Read before you go: Must-read publications and paperbacks for every traveler

View all tags
Delaney Henson
blog image alt text

I never go anywhere without reading about it first. When it comes to traveling, I read extensively about the places I intend to visit. Why? Reading up on my dream destinations allows me to be a more excited, inspired, and practical traveler than I would be without the help of numerous paperbacks and publications. With such an abundance of information available at our fingertips, it can be difficult to know where to start when researching new spots to vacation or planning your next big trip abroad. While most of us are stuck at home during this pandemic, we can only dream of being able to travel for pleasure again. But that time will come again and once your flight is booked, there’s nothing better than sitting down with a great novel, set in the idyllic spot you’ll soon be exploring. Literature, guidebooks, and travel magazines are the three types of paperbacks and publications you should read before setting off on your next adventure.

Literature: Bringing the Excitement & Awe to Travel

Whether you’re jetting off for a European summer or packing the car for a road trip through the mountains, you can’t forget your literature. Reading a novel set in the spot you’ll soon be visiting allows you to familiarize yourself with the destination. There is nothing better than visiting a landmark or driving down a road you read about in your latest book. It’s incredibly exciting to be present in the setting of a great novel and see with your own eyes what you could once only imagine as you read. If you’re heading to Rome anytime soon, I recommend Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. After finishing the novel, I traveled to Rome for the first time and stood in awe of the small country set inside the city that connected with the book. The same can be said for reading Brown’s The Da Vinci Code if travel to Paris is in your future.

If you’re a less experienced traveler or are just looking to stick a bit closer to home, Elin Hilderbrand writes novels that will have you finding the next flight out to the Massachusetts Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Having visited Martha’s Vineyard myself, I love nothing more than to read all about the tumultuous relationships that she creates within the five small towns on the vineyard. I can’t think of a better way to get excited about an upcoming trip than to read a powerful story about it.

Guidebooks: The Practical Info You NEED to Know

Guidebooks may not sound like the most exciting thing you’ve ever read, but they can’t be beat in terms of practicality. Rick Steve’s guidebooks single handedly saved me numerous times on my travels through northern Italy. Rick writes guidebooks intended for Americans traveling abroad in Europe and his tips on getting around, hotel and restaurant recommendations, and careful analysis of all the best spots are a must-have, especially for first-time travelers. I didn’t carry much as I walked the Italian streets, but I always had Rick Steve’s Italy in my backpack. Don’t overlook guidebooks when you travel; these books provide some of the best information about amazing spots you don’t know exist and that you’d likely miss.

Travel Magazines: The Best Inspiration

If your idea of preparing for travel is looking at pictures of your idyllic destination on Instagram, travel magazines are perfect for you. Magazines like AFAR and BudgetTravel snap the best shots and offer great advice on how to spend your time, whether that be in one of the hottest cities or a quaint, coastal town. There is no better way to gain inspiration for your travels than to browse a travel magazine. Setting your eyes on a coastline or skyscraper that you’ve seen in a hundred different photographs is a gratifying feeling. You’ll be elated after experiencing firsthand what you’d previously only ever seen on a glossy page.

I firmly believe that there is more than one way to transport yourself to a new place. Whether you’re planning for an actual trip or simply dreaming of a future trip, literature, guidebooks, and travel magazines allow you to visualize, prepare, and dream about a destination before you arrive, enhancing your experience as a traveler. This is a short list of paperbacks and publications that inspire me as a traveler, and it’s by no means exhaustive. I am always looking for the next great story that will have me dying to visit a new place. If you do one thing before you travel, let it be to read.