35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic information for all types of WDW fans,
This review is from: The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2013 (Unofficial Guides) (Paperback)
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I consider myself a Disney World expert. I've been to Disney several times (in fact, I'm on track to have been to Disney 4 times in 14 months), stayed at most levels of hotels (value, moderate, and deluxe), read Disney World forums, blogs, Facebook groups, work as a Disney travel specialist, and I even have a large and well-traveled Disney World food blog and a Disney World family/crafting blog. I honestly expected that this book would give me no new information, would be lacking any worthwhile info with regards to the new Fantasyland expansion and associated rides, and would only have real value for those who never go to Disney, have never been, like to micro-manage their Disney time, or those who're just generally clueless about the whole Disney experience. However, I was very surprised to find information that was completely up-to-date, offered surprisingly complete evaluations of the new Fantasyland and how to tour it, and even had a wealth of useful information I put to immediate use... I brought it with me to read on the plane and in the hotel for my October 2012 trip (I just got back 2 days ago!)
This guide is complete, in some areas shockingly so, rating everything from the comfort of pillows at the hotels to bus service, even the efficiency of ride loading techniques and times... It seriously made my mind rattle. One would think such complete and well-documented information about every nuance of Disney magic would make this book a difficult-to-manage resource, but on the contrary, the layout is largely intuitive and the complete, in-depth, and highly specific index makes navigating this book supremely easy and user-friendly. Even if you can't find what you want right off in the area/chapter you thought it would/should be in, the surprisingly complete index is there to bail you out. I've seen far too many great resource books destroyed by an incomplete index, I'm so glad this isn't one of them.
What I'm sure draws a large number of people to books like this is the touring plans, and with a claim that it has the potential to cut your waits by up to 4 hours a day, this book had a lot to live up to. I have to say, while there is a fair amount of good-faith that goes into the plans (assumptions that parks are open full, normal hours, no account for extra magic hours, and the crowds are medium, at best), at their core, the plans are solid, intuitive, and correct. They very strongly resemble the plans I use for a full day at the parks (sans rope drops, I never do early mornings at any of the parks) and are what I would suggest to most anybody doing the various Disney parks included (I can't speak for what was said about Universal or Sea World, the former I haven't been to in 5 years, the latter I haven't visited ever). While I would have liked to have seen more advice on how to handle the extra magic hours, the plans are very good, among the best I've seen in these kinds of books, and they even take into account the new Fantasyland... Very impressive!
The descriptions of rides, restaurants, even the extra features at the parks, hotels, and area attractions were surprisingly complete and through, and while I usually find blurbs from readers/customers who share their experiences to be distracting or just plain obnoxious in resource books, I find them to be fairly helpful in some cases, and even those that weren't helpful I found to be entertaining and laughable (did somebody really complain that "Pirates of the Caribbean" was too intense, realistic, and uncomfortable to explain to children? And Haunted Mansion visually terrifying? LoL!) I was also glad to see that, while largely unbiased and informational, the book had no problem calling out rides/attractions as sub-par, even awful (the description of "Stitch's Great Escape!" was both unforgiving, but accurate) and highlighting the standouts. While such reviews are to varying degrees subjective, I found that how the author described the rides to largely reflect the feelings of most who visit WDW. I would say, however, that the descriptions of the rides and shows would have benefited from really emphasizing the importance of either getting in line early or getting early FastPasses... Peter Pan, for example, little mention is made during the description how if you don't make plans to do that ride in the first hour or less of park opening, the wait and FP redemption time would exceed that of even Space and Splash Mountain. Whereas they make it sound like Everest is a ride with potentially long lines due to the status of the ride in the park, when in fact the ride line moves pretty fast and even when the line is long, the wait is usually reasonable.
The other improvements I'd make would be minor... I'd provide more tips about navigating Downtown Disney as, with the complicated bus service issues that location has (was that even mentioned? I didn't see it...), getting to and from requires more planning then going to and from the parks. I'd also, just for ease of use, clump all the Disney parks, water parks, and Disney-related locations together in the book, instead of doing the Disney parks, then Universal and Sea World, then Disney's water parks. It'd just be so much easier to have all Disney all together. The only major, major omission that I could find in the book is that there is little-to-no mention of the special events at Disney, what to expect, and how to tackle them. Mickey's Halloween Party, Christmas Party, even Food and Wine, and Flower and Garden, they are included in a description of events that can occur, but almost nothing is included on what they are, what the events include, and how to navigate them, which is unfortunate, since these events require special planning of their own and need far more devoted to them then just a simple paragraph stating that they exist. My only other major complaint is that the suggestions given for the dining windows to make reservations for restaurants around Disney is grossly inaccurate. Several restaurants need reservations made way further out then was suggested, and whenever dining reservations can be made at the 180 mark, they need to be. I feel that point wasn't made in the book very well at all. And the "Disney Dish" tidbits, while interesting, seem to have a lot that is rumored, though not confirmed. Interesting, but potentially misleading for those who don't realize that what is being shared is just that... A rumor. For example, the information on a potential Cars Land is, at this time (and certainly at the time of publication) a rumor, though it's presented as if it's a confirmed and upcoming change.
In the end, the issues I have with this book are few and far between, and the value that this book brings to anybody planning a Disney trip, even if they're old hats to the Disney experience, is fabulous. For me, even with my knowledge, the in-depth, complete, and well-researched hotel guide along with the restaurant reviews and summaries are enough to recommend this book. For my last trip, as the result of this book, I tried several new places (Cosmic Rays, Sleepy Hollow, and Whispering Canyon) and found them to be outstanding and I'd have never tried them had I not read about them in this book first. The surprisingly complete plans that are included for Universal are more than functional, though perhaps not as complete as a dedicated book on the subject would be, but I know that, should I go back to Universal, I'd use this book as an outline to tackle this park. If this book is worth the yearly buy remains to be seen... I'm sure there are significant updates that will need to be made after the new area of the parks are open. The question isn't if the book adds enough each year to warrant a new version, but if the parks add enough to warrant the updates required to make this a yearly purchase, but I'm confidant that I'll be buying this periodically again down the road. Even with as much as I like to regard myself as a Disney know-it-all, there was so much in this book that was useful that I know I'll find myself referring to it before every trip and it'll be a must-bring from this point on.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 27, 2012 1:48:10 PM PST
Excellent, thorough and thoughtful review! Regarding your comment "The surprisingly complete plans that are included for Universal are more than functional, though perhaps not as complete as a dedicated book on the subject..." I just thought it was worth mentioning that the Unofficial Guide authors have another book entitled: "Beyond Disney: The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, SeaWorld & the Best of Central Florida".
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012 5:13:54 AM PST
I know they have another book on the subject, I was just hoping that by mentioning it people who are expecting a Universal-heavy trip may know they'll find functional information in here, though not as in-depth as if they'd gotten a book devoted to the subject. I'd hope that people would pick up that book you mentioned as, while I haven't read it, due to the completeness of this book, I'd imagine that one would be the best-of-the-best for Universal guidebooks. :)
Posted on Jan 16, 2013 6:28:37 PM PST
Diane M. says:
I, too, laughed at the Pirates and Haunted Mansion comments by readers. I just shook my head when I read them. Your review brought back a lot of memories of all of my planning for our (very successful because of this book) Disney trip last year and I thoroughly enjoyed your writing.
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