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Insight Guides

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Insight Guides
By Bill Mills - Jan 2006
Photos By Dawn Mills

For serious tournament and scenario paintball players travel is part of the game.  You’ve got to hit the road if you want to get to the big events.  With travel come a number of obstacles.  Finding the right places to stay, and to eat are keys to making sure that the trip is both enjoyable and affordable.  Finding activities for family members as a way to roll the paintball trip into a family vacation can sometimes mean the difference between going or not.

Insight City Guides and Pocket Guides are designed to fully inform a traveler about things to do and places to stay in major tourist destinations around the world – many of which happen to by cities that host major paintball events.  These books are a combined product of Insite Guides, a company specializing in the publication of travel guides, and Television and Internet publisher Discovery Networks.  We had the opportunity to review the City Guides for Amerterdam and Orlando, as well as the Pocket Guide for the greater Los Angeles Area.  Living in Central Florida, and having lived in California, we felt well suited to compare the text to personal knowledge.

The City Guides are softbound books each roughly 250 pages in length.  They also each feature a pocket sized folding paper map, encased in a pair of thin plastic buffers that mean it can go into a pocket without being crushed.  The map features the main streets of each city, as well as a guide to several of the restaurants in the book.  

The books themselves feature maps inside their covers.  For Amsterdam these include maps of the surrounding Netherlands, while Orlando features the Greater Orlando area along with maps of the park layouts at Sea World, Universal Studios, Bush Gardens and Walt Disney World.  Both books delve into the history of the cities they cover, while the Amsterdam guide, not surprisingly focuses on local shops, culture and relaxed drug use laws, as compared to the Orlando guide which zeroes on the areas theme parks – comparing attractions, histories, and “insider” information about how the parks are operated.

In both books, a map section near the rear is filled with area maps covering key regions of the city in greater detail.  Both also detail hotels and restaurants, but the sights and activities take up the bulk of each volume.  Not surprisingly for Amsterdam, the book is well laid out by neighborhood, for a person walking on foot through a particular district to find unusual shops and museums.  For Orlando, the layout deals mainly with theme parks – with detailed descriptions of the rides and activities in each of a parks sectors.

The Pocket Guide to Los Angeles and its surrounding areas is a taller, narrower, softer bound volume barely a hundred pages in length.  It comes with a standard sized roadmap in a plastic pocket beneath the rear cover.  While the pocket guide provides similar information to the city guides, discussing the history and background of Los Angeles, it is organized a bit differently.  Five day long itineraries pack a lot of sight seeing into one week – scheduled sight seeing with everything from the Beaches and Paramount Pictures to the La Brea Tarpits, Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Museum of Contemporary Art are scheduled out in a way that maximizes what is experienced while minimizing time spent in travel.  The book packs in six more days of activities in LA’s surrounding regions with a day each in Disneyland, the South Bay, Catalina Island, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs and San Diego.

For all of their books, the Practical Information sections are sure to hold value for newcomers to each city.  Not only do they highlight some hand picked hotels, but they also cover other things to expect like weather, clothing, customs, gratuities, and other costs to anticipate.

Each of the guide books was quite thorough in the city it covered.  In fact the Orlando City Guide, in addition to having some pictures of faces familiar to us and descriptions that we felt were spot-on to some of our favorite haunts, gave us the lowdown on some museums and restaurants that we will be visiting soon – places that were practically in our backyard but we didn’t know about because they get overshadowed by so much of the area’s theme park promotion.

Insight Guides are available at bookstores throughout the US, as well as online through the publisher’s web site.


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