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Critiques of Published Guidebooks

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cover"Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2003: Expert Advice from the Inside Source (Birnbaum's Walt Disney World, 2003)"

Founding Editor, Stephen Birnbaum

I buy one WDW guidebook each and every year...and it's this one.  I still think the Birnbaum book on Walt Disney World is the best overall tool for trip planning and casual reference.  The Birnbaum book provides tidbits of Disney "trivia" and anecdotes that add to the fun.  It concentrates on describing attractions and restaurants, while other guides tend to focus on giving opinions and reviews. This 2003 edition continues the recent trend of adding more and better trip planning information and enhancing the layout of the material through excellent use of color and graphics.

Review Summary:

Trip Planning Helps: excellent, especially the reservations information...the park maps are definitely the best-in-the-field for those of us that like knowing the lay of the land before leaving home

Resorts Descriptions: among the very best

Off Site Hotel Descriptions: includes only a sampling from the areas' hotel strips

Attractions Descriptions: excellent descriptions, but never a critical comment (you decide if that's good or bad)

Restaurant Reviews: again, excellent descriptions, but certainly not critical reviews

Minor Parks Reviews: great descriptions, but no help with problems to avoid

Non-Disney Information: Seaworld, Universal Studios and so on are not described at all

Overall: if the main focus of your trip is WDW, buy this book

cover"The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2003"

By: Bob Sehlinger

The 2003 edition of this book remains true to the original premise of this book...unofficial review information.  It's filled with valuable information on every aspect of planning a trip to Walt Disney World.  The text is sprinkled with comments from previous year's readers, which is a nice way to "keep the authors honest."  The restaurant reviews are excellent and the tabular information on resorts, hotels, and restaurants is tremendously helpful.  The book also features (in fact, this book is "known" for this) a series of park "touring plans" that can help organize the day for any park commando.  If you want TONS of detail about planning a trip to Florida, this book has it nailed.

Review Summary:

Trip Planning Helps: excellent, for on-site guests or off-site visitors alike

Resorts Descriptions: very short, but to the point

Off Site Hotel Descriptions: includes a very complete, factual list of decent area hotels

Attractions Descriptions: brief descriptions, rated by age group

Restaurant Reviews: very short descriptions, but includes reader survey results, too

Minor Parks Reviews: good descriptions, but rather brief

Non-Disney Information: Seaworld and Universal Studios are both covered

Overall: second only to Birnbaum, in my opinion

cover"PassPorter Walt Disney World 2002: The Unique Travel Guide, Planner, Organizer, Journal, and Keepsake!"

By: Jennifer Watson, Dave Marx

Jennifer Watson and Dave Marx have a  very, very interesting concept here.  Instead of simply providing a guidebook to Walt Disney World, Watson and Marx have developed a combination guidebook, trip planner, and keepsake.  The published material itself is very good, but the unique twist of having a place to keep all of your relevant trip planning information is brilliant.  I only wish that the book accommodated trips of greater duration.

This book has already taken the Usenet newsgroup crowd by storm.  I'm sure that it will continue to be a popular alternative (or supplement) to the Birnbaum and Sehlinger mainstays.

Be aware that the deluxe version contains the same materials, but is bound with a ring binding with a leather cover that is more durable so you can take it with you everywhere you go on your trip.

Review Summary:

Trip Planning Helps: this is the books strongest area.  The material is designed as a planning tool, including storage pockets to save pertinent notes, receipts, etc.

Resorts Descriptions: fairly descriptive, but focusing on information needed pre-trip

Off Site Hotel Descriptions: some information, but the emphasis is on WDW

Attractions Descriptions: good descriptions

Restaurant Reviews: good descriptions and reviews

Minor Parks Reviews: brief, but sufficient

Non-Disney Information: minimal, but accurate

Overall: the concept is unique, which makes it stand out, but my favorite aspect of this book is that it is fresh, up-to-date, and accurate

cover"Walt Disney World With Kids, 2002"

By Kim Wright Wiley

This is a must read book for any adults that are planning a trip to WDW with kids of virtually any age.  Kim Wright Wiley is an experienced WDW traveler with kids (and "with child", too).  Her advice and information is invaluable.   One thing you should consider is that the author is definitely a Disney "insider" (she occasionally authors articles for "The Disney Magazine," for example).  That may be a positive or it may be a negative.  You'll have to decide for yourself (although my own opinion is that content is king...and this book has content!)  One parting shot...this book discusses a lot of general issues when traveling with children. Even if you're not going to WDW, this can be a helpful travel resource.

Review Summary:

Trip Planning Helps: very good, but geared toward traveling with kids

Resorts Descriptions: very short, and focused on pluses and minuses when you have kids in your party

Off Site Hotel Descriptions: only the areas topmost premium resorts are briefly described

Attractions Descriptions: brief descriptions, the "scare factor" for younger kids is reviewed for each attraction

Restaurant Reviews: minuscule descriptions, and oriented towards how the kids will like the meal

Minor Parks Reviews: very brief, especially Blizzard Beach (the largest, but newest water park)

Non-Disney Information: Universal Studios is covered well, many other area attractions are given short blurbs, too

Overall: not for general use, but an excellent resource for a specific purpose...if you have kids, get it

cover"Walt Disney World for Couples 2002-2003 : With or Without Kids"

By Rick and Gail Perlmutter

"Walt Disney World for Couples" certainly has a specific, but very interesting viewpoint.  Building on their previous editions,  The Perlmutters continue to focus on romance and how to make the sparks fly while on vacation at WDW.  As I can testify personally, WDW is a great place to spend time with your spouse - whether or not you have kids, family, and friends with you.  The strongest suits of this book are the detailed resort and restaurant descriptions.  They are definitely top-notch!

Review Summary:

Trip Planning Helps: definitely oriented toward planning an adult vacation, but useful in any case

Resorts Descriptions: probably the best resort descriptions in print (even topping the "Official Guide")

Off Site Hotel Descriptions: no offsite hotels are reviewed at all

Attractions Descriptions: definitely the least detailed part of the book with only very brief descriptions

Restaurant Reviews: good descriptions...and the focus on romance is priceless

Minor Parks Reviews: virtually skipped, but in place of that are several lists of "romantic adventures" and romantic best-ofs

Non-Disney Information: as advertised in the title, only WDW is covered

Overall: for honeymoon planning this book is a must...for a couple travelling alone, this book is a must...

cover"Econoguide 2002 Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando : Also Includes Seaworld and Central Florida"

By: Corey Sandler

A couple of years ago, the Econoguide broke into the ranks of the decent WDW travel books.  Sandler's book focuses on vacationing without breaking the bank and provides a lot of help to pull that off.  Another positive is that the use of icons and creative layout makes information easy to find, so this book is a good general reference, too.

Review Summary:

Trip Planning Helps: this is the books strong suit...useful travel planning information, even if Florida isn't your destination, is here

Resorts Descriptions: very short, but to the point

Off Site Hotel Descriptions: includes a very complete list of decent area hotels

Attractions Descriptions: good descriptions

Restaurant Reviews: very short descriptions, probably the weak point of the volume

Minor Parks Reviews: brief, but sufficient

Non-Disney Information: Universal Studios covered in detail, the best description of Seaworld I've read outside of Seaworld

Overall: a fairly good Florida trip planning book, because it covers a lot of territory

 
Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide


Walt Disney World Update for a list of the latest WDW trip reports and WDW features by Mike Scopa and Sue Holland!

Service Cutbacks in the World

Trip Planning Guide Home

Intro & References

Phone Directory

Planning Your Trip

Accommodations

Primer

Parks

WDW With Kids

Everything Else in WDW

When the Trip is Done
Information on scrapbooking album services and supplies

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