This best selling and definitive guide to Disney World is bigger and better than ever!
Exhaustively researched and packed with insider advice that will save you both time and moneyTried and tested touring plans that save as much as four hours of standing in line in a single dayTips, advice, and opinions from hundreds of Walt Disney World guests in their own wordsAlmost 250 hotels rated and ranked for quality and value, including the top non-Disney hotels for familiesA complete Dining Guide with ratings and reviews of all Walt Disney World restaurants, plus extensive alternatives for dining deals outside the WorldEvery attraction rated and ranked for each age group. Coverage of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter including best times to beat the crowds, the best places to buy Butterbeer, and the scoop on all the shops in the village of Hogsmeade.Walt Disney World Resort theme parks are rated best in the world. earning high marks for things outside of the traditional theme park experience. Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival, which takes place for six weeks every fall and showcases food from twenty-five countries, was rated by Forbes Traveler as one of the Best U.S. Food and Wine Festivals.In 2011, Disney not only launched its new cruise ship, the Disney Dream, it also announced plans of a complete overhaul of Pleasure Island set to begin construction and reopen as Hyperion Wharf
Q&A with Author Bob Sehlinger
Do you need a car at Walt Disney World?
I prefer to have a car. The Disney Transportation System is very efficient, but with the exception of commuting to the Magic Kingdom, driving your own car is usually faster. Plus, having your own car makes it easier to dine outside WDW where restaurants are less expensive. We've documented that the bucks you save eating outside the World will more than pay for the rental car. Also, having a car allows you to visit other area theme parks like Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and SeaWorld.
Where can you find crowd estimates for the days of your visit?
The website for The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World is touringplans.com. For a small subscription fee you can access our Crowd Calendar that is updated daily, and projects crowd levels for all four Disney parks for every day of the year. The calendar also specifies which park will be least crowded for a particular day. We used to publish the Crowd Calendar in the guidebook until it became apparent that to be accurate it required updating every day.
What's the best Disney park to visit on a really crowded day?
While there are a couple of exceptions relating to unusual circumstances, Epcot is the go-to park for holidays and other periods of extremely heavy attendance? Epcot is large, spread out, and open with plenty of elbowroom. Additionally, most Epcot attractions are engineered to accommodate more guests per day than attractions in the other parks.
If you have to take your Disney vacation in the summer, is one time less crowded than another?
Because most families take a couple weeks to get into their summer routine after school lets out, and another week or two to prepare for returning to school, late May, early June, and the last two weeks of August are the least crowded. The school year in Florida starts a week or more earlier than in most of the rest of the country. Consequently, comparatively few locals visit the theme parks on weekdays.
Do hotels outside Walt Disney World provide free transportation service to the parks?
Many do, but the shuttles don't run as often as those serving Disney hotels. What's more, non-Disney shuttles usually do not have the ability to increase carrying capacity during the busiest hours in the morning and at park closing. Though some shuttles serve only one hotel, others provide service to several hotels making for a long and potentially crowded commute.
What is Downtown Disney?
Located on the north side of WDW, Downtown Disney is a shopping, recreational, dining, and entertainment complex arrayed around Lake Buena Vista. Divided into three contiguous areas: Disney Marketplace, Hyperion Wharf (formerly the Pleasure Island nightclub complex), and the West Side. While the Marketplace is Disney World’s shopping Shangri-La, the West side offers a 24-screen AMC movie theater and is home to Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba. Also on the West Side is DisneyQuest, a sophisticated electronic games arcade frequently referred to as “a theme park in a box.” Hyperion Wharf is a venue in the making that may become Hyperbole Wharf, Wishful Wharf, or any of a dozen other things as Disney laboriously ponders its options.
What is the best Disney World restaurant for a quiet romantic meal?
Our experience and that of our readers indicate that quiet romantic meals are few and far between at WDW. Children are the rule rather than the exception at WDW's better restaurants, and readers attest to the presence of kids at all hours of the evening. Often, the later the hour, the crankier the children. Pressed to offer a suggestion, however, I would recommend Citricos at the Grand Floridian Hotel and Spa. The food is excellent and the subdued atmosphere tends to attract fewer families than other Disney dining venues.
What's available for adults in the way of nightlife at Walt Disney World?
With the former nightspots at Pleasure Island shuttered, what remains is an Irish Pub and the House Of Blues, both offering live music at Downtown Disney. Overt at Disney's Boardwalk there’s a dueling piano bar and a dance club. At the Swan Resort, there's Kimonos, a Japanese sushi and tempura restaurant that hosts karaoke after 9 p.m. Rounding out the roster at the Coronado Springs Resort is Rix Lounge, a Vegas-ultra lounge clone that seems to come to life only when there’s a big convention at the hotel.
What's the best time of year to go to Walt Disney World?
If your children are pre-school age go in the off-season, preferably in November before Thanksgiving or in early to mid-December before Christmas. The crowds are comparatively light, the weather is usually warm and sunny, and the theme parks sparkle in their Christmas regalia. If you have school age kids your best bets for avoiding huge crowds are early June as soon as school is out or late August just before classes resume.
How old should a child be to go Walt Disney World?
Just about any age can be rewarding as long as you're practical and realistic. Children three years and younger will respond to the color and festivity and you’ll bring home some really sweet pictures of the kids on Dumbo, but they won't remember a lot about their experience. And our research has documented that kids up to age 7 or 8 cite swimming in the hotel pool as their favorite thing on a Walt Disney World vacation. If your objective is to spend most of your time in the theme parks wait until your children at least a mature seven or eight.
What are some considerations concerning selecting a hotel?
Selecting a hotel can be tricky with over 220 hotels in the area to choose from. Perks like extra hours in the theme parks, free parking, and use of the Disney transportation system come with staying in a Disney hotel, but comfortable, clean hotels outside the World can be had for a fraction of the price. Kayak.com, a travel search engine will tell you which Internet travel seller has the best price for any hotel you are interested in. After finding the best Internet rate, call the hotel itself (not the national reservation number) to ask about specials. About 25% of the time the hotel will beat the best Internet rate available. Inquire about the age of the hotel and when the guestrooms were last refurbished. Also consider a vacation home rental. These offer exceptional room and amenities at a fraction of what comparable quality in a hotel room would cost. Finally, because Walt Disney World is so large, be aware that some hotels and vacation homes outside of the World are actually closer to the theme parks than several on-site Disney resorts.
How can you save money on food and dining?
Disney World restaurants are typically expensive so economizing on meals is much easier if you stay and eat outside Walt Disney World. Free coupon books abound outside of Walt Disney World and can save a considerable sum. Whether you lodge in or out of the World it's a good idea, not to mention a time saver, to buy a cheap cooler and breakfast staples so that you can have breakfast in your hotel room.
What type of admission is best?
Depends. Disney theme park admissions start with a Base Ticket or “Starter Pass.” Features such as visiting more than one park in a day (park hopping), a no expiration option, and the inclusion of minor theme parks and attractions admission can be added to the Base Ticket on an a' la carte basis at additional cost. The objective is to purchase exactly what you need, no more, no less. The Website TouringPlans.com has a nifty free program that will tell you, after answering a few basic questions about your itinerary, what the best admission option is for you.
What's the best way to avoid the long lines?
For starters, try to visit during a slower time of year. Secondly, arrive before the park opens, admission in hand. Third, have a plan. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World offers scientifically derived, field-tested touring plans for each of the theme parks that can save you 4 1/2 hours of standing in line on a day of average to high attendance! The research behind the touring plans has been the subject of features in the New York Times, the Dallas Morning News, and in numerous academic journals.
What are your five most important tips for having a successful Disney vacation?
1. Prepare physically. You’ll walk as much as 8-12 miles in a day. Start your family on a walking regimen months in advance to build endurance.
2. Don't overload your agenda. Less is more at Walt Disney World. Better to devour Disney World a bite at a time with plenty of rest and relaxation in between.
3. Resign yourself to not being able to see everything in one visit.
4. Have a plan but don't over plan. It’s about having fun, not sticking rigidly to an itinerary. Allow for spontaneity.
5. Anticipate surprises both good and bad. Stay loose, roll with the punches, and maintain a good sense of humor.