By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: How can you tell a good guidebook from a bad one? I'm planning a trip overseas this summer and don't want to purchase a book only to discover it's useless.

A: USA Today's Kathy McCabe, columnist of the "Informed Traveler," has a shopping list of advice when it comes to purchasing the perfect guide book.

Before embarking on your journey, besides visiting the travel section of your local bookstore, McCabe lists familiarity of the destination as a number one factor when purchasing a guidebook.

After all, if you've visited before, chances are better that key landmarks will be remembered not to mention currency and visa entry information. Familiarity helps you decide whether to purchase a pocket-sized book or an expanded version with maps and phrases.

Today, many publications specialize in certain subjects geared to a specific audience. For the cruise lover, there is Anne Vipond's, "Mediterranean By Cruise Ship." Although it is pricey, another favorite is the Michelin Travel Publications as well as The Rough Guide travel books and Fodors.

What about your travel budget? When it comes to guidebooks most cover a range of budgets. Plus there are several publications devoted to the budget traveler, Frommer's "XDollar-A-Day" guides and Sandra Gustafson's "Cheap Eats/Sleeps" series are a couple that come to mind.

I know when traveling you will accumulate a variety of publications once at the destination itself.

Tourism centers in all major cities have a plethora of free brochures. So, consider the weight of your purchased guidebook as this extra weight will affect your experience. You may decide to photocopy certain sections and leave the hardcover in the hotel room.


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