Rick Steves on being a guidebook writer

The man, the myth, the legend-- Rick StevesAfter 30 years producing guidebooks, Rick Steves could easily throw his suitcase into a closet and spend all his time swimming through his piles of money a la Scrooge McDuck. But the man continues to plug away, meticulously researching various European locales for his eponymous guidebooks. And more power to him.

To many of us, Rick Steves has the dream job– earning money to travel around the world, to think, write, and talk about travel. But in a recent article, he explained the process of researching a guidebook, and how it differs from what most people might imagine (as some Gadling contributors already know).

Rick says that while on location, guidebook writers’ entire days are spent conducting research, and he offers his secrets for how to get the best information about restaurants, hotels, activities, and more. For example, “Checking hotels before 10 a.m. is bad news — — people haven’t checked out yet — and the staff is still busy with breakfast. It’s hard to see a room. Checking late in the afternoon is also bad — everyone’s checked in for the day and places are reluctant to show rooms. Prime hotel-checking time is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

Rick also answers a question I’ve always had about guidebook writers– how do they eat at all those places? Turns out, sometimes they don’t. “Restaurants are a big priority for any guidebook researcher…. I can’t eat everywhere, but I can talk to customers in each place. My reward — just before the kitchens close — is to eat at my favorite place.”

Personally, Rick’s guidebooks have never really fit my travel needs, but I’ll give the guy points for appearing to be one hell of a nice guy. And if you’re so inclined, you can give him points for this as well.

Last year, Neil Woodburn “hated” on Rick Steves here.