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Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2003: Expert Advice from the Inside Source Paperback – September 1, 2002
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***June '03***Well I remembered to take the book and it was a valued resourse even after all our planning. Knowing where everything was and double checking the tips made each day more enjoyable. The restaurant reviews were right on and every evening we were delighted. This book along with the cast members at WDW made our vacation top notch.
The book begins at the beginning: Getting Ready to Go gives sound advice on when to go, how to get there, various ticket options and even sample schedules for each of the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom) complete with must-see lists and tips for travelling with young children and maximizing the number of rides you get on. There are lots of color graphics, charts and tip boxes to liven things up and present material understandably. A planning timeline is oddly reminiscent of a wedding planner, with things to do 6 months before the trip, 4 months, 3 months, 1 month, 2 weeks and 1 week before. Yikes! Obviously Mickey is a better planner than me, who is grabbing a book the day before I travel and hoping to read it on the plane.
The chapter on Transportation & Accommodations (including Disney cruises) is equally thorough, and then there is a chapter for each of the parks that includes maps, attraction descriptions (and sometimes pictures), shopping and entertainment information, and a Hot Tips section which did help us out. After reading the book we hit the ground running and made good use of our time.
A hodge-podge chapter gives info about Downtown Disney, BoardWalk, Daredevil Disney, the water parks, spas, cruises and behind-the-scenes tours, and a Sports chapter covers golf, tennis, boating, fishing and swimming opportunities while you're in the area.
Finally, the chapter on restaurants reminds you that even eating within the kingdom requires planning, but all the information you'll need is here. We picked out a few restaurants we thought we'd like, and then when we got hungry we chose based on crowds and our location. I feel we made an informed decision and were happy with our food, the experience and the way our time flowed. Again, graphics and charts lay out a lot of information in a clear way.
When every detail of services and attractions is in the book, the problem becomes one of finding those details relevant to you, and this index is comprehensive but it is not exhaustive. If you want to squeeze every drop of fun from your holiday in Orlando, you will have to page through, marking and noting pertinent information.
The ten coupons, all expiry dates in December 2003, were not helpful to us, featuring food and admission breaks at Disney Quest, Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island resorts, Dive Quest, Pleasure Island and the sports complex, Fantasia Gardens, mini-golf and Dolphins in Depth, but maybe they will be handy for you.
This is a very helpful guide, well written and informative, though it could use a better index.
Whether you are a plan-weeks-in-advance traveller or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants traveller, a novice or a seasoned Disney visitor, this official handbook will help you get the most from your trip.
Birnbaum's guide was a great choice for me -- I'm a "gotta have everything organized in advance" kind of person and the detailed, accurate information in this guide helped me do everything from pick out a hotel and book a ride from the airport to organize a packing list and rough-in plans for daily itineraries. Although the guide was absolutely jammed with information it was in a very readable format with lots of color, charts and sidebars. Birnbaum's also helped walk us through a lot of the decisions -- for example we decided to splurge on a nice on-resort hotel with access to the monorail knowing we would want to spend the middle part of most days relaxing at the pool with the kids. To balance that expense, we took Birnbaum's tip and had lunches at the nicer restaraunts instead of the more expensive (and more crowded) dinners.
My husband also found Birnbaum's guide very helpful and he is more of a "let's just wing-it" sort of vacation planner. On the days he was in charge of activities he carried the Birnbaum's book with him and used it to pick restaraunts, find less crowded rides and choose activities near wherever we happened to be walking. The color-coding on the sides of the pages helped him quickly find the section of the book he wanted just as soon as he pulled it out of the bag.
By far the best feature were the sample schedules -- these helped us avoid the crowds during our vacation (Christmas week one of the most crowded times of the year). In fact, using Birnbaum's advice we got to the parks early and walked onto many rides without waiting at all. Once the parks started getting crowded we used the tips on fast passes to cut our waiting time significantly on the more popular rides.
There's lots and lots of information out there on how to plan and enjoy your Disney Vacation -- I highly recommend checking out the Disney web site (booking online can save more $$$) and buying this guide. Maybe you won't have to spend an entire semester's worth of college savings after all!
I bought the book again when we went back with my Mother in 2001 and didn't get as much out of it since not as much had changed since our last visit. So If you have "been there done that" recently, skip this book, because it won't tell you anything you don't already know, but if it's been awhile since you've been to WDW or this is your 1st time, then pick this book up so you won't miss a thing!
Have Fun! Wish I was going again this year!