Lonely Planet travel guides to Slovenia, Austria and Italy (Lonely Planet)

Travel guides are essential for those that want to get the best out of visiting a new country - and Lonely Planet are among the best.

Dorling Kindersley guides offer overviews, stacks of great photographs and diagrams and ensure you don't miss any of the 'best ofs'. Rough Guides are excellent for the amount of detail they contain and they are not afraid to take you off the beaten track.

But my current favourite brand is Lonely Planet. There are hardly any photographs but there are clear maps, good descriptions of all the sights and recommendations and information about where to stay and where to eat.

There are useful sections on history, culture, transport and food and drink, as well as suggested tours of cities and regions.

I recently took the Slovenia and Austra guides on holiday during a trip that started in Vienna, included a rail trip to Semmering and Graz and then a drive through Slovenia to Ljubljana, and a visit to the gorgeous Julian Alps.

They proved invaluable companions that enhanced the journey.