An overview of travel magazines, from Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel to Condé Nast Traveler, and Outside to ISLANDS
Glossy photos, engaging stories, helpful hints. The best travel magazines aim to offer all of these anywhere from four to twelve times a year.
Some are intended more for armchair travelers (those who prefer to sit on the couch in their living rooms, rather than actually book a seat in coach class, and read about thrilling adventures or exotic vacations of the rich and famous). Others are more geared toward firing your travel imagination about new places to explore and giving you the tools to plan your own vacations. Either way, they can make for great reads, and at $3 to $4 an issue (less if you subscribe), there's no cheaper way to bring a sampling of the whole world into your home for a visit every month.
(Just so you know, what I described above is actually the Big Argument among those of us in the magazine editing industry: should the content be mainly entertainment or mainly informational, primarily literary or primarily service-oriented? Whenever you get two or three of us in a room, we'll have endless debates about this sort of thing. See, and you thought being in travel was all excitement, romance, and exotic destinations. We're actually a whole lot more boring.)
[As a blanket disclaimer for this section, I need to point out that I have written or edited for several of these magazines (and for those where I haven't, I probably have friends who work there). For those magazines with which I have particularly strong ongoing ties, I'll include a disclamatory note.]
General interest travel magazines
Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel
) - The only travel magazine that focuses more on affordable travel for regular folks as opposed to what most travel magazines specialize in: breathless articles about five-star resorts in places to which you'll never go and, if you did, wouldn't spend $550 a night to stay there. The strongest and most useful feature of Budget Travel remains the dullest section to read: the monthly list of the 40 Best Bargain Vacations all around the world. (Disclaimer: I used to be Associate Editor and am currently Contributing Editor to this magazine. For example, I wrote that article about hotels on Italy's Amalfi Coast for the cover of that issue pictured over on the left.)
Condé Nast Traveler Magazine
) - Began as an attempt to cover eco-tourism and other responsible travel, but has long since slipped into basically covering chichi, high end, trendy travel. Generally high quality writing and photography, but can be a bit snooty and elitist. (Disclaimer: I am a Contributing Editor to the magazine's original Web site, Concierge.com)
Travel + Leisure Magazine
) - The thickest of the general travel magazines—lots of articles and lots of ads—focused largely on hot new properties (usually expensive ones), the latest next secret destination, and travel trends. For those of us who can only afford to travel vicariously in five-star circles, it's more of an armchair read. For those successful urban 30- and 40-somethings who can actually afford to drop $600 to $1,000 a night to stay in the latest celebrity hotspot, it serves as a monthly update on the the cutting edge of high-end travel. (Disclaimer: I am a frequent contributor to the magazine's Web site, TravelandLeisure.com.)
) - A literary travel magazine, the kind of which pops up every so often, are brilliant and excelelnt and make for excellent reading, and all too often sadly vanish because they're selling actual, true, life-changing travel and not just the usual soul-deadening articles on "Hottest beaches of 2012" or "Where random movies stars recently vacationed." Wonderful magazine. I hope this one lasts.
) - My favorite travel magazine, with truly intriguing stories, amazing pictures, and the best global coverage of all the exotic places in the world you desperately want to go. The only problem: it's British, and while you can find it in specialty magazines stores and on the magazine racks of most Barnes and Nobles stores, the fact that it's an import means it generally costs $10 to $12 an issue. Bummer. Still, for true adventurers who want to track tigers in Indian jungles, take a walking safari in East Africa, go fishing on the Amazon, or paddle the Philippines (or at least to read about all those things), this is the magazine to splurge on.
Outdoors and sports-oriented travel magazines
) - For the backpacker, kayaker, and great outdoorsman (or -woman) in all of us. This offshoot of Rolling Stone was the first to tap into the adventure travel genre, though of late it seems to focus more on its overwrought page design (it actually seems to be attempting, through the use of odd fonts and color combos, to make its text as inscrutable and impossible to read as possible) and collating round-ups of hints than in helping would-be adventurers plan and execute their own trips. Suffering lately from an unfortunate trend away from being a resource for dilettantes and budding adventurers and rather toward being a couch potato's guide to great adventurers who have seemingly limitless funds with which to stage their brush-with-death adventures.
Men's Journal Magazine
) - Though there's some stuff in there about fitness, cars, and profiles of truly manly men (proof that women's magazines haven't completely cornered the market on hunky celebrities), the bulk of this oversized magazine is dedicated to excellent articles on living an adventurous life, from travel in particular to outdoors pursuits and gear in general.
) - Nine issues a year about hitting the road or the trails with everything you need to carry on your back. Even if you don't subscribe, you should pick up their fantastic annual gear roundup (though designed for hikers and campers, a lot of this stuff is perfect for all travelers, even if you're the type to stick to rental cars, railpasses, and hotel rooms over hiking boots and tents).