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Practical tips for Walt Disney World travel
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Mike Scopa

Stocking Stuffers

Help Santa bring some Disney trip planning cheer

Friday, November 10, 2004
by Mike Scopa, staff writer

I survived Black Friday! Yep. My wife and I took off in the pre-dawn hours to open up several stores and grab some bargains, we woke up some chickens on the way—a couple of roosters—and even shoved the sun out of a sound sleep. Of course you can never really beat the crowds on the day after Thanksgiving: You basically hold them off for an hour by waving plastic cards at them.

On that particular morning while waiting in line at 7 a.m. with 100 of my closest friends, a thought occurred to me. I thought of some stocking stuffer ideas that would go a long way towards saving some time on Black Friday. The idea first came to me on Thanksgiving night while visiting friends.

As we sat around a table full of desserts, the conversation eventually moved to Christmas and the infamous Black Friday shopping plans. Eventually I was asked the question, “Hey Mike, my sister is planning a trip to Walt Disney World next year and I was thinking of getting her a book to help her plan the trip. I did an online search and found about a dozen or so books on Disney World. Which one should I get?”

There is no simple answer.

It seems that question comes up every year. Friends, co-workers, and readers are always asking that question. While I think it's a great idea to give someone such a gift, I always cringe at the thought that sometimes the right (or best) book is not given to that particular person.

So if you are in the market to buy a WDW guidebook for someone, pay attention. This session may help you match the right book (or books) to the right person.

Vacationer profile

Before you step foot in any bookstore to look for that special gift, think about the person for whom you are purchasing this book. There are several areas that need to be defined so you can properly paint a WDW guest profile of this person. Once this profile is complete, then choosing the book is an easy task:

  • Trip frequency – Is this person making his or her initial visit to WDW? This is important to know. If not the first visit, when was the last visit?
  • Traveling party – This is an essential piece of information. How many people are in the traveling party? What are their ages? First-time visitors traveling with children have a knowledge gap that needs to be addressed. Young adults traveling without children do not have the same knowledge gap.
  • Chill out or thrill out – Is this person into thrill rides? Is this person into “stopping and smelling the roses?”
  • Sluggo or commando – Actually by asking this question I am hoping you will think about personality. Does this person strike you as being a person who is organized, loves to get a jump on everyone, and would most likely hit the parks early? That's commando style. Or are we talking about someone who is best described as being a a slow-to-rise individual who is laid back; doesn't really care too much about planning and basically flies by the seat of their pants?
  • Financial considerations I don't think this matters as much as the other parameters but I'm sure cost is always a factor in planning a trip.

Consider these five areas when determining the best book or books for someone planning a trip to WDW.

Book profiles

Let's look at some Walt Disney Books books that I think will make great stocking stuffers. Although there is definite information overlap among these books each one does hold a significant niche that works with certain people.

Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2005: Expert Advice from the Inside Source (Birnbaum's Walt Disney World) by Jill Safro, et al (Disney Editions, 2004. ISBN: 0-7868-5428-86).

This guidebook has been around for quite a while and still serves as a good starting point for Walt Disney World trip planning. This is an essential book for either the first-time visitor to Orlando or for someone who has not been there within the last five years.

The book gives a foundation of what's in Orlando, and should be a pre-requisite before moving on to other books.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2005 by Bob Sehlinger (John Wiley & Sons: 2004. ISBN: 0-7645597-2-9).

Since its inception, this guidebook has virtually exploded in page count because it tries to hit all possible needs for a very wide audience. If you write an 800-page guidebook on Walt Disney World, then you've got a good chance of answering any question the reader may have. Thus, this guidebook can serve many different vacationer profiles. Besides basic planning information, the book also looks at the needs of all shapes and sizes of guests who come to Orlando. This is seen in the attention given to kids, couples, seniors, and expectant mothers. For those who have no clue on how to tour a theme park, this is your guide.

Passporter Walt Disney World Resort 2005: The Unique Travel Guide, Planner, Organizer, Journal, and Keepsake! (Passporter Walt Disney World Resort) by Jennifer A. Marx, Dave Marx, and Allison Cerel Marx (Passporter Travel Press: 2004. ISBN: 158771020X).

The Passporter guidebook fits the bill for those who haven't been to WDW for a few years, who need help in organizing their thoughts and plans, and who see the role of a guidebook as a traveling companion. This book, with its unique style—constructed to serve you as an all-around vacation tool with special pages that offer pockets for those special documents and papers—helps to reduce or eliminate any stress one would have in planning a WDW trip. This is the book that works well on the flight to Orlando, in your hotel room, and in the park. It's a perfect park companion.

This is my choice for families with young children. I recently picked one up for a family of four who are planning to go in 2005. It is perfect for them.

The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World: How to Get the Most Out of the Best Disney Has to Offer by Cara Goldsbury (Bowman Books: 2004. ISBN: 0972697225).

I see this book as being a suitable guide for couples who are looking for a different type of WDW vacation, or for those empty nesters who want to pamper themselves when next visiting Mickey and friends.

Although this book does what most WDW guidebooks do in that is give you planning basics and such, it also offers you ideas on some things you can do that are not usually in the plans for your typical WDW guest.

Planning a wedding? Looking for some pampering at a spa? Maybe you're thinking about renting a yacht? This is the book for anyone looking for an upscale vacation. The WDW veteran would find this book informative.

Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets by Steven M. Barrett (Intrepid Traveler; 1st edition (April 1, 2003) ISBN: 1887140441).

This is not a guidebook, but is a great gift for those who have been to WDW many times and may be looking for something to make their next trip seem fresh. This guidebook devotes 160 pages to those symbols that look like Mickey's head and ears. They are spread throughout the WDW resort; some obvious, some not so obvious.

This book is ideal for families who can search for these hidden Mickey's together. Its fun for adults too. I know this firsthand.

The Walt Disney World Trivia Book, Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic by Lou Mongello (Intrepid Traveler: ISBN 1-887140-49-2).

Like the Barrett book, the pages of this unique book offers the WDW veteran an opportunity to approach an upcoming vacation with a fresh pair of eyes. The book serves up many interesting facts about the many different components that make up the WDW resort.

I usually recommend this book for people who have frequented WDW often and are true WDW fans and also for those people who strike me as being inquisitive and curious about WDW history.

The information inside this book is real popular with the younger set. Teens and pre-teens get a kick out of reading some of the facts presented by Mongello. It's popular with adults too.

Why these books?

There are other books out there, so don't limit your choices to those I've listed. These books provide a good variety and offer something for everyone, with some books providing comprehensive information, while others offer a unique niche.

It is this niche that goes a long way towards making the first or the next WDW vacation just a little better than it would be otherwise.

These books make great gifts and great stocking stuffers. If you choose the right one for the right person, you will be a pretty popular Santa.

Next time

For our next session I hope to deliver the diary of a Disney dweeb as I attempt to chronicle my whirlwind, five-day Mousefest experience. As this article gets published, I will be hip deep in Mousefestivities. It's always good to take notes and write up a trip report or diary because it goes a long way in helping you…

…Remember the Magic.

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.


Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.


Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”


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