The anticipation of a big trip is almost as good as the journey itself. I enjoy the planning and preparation. I also enjoy studying about the places that I am going to visit. Whether traveling in the U.S. or abroad, I like to pick a book, either fiction or non-fiction, that features my destination. This is different from reading a guidebook; the purpose here is to get a feel for the spirit of the place, not just memorize a list of sites that must be seen.
I find that many tour companies will provide a list of suggested readings for travelers. If you are not taking a group tour, I recommend Longitude as a source for books about your destination. If your time or budget is limited, the best bet is a book of short stories or essays. These compilations provide short sketches of the life, history, or culture of your destination. It’s a great way to build excitement for the trip and get a feel for the adventure you’re about to have.