Some of the best memories I have start with: "When we traveled to..." (followed by: "there I bought..."). My love for travel (and culture, and shopping) made me buy a number of travelogues - not to be confused with travel guides, travelogues are travel literature or travel journals. In my humble opinion, memoires, journals and advise from fellow travellers are the best way to prepare for a trip, much better than a generalistic travel guidebook which will only drag all tourists to the same crappy places. A travelogue, plus some thorough research in the virtual 'bibles' like tripadvisor.com are more reliable than any Michelin, Lonely Planet, Frommer's or other guides written by authors who have been paid by restaurateurs/hoteliers to get good reviews.
If you plan your own itinerary before leaving, you will definitely have a more personal travel experience. Of course travel guides are useful for the facts, you know "this church was built in the 17th century and it has a baroque style, it was built by blah, blah, blah...", but that's it. If you want the fun story (like "they say the architect was having an affair with the rich guy's wife" or things like that) you should hire a local guide or do some research on the internet before leaving.
I love the feeling I get after I book a trip, I spend days and days (months and months) doing research of everything about the place I'm travelling to: hotels, food, monuments, shops, history, etc. trying to avoid tourist traps and artificial experiences. I think it is unbelievable (negatively speaking) that in the 21st century there are still people who travel and don't have a clue of the place they're visiting. They come to Italy and eat at McDonalds, why?!?
So, useful advice (one of my few): do some travel research before going anywhere, it'll save you time, money and it will also give you a more realistic idea of the place you're visiting in which I'm sure there's much more than boring museums, expensive restaurants and anonymous hotels filled with people reading the same travel guides; so, take tons of pictures, get lost in the streets, eat everything (your stomach can handle), buy everything and enjoy!