Choose Your Own Adventure
China is a fantastic country. China is also an enormous country, and enormous countries equal enormous guidebooks. Seriously, the Lonely Planet China—which I carried around with me for two weeks last summer—comes in at a whopping 1012 pages and weighs close to two pounds. And since I was only visiting Beijing and Shanghai on that trip, meaning I only really looked at two sections of the book with any frequency, I’m estimating that I carried around about 700 pages and a pound and a half more paper than I actually needed.
But there’s good news for travelers with weak upper body strength: Lonely Planet has just come up with a solution to slim down its more portly tomes with a concept it calls the Pick & Mix.
If you’ve got an Internet connection, a printer, and a severe case of wanderlust, you can select and purchase individual chapters from a range of LP guidebooks, downloading them as PDFs and then printing them out to slip into the top of your suitcase. And if you’re the proud owner of, say, a BlackBerry or an iPhone, of course, you can even download the content to the device, nix the printing, and carry around your own Lonely Planet content digitally, negating a need for paper entirely. And not only is the content identical to that in the paper guidebooks, it’s often even more current as well, as chapters are available prior to the release of the book.
Most chapters cost somewhere between $2 and $4 each to download, although it’s worth noting that you’ll get a discount when you purchase a few at once. If you’re heading off on a trip soon, you might want to try Pick & Mix for free, which you can do by downloading the Planning chapter from each book, which includes the Getting Started, Snapshots, and Itineraries sections.
Since only Latin America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America are being offered at the moment while Pick & Mix in its trial run, I’ll have to wait a little while until I can custom-tailor my next China guidebook experience. One thing’s for sure: the very first chapter I download is going to be the one at the back with all the useful phrases in it. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way: wild hand gestures can only get you so far.