This is an official Disney guide, with all that implies for good or ill; the bias is obviously positive, but the information is reliable too. Disney is becoming the ultimate cradle-to-the-grave company, and that big-picture, we-even-brought-the-toenail-clippers efficiency is captured in this compleat guide to all things Disney in the Orlando FL area.
The book begins at the beginning: Getting Ready to Go gives sound advice on when to go, how to get there, various ticket options and even sample schedules for each of the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom) complete with must-see lists and tips for travelling with young children and maximizing the number of rides you get on. There are lots of color graphics, charts and tip boxes to liven things up and present material understandably. A planning timeline is oddly reminiscent of a wedding planner, with things to do 6 months before the trip, 4 months, 3 months, 1 month, 2 weeks and 1 week before. Yikes! Obviously Mickey is a better planner than me, who is grabbing a book the day before I travel and hoping to read it on the plane.
The chapter on Transportation & Accommodations (including Disney cruises) is equally thorough, and then there is a chapter for each of the parks that includes maps, attraction descriptions (and sometimes pictures), shopping and entertainment information, and a Hot Tips section which did help us out. After reading the book we hit the ground running and made good use of our time.
A hodge-podge chapter gives info about Downtown Disney, BoardWalk, Daredevil Disney, the water parks, spas, cruises and behind-the-scenes tours, and a Sports chapter covers golf, tennis, boating, fishing and swimming opportunities while you're in the area.
Finally, the chapter on restaurants reminds you that even eating within the kingdom requires planning, but all the information you'll need is here. We picked out a few restaurants we thought we'd like, and then when we got hungry we chose based on crowds and our location. I feel we made an informed decision and were happy with our food, the experience and the way our time flowed. Again, graphics and charts lay out a lot of information in a clear way.
When every detail of services and attractions is in the book, the problem becomes one of finding those details relevant to you, and this index is comprehensive but it is not exhaustive. If you want to squeeze every drop of fun from your holiday in Orlando, you will have to page through, marking and noting pertinent information.
The ten coupons, all expiry dates in December 2003, were not helpful to us, featuring food and admission breaks at Disney Quest, Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island resorts, Dive Quest, Pleasure Island and the sports complex, Fantasia Gardens, mini-golf and Dolphins in Depth, but maybe they will be handy for you.
This is a very helpful guide, well written and informative, though it could use a better index. Whether you are a plan-weeks-in-advance traveller or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants traveller, a novice or a seasoned Disney visitor, this official handbook will help you get the most from your trip.