Sunday, May 31, 2009

City, Beach, or Mountain?

That's one of those questions that pops up on those "getting-to-know you" questionnaires: "What's your ideal vacation spot: city, beach, or mountain?"

Oh that question is always so hard for me to answer! I love beach trips (especially if it's an adults-only we-can-really-relax beach trip), and the mountains are great in winter or summer. But I think my answer has to be city. Whenever we end up staying in a city, I love the hustle and bustle, the culture, walking to get from place to place.

Fortunately we are close enough to New York City to visit frequently, so I get to experience that city-feel frequently. But in spite of the fact that we spend time there throughout the year, I still don't completely have my bearings. Terry is natural compass, but I am not. So when I'm with him, I follow along, trusting that he will get us where we need to know. When I'm alone, I use maps. We have some NYC guidebooks that have maps, but folding and unfolding them is a bit unwieldy, not to mention conspicuous. I feel like all the savvy New Yorkers are saying, "There's another clueless tourist."

My husband recently started commuting into New York for work, so when the kids were on spring break in April, we decided to stay overnight. The kids and I planned some fun activities during the day, and Terry joined us at night (and saved a long train ride each way).

I brought The Little Black Book of New York with me in my bag. As Lauren mentioned in her review of the Walt Disney World guide, it's portable. It's only about 6 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide, and it's very lightweight, so it's easy to carry in a purse or a bag.

What's even better is that each map folds out. The New York guide is divided into eight sections, and includes a terrific tri-fold Subway map at the back.

When I went to Chicago last month, I had a bit of free time the day I arrived, and was hoping to do some shopping or walking around. I tucked the Chicago guide in my purse, and felt free to explore the "Gold Coast" area of my hotel. But what I really liked were the snapshots of each neighborhood. Even though I stayed mostly in one place, I got a good feel for the rest of the city, and it helped me figure out what to do with my afternoon and evening of free time.

If you find yourself on business travel with a bit of free time, these guides are great to orient you, not to mention the maps -- seriously, the walking-detail maps make these city guides worth the price.

There isn't a lot of detail about prices, hours of operation, and restaurants, but that information changes so quickly that oftentimes even with a brand-new comprehensive (4 pound) guidebook, by the time you get ready to take your trip, it's changed. The Little Black Travel guide books do have the basics -- the "must-see" destinations within each section, as well as a few suggestions of things that kids might enjoy, along with places to eat and drink and sleep and shop.

Oh, and if you want a nice portable travel journal (something I always want to keep yet never get quite with the program), they make a nice Little Black Travel Journal too. It's slightly bigger, but still portable, which is great.

Click on through to 5 Minutes for Books to read Lauren's full review and enter to win the city guide of your choice from Peter Pauper Press.

The Summer Fun Giveaway is in full swing now. Check out all the contests (so far). We'll be posting at least one new contest a day through June 7 and announcing the winners on June 11. We have books (of course!) for kids and adults, an audiobook, travel books, and activities and games. Check them out and stay tuned through next week as well.


Carrie said...

These books sound REALLY worth while! THat's awesome! I'm so glad you liked them and found them useful. The Walt Disney one over at 5M4B sounds like a must have. =)

Martha said...

It's great to find something that really works. I am the one that borrows the guide books from the library and carries them in my purse the whole trip. (I'm much too cheap to buy them for one trip!) I'd love one (maybe for a return trip to see you!)

heather said...

Beach, beach, beach, beach, beach.

Um, I'm a beach girl.

Which is probably why I got married on one!

(Although I love cities and mountains as well.)

Lori W. said...

Hi Jennifer!
We have planned a NYC trip (taking Perry!) July 31 - Aug. 5 so this black book sounds very helpful so I'm going to get it today. We want to take the subway system as much as possible during the day so this should help out a lot. We have tickets to Shrek the Musical on Aug. 1 - have you seen that yet?

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Those do look very handy. Chad has a built-in compass too, and I most definitely do not. :)

We're not beach people. We can do city, but we're probably more mountain overall. For the most part, though, my guys are "historical" -- anywhere that has something they can learn about history works for them.