Staff Picks: Best Reads for Planning a Trip
After the record blizzard of 2016, spring just can’t come fast enough for me. Maybe you’re feeling the same way? If the winter blahs have gotten you down, looking ahead to a vacation or even just a day trip or two can help get you through these last weeks before spring. I recently hit the shelves in search of materials to help me plan a few spring and summer outings for my family. Here’s a sampling of what I found that got me thinking ahead to sunnier skies.
We are so fortunate to have a wealth of day-trip destinations in and around this beautiful state. From the rushing cascades of the Potomac’s Great Falls to the stunning topography of the state’s southwestern Highlands region, there is so much to see and do here! Backroads & Byways of Virginia is an excellent reference for scenic driving tours throughout the Old Dominion, with author Bill Lohmann’s rundown on where to go, what to eat and what you won’t want to miss while you’re there. He includes tried-and-true tips from his extensive travels around the state and intriguing trivia about places along the way. Even more than a how-to travel guide, Lohman’s musings on the cultural diversity and historical significance of many of these destinations are downright fun to read.
Disclaimer: I am not a natural outdoorswoman. I don’t find it quaint when bugs use me as a resting place, I can’t stand wearing a sunhat and loathe sunscreen, and I REALLY like modern conveniences. That said, there’s something enticing about meandering along a wooded trail, especially when nature wakes up after a long winter. While I have no intention of tackling the Appalachian Trail in all of its 2,200-mile glory, the 500-mile chunk dissecting this state beckons me to experience it in little bursts. That led me to Hikes in the Virginias, and now I’m really itching to go. This book breaks down 46 hikes in the area (predominantly Virginia, with a tiny portion crossing into West Virginia). Along with the important stuff like distance, walking time, and directions, the authors describe in painstaking detail what makes each destination worth the trip and what might be tricky along the way. It gets pretty voluminous at times, but if you want to know exactly what awaits you before you go, you can’t go wrong here.
I turned to Hiking Through History Virginia to learn about some of the state’s best historic haunts. Seasoned outdoorsman Johnny Molloy features 40 trails that reward visitors with beautiful sights and the opportunity to see some of the state’s most historically remarkable places. This helpful book breaks down what you need to know about everything from trail surfaces to canine compatibility, and there’s even a thorough section of handy tips for novice hikers.
Fun with the Family Virginia lists the state’s kid-friendly offerings by region, making quick work of finding something to keep the kids occupied during a day trip or overnighter. Museums, historic sites, walking tours, cruises, and theme parks are highlighted, along with lodging suggestions and local eateries. There’s no flowery presentation or many extra details, but it will help you get the ball rolling.
Whether you’re a family of expert campers or novices braving the wild for the first time, The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids is a comical read by mom, avid camper, and self-proclaimed overzealous planner Helen Olsson. Beginners aren’t the only ones who will appreciate the author’s many checklists and smart tips (“Do your best to control your pyromaniacal tendencies. Keeping fires small helps to conserve wood,” for example). Her ideas for simple recipes, games and crafts, and outdoor activities will ensure the words “I’m bored” are never uttered around your campfire.
On the subject of family-friendly outdoor activities, have you tried geocaching? Easy to do while you’re traveling or even surprisingly close to home, this GPS-guided treasure hunt is lots of fun for parents and kids and will prompt you to visit all kinds of new places. Geocaching (or its less-high-tech cousin, Letterboxing) can be a side endeavor no matter where you are, as caches can be found just about anywhere. The Geocaching Handbook and The Joy of Geocaching can get you started on this fun hobby.
Perhaps you’ve set your sights on more distant shores for upcoming travels. Wherever you’re headed, our travel section holds guides for destinations across the country and throughout the world. Run a subject search in the catalog for your destination, or visit the reference desk for help finding what you need. And if you’re headed overseas and need to know your bonjour from your hola, check out our many language resources as well.
Happy planning, and safe travels!
∼ Emily, library clerk, Warrenton central library