As I may have mentioned before, I’m a planner and a list maker. This means that before I take a trip, anywhere, I do lots of research and get my travel plans organized. Travel is expensive, believe me, I know, so I don’t want to waste time when I get there wondering…. “what do I do now?”. Now, don’t go thinking I have every minute of my day and night scheduled, I just like to have a basic plan or outline, so I can hit the ground running! To kick-start my planning process, I always refer to guidebooks. When you look at the shelves in the bookstore, it can seem kind of overwhelming. Let me share some of my favorite Germany travel guidebooks, and how I put things all together for a smooth trip.
How I Plan my Trip to Germany
My last trip to Germany needed a lot more planning. My parents, my husband, and I spent four weeks on a journey to visit family … but also to visit the places my parents came from. Basically, we were crisscrossing Germany (and beyond) with a big list of “things we wanted to see and do”. Reservations, maps, tickets, hotels. All of this needed to be organized so that things didn’t go sideways, or get forgotten. I have a habit of using a portable accordion file (just a slim 6-pocket one) for each trip I take. Information about different cities goes in each file, along with the reservations I will need along the way. Receipts and ticket stubs, brochures, and business cards go back inside.
But this trip needed something more.
In the initial planning stages, I used a planning tool that I found on Etsy. I downloaded this Google Sheets based Travel planner template and used it to input reservations (with the links). I could also use it to make wish lists of “things to see”, or restaurants. It helped keep track of itinerary, and timing. (It also calculated the budget). In the past, I’ve always used a spiral binder for this process, but it was interesting to see how things slotted together when it was all in one program. I could print out an itinerary for everyone in the group (I could also access it online if needed). If you are interested in trying something like this, you’ll find it here->
My Personal Travel Guide
I fully admit, I’m an over planner, a belt and suspenders person. I also admit that I don’t always trust that I will be able to access tickets or reservations online due to wifi or power issues (I once had to walk blocks to get a signal so I could retrieve the key code for an Airbnb). Basically, I like to have everything printed and in my hand when I go somewhere. Obviously, that means a big pile of paper when taking a longer trip.
I came up with a plan. (Now, I know, most of you will say… WHAT THE HECK! THAT’S NUTS!) but hear me out). I made my own travel guide.
I took a simple lined journal, and created a single book to carry with us. The inside cover had the itinerary…. I gave each destination a tab in the book. Inside I added reservation numbers and times (museum reservations require a time block, hotels have check-in times), important phone numbers, basic directions, and a few extra “things to do” ideas. Then I photocopied relevant pages from my travel guide books and stuck them in to the book. Each destination had a few extra pages to make notes. (Note- for this trip, I was traveling with my parents, who are in their 80s. I can be freewheeling when I’m alone)
It looks like this->
How did that work out? Well, it was a LOT of work. But the book proved invaluable on the trip. Addresses were handy, phone numbers were right there. Parking tips for museums (it’s not always straight forward) and even “what to look for in the museum”. This way everyone in the car could look to see what was happening next. And it fit in my purse.
What would I change? The driving directions ended up being unnecessary… our car came with a navi system (on my last trip, it wasn’t)… And I always carry a small road atlas with me. (Like I said, belt and suspenders.)
Best Travel Books Germany
What makes a good Travel Guide book… to me, it isn’t the listings of hotels or restaurants (these things will make a book dated rather quickly)… I love photos and insider tips. I am a huge fan of walking tours (with maps and noted sights along the way). I also like a guidebook to have a little history or background about the region I’m visiting.
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DK Eyewitness Travel Germany-
Hands down, my favorite Travel Guides of all time come from DK Eyewitness Travel. These guides have never let me down. The DK Eyewiness Travel Germany guide is FULL of information that any traveler would need. States and major cities are divided by a color coding on the page edge, so they are easy to find. Then within the state you get a breakdown of smaller cities, as well as maps. The smaller cities then have a Visitor Checklist, a map , and a numbered walking tour. Each location has a paragraph of information, including exact location, hours of operation, and even a phone number. For example… heading to North Rhine Westphalia? The first page is a history of the area, then comes a 2 page spread with walking information for the city of Münster, and then a driving tour of the surrounding area… as well as other cities in the state you will want to see.
Photo taken of the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Germany
The bigger the city, the more the book drills down. Heidelberg has a 3D image of the Castle, complete with tags showing what each part is, and when it was completed. The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Dresden Gallery of Old Masters) shows the layout of the museum, including the exact locations of some of the major works with a bit of information about them. And the section on Wine Growing in Germany breaks down everything you ever wanted ot know about the different types of wines, and where they come from. This book is the next best thing to having a personal all knowing guide at your side (or in your pocket).
You will also find practical information… like post office hours and federal holidays. There is a chapter on restaurants and hotels, should you be looking.
Find the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Germany Here–>
Rick Steves Germany
We all know Rick Steves from his travel show on PBS, but his books are LOADED with advice for planning your trip. You do get information about sites, but Rick focusses on the details… transportation, money, how to get as much out of your trip as possible, what to see, and what to avoid. He also updates his hotel and restaurant guides every year, so if you buy the latest book, you will be up to date on what’s available. These books are focused on the budget conscious traveler who doesn’t want to be encumbered by luggage or things (instantly, this makes it hard for me… I like packing more than 3 shirts… and I always need an extra bag for the things I buy to take home.). Still, if this is your first time in Germany (or your 5th) and you want that extra help without having to do the research yourself, these are the books for you. (I would suggest getting this book AND the DK Eyewitness Germany book to cover all bases).
National Geographic Traveler Germany
When you are looking at National Geographic, your expectation is that the book will be loaded with FABULOUS photos, and it is. With National Geographic Germany, it’s more about the experiences outside the cities. For example, the city of Münster gets a short page… but the Münsterland, and the area around Münster are quite detailed with facts and interesting things to do. This is the perfect Germany Travel Guide book for getting to know the countryside. Want to take a walk up to the Summit of the Brocken (where the witches gather at Walpurgisnacht)? You will find detailed information on walking or taking a train part of the way in either direction, along with a list of what is not to be missed, how hard the walk is, and how long it will take you. This is one of the few books to mention smaller interesting towns (like Bad Homburg) that are near the big cities. (This is why I have multiple books)
Photo taken of the National Geographic Traveler Guidebook
Again, there is also practical information. You will find some listings for hotels and restaurants by price in the blue section at the back of the book, as well as a few important vocabulary words.
Find the National Geographic Traveler Germany Guide Book here–
DK Back Roads Germany
I really just picked up this book a week ago, and I’m completely excited by it. For part of my next trip to Germany we will be renting a car and driving. Back Roads Germany is the perfect way to make the most of your time on the road! Get off the Autobahn, and take the regular roads. Get to know the countryside! Each “drive” is completely laid out for you with distances and time it takes to travel… and there are highlights to visit along the way. It’s like you have someone to hold your hand a bit, or nudge you into a direction you may not have considered. And don’t think it’s ALL about driving. The driving bit is just to get you there… walks and hikes are also described. The book is filled with maps and pictures. It even recommends where to park (you may scoff… but it’s not always obvious where to park in some cities). This one is going in the travel bag FOR SURE (all marked up!).
Insight Guides Germany
The Insight Guides Germany book is more about history and maps. You do get a lot of background on each of the cities you might want to visit. Also, there are loads of maps showing the details of downtown areas. The book isn’t broken down as much as the other guide books. It’s almost like the story of a town or a specific area is being told… and then special names are highlighted and numbered to match the map. This book is fine for self-guided tours (especially if you are driving). For walks, it may be a little bulky, and the information travels over a few pages, instead of being all on one page. It could be a great book for reading at home, to get to know the areas you plan to visit… and find out what’s near by.
Photo taken o fInsight Guides Germany
You will find some travel tip about Germany in the back of the book, but Insight Guides do not list hotels. Some cafes or restaurants are mentioned in the description of the area, sort of as another feature.
Find the Insight Guides Germany book here–>
My daughter kept this book in her satchel at ALL times while studying in Berlin. This is the book you need when you really want to get to know a city well. There are guided walks through neighborhoods with turn by turn instructions (wonderful for exploring). Unlike the other guide books, I do appreciate the restaurant guides and suggestions, because they really know the neighborhoods (and she found some of her favorite cafes using the guide). A pull out map is included…
And, of course… I LOVE MAPS
The Michelin map of Germany is HUGE! So I spread it out across the dining room table. This way I can really see where everything is, and how far it is from the next place I want to visit.
Bliss…. (And naturally, I do it with DRAMATIC FLAIR…. swoooosh, everything is swept aside, and the map is spread out.) I add those little sticky arrows to places I want to see. Then follow the roads with my finger to see what else is along the way.
While searching the map… I double check my Brown Signs along the Autobahn book. Is there something worthy of getting off for? Usually there is. This little book tells you where all the brown signs are, and what you see when you get there.
Planning can be fun
As you can see, I LOVE planning my trips to Germany. For some of you, it may sound terrible… where’s the spontaneity? Don’t panic! I always leave space (you’ll find me spending hours in a cafe, lingering with a coffee and cake) and I’m flexible about changing things up. It’s just that my time in Germany is often too short, so I want to make sure I don’t miss something that’s just off the road…. So. Guidebooks, notes…. make lists, then GO!