Traveling With Books: the Agony and the Ecstasy

by REBECCA, February 27, 2013

Edinburgh Edinburgh


Friends, Tessa and I are jetting off to grand old Edinburgh! Woohoo! Make sure you check back on Friday for Tessa’s post on Edinburgh books!

Travel poses the classic book dilemma. It’s such a good feeling to read an amazing book while being in an amazing place with an amazing friend! So I always want to make sure I bring the right books for the trip. Hence, the dilemma (trilemma?):

1. Do I bring one really long book that will last the whole trip and take up the least amount of space in my bag? I like to pack really light and there’s nothing more frustrating than lugging around five books you never get around to reading. But, but, but . . . what if  you bring the WRONG book and are stuck with only one thing to read and you’re not in the mood for it. AGONY!

2. Do I bring four or five books that span genres and moods, secure in the comfort that I have the book on hand for any possible book-mood, but weighed down by the very weight of my options?

3. Or do I just bring my kindle, giving myself the most options possible and not adding any unnecessary weight, BUT facing several  potential travel-reading pitfalls?:  a.) I won’t be able to use my kindle during takeoff and landing on the flights (like, six flights, total). b.) I absolutely refuse to use my kindle when sitting in a super-quaint, old-timey tea shop because the presence of such technology would be an affront to my sense of aesthetics and my desire to pretend that I have been swept back in time! c. Most importantly, I won’t be able to use a train ticket stub or the business card from a whiskey distillery tour as bookmarks and leave them in the book so that I can be reminded of my trip any time I pick up the book in the future.

So, what’s a girl to do?! What are your book-packing strategies? Advise me in the comments!



  1. I like to bring one big paperback + iBooks/Kindle app on my iPhone. Sometimes, as you said, you truly do want to be able to read a real book, especially if you’re outdoors and it’s sunny (ok, this might not be a problem in Edinburgh). But the rest of the time, my phone is there to ensure I never run out of reading material. Infinite scroll on iBooks = infinite reading!

  2. Thanks for the tips, y’all! Ha, Lisa, I love the idea of just nabbing books from travel buddies!–Tessa, I hope you brought some good stuff for me.

  3. Our tactic is to bring 1 slim-ish print book for takeoffs, landings, and cafes, and then the Kindle for everytime else. Also, as Margalit said, you can usually buy books wherever you’re going — bonus that they speak English in Edinburgh, so finding translations won’t be necessary!

  4. Margalit

     /  February 27, 2013

    My idea of packing light is being able to pull my giant roller suitcase with only one hand, and I don’t own a Kindle. But not having a book with ticket stubs from trains and distilleries squirreled away sounds like a monumental loss. I vote for a slender and portable volume of poetry: wonderful reading for tea shops, pubs, and wind-swept moors, perfectly parsed to have numerous artifacts marking your places. Bon voyage!

  5. I almost always overpack books. I did better my last trip — brought 3, read 1 1/2, and the last one was small. Three more strategies:

    – Pack light and if you finish them or hate them all you can almost always buy a book wherever you’re going. Besides, I figure you’ve *got* to be doing some book-shopping in Edinburgh, anyway, right? That takes care of the home trip.

    – If you’re traveling with companions, let them do the heavy packing. Then you pack light and borrow/trade books as needed.

    – Pack some used books you’ve bought for cheap (my preferred venue is the library bookstore, where I can get a used paperback for about a dollar). If you finish or hate them, you can leave them somewhere along in your travels — your hostal, a coffee shop, a train, or a recycling bin. Then it’s shopping time again. 🙂

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