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The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 Paperback – August 18, 2015
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From the Inside Flap
The 2016 edition has fabulous new trip planning tools and is completely re-organized for easier reading. Here are the highlights:
The Introduction has a new chart showing what’s new in Walt Disney World over the past 2, 5, and 10 years. If you haven’t been to Disney World in a while, these are the highlights for your next trip.
Part 1 Planning Before You Leave Home has an excellent new trip planning timeline. A vacation to Disney World is different than other places, because there’s more demand than supply for the best rides, restaurants, and hotel rooms. This new timeline shows when you can make those reservations, and where in the book to read for more information.
Part 2 Time and Money has a new chart showing how much Disney vacation your family can get for $500, $1000, $1500, and $2000. The #1 thing most families are unprepared for is the cost of a Disney trip, so this chart shows what you can get at different price points, and the tradeoffs to be made for different budgets.
Other new and updated things in Part 2 include: A new section showing how to save $400 on your trip; updates to how FastPass+ affects your wait in line at specific attractions; and the latest on Disney admission prices, including where to find the best Disney ticket discounts.
Part 3 Accommodations Includes updated reviews of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Villas, the Polynesian Village Resort and Villas, upcoming construction at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Villas; the B Resort at the Disney Springs Resort Area, and information on the new budget hotels opening at Disney’s Flamingo Crossings in 2016. We’ve also updated the best rooms to request” and room diagrams for every Disney resort.
This section also includes the new rules for Disney’s Dining Plan, spelling out Disney’s expanded policy on what counts as a snack.
Part 4 Dining We moved this section of the book toward the front, because dining is such an important part of planning your Disney vacation. We’ve got reviews of new restaurants include The Boathouse at Disney Springs and Harambe Market at the Animal Kingdom, plus updates to dozens of restaurant reviews throughout Walt Disney World.
Part 5 Walt Disney World with Kids includes new recommendations for discount stroller rental companies in Orlando. These companies offer cheaper rates than Disney for long stays, more comfortable strollers, and they’ll even drop off and pick up at your resort. We’ve also got the latest on where to meet the Disney characters at each park, and where to find the best character meals.
Part 7 Arriving and Getting Around has new reviews of the Uber and Lyft ride-sharing apps for getting around Walt Disney World and Orlando. (Spoiler alert: Uber was about half the cost of a taxi during our test trips over identical routes.) We’ve also got updates on bus transportation times between every Disney resort and theme park.
Part 9 The Magic Kingdom Includes a new chart showing when each Magic Kingdom attraction typically runs out of FastPass+ reservations during the day. This is what you need to know when you’re choosing your advance FastPass+ reservations, because it’ll show you what the high-demand rides are for you to get 2 months before your visit, and which can wait until you’re in the park. We’ve also got new dining charts, showing the Magic Kingdom’s best restaurants for counter-service and sit-down restaurants in each area.
Other new or updated features include: Our favorite new spots for watching the Wishes fireworks, news on Adventureland’s new Skipper’s Cantina restaurant, and how to navigate around the park’s parades. Our Magic Kingdom touring plans include new advice on which attractions make best use of FastPass+, and what time of day you should make those reservations. Finally, we’ve got all new behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Disney historian Jim Hill.
Part 10 Epcot As with the Magic Kingdom, the Epcot chapter includes the new day-of FastPass+ availability chart, and new dining chart showing the best restaurants in the park.
We cover the Frozen-themed attractions in Norway that open in 2016: the Frozen Ever After boat ride, and Royal Sommerhaus princess meet-and-greet. The chapter also includes updates on the closure of Innoventions West, tips on visiting The Seas at night, and whether IllumiNations is a good use of FastPass+. Jim Hill has all new anecdotes, too.
Part 11 Disney’s Animal Kingdom includes the new day-of FastPass+ availability chart, and new dining chart showing the best restaurants in the park. We’ve also got new reviews for the park’s expanded Discovery Island Trails, and lots of information on the new nighttime Rivers of Light show that opens in 2016. That show promises to expand afternoon crowds at the park, so we’ve got new tips on how to avoid traffic in the park, too. There’s also a new set of Animal Kingdom stories from Jim Hill.
Part 12 Disney’s Hollywood Studios The big news here, and it’s controversial, is that we recommend skipping the Studios on trips of 1 to 3 days. There are so many closed or outdated attractions at the park that it’s not worth your hard-earned $80 to $100 of admission. And while Disney should eventually announce formal plans for major Star Wars- and Pixar-themed expansions, it’ll take years for those to be finished. In the meantime, we suggest Universal Studios as an alternative.
If you’ve got more time on your trip, our updated Studios coverage includes the new day-of FastPass+ availability chart, and new dining chart showing the best restaurants in the park. The chapter contains a new review of For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-a-Long Celebration, plus new insider stories from Jim Hill.
Parts 13 to 15 cover the expansions at Universal Studios Florida, including the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction scheduled to open in 2016, the new, moderately-priced Sapphire Falls resort also opening in 2016. We also cover the new restaurants at Universal CityWalk: NBC Sports Grill & Brew, with an on-site microbrewery, Cowfish sushi and burgers (they’re delicious), and more. Finally, we keep you updated on the latest Harry Potter news at Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Castle.
Two more big changes to mention: We’ve consolidated all of our nightlife and shopping coverage into a single chapter covering Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk. Both Disney and Universal are putting huge amounts of money into ambitious expansion plans for these shopping/dining/entertainment complexes. We’ve unified our coverage of these into a single chapter, allowing you to see in a single place everything that’s available in each location.
We’ve also consolidated our coverage of Disney’s recreation, sports, and spa options into a new chapter, so you can see all of the options available to your family in a single place. The chapter includes new sections on runDisney, Disney’s ever-expanding lineup of family-friendly distance races, with coverage on each race and how to get started training. And if talk of running makes your muscles sore, we’ve got a review of the fabulous new Four Seasons Resort Orlando spa.
About the Author
Bob Sehlinger, a Lowell Thomas Award-winning journalist, is best known as the creator and producer of "The Unofficial Guide" series.
He is the founder and co-owner of Keen Communications, a book publishing company that includes Menasha Ridge Press, Clerisy Press, and Wilderness Press. The author of 27 books, Sehlinger is a past president of the Publishers Association of the South, and he has served at the invitation of the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Information Service on educational missions for publishers in Hungary, Romania, and Russia. He lives in Birmingham, AL.
A lifelong Disney theme park fan, Len Testa co-authors "The Unofficial Guides to Walt Disney World, Disneyland," and "Britain s Best Days Out." In grad school, Len s master s thesis described new computer techniques for generating efficient theme park touring plans, for which Len was awarded a U.S. patent.
These days, Len leads the team at TouringPlans.com, the website and research arm of The Unofficial Guides. Len has stayed at every Disney hotel, experienced every Disney ride, and eaten at every Disney restaurant and food cart in the U.S. When he s not at a Disney theme park, Len lives in Greensboro, NC.
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Disney hotels receive exhaustive coverage with ratings on many factors such as room quality, noise level, pool facilities, value, and more. There is a lengthy write-up discussing each hotel including their strengths and weaknesses. They even provide guidance on specific rooms to ask for and which to avoid when you make your reservation.
For those hotels outside of the resort, the coverage is less exhaustive but still comprehensive. A map shows the location of well over 100 area hotels, there are charts grading them on room quality, overall ratings, and cost. Information is also provided on how long it takes to get to each Disney theme park from the hotel. Some of the better hotels get full write-ups.
In addition to coverage of specific hotels, there is general advice as well. A few of the topics include advice on how to get deals on your room, discussion of the pros and cons of staying inside the confines of Disney World Resort, and an explanation of how the Disney hotels are classified. All told, there are more than 175 pages devoted to accommodations and none of it is wasted. This is not only the best coverage of hotels for Orlando, it's the best I've ever seen in any guidebook.
Full service restaurants all receive a full write-up with detailed descriptions and ratings for food quality, value, and an overall score. Brief summaries are presented for the places offering counter service. In addition to the opinions of the authors, reader survey scores are reported so you can see what percentage of readers liked that restaurant. This is extremely helpful and any place I've tried that scores well on both fronts has always been a winner. Note that all of the above is limited to coverage inside of Disney World. There are also recommendations for the some of the best restaurants of various types outside the resort and brief coverage of the options in Universal's City Walk.
Full coverage is offered for The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney-MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom as well as Disney's water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Universal is also covered with Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (Including lots of Harry Potter material) getting equally comprehensive coverage. Sea World is covered, but only briefly. Busch Gardens in Tampa is not covered at all. In fairness, no guide to Disney World offers detailed coverage of these two parks. You can purchase Beyond Disney: The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, SeaWorld & the Best of Central Florida for this information if you're interested in visiting one or both of them.
So what constitutes full coverage of all the parks listed above? There's general background and information followed by a map and advice on orienting yourself. And then there are full descriptions and ratings for every attraction in each park. Separate ratings are provided for a number of age groups to help you evaluate the potential entertainment value for your group. Live entertainment is covered as well as advice on where to watch fireworks and parades. Finally, there are the touring plans. These are detailed itineraries designed to help you save hours of waiting time by visiting attractions in a certain order. This is only necessary if you go during summer or other peak tourist seasons. But if you do, they can be invaluable.
One final word on the theme park coverage. This guide, and many others, provides detailed descriptions of each attraction. Think about how much you really want to know before reading these. If you haven't visited Orlando before, you can rob yourself of a lot of pleasant surprises by reading all of this material. I would recommend using the ratings and reading just enough to get a vague idea of the attraction but not to go further.
In some respects, this is almost the best part of the entire book. It's hard to overstate how diverse the information presented in this book is. There are tips on avoiding/healing blisters on your feet, how to find cheap airfare, what time of year to visit, going with kids, going as a couple, advice for pregnant women, seniors, and much more. Common activities like golf and shopping are also covered. It's almost endless... if you can think of it there's a good chance that it's in this guide.
To sum it up, the authors did indeed produce the most comprehensive and informative guide for Walt Disney World and the Orlando area. No other guide even comes close to providing this much detail. Indeed, the most common criticism of this guide is usually that it's too much information and some people find it overwhelming. If this is your first impression upon opening the book, I would recommend focusing on those sections containing the information you're most interested in and get to the rest when you feel up to it. If you are anxious to see photos (this guide is text only), you might want to pick up The Complete Walt Disney World 2015: The Definitive Disney Handbook. It doesn't have anywhere near as much detailed information, but it's packed with great shots and beautifully presents the visuals of the area.