The economy is bad and the dollar has taken a beating, but don’t give up on travel. If you still have the means—or just want to be ready when things improve—a new collection of travel guides will help you prepare for your next adventure.

The world is yours
British travel publisher Dorling Kindersley offers four beautiful new Eyewitness titles to three diverse destinations. First up are two new slip-in-your pocket Top Ten guides: Top 10 Buenos Aires and Top 10 Cape Town & the Winelands. If you have a yen to learn a smoldering tango or bask on a pristine African beach, then these guides are superior passports to truly pleasurable, meaningful trips. The Top Ten guides offer the ultimate in 10-item lists that showcase top sights and activities, entertainment, restaurants and lodgings and itineraries. Well-written, efficiently cross-referenced, sparked with excellent (though small) photos, they cover all the basics (“Streetsmarts”) and also throw in pullout maps. These mini guides give big bang for the buck

Two larger handbooks from DK are good for both pre-planning and lugging along on road trips. Argentina and Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania are rich in quality color photography and images and maps. Also, they are virtual encyclopedias on these countries’ history and monuments, arts and culture, manners and mores, sights and cuisines. Nothing has been overlooked in these compact references that you’ll want to keep permanently in your travel library.

Moving east, The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget  is a densely crammed, thorough and budget-conscious guide to 10 destinations, from Brunei and Cambodia, Hong Kong and Macau to Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (and everywhere in between). For this reviewer, Rough Guides are excellent all-around travel manuals, offering top itineraries, ideas to make your trip unique and more cost-effective and, most importantly, the basics of how to get there, how to get around and how to have a grand time while connecting meaningfully with people. With more than 1,000 concise pages to inform, this book will have travelers fully briefed on Asian history and manners, mores, culture and sights before they set foot on a plane. Though bereft of color photos and pullout maps, this guide, while not “pretty,” is a must-have travel planner.

Don’t miss the boat
For help on the open seas, check out Cruising: All Questions Answered by nitpicky cruise expert Douglas Ward. This is a must-have for beginning and fanatic cruisers: it is impeccably researched, witty and definitive, covering every type of ship and cruise imaginable, from the huge resort-type vessels that frequent mainstream ports to the small luxury yachts that ply less-traveled waters. Ward, who has been on nearly 1,000 cruises, gives a complete rundown on the basics of cruising, how to select and custom-fit your cruise, what life is like onboard, specialty cruises, practical information (what to do if your ship sails without you) and comparisons and ratings for nearly 400 ships and cruises. Along with photography depicting shipboard life, amenities and accommodations, Ward includes complete contact information and destination maps. Most enlightening is a list of Ward’s “50 Pet Peeves,” which alone is worth the price of this book. “What I aim to do,” he says, “is help you choose the right ship for you, for the right reasons, and to leave you as well-informed as many specialists in the cruise business.” And he does just that.

All roads lead to it
If you’ve visited the Eternal City and tossed coins into Trevi Fountain, legend says you’re bound to return. If you do, peruse Dianne Bennett’s and William Graebner’s Rome the Second Time: 15 Itineraries That Don’t Go to the Coliseum, coming late this month, which offers an off-the-beaten-path, somewhat nitty-gritty look at bella Roma. The 15 quirky and budget-conscious itineraries, described in the authors’ idiosyncratic style, highlight Rome’s waters and ancient waterways, suburbs, Nazi wartime history, Modernist and Fascist architecture, inner- and outer-city treks, cultural activities and cuisine. This book may not appeal to first-time visitors, because it takes travelers to the lesser known (and often suspect) streets, piazzas and riverside byways of complex Rome. This is an “insider’s” walking guide that connects visitors to Rome’s antiquity, but interprets Rome’s layered history with an eye toward its modernity. Very entertaining is the information on vernissages, or finding intriguing art gallery openings that offer free food and drink. This unconventional guidebook, while oddly organized (with inadequate maps) and somewhat awkward prose, will take you onto Rome’s back streets and into the hearts of its populace.

Bay Area writer Alison Hood’s most recent cruise excursion was a commuter ferry trip across San Francisco Bay.

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