“The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.” ~ Douglas Adams
Living 1061 miles from Walt Disney World, I’ve had to come up with some creative ways to keep the magic alive. One of my favorites is to read (and re-read) Disney guides. My husband laughs at me every time I buy a new one. (“Do you really think you’re going to learn anything new?” “Hey,” I reply. “It could happen.” Derisive snort and eye-rolling from Dear Hubby.)
That said, not all Walt Disney World travel books are created equal. There are some for which I anxiously await the arrival of each new addition, and others that I wouldn’t read again for love or money. In case you are contemplating a trip to the bookstore soon, I thought I’d give you my impressions on a few of them.
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa) – This is the bible of WDW guides, and my hands-down favorite. It is encyclopedic in its coverage, constantly updated, and peppered with quirky humor and behind-the-scenes tidbits from experts like Jim Hill. It covers everything from blister control to estimated travel times. This book is invaluable for first-timers and veterans alike. It’s also heavy enough to be a useful weapon if you encounter any giant spiders or small reptiles.
From the best to the worst – Zagat Walt Disney World Insider's Guide was the worst guidebook I’ve ever read. It prompted me to seriously consider breaking into their offices to steal the quotation marks keys from each of their keyboards. I honestly don’t think there was a single sentence in that guide that did not include quotation marks, and seldom did they say anything that was worth quoting.
Birnbaum's Walt Disney World – I call this one “the rose-colored glasses guide to WDW”. It’s the official guidebook and is published by Disney. It’s got some great information and often gets the first scoop on new attractions, but isn’t exactly what I would term “unbiased”. It’s wonderful for first-time visitors or someone who hasn’t visited in awhile.
Companies like Foder’s and Frommer’s are experts in travel, but not necessarily experts on Walt Disney World. I consider them competent but not exceptional, and seldom spend my time or money on them.
PassPorter's Walt Disney World by Jennifer and Dave Marx is another gem. Obviously written by people who truly love WDW, it gives you advice from bona fide Disney veterans. It has special features that will assist you in planning and organizing your trip, as well as a journal for you to make notes for your next vacation!
The Healthy Guide to Walt Disney World (Dan Green) – I was very excited to get this book. I was hoping it might have some information on calorie counts, as these are very hard to come by in WDW. Instead, it offered tips like “Eat fruit instead of ice cream” or “Order your salad dressing on the side”. Gee, thanks; I couldn’t have figured that out on my own.
The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World Resort (Cara Goldsbury) -- Dear Husband, if you are looking for ways to surprise me on a Disney trip, please consult this guide. Sincerely, Teri
Walt Disney World With Kids (Kim Wright Wiley) – This one is okay, but she kind of blew her credibility with me when she made a big deal about this “hidden” restroom near Pirates of the Caribbean that she didn’t discover until her seventeenth fact-finding trip to WDW. I have, quite literally, been using this same restroom since I was potty-trained. It is not exactly a secret.
PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line (Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma) is a great resource for anyone facing extra challenges – from mobility issues to autism to allergies, this book will have you covered!
There are a few books that deserve a special mention. The Complete Walt Disney World (Julie and Mike Neal) and Mousejunkies! (Bill Burke) aren’t traditional guide books in the “ride this, eat there” sense, but both are fabulous reads. The Complete Walt Disney World did have several interesting WDW tidbits of which I had not previously been aware (you see, Ray?), and Mousejunkies! is often downright hilarious.
Lou Mongello’s Walt Disney World Trivia Book and Walt Disney World Trivia Book Volume 2, along with Steven Barrett’s Hidden Mickeys make for terrific companion books, if you will, as do The Imagineering Field Guides, by The Imagineers.
There are a lot more WDW guidebooks out there, and I hope to read many of them soon. Why are they important? I think Scar said it best: “Be Prepared”!