My mom always told me that “planning the trip was half the fun” when it came to family vacations. I’ve never asked her if that included planning our trip to Walt Disney World. Probably, but things have changed a lot in the Disney Parks since we went in the ’90s. Now that I’m the primary trip planner, I can say that planning IS part of the fun. It’s part of the anticipation. Perhaps no family trip requires more planning of meticulous details for the most success than the epic Disney family vacation. The problem for me and a few other stragglers out there? I’m low tech most times. So how can one plan a great Disney vacation with very little app access or knowledge of My Disney Experience? Using the old brick and mortar library and some real books! That’s how! Here are some of the best planning resources I’ve found on library shelves lately to assist in your offline Disney Parks planning.
With technology and devices more like an extra appendage than an accessory these days, it’s natural to go to the almighty Google when you need answers. That’s fantastic – especially while you’re IN line at Walt Disney World or on the go (dreamily riding in the Magical Express from Orlando International Airport perhaps!). But before you go, it’s worth looking into a few hard copy resources to make sure you’ve covered your bases. Walt Disney World is one of those trips where you do not want to skimp on the pre-planning. Here are some of the best books and guides we’ve found for Walt Disney World planning. Even if you could have authored one of these, Disney experts may find the books just plain interesting to browse.
Offline Disney Planning Resources
Birnbaum’s – This is near the top of the list because it is one of the most easy-to-read-and-use guides I’ve looked at on the topic of Disney. To be fair, I’ve held EACH AND EVERY one of these guides in my hands and read them cover to cover in the last few weeks. I Iove the highlights and sidebars, full of random but pertinent tips. If you were going to OWN a hard-copy guide, I’d pick this one. Color photos help to illustrate expectation for everything from food to character experiences to lodging. We had a great time reading little tidbits. (Hey, did you know many of the Animal Kingdom costumes are made from wood?)
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Disney – This guide is a traditionally printed rough-paper bound in between a cover with an orange banner, so not much to look at, BUT it has great tips and pretty much every detail under the
ears sun. Fun tips about where to buy creative souvenirs, ways to make the visit MORE magical, and others are what makes this guide great. Downside? On top of the somewhat overwhelming Disney lingo that you already have to self-study, this book has a lot of its own abbreviations and guides within the guide. Still a good read, especially for first-timers or about six months out from the trip or more.
The Everything Family Guide to the Walt Disney World Resort – This is another guide that is plain to the first glance but is chock-full of great tips and is organized in a way that sets it apart from your typical regional guidebook. This made the list because if you can excuse the “boring” format, it’s very comprehensive. It’s not a front-liner with a well-known brand name, but it certainly has its place on your bookshelf while you’re pouring over Disney planning info!
PassPorter’s Walt Disney World – Not just a guidebook — if you’re a little like me, a bit old school and you might not be so app-savvy with your flip phone, this is the book to physically take with you. Yes, guidebooks are clunky and sometimes cumbersome, but this one is quite handy. It was written to be toted along — not just for Disney planning, but for Disney-doing! And after your trip, your annotated PassPort makes a great souvenir.
Other Travel Leaders with Print Resources
We all know and love Pauline Frommer, Fodor’s guides, and the Lonely Planet books in the travel world. As obvious trusted resources in family travel, these are going to be good guides in a familiar format (if you already know and love hard-copy guides) so you can expect the same to be true for their Disney coverage. We checked out the Lonely Planet Florida guide and it had good information on Disney, but it was more general, since the book also covered more, including the other regions of Florida. Below are a few examples of texts that we know exist but may not have checked out firsthand but would be promising titles.
Fodor’s Walt Disney World
Frommer’s Easyguide Walt Disney World
Frommer’s Walt Disney World and Orlando
Lonely Planet Florida
Get a FREE Disney Planning DVD
This is a little extra mention — you should ABSOLUTELY order a Disney planning DVD, even if you’re a seasoned veteran. It’s a nice way to introduce the idea of going to “the big D” (as we’ve come to talk about our trip in code) — kids will love “movie night” watching this freebie.
It’s NOT very forth-coming with actual planning information, so Disney’s name for the resource is a little misleading, BUT it’s a great overview (like 1-2 seconds of everything) of what one can do at Walt Disney World. So, for Disney planning, it must be mentioned and is totally worth the money you won’t spend ordering it!
Totally Worth a Read
It may have been a while since you’ve dusted off your local library card, but for me it was an outstanding resource for getting my hands on all the guides I could ever want without paying the steep cover prices. This is a GREAT option if you aren’t an annual passholder or if you don’t plan on bringing the books into the park. If you are super responsible and/or willing to replace the book, just check it out during the time frame that encompasses your trip. That’s not us. We’d have a guide book covered in Dole Whip and would be on the librarians blacklist for sure.
Tip: If you are using library books, make sure to look for the most recent edition and keep in mind that things may have changed since the book went to press. Many rides have scheduled shut-downs, so do check in with the “real” world and look at the official Disney site for those important updates!
These are all super ways to learn more about everything related to the ears without ever using a singling gigabyte of data or needing Wi-Fi. There are still those of us in the rural reaches of the world that use real, tangible books and are thankful for our libraries! Yes, there’s great benefit to using the My Disney Experience app and learning things you might not have known about Disney by perusing online, BUT books have a place too! These are certainly the best for planning an upcoming Disney Parks vacation!