How To Choose the Books to Bring With You on Vacation


As promised, I want to combine two of my favorite things and talk about how I decide which books to bring with me when I travel

Books: an essential part of going on vacation, not only because of all the inevitable downtime in airports and on planes, but because traveling (at this point in my life) is an escape from work, a week to spend more time doing what I love. And one of the things I love is reading books.

So then the question becomes: which books do you decide to bring on vacation?

After years of reading and traveling, this is what I’ve come up with:

1. Bring books by writers you know you like. There’s nothing worse than picking up a hyped-up new book by an author you’ve never tried before and hating it. Actually there is; it’s being stuck with that book in an airport. I now exclusively bring books I am pretty sure I’ll love. I hoard them until my trip arrives, knocking out ones I’m not positive I’ll enjoy while I’m still in the safety of my home. If you do want to read a new writer, I suggest starting the book at least a day before you leave so you have a good sense of whether or not it will suck you in.

2. Bring more books than you think you need. Irrelevant if you have a Kindle*, of course, but finishing a book at the airport and having nothing left to read is my worst nightmare. It’s happened to me just once, at which point I went to the nearest newsstand and searched desperately for something that wasn’t written by James Patterson/his ghost writers. (I ended up picking up this book, actually, which was deeply flawed in terms of writing and plot, but also wildly entertaining. So this kind of negates my advice. But still: I recommend preparation.)

3. Bring books you know you’ll fly through.  For me, travel is not the time to attempt to get through that classic you’ve been meaning to read (like this one, which took me over a month) or force yourself finish something you’ve previously abandoned (ahem, Anna Karenina–just get on with the plot!) Slow-moving books can feel like a chore, and you don’t want to be doing chores on vacation.

4. Bring books that aren’t too upsetting. I am an admitted sad book-lover so I’m definitely not advising that you only bring light and joyful rom-coms.  But books definitely affect my mood, and I generally don’t really want to be thinking about genocide on vacation. Lesson learned the time I finished The Book Thief while flitting around the Greek islands and sat there on our catamaran in the Mediterranean sunshine surrounded by the gorgeous teal-blue sea, sobbing.

 5. If you’re bringing a series, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE ORDER CORRECT. Again, irrelevant if you have a Kindle*. But I give you Costa Rica, 2011: I am reading The Hunger Games. I finish the first book and reach eagerly for the second–only to discover I’d brought Mockingjay instead of Catching Fire. And this was pre-smartphone, for me, so I couldn’t even just download the Kindle app and get it. Not only did I have to wait to get home to find out what happened to Katniss, I’d brought a book that was completely useless to me at that time.

6. If possible, bring books you and your partner can trade. Lightens the load, and gives the two of you something to talk about!

And if you’re curious, these are the books I’ve decided on for my upcoming trip:

The Trespasser, Tana French because I’m OBSESSED with Tana French and there is no way this book isn’t amazing like her others. No possible way. Also, reading about the Dublin Murder Squad in Dublin? 😀
After You, Jojo Moyes because I really enjoyed Me Before You and Louisa as a character and I would love to spend more time in her head.
Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo because Six of Crows was incredible and I must know what happens next.
The Precious One, Marisa de los Santos because her prose has always been lovely and her stories engaging and I expect this to be a slightly lighter story than the others I’m bringing.
A Torch Against the Night, Sabaa Tahir because I flew through An Ember in the Ashes and I’ve heard this is even better.

Downside to my choices: three of these were just released and so they’re hardcover. Glad my suitcase has wheels 🙂

But looking at this reading list kind of makes me more excited for reading in the airport than going to Ireland itself. Here’s to hoping I look up from my book long enough to see the Cliffs of Moher!

*Yes, I still refuse to buy a Kindle. I don’t like reading on a screen. I just don’t. I have no problems with those who do, but it’s just not for me. (I’d probably cave and get one if I ended up on another year-long trip, but for this article I’m talking about 1-2 weeks at a time trips, so I will take the extra few pounds in my luggage over a Kindle any day, thank you.)

Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash

11 thoughts on “How To Choose the Books to Bring With You on Vacation

  1. We do most of our traveling with our trailer and I have a few books stashed under the seat just in case I finish what I brought. Nothing worse than having free time and being stuck without a book! I am with you on the kindle. I mostly get my books from the library and have had to read one or two on my son’s kindle when that is the only version the library had in the middle of a series. Somehow it just isn’t as enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “books are cheaper then shoes” that’s going to be my comeback.
    I’m pretty much in the same boat.. I have a kindle but don’t enjoy it so much. I use it for when I don’t want to wait for a book to get mailed to me. Also — if there are sales. I recently picked up the Eleanor Roosevelt book for like 1.99 and it was worth every penny!

    I hate reading illegal downloaded books – takes away from the experience and its immoral.
    (feel the same about movies)

    I guess it’s about priorities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes for sure–books are a priority for me, so I don’t mind spending the money 🙂 But I know other people who won’t spend more than $10 on a book and have no issues buying $300 shoes, which is baffling to me, but to each her (or his) own


  3. 4. haha! I have fallen victim to the sad story while on a train/plane or bus! This one time I was reading a novel on a tour bus through italy and I was sobbing. No one could fully understand my investment to the characters in the story or why it would upset me so much ahha! great list 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm, I know of the ones in Paris ’cause I used to live near there, but other than that I’m not sure. I’m guessing Google will be more helpful than I am 🙂 But I have found that most airports carry at least *some* English language books, even if they’re not ones you particularly want to read (ahem, endless James Patterson).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Exciting choices and very sound advice! Thanks.

    So this may be an odd question but I’m struggling with it myself so I ask.
    How do you afford all these books – do you buy them or are there other ways to attain. My mom (not) so casually pointed out that I my amazon prime bill larger then my grocery bill every month. EEK!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha. So for me, books are one area where I just let myself spend money at will, for a few reasons:

      1) Publishing isn’t doing so hot right now, with the influx of self-publishing and people illegally downloading books (I really discourage this). Writers (and publishers) could use the money. So I don’t feel bad spending it. It also indirectly benefits me to buy books, because I want to be a published writer someday, so I’m helping the industry and also hopefully helping my future self.

      2) I don’t spend a ton of money on other stuff like clothes, etc. Book shopping is generally the only regular shopping I do. Overall I spend less than other people I know per month; books tend to be cheaper than shoes.

      3) I have some disposable income right now. I don’t have kids or a mortgage, I’ve always lived below my means in terms of rent, I’ve worked jobs I don’t love for good salaries for the precise reason that I can buy things when I want them and not feel bad about it (within reason).

      That being said, I do try and wait until something’s been out long enough for it to become a paperback before buying (though in some cases I clearly can’t wait). I buy used whenever possible, because it’s cheaper. I keep things on my wishlist as long as I can stand it to see if the price goes down. And I keep meaning to join a library, but even when I was part of one I never went, because I just never had the time. Way easier to just order stuff over the internet 🙂

      From what I understand, having a Kindle cuts down enormously on book-buying costs, AND you can get library books on it, so if you have no problem not having physical books, I’d definitely recommend that.

      So this was super long-winded. Maybe I should do a post about this at some point…


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