Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Bits For The Traveler – Ask Arthur Frommer

While these columns usually focus on books to read on the plane, Ask Arthur Frommer, a new page turner from the dean of American travel writing, is something you will instead relish before your trip.

Frommer is the catalyst for the post-WWII travel for everyone ideal. His 1959 book Europe on $5 a Day was a pivotal transition from the Grand Tour tradition of European travel to the cultural immersion and spend less, absorb more, philosophies spawning Rick Steves, Lonely Planet and Rough Guides.

Billed as a reference book, Ask Arthur Frommer is an encyclopedia you will happily read from cover to cover (like the People's Almanac). In fifteen chapters the reader encounters hundreds of sections offering topical advice on travel planning, insights for the business traveler and a generous sprinkling of Frommer’s pro-travel, pro-freedom perspective.

As someone who, until recently, spent Medallion-level time on road, I found many good business travel insights in Frommer’s book. This includes and introduction to for car rental deals, insights about getting the most out of frequent flyer programs and practical tips about health and wellness during crammed business travel.

The book, however, is primarily a treasure trove of advice for the passionate leisure traveler. Frommer shares the best website for international festivals (, trumpets the best and worst destinations in the world for meaningful travel (sorry Dubai), and details lodging, airfare, and attraction information for budget conscious adventurers. While there is a generous review of cruse ship and resort-based travel, Frommer’s passion for the adventure of self guided travel is and overriding theme.

Former is a idealist and strong proponent of travel as a tool to overcome prejudice and ignorance. He has strong words for the luxury travel industry, private jets, and the New York Times travel section. There is loves for Amtrak but disdain for a government telling him where he can and can not go.

Based on the timeliness of much of the information in the book I assume this will become an annual publication. If so, this candid, fun to read collection of tactics and tips will become a must have for US and International travelers.

Want more from the big guns? Try Bad Lands by Tony Wheeler or Rick Steve’s recent Travel as a Political Act. Frommer’s original Europe of $5 a Day was reprinted recently too!

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