by Fairy Diva
Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler to Walt Disney World, planning is a necessity. Trips can be made or ruined by proper planning, or lack thereof. One of the greatest sources of information to use on your next trip is The Unofficial Guide books. As the owner of several versions of these books from throughout the past few years, I can vouch for their wealth of information. When given the opportunity to review The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016, I was so excited! I can never get enough information about Walt Disney World and the surrounding areas! And since each edition is updated as the parks and areas change, I knew there would be lots for me to learn and plan around.
To begin with, this book is big. Really big. In fact, this very comprehensive version, at nearly 850 pages, is referred to as the “Big Book.” It contains detailed information that will aid in creating a super vacation for anyone traveling to Walt Disney World- and even the surrounding areas and theme parks! Before we get into what all this Big Book encompasses, let me first give some information on why this book is called The Unofficial Guide. Basically, the authors and researchers are independent of Walt Disney World, Inc. This allows them to provide honest opinions and reviews and offer the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to tour Walt Disney World. If something isn’t up to par, it is discussed as such. The incorporation of reader comments is also a plus to me. I like hearing what people have to say, and The Unofficial Guides always include honest opinions from readers, who sometimes even differ in opinions or suggestions from the authors. I love that while this book is large and informative, it reads with the ease of a great book, complete with humorous touches incorporated through the writing styles and various comics dotted throughout the pages. Page 2 of the introduction lets you know right away, that this guidebook is written with a sense of humor. After all, it is important for everyone to be a little Goofy when planning and traveling to Walt Disney World!
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 is not intended to overwhelm readers. If you have questions about traveling to Walt Disney World, or even questions you didn’t think to ask, the answers rest within its many pages. However, the wealth of information may lead you into overload. Don’t let it. The job of a guidebook is to give you a heads-up regarding opportunities and potential problems. We’re certain we can help you turn a great vacation into an absolutely superb one (page 8). This book will hold more information than you will need for your trip, so just use what you need!
The introduction of this book covers an overview of Walt Disney World, including the major theme parks and Disney Cruise Line, and Universal Orlando. A map of South Orlando and Walt Disney World area is included, as well as a map specifically of Walt Disney World. But this is only the beginning- it is the introduction section, after all! The rest of the book breaks down specific topics and provides incredibly thorough information. Let’s take a look at what is covered. I recommend highlighters and book tabs to mark your favorite and most helpful parts!
Part One- Planning Before You Leave Home provides a helpful timeline of what to do beginning with up to 12 months before your travel date. Further explained in Part One is getting started with My Disney Experience, and making Fastpass+ reservations and Advance Dining Reservations. Not sure what those are? No problem- each is explained in depth! A list of recommended websites gives readers the top sites such as Best Q&A Website, Best General Unofficial Walt Disney World Website, and even Best Site for Guests with Food Allergies, etc. Of course, if you are looking for the best site with top traveling tips, I definitely recommend checking out the great articles from Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos!
Part One also provides information on when to go to Walt Disney World, including peak and off season, attendance patterns and climates. What are Extra Magic Hours and how will they impact your trip? All is explained in this section.
Part Two- Making the Most of Your Time and Money gets into how much your trip will actually cost you. Yes, the not-so-fun part. A detailed chart (pages 54-56) shows what increments from $500 to $2,000 will get you on a trip to Walt Disney World. One of my favorite parts of this section include How To Save $400 on Your Trip (page 57)! Ticket types and options, and where to purchase them, are explained in detail. What is a MagicBand and how is it used? Check out pages 67-70.
Time management is the next topic addressed. Making the most of your time at Walt Disney World is so important! Suggestions on when to arrive at parks and how to avoid bottlenecks are offered. Want to save up to 4 hours or more from waiting in line in a single day? Page 78 tells you how. This is where Touring Plans are discussed. The Unofficial Guide considers minimizing the readers’ waits in line a top priority and has spent tons of time on research, developing field-tested touring plans. Loads of information on FastPass+ is covered, further assisting in shorter waits in line.
Once you have decided when to go, how much to spend and allotted a certain number of days for your trip, it is time to choose the perfect accommodations. Part Three- Accommodations covers it all! The pros and cons of staying at a Disney property are discussed, as well as where to get deals. Diagrams of all room types are provided along with ratings for fitness centers and pools. Worried about sound outside your room or pillow comfort? There’s a chart for that on page 140, and there is also an overall “report card” chart for 2015 based on reader reviews on pages 146-147. The following pages take you into each and every resort property, providing more information than you will ever need on each resort! Maps, strengths/weaknesses, good and not-so-good rooms, dining information and more are explained, in detail, for each property.
Decided to stay off-property? The Unofficial Guide has that covered as well! Discounts and locations are discussed. We even get information on Universal’s newest accommodations at Universal’s Sapphire Falls Resort, opening later this year. The Big Book gives us even more with charts on hotel comparisons and important information (address, phone number, and website). A handy chart shows the time it takes to travel to each Disney Theme Park from both on- and off-property hotels!
Dining at Universal Citywalk and other meals outside Walt Disney World are covered in Part Four- Dining In and Around Walt Disney World. Then comes dining in Walt Disney World. As the book states, “This section aims to help you find good food without going broke or tripping over a culinary landmine.” And that is just what it does. While I personally do not agree with each and every summary/comment written, The Unofficial Guide provides both pros and cons of restaurants. The general suggestions and recommendations are a great guide for those dining at Walt Disney World. Every restaurant, Table Service and Quick Service, are reviewed in detail. The Big Book definitely delivers when it comes to dining!
Part Five-Walt Disney World with Kids begins with The Ecstasy and the Agony! How true that can be! With the suggestions offered, the agony can be greatly reduced. I couldn’t agree more with making naptime a priority (page 385), and I especially like the Stuff to Think About section beginning on page 394. Here is information on where to find First Aid, where to find things you forgot or ran out of, and the ever-so-wonderful Baby Care Centers located at the theme parks!
The topic of strollers, the official transportation inside Disney theme parks, is discussed in detail. Where to get them, where to park them, and where did they go while you were on a ride? As mentioned earlier, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016, inserts the humor with a sections like, Strollers as Lethal Weapons! Which if you have experienced this at Disney, it is a legitimate issue!
A much more serious section, Lost Children, provides suggestions on how to prevent getting separated from your child as well as what to do if it happens.
This is followed by Disney, Kids and Scary Stuff. There are some attractions and shows that can truly frighten little ones. (Speaking from experience here!) A Small-Child Fright-Potential Chart is included on pages 404-407, listing each attraction and its level of fright. Though not pertaining to children, my favorite on this list is the fright factor for Princess Fairytale Hall- Long lines may have parents running for the hills! And if I had reviewed The Unofficial Guide before our last trip, I may have recalled that Fantasmic! could “terrify some preschoolers” and I would not have had two little ones covering their faces and asking us to leave. (Despite this, it is an amazing, not-to-miss show!)
This section follows up with a height requirement chart (page 410), and waiting-line strategies for adults with young children. The Disney Characters portion provides useful information on the greatest pastime at Walt Disney World- meeting Disney characters! Ways to prepare your children to meet the characters, where to meet them, and how to dine with them are covered.
Traveling to Walt Disney World with kids is such a huge topic that it has its very own book! See what all is included in Character Diva’s review of The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World with Kids 2016 here.
Part 6- Tips for Special People includes Walt Disney World for Singles, Couples (including wedding, commitment ceremonies and vow renewal information), Expectant Mother, Seniors, and “At Large,” for people of a larger size. While these sections are not long enough alone to justify the cost of this guidebook, they are quite helpful.
The final topic in Part 6 is Walt Disney World for Guests with Special Needs. A list of equipment, services, and facilities is provided, as well as an overview of traveling as a visitor with a disability. A short write up on dietary restrictions and allergies covers the basics, along with information on obtaining a Disability Access Service card.
You have researched, planned and financially prepped for your big trip. Now you have arrived! Are you planning to drive to Walt Disney World and aren’t sure where to go? Flying in and need transportation to your hotel? Did you know there is a complimentary service provided for those staying in a Walt Disney World Resort to and from the airport to your hotel? How do you use it? All of your many arrival and transportation questions are addressed in Part Seven- Arriving and Getting Around.
Not only do you learn the ins and outs of traveling to your destination, the Big Book gives you all you need on getting around once in Walt Disney World. I absolutely love the title for the section, How to Travel Around the World (or, The Real Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride)! How hilariously appropriate! Parking information (including tips like how to get a great spot), maps, the Disney Transportation System, cab information and even sneak routes (to get you to your destination a little sooner) are included. One of my favorite charts in Part Seven lists door-to-door commuting times, and even compares time from driving your car versus using the Disney Transportation System.
Part Eight- Bare Necessities covers various topics like money, problems and unusual situations, medical matters, rain, additional services (like pet care), and photos and packages.
Part 9-12- Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is where you get in-depth information on each and every ride, attraction, parade, show and special event at the four parks at Walt Disney World. Beginning with Magic Kingdom, these sections cover the parks in great detail and include maps, suggested routes and of course, touring plans. Wondering about a specific ride? Is it appropriate for a young child, teen, or adult? The answers to those, and so much more, are here in the Big Book. I love reading through the descriptions of each attraction and the touring tips included for each one. Even though I have many, many trips to Walt Disney World under my belt, I still have not seen it all!
Want to travel outside the world of Disney and explore some of the other great theme parks in the Orlando area? The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 has you covered on that as well! Part Thirteen- Fifteen -Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida gives a great overview. Tickets, accommodations, maps, ride information are covered, as well as two parts specifically focusing on each park and all that is offered. Dining and live entertainment are discussed also. I really love the Unofficial Tips boxes, noted on various pages throughout the books. In addition to all of the great information spread throughout the book, these additional tips are the perfect side notes full of value! For example, if visiting The Wizarding World at Islands of Adventure you will not find a spot labeled “Restrooms,” instead look for “Public Conveniences”. And there is only one! Helpful tips like these can make or break a visit to the Wizarding World!
A brief (4 page) look at Seaworld Orlando and Discovery Cove is found in Part Sixteen- Seaworld Orlando. To read more about Florida’s other attractions, you can read Fancy Free Diva’s review on The Unofficial Guide to Beyond Disney here.
The first two water parks covered in Part Seventeen- The Water Parks are Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, packed full of information and water park tips. Did you know you can snorkel with the sharks at one of Disney’s water parks? Page 703 gives you all the details! As with the theme parks at Walt Disney World, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 suggests the best times to go, planning your day, and lots of other important details, such as what you can and cannot bring into the water parks. Wet ‘N Wild and Aquatica by Seaworld are briefly discussed as well.
Part Eighteen- Behind-the-Scenes and VIP Tours at Walt Disney World gives information on all tours at the various Walt Disney World Theme Parks. After reading this section, a couple of these are definitely on my to-do list!
All of your dining, shopping and nightlife questions are answered in Part Nineteen- Disney Springs, Universal Citywalk, Shopping and Nightlife. Maps, reader comments, and descriptions of each location provide details on what to expect. I especially liked the Our Favorite Free Souvenirs from Walt Disney World section on page 736!
All Recreation, Sports and Spas are covered in Part Twenty, including information on runDisney events, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Walt Disney World Golf (with an informative review of each course), miniature golf and spa rankings.
A Reader’s Questions to the Authors section answers some basic questions followed by Reader’s Comments.
Perhaps my favorite pages of all in the The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 are the Clip-Out Touring Plans pages located on pages 806 to 824 and the Clip-Out Touring Plan Companions on pages 825-832. After gathering all of the information throughout the Big Book, simply clip out the pages you need. Each clip-out page includes a map, numbered plans and tips to follow on your day. The Companion pages list the attractions (with suggested times and ratings), dining information and good rest areas in each park. They are the perfect, compact touring plans for any vacation to Walt Disney World.
Overall, I cannot think of a more perfect guidebook. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 truly covers it all. The humor dispersed throughout the massive amount of information makes this a fun and extremely helpful book for those traveling to Walt Disney World for the first time, or even seasoned travelers like myself. I look forward to applying some of the tips on our next trip, as well as trying a couple of new-to-us, highly reviewed dining locations.
The Unofficial Guide offers a smaller, compact guidebook reviewed here by Darlin’ Diva called Mini Mickey: The Pocket Sized Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.
Read The Unofficial Guide and ready to plan your next vacation? Contact our own Travel Specialist, Patricia with All for Dreams Travel! Or are you ready to join the Disney Vacation Club and experience vacations to Walt Disney World (and other great locations) for years to come? Check out DVC Resale Market for your best deals!
Interested in traveling outside of Walt Disney World? The Unofficial Guide series offers many options. Here are some additional books that have been reviewed here at Tips from the Disney Diva.
And if you want to enter our contest to win a copy of The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2016, or ANY of the books in the UG series, click here! I cannot stress enough how much simpler your vacation planning will be once you’ve read these books! Good luck!
Disney Diva Disclaimer: Liliane Opsomer from the Unofficial Guide Series provided me a copy of her book, “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016” to review for free. She has also generously allowed our site to give away another copy of another Unofficial Guide book for free to our readers. I received no other compensation for my review, and my opinions are 100% entirely my own.
Also, all of the copyrights for the photographs used in the article belong to Liliane Opsomer and are being used with her permission.