06/08/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT
>Travel guides On summer vacation, getting there (via jammed airports, depressing stretches of highway) can be far less than half the fun. But you won't be a road worrier if you take a good guidebook. Here are some of the best new ones: Lonely Planet's encyclopedic Mexico ($19.95), for instance, from the series that's the undefeated champ of its category, is perfect for the young and the cashless. But it's light on illustrations, unlike The Smithsonian Guides to Historic America: the Deep South ($19.95), whose glorious color photos and lucid commentary on history and architecture evoke antebellum ghosts. Hopping the pond? From the scent of salami to the ascent of Bologna, Knopf Guides: Italy ($27.50) is so dazzlingly jammed with illustrated morsels of history and art that you'll wonder why the binding doesn't burst. Business travelers who need a present for the family, pronto, will appreciate the World Shopping Guide (Prion Books, $14.95), which sheds light on the increasingly difficult task of tracking down gifts (local crafts, jewelry, etc.) you can't get at the mall. And don't flip just because the century's odometer is about to: Rough Guide: the Millennium ($8.95) tells you where to party like it's 1999.