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Mike Scopa

Making Memories: a Review

Take a trip “Aronda Parks” with a new guidebook

Friday, May 6, 2005
by Mike Scopa, staff writer

Josh Fippen and Dan Hazel are risk–takers. When you take risks sometimes bad things happen and sometimes good things happen. They took a risk and good things happened.

For their third edition of Making Walt Disney World Memories (The Original Press: 2005. ISBN: 0–9660615–4–3), Fippen and Hazel decided to use the non de plume (bet you didn't know I could speak French) Aronda Parks as the “author” of the book.

In previous editions, Aronda was a featured columnist and so it struck Fippen and Hazel to turn her into a full blown author.

Fippen and Hazel found that by using Aronda as a mouthpiece or their alter–ego helped to decide certain issues in which they didn't particularly agree upon.

You might say they took a page out of the Imagineering book and asked, “What would Aronda think?”

I'm here to tell you that whatever Aronda thinks is well worth reading.

Okay let's started. First it's important to note that when you set out to gather information on a particularly large and complex subject like Walt Disney World, it certainly helps to have as much help as possible. For Making Memories that help came in the form of 24–member team who set out to collect, discuss and formulate as much data as possible to help determine what is the best approach for a Walt Disney World vacation.

Now I know that you're saying, “Oh c'mon Mike, not another WDW guidebook.”

Well, it's not just another WDW guidebook but a unique perspective on what a WDW vacation can be without wiping yourself out in the process.

To Fippen and Hazel…erh… Parks' credit, she really appears to have put quite a lot of thought into helping her readers get the most out of their vacations.

Among all the well–written WDW guidebooks, this one seems to have adopted the responsibility of providing you the WDW guest with as much information and guidance to ensure that your vacation does not turn into a nightmare.

I think it speaks of some courage to take this approach, and for many, it may not be what they are looking for in a WDW guidebook. Unfortunately, for a good portion of those people it is not only what they should be looking for but also a “must read” for them.

When it comes to WDW vacation preparation, this book can stand alone or serve as a fine compliment to the more well–known WDW guidebooks. Aronda has mentioned that she “…takes great pains to show readers how to experience a Walt Disney World vacation without wearing themselves out…” and worked hard to mention “…unique ways to add components to their vacations that will differentiate their experiences dramatically from those of friends and relatives.”

At least she (psst… it was really Josh and Dan but let's play along) told me this before I dove into the book. She wasn't kidding.

Like other WDW guidebooks, this one has your basic chapters on planning, choosing resorts, park touring, dining, and other generic WDW guidebook chapters.

That's not what interested me about this book. Between the covers of this book lie some unique chapters that really provide first–time visitors with the perspective and information that they “always wanted to know but was afraid to ask.”

VABS Protection

Look at the title of chapter 4, “Avoiding VABS (Vacation Burnout Syndrome): The Mellow Vacationer.” I can tell you that when I first scanned the book I was immediately drawn to this chapter and read it before all others.

According to Ms. Parks, VABS is a “…low–grade infection you're likely to contract if you don't leave time for a little relaxation during your exciting Walt Disney World Vacation.” This isn't a new concept that has never been discussed before, but Parks brings it to the forefront and gives it the attention it needs.

How many first–time visitors go through the sometimes stressful debate on whether to stay on or off the property or where to get the best deal on tickets and how to plan their days to get as much out of their visit as possible? Quite a few.

However, very few realize that such things can sour their experience. Parks wants to prevent this from happening.

Bob Sehlinger, author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, once mentioned to me that his research has shown that most guests, except for those rare WDW veterans, will hit the WDW “wall” somewhere around 72 hours from the moment they step onto WDW property. If you think back at your own experience, then you may recall that somewhere around the third or fourth day your body said, “It's rest time—now!”

Parks doesn't want your body to get to that point. She's into preventive maintenance. This chapter helps WDW vacationers “…so that their Disney experience is more of a vacation rather than a tiring pursuit of one attraction after another.”

I won't go into detail on the advice given in this chapter but it's important to note that some key points are made from guests interviewed by Parks and her Memories Team. It may very well be the most important chapter in the book, especially for young families visiting WDW for the first time.

She's Singing My Song

One of the most important facets in preparing for a WDW vacation is to seriously think about how to mold the vacation to suit your specific vacation needs. There's a reason why the Walt Disney World Resort offers so much in the form of things to do. It's simple: The resort is trying to cater to as many vacationer needs as possible so that there's something for everyone there.

I was smiling when I came across one chapter entitled, “A Vacation with Character: Conjuring Your Own Unique Magic.” This chapter prepares the first–time visitor with the idea that they should not plan their vacation with the objective of doing what their neighbors across the street did on theirs.

No, sir.

Instead, Parks says, approach the trip as a time that will give you a chance to enjoy Disney magic and create an experience that works to suit you. I've been trying to sell that philosophy for years and Parks is tossing the same sales pitch to her readers.

Love, Belief, and More

As I pored through this book I can across several interesting chapters. There's a chapter entitled “Falling in Love at Walt Disney World” and it discusses all the romantic things you can do there, including attractions, restaurants, special events, and those unique places for romantics. And then there are some very special romantic things you can do at WDW that are not that obvious, which Parks brings to your attention.

One much–unexpected chapter was entitled, “When the Mouse is Just a Rodent: Turning the Disney Skeptic on to the Magic.” It focuses on something many WDW fans discuss but never find any guidebook addressing, until now.

This chapter talks about the Disney skeptic and how some people just don't get what Disney magic is all about. I'm not sure if there are any answers provided by Parks but it sure made for good reading.

This chapter is pretty entertaining as the Making Memories team—made up of people from about 20 different states—discuss the magic and the value their family receives on their special trips to Orlando. Parks' team also talks about some friends, relatives, and neighbors who seem never touched by the Disney magic.

The placement of the chapter seemed odd. I think I would have planned for that discussion to be either in the preface or as the first chapter so as to help set the tone of the book.

You know, something like, “Well these people just don't understand how to do it right but read on and we'll help you find the magic!”

If you're looking for some pointers on making your vacation a bit special then you'll like the chapter “Enough Is Enough Is—Not Enough! Expanding your Disney Vacation” in which Parks points out the different tours offered to guests, as well as those special events that occur throughout the year. I found this to be an excellent way of providing such information, without muddying up the other chapters that focus on parks, resorts, and dining.

It is definitely written for not just the first–time visitor but perhaps the second– or third–time visitor who is looking to do something a bit different this time around.

One chapter near and dear to my heart is “Casting Their Spell,” which focuses on the all important cast members and the importance of their roles in creating that special vacation filled with magical memories. Here, the Memories Team members share their stories of moments during their vacations when cast members made a special effort to make a positive difference in their vacation experience.

The obvious purpose is to point out what many WDW veterans already know; cast members play an important part in making the vacation special and that WDW guests should take the time to thank them whenever possible.

Extras

The book comes with some pull–out maps. These may intimidate the first–time visitor and probably aren't necessary, as the guide maps found in each of the theme parks should be more than enough direction for the first time visitor.

Now, the CD is another story. Yes, there is a CD that comes with the book.

The CD is a companion to the book and contains some excellent worksheets to help plan a vacation. Some of these worksheets include:

A ticket planning worksheet to help you decide the type of media you need for your vacation A planning worksheet for each park to help devise a touring approach for each park. A hotel worksheet to help budget for your hotel stay Shopping, meal–planning, and recreation worksheets to help with other facets of your trip. There is also an overall budget–planning worksheet that encompasses information from the other worksheets.

The CD also contains several scavenger hunt games and a match game for the kids, photos from around the WDW Resort, coloring pages, a trivia challenge, and a packing checklist.

The CD certainly provides some tools to help not just the first–timer, but also any WDW veteran in planning of their next trip.

The Aronda Parks' Cheat Sheet

For a slight cost you can order Aronda's Walt Disney World Vacation Prep Pad. This pad serves as a vacation–planning workbook and is small enough to take into the parks. The pad contains information on how to make best use of it as well as containing important WDW phone numbers.

The pad also contains pages for such information as Priority Seating, expenses, touring and shopping plans, as well as general notes.

There are even several pages with pockets to hold receipts, tickets, and perhaps Fastpass tickets.

The pad can hold up to about 10 days' worth of vacation plans, and helps, as Parks says, “…in a way that prevents anything from slipping through the cracks.”

Mike's Take

Fippen and Hazel have definitely taken a leap with this book and have tried to give it a different twist than the better–known WDW guidebooks. They have brought to the table some important aspects of a WDW vacation and have truly captured all the essential elements that make for creating those special WDW memories.

Whether you are visiting WDW for the first time or the one hundred and first time, there is something in this book for you. I know…because there was something for me.

For further information from Ms. Aronda Parks you can visit her at ( www.arondaparks.com ) where she can help you even more to…

…Remember the Magic!

Next Time

A special milestone is on the horizon; my 100th Mouseplanet column. I'll share my thoughts on my favorite articles, pay tribute and thanks to 100 special people, and more.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

OTHER LINKS

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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