At the very beginning of 2010, I was doing nothing but counting down the days until our big New Orleans trip the first weekend of February. And for some reason still unbeknownst to me...I decided that I needed a guidebook.
Before this, I'd visited countless places without ever consulting a guidebook. In fact, I scoffed at the very idea. But now that I look back and realize how much I missed in places I may never see again...I think that I was being a bit hoity-toity about the guidebook thing.
Now, even though it was already 2010, and we were going to New Orleans in 2010...I ended up purchasing the 2009 guidebook. It was already January, the 2010 version had yet to be released, and I needed time to receive and read the darn thing! Thus, I ended up with Frommer's New Orleans 2009. And the moment that guidebook hit my hands, I read it. Voraciously. Cover to cover. I read, I notated, I even added color-coded post-it tabs. I was that tourist. And yes, I brought the book with me to NOLA (although I didn't go so far as to carry it around).
The end result? We saw and did a hell of a lot more than we would have otherwise. In general my trip-planning used to lean toward a few Google searches for restaurants, nightlife and must-sees wherever I was visiting. I never went anywhere without doing at least some planning, but I assumed that guidebooks were a waste of money. However, this particular guidebook was not, and my experience with it has led me to already purchase guidebooks for a few places we will be visiting in the upcoming year--Charleston, San Francisco, Prague and Budapest to name a few. I actually got them all at a local used book store, but thankfully they're in good condition and only a year or two old.
Although I certainly can't say that one needs a guidebook for every place one may visit, I definitely suggest trying it out. At least once in a while. And I cannot stress enough how helpful and interesting the Frommer's New Orleans guides are, specifically. Without said guide, I very likely would have missed out on some of the best things I experienced in NOLA: Napoleon House, snowballs, Preservation Hall, and The Old Absinthe House to name a few.
I will continue to write little guidebook reviews whenever they apply, so if you're a guidebook groupie or a guidebook newbie, check back for updates!