European guidebooks like these cover a lot of ground and are pretty darn heavy to travel with. Consider ebook versions if you have a device and like to travel light. Several of these guidebooks come in a Kindle edition.
These guides are great for basic planning, but you might want to consider purchasing single country guides for the countries you finally decide on visiting to lug along on your trip. Here are some suggested books that cover Western Europe, including some specialty travel guides. These guidebooks make great gifts for the traveler planning a European vacation.
Let's Go Travel Guides have long been our favorite for budget travel, but they've recently changed focus toward student travel. Even if you're not traveling on a budget, they feature decent bus and train information and a good overview of each destination. And remember, high-end student travel info is perfect for middle-class travel in Europe. The 2016 edition weighs in at a whopping 916 pages.
This is the guide that budget travelers should search out, although it's not really a "shoestring" guide to the cheapest places: Europe has gotten expensive. 1328 pages.
Famous travel guru Rick Steves gives his recommendations for the best places to visit on a European trip, including hotels and restaurants for each destination. This book is not a complete guide to European countries, only the places recommended by Mr. Steves. 1488 pages.
This highly rated guide to the basics of travel in Europe for the first time traveler (aimed at the budget conscious) is what you might need if you haven't been before. It's a slimmer guide than most of the others on this page, weighing in at 352 pages, so it's easier to carry around if you decide to do this. Not a lot of information on those out of the way places, this is a basic planning guide for the things a first-time traveler has to see and do, like packing, gathering the required documents, etc. If you're unsure of all the things you have to do before you go, this guide is for you.
Another Rick Steves recommendation, he calls this "The Travel Skills Handbook for Independent Travelers". In this book, he recommends places somewhat off the beaten track or a little less touristy than in the previous book. It's 784 pages, but you can buy the Kindle edition.
The Rough Guides aren't for backpackers, but for the middle of the road folks who want to get the most value out of a vacation. It's not all about being cheap, you know. Readers like the maps, climate data, and extensive eating out and lodging recommendations.
Planning on riding the rails in Europe? Here's your guide to the destinations in Europe served by Europe's extensive rail network. A Kindle edition is available.