Who wouldn't rather spend the night in a lighthouse or century old farmhouse than in a bland and overpriced hotel? Especially when the farmhouse comfortably holds six (and costs about $53 a night) and the $300 run-of-the-mill hotel becomes claustrophobic with 3? Rhetorical questions aside, to me the answer seems clear.
From the title onwards, Pauline Frommer's Ireland: Spend Less, Save More is geared toward the budget traveler--whether that be a broke college student, families with children, or older travelers looking to save some money. The guidebook offers a variety of options for restaurants, sights, and especially lodging. The goal of the book, as stated in the introduction by the editor, is to save money, and, by doing so, experience a deeper, richer, and more memorable experience in a foreign culture.
Additionally, the guidebook is divided into the nation's different regions (known as `counties'), with separate chapters for the city of Dublin and Ireland's capital Belfast.
Each chapter provides several maps of the area that illustrate broad views of the county, with main roads, towns, cities, and airports labeled. Because Ireland is an island nation (and a small one at that), these maps, I assume, would come in very handy if one were planning on traveling to different cities and counties around Ireland.
The language and feel of the guide is very affable, as if you were sitting down with a friend who has traveled there, who wants to give you the inside scoop. It also contains detailed technical descriptions of lodgings ("a gorgeous, 100-year-old with old-fashioned décor--cast iron beds, an open fireplace, low stone walls surrounding the lovely garden...in Cushin, 5km/3.5 miles from Westport"), restaurants, and sites, as well as historical overviews of the counties and cities in each chapter. It also contains facts and vocabulary native to the country ("Chats is Cork slang for `breasts,' but has also been used as a slang term for small inferior potatoes") that allows readers to immerse themselves into the foreign jargon of the nation. Many of the tips and suggestions, such as a comment box titled "Dublin VIP? Maybe Not..." where a special sightseeing card that bundles some of Dublin's main sights, offering "queue jumping" and shuttle transport may not be worth the money, are comprehensive views of places where a traveler could save money, or where supposed deals aren't really deals at all.
The purpose of this guide is to provide an in depth traveling experience that won't break the bank. It encourages off-the-beaten-track activities and lodgings that not only save money, but also immerses travelers into the true identity of the country. It feels like a comfortable companion, informing a first time traveler about the ins and outs of the country, and how to get the most out of their time there. It seems to be a practical guide that allows you to plan outings and experiences while allowing room for your own discoveries and excursions. While Fodor's Ireland 2011 contains articles such as "Northern Ireland in 2 Days", this guide simply provides options--no mandatory lists or preachy advice.
There is no denying that cost is a main component to the structure and organization of this guidebook. The actual cost of the travel guide--$21.99--was on par with its competitors.
After close study of several viable options for travel guides, I chose this one for it's content. This is, however, a comprehensive look an entire nation, so it's not particularly small, thin, or light. Ringing in at 8" by 5" by 1.5" the paperback is a relatively standard size. It's small enough to tote around (especially if you have a rucksack or large purse), but it's not something I would particularly want to be lugging around. If space is tight--which it most likely is, in the case of a budget traveler--size may be a dominant feature of this guide. While it may still be the average size of a typical travel guide, to me, it doesn't feel as dense as some travel guides that contain heavy laminated pages of color photos, for instance. Overall, if you're really pressed for space, jot down notes for yourself and leave the book in your lodgings. If not, feel free to carry it around.
Now, I've been fairly enthusiastic about this guide. Perhaps it's because it takes a different spin on budget travel and provides insight into true cultural experiences. However, with these great features, there are also some flaws. There aren't any interviews or eyewitness accounts, but that's not a deal breaker for me. If I want that, I can easily search the Web. The most noticeable thing missing from the guide are pictures of any kind. It appears almost as if the publishers decided to be extremely cost conscious and felt that pictures would be a waste of good space (because it's a guidebook on budget travel, I deem this appropriate, although somewhat of a letdown). Although the guide does not contain any photographs, the message behind that is clear--travel there and take the pictures yourself. It's as if the guide itself is explaining that a small picture in a guidebook will not the pictures justice.
Budget travel has become increasingly important. With the current recession, money can be tight, and traveling is a luxury. Pauline Frommer's Spend Less, See More travel guides provide in depth looks into 13 different locations including Washington D.C., London, Spain, Paris, Costa Rica, and New York City, according to Frommers.com. That's 13 places I could probably afford to travel to.