I’ve never used a guidebook to plan a trip.
Granted, I haven’t done a multi-destination international trip since high school, where every step was already plotted out for me. My first instinct was to go to the internet.
Before barely any time at all, I was paralyzed.
There were too many sites. Too many options. Too many different perspectives. I spent days poking around without making any real decisions.
A few days later, I had lunch with a friend who had just visited New Zealand for two-weeks. She introduced me to several guidebooks she and her sister used to plan something that was the envy of everyone she knew on social media.
I decided to narrow my sources down to three things. The Lonely Planet Travel Guides, NZFree Guides, and a Lord of the Rings resource for movie locations.
First up: The Lonely Planet New Zealand’s South Island Travel Guide. It’s over 600 pages filled with tips on activities, places to stay, and things to eat. This book has a little bit of everything for all the major regions and cities of note in New Zealand, with short 3-4 line write-ups of each. You won’t really get a good sense of the place from this limited info, and there are precious few pictures. It still left me with way too many options, but at least I had narrowed it down to a few dozen points of interest.
Each region has a quick visualization of the 8-10 highlights it has to offer. The book makes it easy to quickly get a feel for what each one is about (Queensland: Adventure. Fiordlands: Jaw-dropping Mountains.).
I didn’t use any of the recommendations on places to stay and eat (I’m planning on using Air BnB), but there were hundreds. The back half of the book was a super helpful logistical guide – what outlets they use, what time of year to visit, how to avoid causing an international incident on the island, etc.
With my list of “maybes”, I can dig in further on the internet and the other books. The ZNFree South Island book will help me make sure I don’t miss any “off the beaten” path sights.
My end goal is to plot everything on a map, see where my clusters of ideas are, and then plan my 5-6 days on the South Island around that.