Synopses & Reviews
What's New and Updated in the 2014 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World
With the Magic Kingdom's new Fantasyland almost complete, imminent changes to Disney's FASTPASS ride reservation system, and Universal's construction of Harry Potter's Diagon Alley well underway, the 2014 edition is one of the largest updates made in many years.
Part 1 - Planning Before You Leave HomeCoverage of Disney's new My Disney Experience website, including navigation tips, how to make Fastpass+ reservations and dining reservationsUpdates on selecting the time of year for your visitLatest analysis of Disney's Extra Magic Hours schedule and advice on how to best utilize these perks if you're staying at a Disney resort.New strategies for "park-hopping"Expanded Walt Disney World 2014 Calendar
Part 2 - Time and MoneyThe latest Disney ticket price and what's included in Disney's various admission options; tips for where to find savings on theme park admission; how to plan for future price increasesA new, detailed section on Disney's new RFID-enabled MagicBand wristbands, used for admission media and payments, including how RFID technology works and the privacy implications of in-park location trackingA new, detailed section on Fastpass+, how Fastpass+ will affect your waits in line, and tips on which attractions will most benefit from Fastpass+Tips for partial days at the theme parks, including how to take advantage of Fastpass+How to use your mobile phone to update your touring plan while you're in the park, if something unexpected happens and you need to regroupLatest on Disney's park-opening procedures in "What to Expect when You Arrive at the Parks", including variations for holidays
Part 3 - AccommodationsUpdates to the section describing Disney's free Magical Express airport-to-hotel bus serviceTips on how to find discounts at Disney World hotelsOur new list of the best Disney-specialist travel agentsSneak peek at Disney's new Grand Floridian VillasTips on how to improve the performance of Disney's free WiFi service at your hotelUpdated Reader Report Card for the Disney resortsUpdates to the review of Disney's Grand Floridian resort, including pool and water play area constructionLatest on room refurbishments and potential upcoming construction at Disney's Polynesian ResortUpdates to the Wilderness Lodge, Bay Lake Tower, and Contemporary resort reviews after their 2012 refurbishmentsLatest on how Disney classifies room views at the Yacht Club and BoardWalk resortsInsider tips on the differences between Disney's All-Star Resorts, such as which one has the best food court and bus serviceUpdates to the chart of additional fees charged at the Downtown Disney resortsComplete rewrites of the reviews for Universal's Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay and Royal Pacific hotels, plus a look at the Cabana Bay resort scheduled to open in 2014A look at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, scheduled to open in 2014Updates to more than 60 off-site hotel ratings and rankings
Part 4 - SpasA review of the new Senses Spa at Disney's Grand Floridian resort Updates to the review of Mandara Spa at Portofino BayWe went back to the Ritz-Carlton Spa for a re-review, and we compare it to Disney's Grand FloridianPreview of the changes coming to the new Senses Spa at Disney's Saratoga Springs ResortNew review of the Waldorf Astoria Spa
Part 5 - The Disney Cruise LineUpdates to the list of ports and destinations served by DCL, including the new 2014 itinerariesComparison of DCL to Royal Caribbean, including prices, staterooms, service and amenitiesNew section on cruising with kids, including how Disney is adapting to recent trends in the cruise industry regarding more space per ship for kids' clubsHow to choose the right Disney ship, itinerary and shore excursionsUpdated overviews of each ship, including our rankings of the best and worst Disney shipsNew overview of Disney's staterooms and amenities, by category, including a description of bathroom configurations, verandah options and moreOur recommendation for which stateroom to choose for your family size, and the pros and cons of the various decksNew section on dining, including a detailed description of Disney's rotational dining system. Specific advice on which restaurants to try and which restaurants to skip, by shipSummary of the changes coming to the Magic after its 2013 dry dockRecommendations and reviews for entertainment on the shipsReviews of on-board children's activities, including the programs for young children, 'tweens, and teensSports and fitness options on each ship, including a review of the best treatments at each ship's spaWhere to find the best deals on Disney cruises
Part 6 - Walt Disney World with KidsUpdated hotel recommendations for families traveling with children 12 and youngerNew stroller company recommendations and price comparisons with Disney's strollersUpdated "Fright Potential Chart" with new Fantasyland attractionsUpdated "Hail Mary Pass" and "Switching Off/Baby Swap/Rider Swap/Rider Switch" coverage for new and refurbished attractionsSimplified, comprehensive chart of where to meet characters for free in each of the parksUpdated advice on character meals, including when to go and which meals are best for meeting charactersUpdates to Disney's policy regarding unaccompanied children in the parks; child-care center changes
Part 7 - Special Tips for Special PeopleExpanded section on weddings, commitment ceremonies and vow renewalsWhere to find the new "standing ECV" for rent in the parks, and off-site rental places that can save you moneyUpdates to the sections on special dietary needs
Part 8 - Arriving and Getting AroundUpdated driving directions, including best exits, based on latest construction for I-10, I-75,and I-4Updates to taxi, shuttle and towncar ratesUpdated section on Disney's free Magical Express bus service from the Orlando airport to your Disney resort, including how bags are handled when going to and coming from your Disney resort. Answers to frequently asked questions about storing medication, strollers, wheelcharis, clothing, etc., for immediate use when you arrive at the resortNew section on how to find the best rental car discountsNew coverage of Fox Rent A Car and their Fiat 500sGPS coordinates and addresses for theme park, water park, and Downtown Disney parking lotsUpdated Disney Transportation System commuting times chart, showing you the average and worst-case travel times between your resort and Disney's destinations. More than 600 bus trips were times for this updateUpdates to the operating hours of Disney's transportation systems, including bus, boat and monorail
Part 9 - Bare NecessitiesUpdates to the "Medical Matters" section for everything from headache relief to where to find urgent care in and outside the parksUpdated coverage of Disney's Photopass and Photopass Plus packagesAdvice on where to find places to charge your cell phone while in the parksUpdated comparison of prices at local grocery stores near Disney World, and which grocers to avoid
Part 10 - DiningUpdates to the dining section for Universal's CityWalkUpdated section on how Advance Dining Reservations workUpdates to Disney's policies on reservation cancelation and seasonal dining surchargesUpdated list of sample prices for counter-service foodRecommendations on the best restaurants for kids; for romantic couples; for coffeeNew reviews of the Magic Kingdom's counter-service lunch and sit-down dinner at Be Our GuestNew "Author's Favorite Counter-Service Restaurants" for the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios, and Animal KingdomNew review of Les Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie at Epcot's France pavilionNew review of L'Artisan des Glaces Artisan Ice Cream and Sorbet at Epcot's France pavilionUpdated review of Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar at Epcot's Italy pavilionNew review of Gaston's Tavern at the Magic KingdomPreview of Morocco's Spice Road Table restaurant set to open in late 2013Updated reader ratings for more than 150 counter-service and sit-down restaurants in Walt Disney WorldNew review of the food at the Splitsville bowling alley in Downtown DisneyNew review of Monsieur Paul at Epcot's France pavilion
Part 11 - The Magic KingdomInformation on the new Heroes/Villains parking lot system at the Magic KingdomUpdate on the Fantasyland expansion construction, including the Seven Dwarfs Mine TrainDescription of Fastpass loopholes found at the Magic KingdomNew review of A Pirates Adventure interactive game in AdventurelandDescription of the new queue effects at Big Thunder Mountain RailroadMinor updates to most Tomorrowland attraction descriptions and touring tipsCoverage of Disney's new nighttime Celebrate the Magic showWhere to find information for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas PartyPreview of the new Festival of Fantasy afternoon parade in the Magic Kingdom, scheduled to debut in 2014Updated "Traffic Patterns in the Magic Kingdom" section showing the effect of the new Fantasyland attractions on guests' touring habitsSummary of how Fastpass+ may change the best viewing locations for parades and fireworksMany new Jim Hill anecdotes
Part 12 - EpcotTips on where to find Epcot's alternate security checkpoint, in case the primary one is too crowdedNew review of Chevrolet's Test Track ride and pavilionUpdates to many attractions' "When to Go" times and touring tips including when to use Fastpass
Part 13 - Animal KingdomUpdates to the description of the park's opening proceduresNews on Festival of the Lion King's move from Camp Minnie-Mickey to AfricaNew review of Adventurer's Outpost character greetingNew review of Wilderness Explorers interactive scavenger huntUpdates on Animal Kingdom's Extra Magic Hours scheduleUpdates on Avatar construction and how it may affect what's left of Camp Minnie-MickeyUpdates to many attractions' "When to Go" times and touring tips including when to use FastpassUpdates to the Animal Kingdom's traffic patterns, considering the likely effects of the closing of Camp Minnie-Mickey and the newest information on the afternoon parade route
Part 14 - Disney's Hollywood StudiosUpdates to Fantasmic! schedule, seating capacity and preferred viewing spots for the Fantasmic dinner package
Tips on how to get your children signed up for the popular Jedi Training Academy showsNew review for The Legend of Captain Jack SparrowUpdates on the cancelation of the Studios' afternoon paradeNew section on the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing LightsWhere to meet characters for free
Part 15 - Universal OrlandoUpdates to Universal's ticket options and prices; comparison of value with Disney's theme parksNew section on lodging at UORUpdates on how Universal Express operates for resort guests and day guestsA brief overview of Universal's new Q-Bot ride reservation system
Part 16 - Islands of AdventureExpanded coverage of The Wizarding World of Harry PotterBest times to visit The Wizarding World for Universal Orlando resort guests and day guestsUpdates to IOA's dining recommendationsNew "Two Parks in One Day" touring plan featuring the best of IOA and Universal Studios Florida
Part 17 - Universal Studios FloridaCoverage of the new Springfield USA area, home of The Simpsons Ride and Kang and Kodos' Twirl and Hurl spinner rideLots of detail around the new Diagon Alley section of the park opening in 2014Updated review of Beetlejuice's Graveyard RevueUpdated review of The Blues Brothers showReview of Transformers: The Ride 3-DUpdated section in dining at Universal Studios FloridaUpdated touring plans for 2014
Part 18 - SeaWorldCoverage of the new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin ride, the largest expansion in SeaWorld history, and new TurtleTrek 3-D theater show
Part 19 - Behind the Scenes at Walt Disney WorldUpdates to the list of behind-the-scenes tours, prices and hours
Part 20 - The Water ParksUpdates to park hours, prices, and Extra Magic Hours policy
Part 21 to 23 - Beyond the Parks, Shopping and NightlifeCoverage of the new Disney Springs construction, which will merge together Downtown Disney, the West Side, and Pleasure IslandUpdates to the shops found in Downtown Disney, as well as where to find the best souvenirsUpdated golf course reviews, prices and hours
Touring PlansTouring plans now contain advice for how to use Fastpass+ in conjunction with the plans. For each step in which we suggest Fastpass, we'll tell you the approximate time at which the Fastpass return window should start to fit in the plan. This allows you to request the correct return time from Disney's Fastpass+ system.
If Disney limits the number of Fastpasses you can obtain, each touring plan also contains a prioritized list, from most important to less important, showing you which Fastpass+ attractions to get first.New Magic Kingdom One-Day Touring Plan for AdultsNew Magic Kingdom Selective One-Day Touring Plan for AdultsNew Magic Kingdom One-Day Plan for Parents with Small ChildrenNew Magic Kingdom Two-Day Touring PlanNew Dumbo-or-Die in a Day touring planNew Animal Kingdom one-day touring planUpdates to the Studios' one-day touring plan to include updated information on Tower of Terror's Fastpass distribution
"If you're looking for a reliable guidebook, the leader is the Unofficial series."
and#151;The Mail (London)
"A Tourist's Best Friend!"
and#151;The New York Times
Compiled and written by a team of experienced researchers whose work has been cited by such diverse sources as USA Today
and Operations Research Forum, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World
digs deeper and offers more than any other guide. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World
explains how Disney World works and how to use that knowledge to make every minute and every dollar of your vacation count. With advice that is direct, prescriptive, and detailed, it takes the guesswork out of travel by unambiguously rating and ranking everything from hotels, restaurants, and attractions to rental car companies. With an Unofficial Guide,
you know whatand#8217;s available in every category, from the best to the worst and step-by-step detailed plans allow the reader to make the most of their time at Disney World.
In "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014," Disney travelers will discover:
An expanded "Walt Disney World Calendar" with more special events and their impact on crowds
Updated FASTPASS information and the FASTPASS plus program
New information on where to rent strollers if traveling with children
Updates on the Fantasyland construction and the Disney Springs development
New dining information such as which restaurants will charge a cancellation fee
Six Great Features and Benefits offered ONLY by The Unofficial Guideand#174; to Walt Disney World 2014:
Exclusively patented, field-tested touring plans that save as much as four hours of standing in line in a single day
Detailed tips and secrets on Universal's The Wizarding World of Harry Potterand#8482;, from Butterbeer to broomsticks
More than 200 hotels rated and ranked for quality and value, including the top non-Disney hotels for families
A complete dining guide with ratings and reviews of all Walt Disney World restaurants, plus extensive alternatives for dining deals outside the World
Attractions rated and ranked for each age group; extensive, objective, head-to-head comparisons of the Disney and Universal theme parks
Completely independent critical appraisals. If a restaurant serves lackluster food or an attraction isn't worth the wait, we'll tell you.
About the Author
a Lowell Thomas Award-winning journalist, is best known as the creator and producer of The Unofficial Guide
He is credited with being the first to apply research techniques from the fields of operations research and statistics to travel guides. Among other projects, he was able to develop mathematical models that could save theme park patrons more than three hours of standing in queue in a single day.
Bob Sehlinger is founder and co-owner of Keen Communications, a book publishing company that includes Menasha Ridge Press, Clerisy Press, and Wilderness Press. The author of 27 books, Sehlinger is a past president of the Publishers Association of the South, and has served at the invitation of the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Information Service on educational missions for publishers in Hungary, Romania, and Russia.
A lifelong Disney theme park fan, Len Testa co-authors The Unofficial Guides to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Britainand#8217;s Best Days Out. In grad school, Lenand#8217;s masterand#8217;s thesis described new computer techniques for generating efficient theme park touring plans, for which Len was awarded a U.S. patent.
These days, Len leads the team at TouringPlans.com, the website and research arm of The Unofficial Guides. Len has stayed at every Disney hotel, experienced every Disney ride, and eaten at every Disney restaurant and food cart in the U.S. When heand#8217;s not at a Disney theme park, Len lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, in a mid-century modern house whose kitchen was custom-built after one of Space Mountainand#8217;s post-show scenes.