Both Frommer’s and DK Eyewitness Travel guides give you the lowdown on navigating Walt Disney World with kids, as well as touting the charms of nearby Orlando.
If you were planning to visit a city you had never been to before, you probably wouldn’t just show up and hope for the best. You’d look at maps, do some research and come up with a game plan of sightseeing and dining options. This is also the best way to approach Walt Disney World, which includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and the Disney Water Parks. In fact, if you don’t have some idea of what you want to do, you’ll be in danger of waiting in excruciatingly long lines, missing opportunities you didn’t know existed, and tiring yourself and your family out needlessly. These two books will help you navigate the land of Mickey, plus offer information on attractions in Orlando, such as SeaWorld, Universal Studios Florida and Discovery Cove.
by Laura Lea Miller. Wiley Publishing, 2006; $16.99
It is abundantly clear that the author Laura Lea Miller knows what she is talking about. With her five kids in tow, she has made repeated visits to the park and has written several other guidebooks about Disney World and Florida. This insider information about how to make the most of your time is invaluable, but I could do without some of the basic information (like how to find your car in the parking lot). Miller also has an eye for budget travel tips.
I like the grading system the author uses for rides (A through D) and the specific age ranges she recommends for attractions. There is nothing worse than waiting in a long line for a ride only to find out you wasted your time on something lame. A fun touch is that the author’s kids’ (ages 12, 10, 8, 6 and 4) are quoted throughout, weighing in on rides. For example, Hailey, age 6, says of the Haunted Mansion: “I was a little scared, but Mom kept reminding me it was all pretend.”
Most parents know a great hotel pool can be a lifesaver. You can’t stay at the theme park all day (okay, you could, but you’d be exhausted). Miller details which properties have the best pools, a great enticement to get your kids to leave the park. Other tips sprinkled throughout the book include where to find talking water fountains and trash cans in the parks, which kids love, and which grocery stores will deliver to your hotel (a money saver if you have a kitchenette).
Dopey advice worthy of Goofy turned me off. Reminders to bring a picture ID or to tie a colorful ribbon around your luggage to find it at the airport have a ring of condescension and just seem like filler.
Yes, because without someone telling you, how would you know being the first in line to a show might mean you get the worst seats? Miller says it can be better to hang back so you get seats in the middle of the theater. Early birds get shunted off to the sides. This is just one example of truly useful information you’ll find here to make it worth your while, especially for all the Walt Disney World parks (less so for Orlando).