by JollyFrogger Diva
When asked to read 2017 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and review it for our readers, I was intrigued. I have been visiting Walt Disney World since 1994 and planning my own trips since about 2007, but never with the assistance of a planning book. Coincidentally, I had just arrived home from our latest visit to Walt Disney World when the book arrived, so I was curious to see how the advice inside would correlate with my recent experiences.
There are 20 different parts to this book. Each part addresses a planning step or provides information on a specific park or service so it’s easy to be fully informed before you ever embark on your vacation.
Part 1: Planning Before You Leave Home. The first part of this section is a great how-to guide for someone who is planning their first trip to Walt Disney World. It gives you a breakdown of everything you need to think about or do starting 12 months before your trip. It’s also a great refresher for veteran planners like me, since things can change between visits.
This section also provides useful information on deciding when to time your visit, such as average annual weather conditions, crowd levels, and information and approximate dates of special events held throughout the year like various marathons and festivals.
Part 2: Making the Most of Your Time and Money. This section include a neat chart called “What You Pay and What You Get” that shows you various options on what sort of vacation you could plan depending on the number of guests in your party and your budget (it shows options for $500, $1000, $1500, and $2000). It also covers things that save you time- FastPass+, Extra Magic Hours, the benefits of being at a park when it opens, and more.
My favorite section of Part 2 is the “Top 16 Central Florida Roller Coasters (Plus 3 More)” chart. This chart breaks down the major roller coasters by type, length, height, inversions, speed, ride time, ride feel, and what park they’re located in . Being a roller coaster fan, I found this chart really interesting as I have ridden several of the coasters featured and it was neat to be able to see how they compare to one another.
Part 3: Accommodations. This part starts with the benefits of staying on property and the pros and cons of staying off property. It also breaks down the Resort Classification system at Walt Disney World as well as what area of the property each resort is located in. There are charts for showing the “Room-Quality Rating” for each WDW resort as well as a chart showing room diagrams by resort classification and resort. There is a big “Readers’ 2016 Resort Report Card” chart that shows each resort’s grade for room quality, check-in efficiency, quietness of room, shuttle service, pool, staff, and dining. A few pages detail each resort with their pros and cons as well as some reviews of off-property resorts. There is also a section on travel packages and the dining plans options and how to decide if they’re right for you. There is a wealth of information to digest in this section, and I can see how it could become overwhelming for someone who was traveling to the area for the first time and didn’t really know where they wanted to stay. As a seasoned Disney traveler, I find the breakdowns of each WDW resort interesting, though I didn’t always agree with the writers’ opinions on the resorts.
Part 4: Dining In and Around Walt Disney World. This section starts with information about restaurants off Disney property, such as the Universal Citywalk area. It then gives a breakdown of Walt Disney World’s Advance Reservation system for dining on-property as well as tips on how to get ADRs for some of the most popular spots. There is also a section on dress codes, noise, food allergies and special requests.
The next section is full of suggestions about dining at each park. There is a section that details all of the counter-service locations by park and gives a rating for food quality, value, portion size, and reader opinion. After that is a section on full-service restaurants with the same information. This part would be extremely helpful to someone who wasn’t familiar with the dining options at WDW because it contains reviews as well as menu recommendations.
Part 5: Walt Disney World With Kids. This part is all about how to plan for a vacation with children. It suggests the best times to visit, planning midday breaks (a tip I would highly recommend following), how to set expectations for behavior, and using strollers. It also gives you other things to think about such as avoiding overheating, sunburn, dehydration, and blisters. It also has a section on the scary but necessary topic of lost children including how kids get lost, where parents should go to report them, and things parents can do to include their contact information on their child.
There is also a section in this part about the things that might scare kids and there is a “Small-Child Fright-Potential” chart that talks about each attraction by park and how likely it is or is not to scare kids 3-7. There is also a useful chart with minimum height restrictions for each ride.
Part 5 also talks about Character Dining, which might be useful information even to those not traveling with children. It covers what to expect, when to go, how to choose a character meal and even has a chart that ranks character meals by setting, food variety and quality, noise level, and character-guest ratio. Topics including babysitting, special programs for children, celebrating birthdays and special occasions are also covered in this part.
Part 6: Special Tips for Special People. This part contains tips for traveling as a single or couple, for guests of larger size, for expectant mothers (this part was most interesting to me as I just recently traveled to WDW while 6 months pregnant), and seniors. There is also a section on Guests with special needs that covers physical disabilities, dietary restrictions and allergies, and non-apparent disabilities.
Part 7: Arriving and Getting Around. This part includes directions to WDW, information about airports in the Orlando and surrounding areas, and how to get to WDW from the airport. The Magic Express is discussed in detail, as is renting a car and the things you need to consider if you choose to do that. There are maps, things you need to know about driving to the theme parks, and a chart that shows commuting times to and from Disney Resorts and parks. They also cover your options for Disney provided transportation around property as well as alternative options such as taxis and Uber.
Part 8: Bare Necessities. This section covers a variety of topics such as money, problems and unusual situations such as car trouble and medical matters, bad weather, lodging a complaint, and services offered such as messages and pet care. There is also a section called “Excuse Me, But Where Can I Find…” that covers things like charging stations, lockers, package pick-up, camera centers, and grocery stores and delivery services.
Parts 9-12 Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Anything you could want to know about one of Disney World’s 4 theme parks can be found in these parts. They have all attractions listed with an overall rating and appeal by age as well as information on what it is and when to go. There is also information on parades and special events.
Parts 13-15: Universal Orlando, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida. Even though the name of the book is the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, the authors are kind enough to provide information on other theme parks in the Orlando area. Anything you want to know about the Universal area can be found in these sections. I really liked their inclusion these parks as we have been discussing visiting them on an upcoming trip and this was a good source of honest information about them.
Part 16: Seaworld Orlando. Once again, the authors have provided helpful information on a nearby theme park, including information about shows and attractions offered there.
Part 17: The Water Parks. Anything you could want to know about Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon can be found here including a list of attractions with description and minimum height requirements, as well as a map of each park. Staying true to form, the authors include information about competing parks as well- Universal’s Volcano Bay and Aquatica by Seaworld.
Part 18: Behind-the-Scenes and VIP tours at Walt Disney World. If you’re interested in checking out the inner workings of Walt Disney World, this is the section for you. There is a great chart that shows all the behind-the-scenes tours, their length, cost, minimum age, focus, and the days they’re available. You can also read about the various VIP tours offered.
Part 19: Disney Springs, Universal Citywalk, Shopping, and Nightlife. There is so much more to the Central Florida area than just theme parks. In this section you can find out about some of the other amenities available. There is a detailed map of Disney Springs as well as information about stores you can find there. You can also find out about the nightlife offerings at Disney Springs and Citywalk in this section.
Part 20: Recreation, Sports, and Spas. In this section you can find information on Run Disney races, golf, the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, miniature golf, and spa in the Disney area (both on and off property). If relaxation is your idea of a vacation, this is the section you’ll want to be sure and read.
If you have a question about anything pertaining to planning a trip to Central Florida, this book probably covers it. Not only does it give a great in-depth breakdown of all of Walt Disney property, it has information on Universal and Sea World as well. In fact, it was a bit difficult for me to read the book from cover to cover because there was so much information I found it be overwhelming.
My first observation was that the book is huge! At 840 pages in length, this isn’t a book I could see myself carrying around with me for easy reference during my trip. Luckily, the writers recognize that and include some removable sections in the back that have everything from suggested touring plans to alphabetical listings of each park’s attractions with a recommended visitation time and author rating. The authors of this book also run Touring Plans for those readers like me who prefer to have online access to useful information while traveling. I had actually used Touring Plans’ website to create a customized itinerary while planning my most recent visit. I was interested to learn that I had already used some of the advice in this book without even realizing it.
My second observation was that I really liked the objective tone the authors took while writing this guide. They aren’t afraid to point out flaws of something Disney related such as the “complicated rules and procedures” of the FastPass+ system. The authors include reader feedback as well as their own observations and research in a way that really made me feel like I was getting honest advice that wasn’t secretly bankrolled by someone who had a vested interest in me visiting and spending money on Disney property.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone planning a trip to Walt Disney World or the surrounding area. It may not be something you want to read from cover to cover unless you really love details, but it’s a great source of information when you’re looking for guidance on specific topics.
So how do you get your own copy of the 2017 Edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World? Well, you can order it on Amazon.com here, or thanks to the generosity of The Unofficial Guide and Liliane Opsomer, you also have a chance to WIN a copy of ANY of the Unofficial Guide books!!! So how do you enter? Just scroll down to the Rafflecopter link below and click on it to enter. Good luck!!
***Disclaimer*** I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed are my own, honest opinions.
All of the copyrights for the photographs used in his article belong to Liliane Opsomer and are being used with her permission.
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