer opportunities for you to stay wired to friends and family while you’re away. They can also be an excellent resource for trip planning, as you can read blogs and see breathtaking pictures taken by travelers all over the world. Even if your next vacation is months away, you can still plan for your next great adventure.