Author Canadian Diva
Planning any vacation involving kids can be stressful! The stress is even more intense when it involves planning a Walt Disney World vacation with children. The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020 has YOU covered (cover to cover). And here, I explain 20 reasons why you need this guide for your Walt Disney World trip. Stay tuned until the end to read about our awesome GIVEAWAY!
- “Unofficial” reasons…
With over 6 Million total The Unofficial Guides sold, The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World (the BIG BOOK) is THE GUIDE that many vacationers to Walt Disney World turn to. It has the most comprehensive and knowledgeable information about Walt Disney World. They are “Unofficial” as they are in no way affiliated with the Walt Disney World Company so you get the most HONEST reviews and input. The Unofficial Guides has their “BIG BOOK”, the main book and the most popular one! They also published these incredible guides as well: The Unofficial Guides to Disneyland, Disney Cruise Lines, Universal Orlando and THIS book I am reviewing, The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020
- Why there is a separate Kids’ Book…
The main book which is almost 800 pages, is their “cornerstone” book. However, because traveling with kids to Walt Disney World would require so much additional information, they created a whole separate resource for parents with great tips geared for families.
Although I have purchased the BIG guide almost every year, this is the very first time to have the Kids’ guide and let me tell you, it’s not a small guide “in addition” to or just complementing the “Big” one. I was shocked at how huge this guide is alone. With just over 500 pages, it is packed FULL of information that any parent or caregiver traveling to Walt Disney World, seriously needs.
- The Experts – Authors
Bob Sehlinger is the expert of all things Walt Disney World. He is also the author of The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World (the Big Book). Throughout the Kid’s guide, I enjoyed his tips which seem more personalized and personable than seen in the Big Book (which has great general “Unofficial Tips”).
Liliane Opsomer is the other main author of The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020 She is a wealth of knowledge on how to vacation anywhere with children as she is a mom herself. I still remember from many years ago when she contributed tips seen in the “Big” Book, so it’s incredible that all of her expertise is in this separate book for traveling with children. Throughout this guide, the expert tips you read of hers, are truly invaluable with information you may never even thought of before.
Liliane Opsomer is also the Marketing and Media Relations for The Unofficial Guides.
And Len Testa, who is also the co-author of the “Big Book” and the statistical genius behind TouringPlans.com This site is what they call your “concierge” and a great “real-time” way to complement all The Unofficial Guide books including daily crowd calendars, waits in line (our family LOVES their Line App), revamping your touring plan schedule on the spot and so much more. To see an example of “concierge” level service, read Soarin’ Diva’s article here about their reservation finder, it is the BEST!
- Tips from REAL KIDS who are experts as well!
Who better to know how a kid would think, react or like certain aspects of a Walt Disney World Vacation than KIDS themselves! The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020 calls them “Personal Trainers” and they definitely are. These bright, brilliant kids ages range from 7 – 12 years old. Their names are Felicity, Isabelle, Lucy, Sabrina, A.J. and Brendan. You can read their biographies on pages 3 – 4 of the guide. And throughout the entire guide, I wholeheartedly enjoyed reading their tips from them related to different sections and topics. Reading their experiences are at many times so endearing and other times super honest (especially if they did not like something) and it helps parents get a sense of what they might expect from their own children experiencing Walt Disney Word.
(Felicity: When my kid was exactly your age, she totally agreed with your Rock n Rollercoaster Attraction sentiment. Yikes!)
- WAIT there’s MORE… EXPERTS
Oh yes, The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020 as well as all the other Unofficial Guides don’t just stop there! There are even more experts adding value of knowledge to parents. Expert input includes Jim Hill, a true Disney History buff that is an encyclopedia of Disney Film as well as history of the Disney Theme Parks, he provides wonderful neat facts in this guide.
This guide also has experts, like child psychologist Dr. Karen Turnbow giving sound advice to parents on how to handle children’s disposition during their vacation. As well as health and science writer Avery Hurt on how to avoid sunburn and what to do when you get a sunburn.
- Reader’s Comments
I have mentioned in other reviews of The Unofficial Guides how the readers’ comments are as informative and hilariously witty as the authors themselves. You get REAL reviews throughout the book from parents. What I respect most is how The Unofficial Guides listens to their readers and how even if a reader doesn’t agree with the authors, The Unofficial Guides still prints their comments, as long as they deem it would help other fellow readers.
BRAVO The Unofficial Guide team for always having our backs!
- Layout of the Guide
Planning a Walt Disney World vacation seems extremely overwhelming and seeing this guide at first may make it more inundated, however this guide is divided so well in user friendly sections. You don’t need to read this guide cover to cover if you have time constraints. Head over to the Table of Contents which lists main parts and then sub-divided parts to help you narrow down what you would like to know. There is a whole alphabetically index at the back of the guide for anything specific you are researching. There are also easy to follow Touring Plans** in the back that you can cut out and tailor for each day of your vacay.
Although mammoth in size with tips from so many of the above experts, it lightens up (pun intended) with the humor and wit of the authors. This makes this textbook-like guide actually FUN to read! You will have many ha ha or LOL moments reading this book. I had to remind myself not to drink coffee while reading this guide for fear of spitting it out.
My favorites from this guide:
“When all Els(a) Fails”, the “evil teacups”, pressure chamber dining, what would redefine family values, “the mother of all charging stations” and the light poking fun of both authors’ Bob and Liliane.
- Saving YOU Time
Did you know that The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020 can save you up to 4 hours of standing in line PER DAY! Yep! And I am one of the many (that’s over 500 000 families) that have tried their “field tested” touring plans and can personally say, IT WORKS! From the good ole’ days of the defunct paper Fastpass system to the current and new technological Fastpass+ system, these guides have always taught potential visitors how best to utilize the Fastpass system to work in your favour. They tell you how to have minimal wait times for popular attractions (Disney speak for “rides”) when you couldn’t get a Fastpass+ and which attractions or shows are better to skip or worth to wait. They will also give you a specific time frame of how long you should wait if you need to, and how to avoid bottlenecks in order to maximize your vacation…….time!
- Saving YOU Money
Since the The Unofficial Guides are not affiliated with the Walt Disney World Company, the team cares about saving YOU money. As mentioned above, they save you time which is money itself. They also give tips on how to get the best package deal for you, a comprehensive guide on the best places to stay, let you know if the Dining Plan is worth it and rates as well as tell you which eateries (quick or table service) are the best value. They also have so many other money saving tips throughout this guide.
- Brutally HONEST about Kids on Vacation
You’ve seen the sweet family vacation commercials and advertisements with happy smiling children with equally ecstatic parents. Yet The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020 tells it like it is. Kids and parents have melt downs on vacation especially in a stimulating and intense place like Walt Disney World. This guide will tell you how best to avoid tantrums from all members of the family by giving you advice on when to take breaks. What to expect, even when you were not expecting something to happen at Walt Disney World as well as the logistics of mentally, emotionally and physically preparing all aspects before your vacation. They even tell you what you and your family should wear to be at your utmost best and comfortable in a very, often times uncomfortable environment.
My favorite line from this book is like a motto on life:
“Good luck is when preparation meets opportunity” page 190
- Walt Disney World for kids of ALL ages
This may surprise you, given how honest The Unofficial Guides are. They encourage visiting Walt Disney World for kids of ALL ages from 0 to Teens and beyond (tips in this guide also include Grandparents in mind).
Going along with the theme of Preparation is Everything, Parents with children of any age will have a fantastic vacation. They do mention an “ideal” age but you would just have to read this guide to find out.
Diva Tip: I have traveled to Disney World with my kids from 6 months all the way to the teen years and I agree with all they say in this guide, that there is something for every age group to see and experience.
- Unmagical to Magical
As mentioned above, The Unofficial Guides philosophy of having good luck with preparation happens with this one MAJOR tip. And I believe many, many Disney Trip Planners and Travel Bloggers have adopted this tip from The Unofficial Guides – it is to arrive EARLY EARLY EARLY to the Theme parks, take an afternoon break and then go back to the parks in the evening. It may seem unmagical to wake up at an ungodly hour with kids but trust them, by following their many tips like when to arrive at the theme parks, if free resort extra magic hours are beneficial to your Touring Plan and if the extra magic hours with additional park hour costs at are worth it. All of their advice will turn something that seems unmagical, magical!
This also goes for REST days, not having FOMO and really “letting it go” as Elsa would say/sing!
- Section for MOMs
This guide is for all Parents and Caregivers, however there are particular sections as well as tips throughout the book that speaks to Expectant Moms and Nursing Moms.
The authors give great advice for Expectant Moms, like which attractions to definitely avoid, how to take it easy and even why you need to wear a maternity belt.
For breastfeeding moms, this book informs you of where you can nurse comfortably, the quiet places to nurse and a great tip of the best attraction to nurse on! And I learned from this particular guide that Florida is the FIRST state to protect breastfeeding in public. As a nursing mom myself, I cannot tell you enough how much it means to be in a SAFE place where I am allowed to breastfeed wherever I want in Walt Disney World. As Liliane Opsomer mentions about the Baby Care Centres in the Disney World, I can attest to how comfortable and comforting these centres are for Breastfed AND Bottle Fed babies (the quiet room with the rocking chairs are soooooo relaxing and comfy!)
What sets all The Unofficial Guides apart from other travel guides about Walt Disney World, is their extensive review of where to stay IN the Walt Disney World Resort and outside Walt Disney World, which in some cases, the non-Walt Disney World hotels may be closer to some theme parks and Disney Springs than the Walt Disney World Resorts themselves.
There is a dizzying array of resorts and types of resorts to choose from which The Unofficial Guides breaks down for you. For the Official Walt Disney World Resorts, The Unofficial Guides provides a Strengths and Weakness section for each resort along with general information about each one and additional information like which resort will have more kid-friendly appeal and which has better amenities for your family’s needs. One thing I do like that the “BIG Book” has that the The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020 doesn’t, is the best specific rooms they recommend in each resort (they have practically stayed in EVERY room at Walt Disney World). However, if you go to the TouringPlans.com they provide this information for you and they can even fax a room request on your behalf (though not guaranteed you will get it).
For Resorts outside Disney, read about which one is the authors’ favorite, which one The Unofficial Guides’ readers favourite is and which hotel is “more elegant than any Disney resort”.
Being distracted by all of the prepping and planning, we almost forget what the main star is…… the ATTRACTIONS of course!
Although descriptions of each attraction is as to the point and brief as possible**, each attraction is explained in wonderful detail with their own star ratings for each age group (including Seniors!) what time of day is best to visit, duration of ride and other ratings that will help you make the most of your trip. They have great input from their “personal trainers” (the amazing Kid Contributors) with extra bonus tips from both Liliane Opsomer and Bob Sehlinger. What I enjoyed in this guide which is not in the BIG book, are the MOVIE TIPS! I like how they explain which ride relates to which Disney movie to help prepare your family to enjoy the details of the attraction more. The “family” icons for the attractions lets readers know which ones are best for everyone in general.
**you know an attraction is a true headliner when The Unofficial Guides needs more than a page to explain all you need to know in anticipation for an attraction. In the The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020 provides 2 ½ pages of information on Avatar Flight of Passage (my personal favorite attraction). And although they have detailed information on Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, at press time it is not open yet at Walt Disney World. I’m sure once they experience and know more about these attractions, their descriptions in their guides will be much longer (check out their blog posts on their site and on Touring Plans to get up to the minute information). However, nothing has yet to match the most epic attraction description in all The Unofficial Guides – the 5 page description of “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” seen in Seth Kubersky’s The Unofficial Guide, Universal Orlando see below. Let’s see if Star Wars, Galaxy Edges’ attractions can surpass this in future editions!
- Up to Date Information
It must be a challenge to have up to date information in printed books of colossal size as the The Unofficial Guide books. And yet this team is able to gather as much current info as possible and place useful and even predict accurately what will happen with future attractions happening in that year. Disney World is always full of surprises; their hours of operations, added extra magic hours, proposed new attractions opening dates and weather. Although the The Unofficial Guides cannot predict the weather (though they do offer advice on how to prepare for it and which season has certain temperaments) their predictions are spot on.
Again, subscribe to their TouringPlans.com online. When you type in your vacation date, you receive an email when changes are being made at Walt Disney World (this relieves the work you may have to do to constantly check the Walt Disney World website). I am so impressed receiving emails from them of when the opening times have changed, if extra magic hours were added, which attractions may be closed and if crowd calendar forecast has changed higher or lower all during my upcoming vacation dates. This really helps me to go back to the “books” and alter my plans to enhance my vacation even more. And while you are on vacation, they have day to day predictions of lines, which attractions still have fastpasses available for, which attraction is down and altering your planned virtual Touring Plan on the spot!
- *Touring Plans
The Unofficial Guide really put the “tour” in Touring Plans. They are experts in how to make the most of your TOUR in all the Theme Parks and waterparks. By reading their attraction ratings and wait time advice, following their philosophy of EARLY arrivals to the parks and how to Tour throughout the day coupled with the above mentioned TouringPlans.com and Lines App, you will have a successful and happy vacation. They have their great cut out Touring Plans at the back of each of their Guides. In this particular guide, they include Touring Plans for EACH park, specifically for families which you will not see in their other guides. They even have a “sleepy head” guide if you and/or your family are NOT morning people (they get it). Their Touring Plans has alternative choices for how many days you are visiting a park and tailor it to when you are able to visit. They also include age group specific touring plans and in their BIG BOOK, multi-generational plans.
Diva Tip: cut out the guides and place them in a small Ziploc bag to take to the parks with you and you can cross off what you have completed. You can also laminate them as well. This is all to prevent the guides from getting wet. The app is wonderful as well but in case you are more of a pen and paper person or want to see an overview using the cut out pages from the book.
Food at Walt Disney World has become as popular as the Attractions themselves. And the The Unofficial Guide team are true FOODIES! In all their guides, I truly enjoy reading about their culinary adventures. They have a great rating system for EACH and EVERY eatery you will find in the Theme Parks and Resort, they rate the value, portion and size. They explain which eateries are Quick Service and which are Table Service and the kind of table service you and your family will expect.
They list their favourite counter service restaurants in each park, the best Character meals your children will enjoy as well as places you may enjoy outside of Walt Disney World. They explain how “fast food” is not just Burgers and Fries (although they tell you where to get the best ones at Disney World). And mouth-watering descriptions of the most popular dishes, drinks and desserts as well as snacks (love Liliane Opsomer’s snack guide on page 156).
Being a technologically savvy team, page 146 of this guide is an impressive step by step lesson on how to score that Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) for very popular restaurants. It can mean “a 20th of a second or less” of your chance for “getting a table or not”. It’s that intense! But have no fear they also have a wonderful service as mentioned above here and they include a list of places where you could get a last minute dining reservation.
- Exit Strategies
There are so many other great things about this guide that I can go on forever! But I would like to choose a personal one that I feel is particularly important for parents to know.
I was really impressed with their EXIT STRATEGIES in this book. Although they include Exit Strategies along with Viewing Fireworks at the end of each theme park section in the “BIG” Book, with this Kids’ guide, they understand how much more important it is to have an Exit Plan, with children involved, at the end of the evening. They have an Exit Strategy for each park, they explain where in the park is the best place to watch the Fireworks and which exit would be most beneficial before the mass exodus of visitors leave the park. They explain the best mode of transportation that would be best for families.
The reason why this particular section is important for myself, personally, is because I wish I had read these Exit Strategies before our family vacations. We have been caught up in the mass exodus many times before and if I had read these Exit Strategies in the past, it would have made our exiting the parks much better.
As the famous old saying goes,
“A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, a foolish one learns from his own.”
- Universal Orlando & Sea World
I added this bonus reason because Universal Orlando and Sea World are obviously not part of Walt Disney World. However, in this guide, it includes a wonderful section with tips and Touring Plans as well as places to stay in and around Universal Orlando and Sea World. The tips are geared for families however if your family is considering visiting Universal Orlando and Sea World, I would strongly suggest for you to also purchase the The Unofficial Guide, Universal Orlando by Seth Kubersky. I had the pleasure of reviewing this guide a couple years ago here, and I must say, it really made me see outside the “Disney” bubble. There are so many things for families to do at Universal Orlando. Our family really wants to visit Universal Orlando after reading Seth Kubersky’s book.
Now for the BIG question, should you buy the “Big Book” or this Guide the The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020?
If you only have a month or two to plan, I would purchase the Kids’ Guide and get a Touring Plans subscription to complement your last minute vacation. There will be enough information for you to plan within a shorter time period.
If you have ½ a year to a year or more to plan, definitely try to invest in BOTH books. I really like the Big Guide and although there may be some similar information between the two Guides, the Kids’ guide does have more information regarding how to vacation to WDW with kids and the BIG Guide has additional information about Walt Disney World in general. And don’t forget, when you purchase a guide you get a discount on the Touring Plans Subscription that will ask you for a special word/quote from the Guides.
GIVEAWAY: Would you like to win a copy of this Unofficial Guide for yourself?? Great news, we’ve partnered with the Unofficial Guides to offer one lucky Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos reader a copy of their own Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2020
First, you will need to sign up for the Unofficial Guide newsletter here.
Second, you will need to like Tips from the Disney Diva on Facebook
You will use the Rafflecopter link below to confirm your entries – additional entries are available, but the two mentioned above are mandatory to enter.
You will need to “LIKE” each of the Facebook entries for those to count. All entries will be verified. The winner will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond. The contest ends on Saturday, September 14. GOOD LUCK!
And don’t forget, we all need help planning our vacation and a Vacation Specialist will help you plan your trip as well as SAVE YOU MONEY. With this guide, our own site and a Travel Specialist like our favorite Patricia with All for Dreams Travel , she can help you make the most of your all your vacation Destinations.
Disney Diva Disclaimer: Liliane Opsomer from The Unofficial Guide Series and Keen Communications, LLC, provided me with a copy of The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World with Kids 2020. They have generously allowed ‘Tips from the Disney Diva and Devos” to give away a copy of ONE of The Unofficial Guide Series for free to our readers and fans of our site and social media. I received no other compensation for this review and my opinions are 100% entirely my own.
Copyrights of all the Photographs in this article belong to Liliane Opsomer and are being used with her permission.