Rather than honing in immediately on specific attractions in a region, try to take a broader approach right off the bat. Use travel guides to get a general feel for the area that you will be visiting; take your time and read a few travelogues about the region.
If possible, look for well written, engaging pieces about the place you'll be traveling too. Usually, travel guides do offer general overviews that describe the basic features of an area, including its climate, currency, culture and general statistics. Use this information to form a picture in your mind about what the place will probably be like; that way, you'll have a better idea about what you'd like to focus on while there.
Narrow Your Focus
After getting a basic idea about your destination, start honing in on a couple of key places or attractions. Use a couple of different travel guides in order to get a feel for which attractions are considered the most significant or "must see" in the area, then read more detailed information about each. If you already have a certain kind of place you prefer - i.e., a beach or somewhere to go hiking - look for information about such attractions in the travel guide that you're using.
Keep An Open Mind
Part of the joy of traveling is seeing and being exposed to different cultures and things that you otherwise never would be. Therefore, you should be willing to keep an open mind and seek out places that you might not normally be interested in. When reading travel guides, don't skip over entire sections just because you think you'd certainly never be interested in the topic; instead, look at it as an opportunity to find out about something different. You might be surprised and come across an idea or suggestion that sounds really appealing, after all.
Seek A Second Opinion
Like many things, it's never wise to base the things you'll see during your trip on a single travel guide's opinion. Try to use at least two or three different travel guides to get a better idea about what to see on your trip. Where one guide may downplay the fun of a particular attraction, another might give it rave reviews. The best way to get a well-rounded idea about what to see on your vacation is by consulting more than one travel guide.
Compile The Best Tips And Advice
While you certainly don't want to print out every single article you read in a travel guide, it is smart to print out and save - or jot down - exceptionally good tidbits and pieces of advice. For instance, some guides might warn you to wear certain clothing when visiting an attraction; be sure to note this advice so you can refer to it down the road. Another travel guide might warn you against taking a certain route; make a note so that you don't forget while you are on your trip. Keep all of this information in a small binder or another well organized place so it can easily be referred to when needed.
Watch Out For Outdated Information
The only major caveat to bear in mind when using a travel guide is that - even in today's digital age - information can become outdated. Guides that feature pricing and specific times, for example, might not be accurate anymore. If you're visiting a foreign country, its currency - or even its ruling government - could be completely different compared with what you read in a travel guide. Use travel guides as basic outlines for your trip, but never rely completely on them; remember that situations can change in the blink of an eye.