As a parent, taking your kids to Walt Disney World is a rite of passage. Parents that are fortunate enough to travel almost always include a Disney World family vacation at least once in their children’s lives.
If and when you decide to visit Disney World, it’s imperative you do your homework. In order to maximize your fun and minimize everyone’s stress, doing some research is a small price to pay. Why spend the money and the time to experience a magical family vacation, if you don’t do it right?
My girls are now 16 and 13, but they’ve both been to Disney World three times, all when they were in that magical age range of 2-10 years old.
For Disney World, my favorite resource guide is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2017 (link to Amazon.com), a book by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. Each year, the book is revised and edited to offer the most current information. Getting a recent edition is crucial, since Disney is always revamping the parks to be bigger and better.
I’ve used the book’s highlighted Touring Plans religiously over the years, and I can say from experience, that THEY WORK. These plans give you a detailed guide for what rides to ride and when. I read the book almost cover to cover, took notes, and brought the Touring Plans with us on our trips.
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is the most thorough Disney World resource I’ve seen. Take the simple question of when to visit. Not only does the book include obvious points about weather/climate or when the park is quietest, but it also explains also the upsides and downsides to off-season touring, what days of the week to visit which park, how Disney’s Extra Magic Hours affect park populations on certain days, and what special events happen at Disney World every month of the year. So many factors can affect your decision of when to visit Disney World and this book takes that all into account.
Here is just a sampling of what this book covers:
- how to plan your Disney World vacation
- information and updates about each park and when the best time is to visit
- a full explanation on Extra Magic Hours, ticketing options, FastPass+, and character dining
- money saving tips
- tips to ensure a successful vacation, especially with young children
- how you can cut wait times for rides
- detailed information on all lodging and dining in and around Disney World
- the advantages and disadvantages of lodging in Disney World, versus outside the park
- height requirements for all of the rides and the ‘frightening factor’ for young children
- detailed maps and Touring Plans for each Disney park, including the best times to visit each attraction
- information on Disney’s water parks and Disney Springs (once called Downtown Disney)
- information on Universal Orlando Resort and Universal’s theme parks, as well as SeaWorld
The highlights of this book are the Touring Plans for Disney World (although there are Touring Plans for Universal parks as well). There are different plans depending on who you are traveling with and how long you plan to be at each park; plans are written for adults (which includes children aged 8 and up), families with young kids, and one or two days plans for parks (only Magic Kingdom and Epcot have 2 day plans).
One of the most important tips I learned from this book is to take a midday break. Considering we woke early and arrived at the park before opening, it was essential for us to take some time away to recuperate. Young children often need to nap and parents need a break too. After a 2-3 hour break at the hotel room, we would return to the parks rested and ready for more fun. Chances are, if you don’t take the break, you’ll end up with mad, crying children that are overtired, overstimulated, and often dehydrated. It’s important to remember to keep everyone’s stress levels down, even if that requires taking a break from the park.
I cannot praise this book enough (honestly!). With the help of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, my family and I had nothing but fun (and very minimal stress) on our trips to Disney World. Each time we would go back to Disney, I would head to our library and check out a new version of the book with updates.
As my girls are older, I’m not sure if there’s another Disney World family vacation in our near future. However, the memories we have of these vacations remind us of fun times, seeing everything we wanted to see, meeting all of the girls’ favorite characters, and maximizing our enjoyment with minimal standing in line.
Do yourself a favor. Read this book and learn the secrets of touring Disney’s parks most efficiently, for an amazing family vacation.
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