Tailor-Made Travel

Dump the generic guidebook and get a key to the city

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Don't you hate spending half your vacation in a new city poring over guidebooks, trying to figure out whether this art gallery or that club is worth visiting or is just a tourist trap? If you wish you could feel like a local wherever you travel, Miss Information (www.miss-info.net) has just the remedy. Partners Alexis Owens and Colleen Cavanaugh Anthony create custom guidebooks with all the crucial tips for your trip.

Owens and Cavanaugh Anthony have been in business since January 2005. Owens has a journalism background and Cavanaugh Anthony is an arts aficionado. They met while they were working on film and fashion projects, and they decided to combine their travel expertise with their love of library research.

'Alexis . . . pitched me an idea of [starting] a company, and we just ran with it,' Cavanaugh Anthony says. Within four months, the two launched Miss Information while both were between other jobs.

Although they're pretty and palm-sized, the hand-bound books pack tons of useful information on events and destinations for your trip. Each guidebook is personalized with listings based on your interests and accompanied by photos and other thoughtful extras, such as a library card bearing your name.

They're also easy to handle and easy to hide. 'I don't like traveling with a big guidebook that a hundred thousand other people have,' Owens says. 'These are small and inconspicuous, so you're not screaming 'tourist.' '

Owens and Cavanaugh Anthony use a variety of methods to seek out the best of the best in cities around the world. They talk to locals and comb websites, books, and magazines. 'We do look at other travel guides for bare-bones references,' says Owens, 'but we try to find someone from the area who can give us different information.' If they don't know anyone, they sometimes contact the concierge of the hotel where their client will be staying.

Owens usually handles the listings for music shows, clubs, bars, shopping, spas, and 'other random events,' while information on restaurants, theater, art galleries, and museums comes from Cavanaugh Anthony. 'We do all the research you would do,' says Owens. 'We find the best of everything and put it all in one cute package.'

Miss Information has profiled destinations ranging from Los Angeles to Jaipur, India, for clients who include fashion-shoot teams, wedding parties, and individuals. The price of a guidebook differs with each project and is based on the amount of time spent doing research and the number of books ordered. Owens and Cavanaugh Anthony keep detailed files on popular destinations and can put together a guidebook in a matter of days.

Though production time can be hectic, the two genuinely enjoy what they're doing. 'We love to travel,' says Cavanaugh Anthony. 'The education we get about a new city is a huge reward.'

Reprinted from Venus Zine (Winter 2006), a quarterly that covers women in music, art, film, fashion, and DIY culture. Subscriptions: $15/yr. (4 issues) from Suite 3400, 2000 N. Racine Ave., Chicago, IL 60614; www.venuszine.com.