Travelblather

More tips for updating a guidebook

Some ideas for saving time and money when you're updating a guidebook

Well, my new guidebook is now published by Frommer's. (Buy Frommer's Seville, Granada and the Best of Andalusia using this link and I get a few cents from Amazon too).

It was an interesting learning experience - I took over authorship of the guide for the 4th edition so I was working with someone else's guide as a starting point. Having an existing framework to work with made the job quicker than starting from scratch, but it also made it frustrating at times. A few learnings which I hope people will find insightful and useful.

Maps date very fast. I started by using the maps in the guide to plan my way around each place. After one morning of getting lost in my first port of call, Granada, looking for places that had closed and taking ages to find anything, I changed my approach completely. I headed for the tourist info office armed with a list of places and got them to mark on a map of their own for me where they all were. In the space of about 3 years the maps in the previous guide were already way out of date. (Frankly I think the previous writers played it very fast and loose with the maps.) Maps for me are the future - particularly on-line. They are such an easy interface for a user. Guidebook publishers would do well to think about how to incorporate maps more intuitively in their printed guides too.

Priorities depend on your perceived reader. Granada has stacks of hotels. Which to include? I was amazed that in the previous edition dependable, business-style hotels too far from the historic centre to be reached on foot were recommended. Frommer's is a huge brand in the USA. My brief was to make the guide more accessible for non-Americans too. Do US travellers prefer the familiarity of a well known hotel brand on the outskirts rather than the charm and convenience of a smaller boutique-style place in town? Perhaps so? I decided it was my job to encourage them to take a risk and leave their comfort zone. Granada is wonderfully atmospheric. If you're travelling thousands of miles to see it, might as well stay in the middle of its fabulous history and culture. I dropped some of the less impressive big places and replaced with smaller more intimate places within a 2 minute walk of the sights. I wonder what people will  think?

Preparation is essential. Unlike my other guidebook Day by Day Seville which is a city guide, this one covers a complete region - which is huge. I had to spend a lot of time creating itineraries that would maximise my fact checking time on the ground and minmise too much to-ing and fro-ing. It was actually quite time consuming, but it made a huge difference once I was there on the ground. Let no one underestimate the amount of work that goes into this kind of thing. Organising hotels, working out distances, deciding how long it will take to visit a place and check out all the sites, restaurants, hotels and more all takes a lot of careful planning. Having done it once though, it should be easier next time around. I've kept my intineraries and the contacts for places I stayed ready to use again.

Flexible accommodation is key. Researching my previous Seville guidebook, I was able to just rent an apartment in the centre of the city and use it as my base. This time around I used a mixture of hotels and rented accommodation. I was amazed at how rental agencies just weren't included in the previous edition. Personally I find renting an apartment a far cheaper and more convenient alternative to a hotel both on research trips and on personal holidays. HomeAway.co.uk as a region-wide option and Sevilla5 for Seville and Granadainfo for Granada all got added into the mix. I also found Accor's Ibis/Formule 1 chains of super-budget hotels invaluable for keeping costs down. I'm now a big fan.

Car hire costs really rack up. For my Seville city guide I was static in one place the whole time and a bike lent to me by a friend who lives there was all I needed to get around. Covering a whole region meant I had to hire a car for long periods of time. Rent local is my new mantra. I used Andualcia based rental Auriga Crown and saved a small fortune. They were frequently half the price of the big brands. The cars did vary in quality - but they all worked fine and were in proper working order. My wife was with me on one trip and was amazed that I happily took posession of one car with dents all over it. I explained that this was ideal for the super-narrow streets of places like Cordoba. Put another dent in the bumper - which frankly is very very easy to do! - and no one will know. I was also provided with all risks insurance cover by Insurance4carhire.com. This meant I didn't need to take the car hire co's policy which would have racked up quickly at 4 euros a day.

Got any other tips for saving time and money when updating guidebooks?

Related Posts