The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger with Len Testa
I have never been to Walt Disney World. I have been to Walt Disney Land. I believe there’s footage in my family’s vast archives of me riding an attraction and looking surprisingly surly for a baby. As I became more and more of a Disney fan, my wish to visit Walt Disney World grew. When I stumbled across The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2009 at one of my local thrift stores, I realized it was a sign. It was time to hunker down and plan the trip.
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2009 is exactly what it says on the tin, folks. It’s a behemoth of a book at 864 pages, and covers everything you could think of for planning your Walt Disney World vacation- places to stay, places to see, places to shop… pretty much everything under the sun.
This guide’s great strength is the vast number of people who contribute to the book. Not only is the research team used fairly large (to cover all demographics), but readers’ comments are published in order to give a more complete picture of attractions or hotels. Allowing the opposition a chance, if not equal time, allows the reader to get a better picture of the area as a whole. The massive research team also allows the guide to cover Orlando and even Universal Studios. Even off-site dining is covered. They have truly left no rock unturned.
The guide also deals in little known secrets among travelers, including a fairly convoluted scheme to book a character breakfast at Cinderella’s Castle. I was delighted to discover a resort at Walt Disney World for military personnel, retired military included. One section in the guide lists little known attractions around the parks, including a tribute to the recently deceased Roy Disney and a carefully planned Japanese garden. These are the sort of things that takes lots of experience to figure out, and for a family whose trip to Walt Disney World is a rare treat, it’s valuable information.
On the back of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2009, the book promises to save you “as much as four hours of standing in line in a single day”. Between twenty-five years of researchers visiting Disney, readers’ comments, and a complex computer program (which is even explained!), the researchers have deduced the best days to visit Disney, the best times to ride certain rides, so on and so forth. It dispenses plenty of common and uncommon sense–be at the park of your choice as soon as it opens, and return back to your hotel at noon to recharge, for instance. The book saves you all that time in line with their extensive Touring Plans, derived from their vast research and their computer program. These are itineraries that hit most of the main attractions in each park, telling you to head back to the hotel or break for lunch after certain attractions. The most popular are in the book, and more specialized ones are available at their website, touringplans.com.
This leads to their main point of conflict with some vacationers–they want to explore the park at will, instead of following someone else’s plan. The team advises people to simply skip attractions they don’t want to see on the itinerary that best suits them, but the plans do take into account things no lone person can–crowds on any given day, capacity and loading time of rides, and… well, you get the idea. Since people travel from all over the world to see Walt Disney World and there’s just so much to do, I think it’s best to be prepared and heed the advice of the more experienced. And The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2009 will certainly prepare you.
The team does their best to lighten up a tome of information–there’s wry remarks from the team and from readers, and occasionally something outrageous will be thrown into an attraction’s description to check if you’re still awake. It’s very dry and a little sarcastic, but if you don’t like them, they’re few enough between that you won’t mind. There’s also a handful of comics interspersed throughout the back, but they’re less successful. They remind me of nothing so much as vintage MAD Magazine comics, from the lettering to the careful avoidance of trademarks. I hope they’ll be updated someday!
The only major quibble I can come up with is consistency in rating dining around Disney–while they provide a range of prices they deem to be “inexpensive”, “moderate” or “expensive”, they tend to ignore them when giving the restaurant their price estimation. It’s also definitely a reference book, rather than a travel book you can read straight through. (Do I let that stop me? Of course not, because I am crazy.) It’s also, obviously, a little dated, meant to cover last year. While they do their best to cover attractions closing, I occasionally stumbled across interesting attractions that are now closed. It’s not a reflection on the book, of course–that’s the idea for the 2009 edition! I think I need to see if I can’t get my hands on a copy of the latest edition to plan my trip…
Bottom line: An exhaustive travel guide of Walt Disney World that will more than prepare you for anything Orlando can toss at you. Woe betide you if you don’t heed its sage advice about crowds, lines, and the Florida weather.
I bought this book at a local thrift store.