Why Your Guidebook is Wrong

In December, I wrote my first guidebook, a sunbreak travelers guide to Hawaii. At the end of March, while the proofs were in production, Aloha Airlines went bankrupt. A few days later, Molokai Ranch announced their closure at the end of April. Both Aloha Air and Molokai Ranch are listed in my guidebook.

I emailed the editor to tell her the bad news when I learned about Aloha. I contacted her again when I found out about Molokai Ranch. “Quit reading news about Hawaii!” she said to me, only partly in jest. On the guidebook side, they have to go back to the proofs, whack the parts about the airlines and the hotel, add anything I can give them as substitution, and maybe refit the copy depending on the impact of the change. We were, I think, lucky to catch these changes before the book went to press, but that doesn’t mean other changes won’t occur.

When I did my last guidebook project – an update to a Vancouver/British Columbia book, huge swaths of it were wildly out of date and one of the city’s major attractions, Stanley Park, had been extensively damaged in a storm. Sure, there’s a disclaimer that says the information was accurate as of some date, but truthfully, the guidebook is only accurate during the time that the harried researcher/writer is standing on site at the open attraction/airline gateway/hotel/etc. Guidebooks are out of date before they’ve gone to print.

While we were in Hawaii, there was a great deal of contention around the Super Ferry. One day it ran, the next day it was blocked. Environmentalist and surfers hated the thing, pragmatists loved it. Residents devoted to Hawaiian culture hated it, business developers loved it. A recent update on the Super Ferry website says that the ferry is sailing as of next week, but if I were making the trip, I’d be checking the web and calling the arrival port to see if the ferry can actually dock or if it’s already blocked by protesters on long boards.

This might be why I’ve developed a preference for doing my own travel research on the web. I still buy guidebooks – after checking the publication information for when they were updated last – but not for the practical details. I love the historical introductions, the cultural overviews, the top ten highlights that guidebooks present so well, but as to where to stay and eat, how to get around, where the great deals are? I’m going straight to the web.

A note on Molokai: One less big place to stay on Molokai makes it all the more attractive. There are still bunches of condos and they’re affordable, relatively speaking, for Hawaii. Don’t even stress the location if you’re going – Molokai is tiny, you’re probably going to have a rental car, and you are never more than a few minutes drive from the beach.

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3 thoughts on “Why Your Guidebook is Wrong

  1. Sorry to hear that Molokai Ranch is closing, we thought it was a nice laid back resort. They were trying to spiff up and get the golf club ‘up to par’ when we were there last. We had a great stay at Wavecrest at the other end of the island – which we found on VRBO. I guess this is the eternal rub, we want a resort location away from the tourist track, but unless they charge a fortune, it means making the resort profitable is an ongoing challenge. I hope Molokai remains a hide away from major tourism even if we all have to stay in a grass shack.

  2. Yeah, it’s sad. We stayed at the ranch too and thought it was lovely, they had the NICEST bathrooms and the staff there was really easy going and helpful. (Disclaimer, we were on a comp and also, were kind of a pain because we had to keep changing our plans.) I can’t help but wonder about the people that worked there – I feel terrible that they’re losing their jobs.

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