Oh, Lonely Planet, you are so near perfect…

When I first started traveling in college, I loved the “Let’s Go” series of travel guides as they led to one to the cheapest of the cheap all over Europe. Sometime in my mid-to-late twenties they failed to satisfy and I moved my travel guide book loyalty to the Lonely Planet series. Lonely Planet had a wider range of budget, moderate, and higher priced options for each town, as well as write ups on more of the history and points of interest, less of “Let’s Go”s nightlife and ultra-cheap focus.
I find Fodors guide books to be too stuffy, the DK guides to be very broad in terms of photos and visual diagrams but missing in actually moderate priced places to stay. So, I have kept my loyalty the last ten years to Lonely Planet. In 2004, I purchased the Lonely Planet Ireland guide and it was my faithful companion on Erika & I’s 2004 Thanksgiving trip to Ireland, as well as my year at Trinity College, Dublin. But most of the Lonely Planet guide books I have used are written mostly by locals, not travelers, thus big bits are left out, the bits that locals wouldn’t care about but travelers would.
Here is my list of things that I would love Lonely Planet to change, fix or cover in their otherwise excellent travel guide books:
1) No hotels near the major airports are ever listed. Not in the Ireland LP, not in the London LP, not in the Spain, nor Andalucia, nor Scotland, nor… Sometimes the most practical thing when you have an early departure or late arrival is stay within a mile or two of the airport. Lonely Planet, please put in a few airport hotels or B&Bs for each major airport. Thanks.
2) Area codes or Full Phone Numbers next to listings: The Lonely Planet guides list country phone codes in the back, and major area codes at the section head, but not next to the listing. While driving two nights ago, we were flipping to 3 separate section trying to get the full number to dial from my mobile to find a B&B to stay at. Very frustrating, esp. when one’ mobile’s sim chip is not from the same country as one is in.
3) Lonely Planet, please list wifi (wireless internet) locations, free wifi and for pay. This matters. Not just internet cafes or which places to stay have a stand alone computer, but please list wifi for every one of the listings in your books that has wifi. One of the hotels we stayed at in Ireland this last week had free wifi, one had none, and one had paid wifi. I would have booked my stay with preference for internet connection. All the better to blog with and finish up the client loose ends. kthnxbai.
4) Please list more neo-lithic, bronze age, and iron age or other non-major historical sites in the UK & Ireland. If you are a local writer for these guides, you probably think Americans or Germans or Italians are nuts for going to visit old hunks of rock out in muddy fields. These old sites are delightful and really worth exploring. Please list with some directions and explanations.
I am writing this from the Dublin airport where Mom and I are waiting to fly to London Heathrow to start our week in Southern England. I went to the big bookstore in the Dublin Airport mall to get a Lonely Planet England or UK guide so we can know where we are going and where we are going to stay. In an interesting twist, the whole section of travel guides at the airport had Mexico, California, Peru, Egypt, New Zealand, and many other smaller countries, but did not have a single travel guide for the UK, England or Wales. London (3 different publishers), Scotland (2 types) and Edinburgh, but no England or UK…
Hopefully, a bookstore at Heathrow will have a Lonely Planet England. ;o)

One thought on “Oh, Lonely Planet, you are so near perfect…

  1. A friend spotted your blog comments – and since I work for Lonely Planet in their feedback team, she forwarded me a link. It made very interesting reading.
    I’ve tried to respond to your various suggestions:
    Airport hotels – lack of listings
    Have to agree – our coverage is very patchy. Airport hotels tend to be fairly bog-standard, so we don’t brief our authors to cover them. The information also tends to be readily available from other sources. That said, you’re not the only traveller to suggest that we list some airport hotels for convenience. I will raise it with our guidebook publisher.
    Neolithic sites – more coverage
    There’s definitely no policy against listing these. I can’t imagine an England guide without coverage of Stonehenge, for instance. We used Stonehenge as a cover shot on the England guide a couple of editions ago. That said, I also remember the facilities at Stonehenge being pretty woeful! I’ll pass your comments along to the right people.
    Local v Resident Authors
    We try to match the best authors to the destination. Sometimes that means a local author (local authors are quite often people who have adopted the country as home),
    sometimes an author ‘flown in’ – quite often with larger guides we try to use a mix of local and visiting, to get the mix right. We appreciate that their status means they bring different things to the gig – but we absolutely aim to produce a guide that will suit a visitor, with the added advantage of local insight.
    Wi-fi coverage
    The picture here is very fast-changing. I had a conversation with our guidebook publisher on this topic about 2 months ago – and I believe that we’ll be including more listings over time. It takes a while for revised content to make its way across our whole range (one guide at a time – we have over 300!), so it can be around 3 years before an initiative like this is reflected consistently in all our titles.
    Phone codes – more convenient placement
    I so agree with this point! Other travellers have found this inconvenient too. There is a bit of method to our madness – listing a phone code once at the beginning of a section, rather than repeating it with every phone number does save quite a lot of space – which means more room to include other useful information. However, it’s easy to miss this – and then it causes problems for travellers. I think phone codes could form part of the ‘running headers’ on each page. Not sure it would look pretty, but it would serve a purpose. This is another one which I will take up with our guidebook publisher.
    We’re always keen to receive feedback – and we do our best to put it to good use. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them – we’ll never be perfect, but we’ll have a damn good crack at being the best we can!
    Best wishes,
    Malcolm O’Brien

Comments are closed.