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Guidebook Guide

Britain by BritRail 2005 tells you everything you need to know about train travel throughout Great Britain and is particularly helpful to first-time European train travelers. It will give you a good idea of what to expect, and is full of pragmatic information about tourist services, trains schedules and travel times.

EUROPE
There are dozens of excellent European guidebooks available. Choosing the one that's best for you will depend in part on what type of traveler you are and where you're going. Here is a brief overview of some of our top recommendations for the independent traveler.

Cadogan and Rough Guides are two excellent British series with a wide selection of European titles. Cadogan is aimed at a slightly more sophisticated traveler with some of the best France, Italy and Greece guides around. Rough Guides are written for the independent traveler who enjoys spontaneity and have special sections for women, gay, disabled and family travelers.

One of our favorite European guidebook series is Rick Steves' guides to Europe, the best known of these being Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Steves writes in a wonderful entertaining and irreverent style combined with cultural sensitivity and a love for Europe. Steves is particularly known for "Back Door" approach to travel where he'll lead you on ventures away from the typical tourist spots to find the "real" Europe. Other books by Rick Steves include Rick Steves' European country guides, Mona Winks: Self-Guided Tours of Europe's Top Museums, and Europe 101: History and Art for the Traveler.

Long known for producing quality guides to more exotic locations, Lonely Planet now has several European titles, all written with the same care and detail you've come to expect. The Travel Survival Kits are a good bet for all types of independent travelers. The regional Shoestring Guides have more appeal to budget travelers.

Eyewitness Guides and Knopf Guides are part of a new generation of highly visual travel guidebooks that make liberal use of color photographs and superb three-dimensional maps. Both have guides for the major cities of Europe such as London and Rome and are good choices for those who prefer a more visual guide. Knopf is particularly good for its descriptions and pictures of art and architecture. Eyewitness Guides are great to use for self-guided walking tours. I've given several Eyewitness Guides as gifts and everyone has raved about them. Give these stunning visual guidebooks a try if you're headed to a European city.

Let's Go: Europe is the bible of the American student backpacking through Europe, with more budget listings than any other guidebook. The Let's Go Guidebooks also have in-depth country guides which are quite good.

There are also excellent European guidebooks that focus on a particular aspect of travel such as accommodations, restaurants, sightseeing or transportation. Michelin Green Guides are excellent for sightseeing. Particularly strong are their regional France titles. For suggestions on accommodations with charm or that offer good value for your money, try one of Karen Brown's Charming Inns & Itineraries Guides. Cheap Eats and Cheap Sleeps (Cheap Sleeps in London and Cheap Eats in Italy) offer an excellent selection of recommended moderately-priced restaurants and places to stay.

A Travel Guide to Jewish Europe is a gem for any traveler interested in Jewish history. The book leads you through famous historical sites in Europe like the home of Anne Frank, as well as lesser known museums, synagogues, and restaurants, revealing a rich and fascinating history of Jewish Europe.

FAMILY
Need some fresh ideas on where to go on your next family vacation? Where do you start? 100 Best Family Resorts in North America does all the work for you! Not necessarily spotlighting the biggest or most expensive - 100 Best focuses on atmosphere, setting, recreational interests and most of all, value for your dollars!

Fodor's Where Should We Take the Kids: California and its companion Where Should We Take the Kids: The Northeast include straight talk about planning trips that appeal to children, which are appropriate for their age, plus information about the wide variety of each region's major and minor jewels indicating age appropriateness and "child-friendliness" factors. Not forgetting that parents need to enjoy these outings as well, you'll encounter information on baby-sitting services, choice restaurants and events for that precious night out!

For kids that travel How to Fly For Kids! is a combination kids' activity book and parents' resource guide. Kids Travel by Klutz Press -- not available for ordering online -- is a backseat survival kit including tons of games, puzzles, and fun activities for kids ages 7-12 in a sturdy wire-bound board book that will survive whatever abuse your children dish out!

If you're heading to Walt Disney World with the family, a great guidebook is the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. The Unofficial Guide includes detailed, candid reviews of all rides and attractions, plus a rating of overall appeal by age group and the average wait in line. You'll also learn a few insider's secrets such as how to get in before the official opening time, the best days to beat the crowds and how to save time standing in long lines. If you're doing the California thing, try the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, or PassPorter Disneyland.

FRANCE
Michelin has some terrific guides to France -- to be expected from a French company! In addition to the basic Michelin Green Guide to France, which includes numerous detailed maps and floor plans and suggests excellent itineraries and walking tours for seeing the sights, there are separate guides for several regions. These guides are slim and light-weight, making them easy to carry around with you while sightseeing.

Lonely Planet France provides ample background coverage of the history, culture and politics of the country, as well as detailed information and reviews of hotels, restaurants and places to visit. Also available are Lonely Planet Paris and a French Phrasebook to get you around.

Also, for the sophisticated France traveler, check out Hotels and Country Inns of Character and Charm in France. For upscale travelers looking for a cosmopolitan European traveling experience, the book includes individual hotel listings with color photographs, room rates, very honest descriptions of the accommodations and surroundings, lists of facilities and detailed driving instructions.

One of our favorite authors, Rick Steves, also has a guidebook that covers France, Rick Steves' France, Belgium and the Netherlands. If you like Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door philosophy, you'll love this addition to his series.

Let's Go: Paris covers the travel basics -- where to eat, sleep and how to get around. Each guide is full of off-beat things to do for little or no money. Written in a fresh, independent, personal, opinionated and irreverent style by Harvard students, you'll find brutally honest suggestions about what's worth seeing, because they "know what it's like to trudge miles to some 'great' spot...only to find a tacky tourist trap." Let's Go: France, like the rest of the Let's Go Guidebooks, has more budget listings than any other guide to France. It's written primarily by and for students and is perfect for those on a tight budget.

France Eyewitness Travel Guide is well-organized and an excellent companion for wandering explorations of France. Eyewitness also has a Paris Travel Guide. The 3-D and aerial-view maps are by far Eyewitness Guides' biggest strength and much of each guide is organized geographically around these maps.

GERMANY
A good choice for Germany travelers is Lonely Planet's Europe on a Shoestring. This "big daddy" of guides to Europe is over 1200 pages long and tells you everything you need to know about saving money while traveling in Europe.

One of our favorite authors, Rick Steves, also has a guidebook that covers Germany, Rick Steves' Germany, Austria and Switzerland. If you like his "Europe Through the Back Door" philosophy, you'll love this selection from his series.

If you're ripe for adventure, but low on cash, Let's Go: Germany is for you! Let's Go Guidebooks have more budget listings than any other guide to Germany. It's written primarily by and for students and is perfect for those on a tight budget.

Everyone knows some of the best places to stay in Germany are inns & B&B's. To help you find the best ones Germany has to offer, pick up a copy of Karen Brown's Germany: Charming Inns and Itineraries, which provides detailed descriptions, maps and suggested itineraries which will help you plan a wonderful vacation wandering through beautiful countryside unknown to many tourists.

For the armchair traveler, try Germany: Insight Guides. Insight Guides are the perfect books for pre-trip planning and post-trip reminiscing. You'll also find an Insight Guide for Hamburg, Insight Pocket Guide Munich, and Dresden. From the same series, Berlin: Insight Compact Guides, and Insight Compact Guide Munich make excellent companion guides for learning about the sites you are visiting and is easy to carry along with you.

Rough Guide to Germany is written for independent-minded and adventurous travelers. Don't let their moniker fool you -- these guides are not just for the low-budget traveler. You'll find hotel and restaurant listings in all price ranges and great information on cultural entertainment and night life, plus all the practical travel details you'll need.

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