One of my favorite parts of the Lonely Planet travel guides has always been the suggested day trips and walking tours. During recent trips to Vermont and Germany, the itineraries in my travel guides have added some structure and ease to navigating dozens of landmarks and attractions. These suggested trips, however, usually only take up a fraction of the pages in a Lonely Planet guide. Does the trip idea still work when stretched to fill an entire book?
Lonely Planet plans to answer to this question with their new Trips line of guides.
New England Trips, one of the six inaugural Trips books from Lonely Planet, promises 53 trips in New England, visiting some 1,012 different attractions. While I’m not sure how many hotels, restaurants and attractions are put in a traditional travel guide, the sheer number of places in New England Trips makes it perfectly usable as an old-fashioned guide. But the book really shines as a guide for dozens of unique trips, ranging from walking tours taking a few hours to multi-day, 600+ mile road trips. The trips are organized by state, as well as by type – outdoors, food & drink, offbeat, and so on. Another thoughtful touch is an index of the 53 trips that lists the ideal season to take each.
The authors of the book did a great job mixing famous attractions with quirkier stops. The “Literary New England” trip, for example, visits famous museums and libraries along with houses and cemeteries you might drive right past without the book as a guide. The variety of excursions ensures at least one trip in each state for every budget and personality; for example, where the “City” and “Food & Drink” trips tend to hit the higher end of the financial spectrum, the “Offbeat” and “Outdoors” trips tend to be less expensive. Family-friendly, pet-friendly and green listings are included, which is a great touch. “Iconic” trips are another nice inclusion, which should please folks looking to see New England staples like foliage, rocky beaches and snow-covered winter resorts.
In a nitty-gritty sense, the guide is everything you’d expect from Lonely Planet. The maps for all the trips are clear and easy to follow. The writing is great – informative and entertaining. A great inclusion is playlists for each state, with music by local artists or about the state. Sidebars in each chapter are usually good for a laugh, with fun facts, events, and “detours” to places not on the itinerary. While pictures are limited to a few full-color pages in the front of the guide, the included photographs are fantastic.
I suspect that any complaints I have about New England Trips are due to it being in the first generation of the series. My biggest wish is simply for more trips, especially in a few underrepresented categories. While day trips are included in the trip themes, there are only four in the book, and all originate from Boston. Likewise, only one of the 53 trips is listed under the “winter” seasonal listing (although there are quite a few in the year-round category). One other sticking point is the detours listed for trips, which are often written to sound like short diversions. Rather than short trips, they often take travelers far from their original path – one directs families from Middlebury, VT to Glen, NH, some 170 miles away. I think that the detours are a great idea, but need to be a) closer to the original trip, or b) written in a way that lets travelers know what they’re getting into.
Minor quibbles aside, New England Trips is a great idea brilliantly executed. The book would be at home in the hands of a traveller coming to visit New England for the first time, or on the shelf of a local looking for some new weekend trips. I’m a few weeks away from taking the “60 Lighthouses in 60 Hours” trip myself, and the book is going to have a home in my glove compartment for that trip and for years to come.
New England Trips, by Ray Bartlett, Gregor Clark, Dan Eldridge and Brandon Presser – 19.99 – Paperback – ISBN 978-1-74179-728-2 – Lonely Planet