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The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2003 (Unofficial Guides) Paperback – August 22, 2002
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In their "Declaration of Independence" the authors and researchers of this guide swear their allegiance to you, the consumer. "If a restaurant serves bad food, or a gift item is overpriced, or a certain ride isn't worth the wait, we can say so, and in the process we hope to make your visit more fun, efficient, and economical." And because they've found that "spontaneity and self-discovery work about as well at Walt Disney World as they do on your tax return," The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is packed full of essential advice for anyone braving the frontiers of the mother of all theme parks.
To help you decide what's most important for you and your family to see, each attraction is described in detail and ranked for different age groups based on interviews with more than 9,000 families. The book also covers when to go, pros and cons of lodging outside "the World," hotel and restaurant ratings, field-tested itineraries, tips and warnings, planning strategies, and how to meet Disney characters. Humorous writing accompanied by cartoonist Tami Knight's satiric insights make this guide fun to read. Parks covered include The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom, The Disney-MGM Studios, Universal Studios Florida, Sea World, area water theme parks, and a section called "Beyond the Parks," which delves into other various Disney offerings like golf (mini and maxi), a speedway, and Discovery Island. --Kathryn True --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"In the Disney world, there is one source of information revered and trusted above all others. (The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World)."
―Paul Gauder, WDW Family Style.
"If you're looking for a reliable guidebook, the leader is the Unofficial series."
―The Mail (London)
"A Tourist's Best Friend!"
―The New York Times
"The Unofficial Guide is, without question, one of the best Disney travel guides available."
Top customer reviews
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The Unofficial Guide writers have a particular sense of humor, so make sure you read the introduction first--they care a lot about The World, but don't take it, or themselves, too seriously. This is not the "everybody happy all the time" Disney guide book like so many others you could buy--if an attraction is not worth your time, they will tell you. They have a loving, but critical eye on the mouse that's refreshing in a world of brochures and official videos full of people with cruise-ship commercial smiles on their faces. Keep in mind that their angle is logistics and touring strategy--most of the descriptions are brief, combined with reader ratings, author ratings, and they often throw in a dissenting opinion via a reader comment set off in blue. Then they'll tell you when the best times are to experience that attraction and some common pitfalls to avoid. Sometimes it seems like they tell you to see every attraction before 10 or within 2 hours of closing, but of course that's not actually possible, and it can sound pretty alarmist at times. Keep in mind that they are writing this book for everyone visiting WDW in the middle of high summer as well as those going during slower times of the year, so keep your particular circumstance in mind. If you read this book you will be VERY prepared for Disney, just don't let it make you anxious. Read it, be aware of the things that you really want to do and want to avoid, do your planning and scheduling ahead of time, then relax on your vacation knowing that everything is taken care of. Also, this is a very large book--discussion of the parks and attractions don't even start until page 500. It's meant for reference, so read the introduction then leaf through the rest of it for the information you need at the time. I'd definitely recommend looking through the first 100 pages on planning since that will help you know what to schedule and when, then you can look through the rest as needed.
The biggest benefit to the Unofficial Guide is the touring plans--there are standard-tear out copies in the back for all of the parks, and there are more customizable versions online where you can remove what you don't want to do and add in what you want to do, then their system will optimize the plan so you hit everything at the right time for shorter lines and it will even tell suggest what times to schedule your fastpass+ options for what rides, which I find very helpful. If you already have FP+ times scheduled, just plug them in and it will work around them. Then once you have it all set, you can either print our your plan, or download the app to your smartphone and tick off the steps and readjust as you go. Especially if you get off-plan, you can re-optimize on the go and it will still save you time in line. And it WILL save time! You just have to commit to getting there ahead of the crowd and knocking out some of the headliners first, you don't even have to rush. I've tried it and it totally works. However, the fewer people (and the fewer children) you have in your party will affect how quickly you can move through the parks--your mileage may vary. NOTE: full use of the website and the app require a subscription, usually ~$10-12 for a year and there are plenty of discounts to be had, including one for buying the book. Another huge benefit to the website is a well-researched crowd calendar that can help you decide when to visit, and even what parks to visit on what days.
There are metric tons of information on Disney to be found in books and online but these are the only guys who do touring plans and crowd calendars in an exact, researched manner that is truly helpful for decision making and not just general suggestions. These are the researchers and the number-crunchers, and they have laid in a lot of hours and their own dollars (they are not affiliated with the Disney Company in any way) in order to equip readers with complete information before and during their Disney vacation. It can be overwhelming, and you will probably have a great Disney vacation even if you don't plan a bit. But with the My Magic+ system, more and more Disney is requiring pre-planning for popular experiences--dining, rides, meet & greets--that make your expensive Disney vacation really special, and so you don't miss out. If you want to meet Anna and Elsa, if you want to eat in the Be Our Guest Restaurant, if you want to ride Soarin' without waiting for an hour--you really need to pre-plan, and this book is the best way to be aware of all the options and get all your ducks in a row. Seriously, it's the best way to get as much value out of your Disney vacation as possible, just don't let it make you crazy.
Families have two great options when planning a WDW vacation: use a respected travel agent or resources like this book. Those that prefer to make the decisions themselves will appreciate what this book offers. Those that are overwhelmed by all the choices will likely find a travel agent most helpful. A travel agent can help find deals better and they can also use their clout if something goes wrong while you are on your vacation in Florida. But this book gives you all you need to plan out your day, which rides to go on and when, and how to make the most of the trip once you are there. If anything, a travel agent AND this book are a great way to ensure a really successful and less stressful trip. But I have admittedly never needed a travel agent and really prefer to do all the planning myself so I can tailor it most effectively to what I want to get out of my vacation.
I bought my first Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World back in 1993 for a honeymoon trip. The information from that earlier edition was incredibly valuable - it helped me save time and money and made the vacation that much better as a result. I learned how to avoid long wait times for attractions as well as which restaurants are worth my time and which are not. Now, returning for the first time since 1993, it was a no brainer to get this book. I have to say that the difference between then and now is social media: I can youtube to see walking tours of the resorts and what the rooms look like as well as go on Facebook forums like the Walt Disney World Insider to ask questions in real time and get immediate answers and opinions. Anything the book doesn't cover I can find out immediately in a forum or video. As well, just following Vloggers as they visit the Parks really helps me decide which rides to Fast Pass and how to navigate/enjoy the Walt Disney World Experience.
As in 1993, my 2018 trip was a success thanks in no small part to having purchased and read this book. Since I was going with my niece and nephew, I also purchased the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World With Kids, which had a bit more information on caring for and keeping young ones happy. Considering the cost of the vacation and how things can get very expensive, time consuming, stressful, or unhappy fast, this is probably the best dollars I've ever put into a vacation.
Of note is that those who want more personalized attention can subscribe to the book's online sight for ten dollars or so. It gives you a planning countdown to-do list, at the moment crowd estimates, ability to fax your resort in advance for room requests (as well as room pictures), and more. You get email updates when park opening hours change, rides are closed, and more. You definitely don't need to spend the money on the upgrade since the Facebook forums are so useful for asking questions and because the website feels primitive and can be difficult to use. I did get some use out of that ten dollars but learned a lot more from the Facebook forums, to be honest.
I used the guide to plan my five night, four and half day vacation. I spent a day each at Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and a day and a half at the Magic Kingdom. I was able to see and do almost everything I wanted without exhausting myself. From selecting the right hotel to deciding where to eat to figuring out which attractions where must sees, this guide was worth every penny. Indeed, without this guide, I would have missed out on a few attractions which were highlights of my trip.
I'm a planner by nature, and a great believer in efficiency. This guide suited my personality perfectly and led me to maximize my entire experience.
If my review was helpful, please click "yes"!