Planning a family trip to Walt Disney World in Florida can overwhelm even the most well-traveled parent. For many, this vacation is a significant investment and making the most of it does require some research and forethought.
Simply showing up and winging it can be a good time (gasp!) but will all but guarantee you’ll miss out on the high-demand experiences you may have wished for. And lack of planning could quite possibly lead to unnecessary frustrations that could easily be avoided.
No need to stress! There are actually people in the world who enjoy planning Disney vacations (cough-me-cough), who love nothing more than staying on top of the latest park developments, and who know how to make the most of Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs), FastPass+, Extra Magic Hours, and more. They know where to eat, where to stay, and when to visit.
Your local bookstore’s travel section likely offers a dizzying array of Disney World guide books. Here are the cream of the crop:
“Birnbaum’s 2016 Walt Disney World” by Stephen Birnbaum
Updated annually, this Disney-sanctioned guide presents the basics of what Disney World has to offer and many helpful tips. Colorful illustrations, maps, and even coupons at the back of the book make this a great place to start.
“The Unofficial Guide: Walt Disney World With Kids 2016” by Bob Sehlinger and Liliane J. Opsomer with Len Testa
My personal favorites, “The Unofficial Guide,” offers independent viewpoints and are chock full of meticulous detail and helpful insights. They are well organized, making finding information at any stage of the planning process easy. Especially helpful, “With Kids” includes fright warnings on rides and age-specific ratings for each attraction.
“PassPorter’s Walt Disney World” by Jennifer Marx, Dave Marx, and Alexander Marx
Both a thorough guide and a planning tool in itself, PassPorter’s offers pull-out maps, stickers, pockets, forms, and more to keep you organized throughout the planning process. It’s basically a guidebook and planner in one. If this type of tool appeals to you, this is a solid choice.
“The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World, 2nd Edition” by Susan Veness
In this fun choice for both parents and children, Veness pinpoints hidden details and their origins throughout Walt Disney World that exemplify the extraordinary level of attention that goes into the “imagineering” of this magical place. This is a great book to bring along for entertainment while in transit, waiting in lines, or lounging at the pool.
“Hidden Mickeys—A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets” by Steven M. Barrett
Speaking of details, Disney Imagineers have hidden images of Mickey Mouse throughout the parks, which have come to be known as “hidden mickeys.” Actually, they are not limited to just Mickey—there are hidden Minnies, Donalds, Goofys, and so on. Finding them has become a sport for some. If this sounds like something that would enhance the experience for your family, bring along this guide on your next trip.
“Walt Disney, Drawn From Imagination” by Bill Scollon
Disney World is an extraordinary culmination of the vision of Walt Disney. This biography, written for ages 8-12, but a great read-aloud option for younger kids, is a family-friendly summary of his life. It’s an inspiring look at his accomplishments and at the potential of creativity in general. Knowing a little bit about the man behind the magic will give your family something to think about, for sure.