This column was triggered by my receipt of the summer edition of the classic European Rail Timetable. Although Thomas Cook had published monthly editions since 1873, Cook announced last year that its 2013 summer edition would be the last. Fortunately, lots of people -- both professionals and frequent travelers -- remained devoted to the timetable, so a group of former editors and compilers formed a new company, European Rail Timetable Ltd, to resume publishing independently.
European Rail Timetable plans to continue monthly editions. But monthly subscriptions would be overkill for most North American visitors. Instead, depending on when you travel, the annual June summer or December winter edition should do. This summer's edition includes bonus timetables for the United States, Canada, and most of Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific; it also covers the many ferry systems that ply the Aegean, Baltic, Black Sea, Mediterranean and North Sea routes. When I ordered my copy, it was available only through the UK website (europeanrailtimetable.eu) for 18 pounds (about $29) plus postage, but Amazon now lists it starting at $19.42 plus $3.99 shipping, a much better deal.
Yes, you can get excellent point-to-point schedules online from raileurope.com, Deutsche Bahn (http://www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/), and other websites, but, at least to me, there's no substitute for the Timetable's combination of printed schedules and maps. Unless your rail plans are extremely simple, you really need the Timetable.
For a driving trip, many colleagues advised me, "You don't need maps; your rental car will have GPS, or you can use your smartphone." Sorry, but GPS is no substitute for good maps, especially when you're planning a driving tour. GPS is fine for telling you how to get from point A to point B in either the quickest way possible or the cheapest way (avoiding the often very stiff tolls). But when you want to plan a multi-day, multi-stop trip, sticking to the scenic byways, GPS just doesn't cut it. And GPS can't help you decide which places along the way offer interesting short diversions.
On my driving trip last fall, I found my choice of maps to be more limited than in earlier years; the growth of digital has likely taken its toll on the map market. Still, enough maps are available to suit most trip planning. I normally order them in advance of my trip from Amazon, but once you arrive, you can find them in major airports and service stations.
The best digital substitute for printed maps I know are those you can see at the Michelin website (viamichelin.co.uk/htm/div/map/), which seem to be direct images of Michelin's printed maps. Although even a 24-inch monitor is no substitute for a paper map several times larger, it's better than most alternatives.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)
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