I have mixed feelings about this book. I was really excited to get it as I am currently planning a trip to Walt Disney World (WDW) in the fall, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for to plan my vacation. I love that it is in color and I felt like some of the pictures were helpful, but most of the pictures try to capture the feel of the location rather than what the actual location looks like.
What I LIKED about this book:
* Lots and lots of pictures - these are especially helpful for those who don't know what any of the park looks like. I go to Disneyland quite often so the pictures of the Magic Kingdom were not really helpful for me, but I loved the pictures at the Animal Kingdom & Epcot as I haven't seen these two areas of the park before.
* Very motivating and exciting to read this book. If you are having a difficult time deciding if you want to go to WDW, this book will help push you over the edge into - YES! I want to go now! If you have already decided to go, I don't think that this book is that helpful.
* Pretty well-organized as far as layout is concerned. I found the headers by each ride useful. These headers include what the ride is, how big of a ride it is, when the best times to go are to get the shortest line, author's rating, special comments (scary for younger kids, better at night, etc.), length of ride, average wait time loading speed and a 1 - 5 star rating per age group. I think this area would be super helpful if you are traveling with a group of varied ages or if you have children with you.
* I felt that the sections on the Animal Kingdom & the Disney Hollywood Studios were excellent. They were upbeat, funny, and made me excited to visit those areas of the park.
* There are some nice sections in the book that include information about Walt Disney's vision of the park, how each section of WDW was conceptualized and conceived and other factual information that I found interesting and informative.
* This book also includes sections on the water parks, Downtown Disney and other activities, such as sports, that you can participate in while you are at WDW. I really had no idea how many other activities were available around the park and found this section eye opening. This made my vacation sound that much more exciting as I realized there is plenty to do if I decide not to go to the park one day for any reason.
Why I DID NOT LIKE about this book:
* There is no pricing information included. All of the guides that I have purchased in the past contain a range of pricing for all of the lodging and the food included in the book. This guide does not. It puts them in categories of moderate, expensive, etc., but there is no actual price range there. I really would have appreciated a range of pricing, even though I know prices vary by season and promotion. This would have been tremendously helpful in planning lodging and if I wanted to dine at any of the special restaurants.
* The authors managed to make a lot of the park sound lackluster and not worth your time. All of the Disney hotels had huge drawbacks and none of them sounded appealing after I read the descriptions. I have several friends who just went to WDW last year and they raved about many of the lodging experiences and details so I was disappointed with this.
* This book is not meant to be used alone as a guide. You could probably get by with it, but one of the first things that the guide states is that you are supposed to use it with one of their other guides. Then, of course, they push their product a lot at the beginning. Mercifully, most of this urging to use their website and buy other guidebooks is limited to the beginning of the book.
* The sections regarding lodging, the Magic Kingdom and the Epcot Center were more factual than enthusiastic. Most of the stuff you are looking for it is there (what the ride is, what happens on it, etc.), but it doesn't make you excited to go on the ride or to see the show. I didn't get excited about going to WDW until I got to the end of the book, where the Animal Kingdom and other parks are featured. I felt like the first half of the book was much weaker than the second half.
* This book waffles between being humorous and being serious. You are never quite sure what you should believe. There are a few fake hotels that they make up and put in the lodgings section. There are also a few pages of food specialties that don't exist. They never let you in the joke, they just already assume that you are in the know. This means that this guide is not at all useful for foreigners as I don't think they would get it.
* This book is not for people who are serious about their food. Descriptions are brief and there are really no pictures of food. I feel like there should have been some pictures of the food so that you can kind of judge for yourself how appetizing something looked. Take out the fake food pictures and use the space for real food!
* What I was missing most in this guide is some kind of designation that showed that a restaurant or a feature/ride was a favorite of the author or the group. The other guides I have read have a little checkmark or an asterisk that shows something is particularly enjoyable or that they highly recommend it. Everything gets a level playing field, but we all know that some things at theme parks are better than others.
I read this book from cover to cover. And I mean that I read EVERYTHING, including the brief food descriptions underneath the restaurants and, at the end of the book, I was still torn and was asking myself "Is this still a good guide to purchase?" Yes and no. If you are trying to decide if you want to go to the park and need some pictures and a quick snapshot of each ride, show or any other kind of experience, then this book is useful and informative, especially if you have kids so that they can look at all the pictures. If you have already decided to go and are looking for 1 guide to take to the park with you, this is not your book. If you are like me and you buy several guides before you go on vacation, read them all, and then decide which ones to take with you on that day, this book is worthy of inclusion. Ultimately, I think that this guide is a good purchase, but it was not inclusive enough for me and was missing some critical components.