There is nothing better than finding a reason to laugh on the road. The following eight books are some of the funniest travel books ever written. The list includes something for every sense of humor and range from the Victorian period to the present day.
1. The Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain)
The Innocents Abroad was Mark Twain’s witty account of a grand tour of Europe and the Holy Land with a group of travelers in the 1860s. Unlike his better known masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain’s travel book is based on true events. Twain provides humorous and controversial observations about the people he encounters at each of the locations including Italy, France, and the Holy Land. In addition, Twain gives interesting insights into the human condition. He also pokes fun at elitism.
2. In a Sunburned Country (Bill Bryson)
Bill Bryson is one of the funnier modern-day travel writers. He manages to bring humor to his readers with a combination wit and thoughtful observations. In a Sunburned Country is one of the rare books that manages to poke fun at a country [Australia] and honor it as a great destination at the same time. Bryson’s run-ins with dangerous local animals and take on Australian rules football were particularly funny.
Badlands, South Dakota © Julie Falk
3. Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World’s Worst Places and Asks, What’s Funny About This (P. J. O’Rourke)
Holidays in Hell follows the travels of P. J. O’Rourke to what he believes are the hellholes around the globe. Unlike Bryson, O’Rourke’s observations are harsh and won’t win him any friends in the countries he wrote about. If political and cultural opinions given in a no-holds-barred manner work for you — this travelogue will have you either laughing or steaming. Note that it was written in the 1980s so some of the material is dated.
4. Travels with Alice (Calvin Trillin)
Travels with Alice is one of the funnier travel book you’ve never heard of. While Trillin is a well-known humorist, this gem is his only foray into the travel genre. The book consists of fifteen essays that follow Trillin and his family as they travel in search of the elusive treasures of Europe and the Caribbean. It provides funny insights into traveling with family along with unique observations about each location. The Gelati Fever chapter was a favorite in the book.
5. The Clumsiest People in Europe (Todd Pruzan)
The Clumsiest People in Europe is more about laughing at the author and the time period than chuckling about the cultural slurs that are tossed around in this Victorian period children’s guide to the world by Favell Lee Mortimer. No country or group of people escaped the nastiness of Mrs. Mortimer from the French and Portuguese to the Australians and South Africans. Makes one happy to be living in the 21st century.
New York City subway © Jens Schott Knudsen
6. There’s No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled (Doug Lansky, Editor)
The only collection on this list of funny travel books, There’s No Toilet Paper. . .on the Road Less Traveled is a nice way to gauge which writers give you belly laughs. The short stories range from Failing to Learn Japanese in Only Five Minutes to The Art of Riding a Third World Bus. Most of the stories are light hearted and focus on the mishaps of each writer verses culture judgements. The tale about getting locked in a Dutch bathroom is priceless.
7. Westward Ha! (S. J. Perelman)
Westward Ha! is a humorous jaunt around the world taken by S. J. Perelman (wrote for The New Yorker) and caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Perelman’s command of the English syntax is astonishing and the addition of Hirschfeld’s art will have you smirking throughout.
8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
Far from a traditional travel guide, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is considered to be the funniest science fiction book ever written. Penned by Douglas Adams, this adventure follows Arthur Dent, an average British citizen, on a myriad of space adventures. Travelers will get a kick out of the crazy and thought-provoking situations that Dent finds himself in throughout the book. Too bad we can’t all put a Babel fish in our ear to allow the brain to understand every language in the universe.
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Gennaro Salamone is the founder and editor of Enduring Wanderlust. Feel free to contact him with questions, comments, or inquiries with reference to contributing an article or photograph for publication.