MouseJunkies! (second edition) by Bill Burke This isn’t as much of a guide as it is giving you permission to be goofy. Or Donald Duck. Bill relates hilarious anecdotes about favorite Disney foods, his “love affair” with the tv announcer and his not-so-secret addiction to all things Disney. The segment about drinking around the world (at Epcot) was epic. This was more entertainment than guidebook. My husband also read Disney After Dark and told me it was really funny but definitely not suitable for kids.
Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World These people have got it down to a science. If you can only buy/borrow one guidebook, this should be it, or perhaps their “with kids” version.
Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness This book relates back story and details about the history of the four park’s design and architecture. This book is great for fans of “behind the scenes” and the “making of” extras in DVDs. She gives specific instructions for looking for these hidden gems. A supplemental guide, not recommended as your primary source of information.
I purchased the companion planner, and while it is a great souvenir/scrapbook, I now wish I had bought Passporter’s planner instead. The Hidden Magic Planner is organized by park, while the Passporter was organized by day, allowing me to put in other Orlando activities. It also has prompting questions like “what was the best part of your day? the worst?” I have a copy I bought back in 2004 that I packed with notes and memorabilia.
DK Eyewitness Travel Walt Disney World and Orlando These guides get outdated quickly. This one from 2012 doesn’t have any of the new Fantasyland information. The description of rides is sketchy at most, and the maps are vague. The edition I’m reading doesn’t even have a map of Islands of Adventure. It does have some great photos, something DK is famous for.
Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World For Kids This is written for kids, I would say the average 8-10 year old would enjoy this simple and straightforward book to include them in on the planning. My 13-year-old daughter was not so impressed.
Fodor’s Walt Disney World with Kids If you like planning a trip to a resort like an expedition to Kilimanjaro and you’re bringing along your kids, this is the book for you. It rates each ride on its scare factor, which is important if you’ve ever lost the trust of your child at the beginning of a long week of rides. Our daughter was afraid of dinosaurs for years after a few misjudged rides. Good maps, good index. I don’t have the book in front of me and it’s possible I’ve got it mixed up with another I’ve read, but I think this was the one that suggested training for going like it was an olympic event, building up to walking with your family for ten miles a day.
Since all of these printed guides go out of date (most of the ones that are labeled 2013 were written in 2011 and published in 2012), it is good to update with apps and websites. There are thousands of small blogs dedicated to the sport of Disney vacations. I enjoyed WDWprepschool.com. There’s the official website, which has improved since I used it in 2009. They now have a way to store an itinerary, reservations and other details in one place and share it with the rest of your traveling party, and it is connected to a mobile App called “my Disney Experience”. Strangely enough, there’s no spot to include your plans to go to Universal or Sea World. ; )
You can get Facebook updates from Disney, the Unofficial Guide and other large blogs.
My personal advice for the best Disney World experience:
- dress your children in bright, memorable clothing
- wear sunscreen
- hydrate frequently
- take more breaks than you think are necessary
- pick one priority item per person per park, and make sure you do those things
- wear good shoes
- stop and look for magic
- be kind to “cast members”
- shop little and shop late
- always go to the left if there is a choice in directions
- ask about the best place to view things before picking a spot for parades and fireworks
- stop worrying about things- you’re on vacation!
- be epic
- write down funny things your kids say
- get yourself in the picture- yes, everything is amazing, but you want you and your family in the shot!
Share your Disney do’s and don’ts with me!