Travel Plans

Ah, yes. Travel plans. I don't have any yet this year. But I do have the next best thing. Travel books.

I've been lucky enough to have been able to do a bit of traveling over the past ten years or so, but Rick Steves would probably have me drummed out of any travel group of his based on the weight of my luggage alone. Oh, it's not that I pack an undue change of outfits and my toiletry kit is fairly minimal. No - and you are all way ahead of me on this one - that "Heavy" sticker on my luggage should actually read "Warning: Book Store on Wheels."

Speaking of Mr. Steves, his Europe Through the Back Door is the one series I don't own, but strongly recommend. is the latest, but I also suggest looking into . Over the years, Steves has spoken out on issues such as homelessness and reform of the drug laws. This book was suggested by a visit he made to Iran and recommends travel with a view toward a deeper understanding of our world.

If you are actively planning a trip, the Let's Go () and Lonely Planet () offer overviews and single books per country with up to date information on places to stay, eat, wander, sights and sites - currency, transportation, phrase books - all the stuff you want to know before you go.

But if you can't go. If you don't have the money or the time or any other valid excuse, there is a travel book series for you. It's short on the mundane details, but heavy on the ambience. You can settle down in the lazy boy with any DK Eyewitness Travel Guide and if you don't take off and go this year, you will determine to do so next year. Either that or buy another DK Guide to somewhere else.

I have this one and this one and this one and this one and this one . I have a few more too but just because I went overboard on buying them doesn't mean I should go overboard listing them. The DK's are full of color pictures on high-gloss paper. They have street-by-street walking tours laid out in pictograph maps, dollhouse cutaways of famous buildings, insets of artifacts, I could, as usual, go on and on.

These books are, every one of them, heavy, man, heavy, as my luggage stickers always attest. And they don't take into account the one or two novels that must come along as well. I haven't had a chance to travel with a Kindle as yet, but I will dutifully download the requisite Travel with Rick's, Let's Go's, and Lonely Planets. But I was thinking that the DK's would still have to be packed in. They are my inspiration to go on when my feet hurt and the money runs short. And then came Kindle Fire. So there is some hope that next time my packing will pass a Rick Steves approval check-list.

But in the meantime, a beautifully packaged DK Guide is just the thing for winter armchair travel. It's as good a fantasy novel as any of the others on the shelves these days. Except , of course. I don't think any of them suggest travel by crow.