Recommended Disney Vacation Planning Resources
Over the years and with multiple experiences at Walt Disney World, we’ve picked up on some of the best resources to utilize in planning for and while your are in the parks. While many of these suggestions will be planning books that first time and returning guests can use, other items will be “must haves” for any Disney vacation. Each of these products we have used at one point or another and as a result these should be the best of the best vacation resources.
Birnbaum’s 2018 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides)
While the Birnbaum’s guidebooks have been around for years, they’ve always been hard to beat in the world of planning resources for Walt Disney World. The books feature helpful tips and a vast array of information about each of the parks. However, while they are quite successful in helping guests plan their first few vacations, it’s easy to “outgrow” the information contained in the books fairly quickly. After your first few trips they become more fun read to see what’s changed each year, but are not quite as helpful compared to the first time you read them. Also, it is the only official guide licensed by the Disney company and as a result features some unique new information about upcoming lands and conceptual artwork that cannot be found anywhere else from time to time (Pandora artwork in 2017, etc.).
If you’re a repeat guest or simply someone who likes to have all of the most helpful information all in one place, this is the book for you. At just over 850 pages, this book contains a little bit about everything in and around the Disney parks. While it isn’t the most interesting book to read straight through, it is a wonderful planning resource that contains a variety of high quality information. Everything from restaurant and resort information to something as unique as rental car company reviews is all included in the Unofficial Guides.
Now this is a book for truly everyone. While the author has become a friend of sorts over the last few years, many of you may recognize his name. Lou Mongello is an award winning podcaster and the voice behind WDW Radio on iTunes. While that show is his main entertainment production, he has also written quite a few books along the way. This particular book just happens to be one of my favorites and one that I would recommend to anyone.
Just as the title states, this is one of the greatest, all encompassing, money saving books for Disney. Everyone is looking to save every dime they can on a vacation and with prices constantly rising in the Disney parks, now, more that ever, this book is extremely relevant. The tips found throughout the title are easy to implement and perfectly described. As a bonus, Lou also runs a weekly livestream on Facebook.com to answer questions, talk with fans (always referred to as friends), and simply interact with the Disney online community.
If you do decide to show up in the comments of the weekly livestream and watch the show, be sure to look for my name (Collin Kendall) mixed in with the rest of the group. Lou has helped me out quite a bit with different projects, and his work is second to none.
If you’re a Disney veteran or just looking for some of the backstory behind much of Magic Kingdom, be sure to check out Lou’s audio tours of the parks as well. The tours truly put you in the parks with sound that surrounds you just as if you were walking through the lands the tours represent. The audio brings a piece of the magic to wherever you are! (here’s one of the multiple tours to check out: Tomorrowland: Walt Disney World Audio Tour)
Honestly, I’m a little bias about this recommendation simply because it is my own book. However, I do truly believe that it is a great resource for a variety of theme park guests. Throughout the book I intended to create a guide for first time and returning guests to the parks that would not only be helpful but also somewhat portable in a way that other guidebooks lacked. The book isn’t a massive 800+ page brick to carry with you to the parks but rather a lightweight book that can easily fit inside a backpack.
Again, it is the book on this list that I did in fact write, but it is on the list for another reason as well. Throughout the title I tried to create the simplest possible way to list every resort, every attraction, and every dining location at the Walt Disney World Parks. While it was a monumental task, we managed to include every option currently found in the parks when it was first published in 2016. Along the way, I chose to give subtle tips and tricks that everyone can benefit from, but also a bit of history of the parks that many guests simply overlook during their vacation. While it’s not a history book or simply a guidebook, the goal was to fill the void somewhere in the middle. It won’t overwhelm first time guests and it should have a good amount of history and unique tips to capture the interest of Disney veterans as well. You can read it straight through or simply flip to exactly what you’re looking for. It’s all up to you and provides a variety of options!
This resource is kind of the odd ball of the group. While it isn’t a guide to the parks per say, it is in fact a critical part of a Disney vacation (at least in my opinion). The book itself is a guide to many of the Hidden Mickey’s Disney Imagineering has become famous for “leaving behind”. For those of you who are new to the parks, Hidden Mickey’s are essentially hidden references to the mouse that started it all. Mickey heads and silhouette are hidden all throughout the four parks and multiple resorts, but you certainly have to look for them to find them. While many are quiet difficult to locate, it creates a sort of large scale scavenger hunt for the whole family throughout your Disney vacation. Finding these hidden surprises all over the parks has been a tradition for our family for years and could very well become one for yours as well!
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