Amid the vast sea of online opinion, a well-researched guidebook can provide targeted suggestions vetted by experts and an antidote to information overload.
John W. Byram, director of the University of New Mexico Press, says that the publisher conceived its new Southwest Adventure series with this in mind. The focus, he says, is on “authentic experiences and itineraries that can’t easily be replicated with just a Google search.”
The series launches in September with two titles by New Mexico natives: Eco-Travel New Mexico by Ashley M. Biggers covers the state’s natural and cultural attractions, green hotels, and farm-to-table eateries. In Skiing New Mexico, Daniel Gibson profiles resorts as well as cross-country and backcountry downhill skiing areas. Future guides will look at ecotravel in Colorado and hiking along the byways of Arizona.
Established guidebook publishers, too, are targeting travelers with niche interests. In Moon Nashville to New Orleans Road Trip (Feb. 2018), Margaret Littman, who has written several Tennessee-based guides for Moon, zeroes in on food and music. Highlights include the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis and the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Trip planning tips abound: readers will learn the best time of year to go to Graceland, and where to get the best dry-rub Memphis barbecue after their visit.
Lonely Planet is putting a strong focus on the great American road trip; it has several guides that help travelers explore the U.S. from behind the wheel. February 2018 brings updates to several guides, including Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips and Route 66 Road Trips. Books in another Lonely Planet series, Best Trips, suggest a variety of routes within a region. Florida & the South’s Best Trips (third ed., Feb. 2018), for example, covers 28 itineraries, from two days to two weeks, across roads including Highway 61 and the Blues Highway. “Travel has become a little more specialist,” says Piers Pickard. “The smaller and more personal experiences are much more valued today.”
The success of Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton (Workman, 2016) bears this out. The title, which compiles offbeat locations worldwide (e.g., the cliffside coffins of Sagada, in the Philippines and the Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth, Ill.) has sold more than 240,000 print copies, per NPD BookScan. In October, the publisher is releasing the companion Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Journal, which includes mini guides to a dozen major cities and blank space for adding one’s own finds.
Rick Steves tapped the adventurous spirit of his 506,000 Facebook fans to compile one of the chapters in Rick Steves European Festivals (Nov.), the release of which is timed to a TV special of the same name. Promising “no museums! And no art galleries!,” the guide takes readers through a year’s worth of parties, beginning with Carnival in Venice, Italy; in Lucerne, Switzerland; and across Slovenia, all the way through Christmas markets and other traditions in Germany and Switzerland.
Reader contributions led to the chapter on smaller festivals, such as the Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Italy, and the Festival of Fire in Valencia, Spain.
“Festivals give people the chance to experience the culture in a very fun and first-person way,” Avalon’s Donna Galassi says, “one that makes them feel like they aren’t tourists.”
Kuperard’s Culture Smart series likewise aims to help visitors feel like natives, with country-specific advice on local dos and don’ts. Several new titles pub in February and March, covering destinations including Bhutan and Nicaragua. Books in the series, which spans more than 100 countries, address diverse topics including gender relations, religious sensibilities, body language, and business style. For instance, series editor Geoffrey Chesler advises against shaking hands with a Russian over the threshold (because this is thought to bring him or her bad luck), and against giving a clock as a present in China.
More etiquette advice—e.g., never step on a tatami mat while wearing shoes or slippers—is found in Japanese Inns and Hot Springs by Rob Goss, with photos by Akihiko Seki, which highlights 40 traditional ryokan (inns) and onsen (hot springs). Goss, a British travel writer and longtime Tokyo resident, says his goal is to guide English speakers to a traditional Japanese experience. This can be hard to come by, he says, in a country where the hospitality industry can be “polite to a fault,” trying so hard to make foreigners feel comfortable that the majority of hotels are indistinguishable from those back home.
“I grew up in the U.K., where lots of people go off to Spain and have English breakfasts and go to an English pub in the evening,” Goss says. “It’s nice and it’s sunshine, but it’s not travel. I want to help people have authentic travel experiences.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated advice given by Geoffrey Chesler of Kuperard regarding shaking hands in Russia. We've corrected the error.