The Unofficial Guide: Walt Disney World With Kids 2011

Ed Forteau's picture

Now's the time that families gear up to head to Disney World over the holidays. We've got a fantastic resource that you should run out and get before you make even ONE tiny shred of a travel plan. Why?

The Unofficial Guides to WDW are incredible, detailed, COMPLETE guides. We've shared the Unofficial Guides for the last few years, and this new one for WDW with kids is even BETTER.

But first, let me digress into part of an interview with author Bob Sehlinger, from our 2009 Review:

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is revised for each printing, usually twice a year. Between editions we post changes on our Web site, At almost 900 pages, it is the largest and most comprehensive guide to WDW in print.

Many of us who work on the guide, including myself, come from scientific and operations research backgrounds, as opposed to travel writing backgrounds.  That means that while other writers are describing the “rhythmic cadence of the eternal seas under an azure sky,”  we’re out measuring stuff, collecting data, modeling, and figuring out how our readers can see everything at the theme parks without spending all day standing in lines.

From the first edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, minimizing our readers’ wait in lines has been a top priority. We know from our research and that of others that theme-park patrons measure overall satisfaction based on the number of attractions they’re able to experience during a visit: the more attractions, the better. Thus, we developed and offer our readers field-tested touring plans that allow them to experience as many attractions as possible with the least amount of waiting in line.

Our touring plans have always been based on theme-park traffic flow, attraction capacity, the maximum time a guest is willing to wait (called a “balking constraint”), walking distance between attractions, and waiting-time data collected at specific intervals throughout the day and at various times of year. The touring plans derive from a combinatorial model (for anyone who cares) that married the well-known assignment problem of linear programming with queuing (waiting line) theory. The model approximated the most time-efficient sequence in which to visit the attractions of a specific park. After we derived a preliminary touring plan from the model, we field-tested it in the park, using a test group who followed our plan and a control group (that didn’t have our plan) who toured according to their own best judgment.

By way of analogy, a Frommer's or Fodor’s gives the reader a plate of fish to choose from. An Unofficial Guide does this as well, but additionally points out which fish is best. More importantly, however, an Unofficial Guide teaches the reader how to fish.  Anyone who has ever read the hotel chapter in an Unofficial Guide can use the information and methodology to book a great hotel room at a bargain price in any city in the world.



For this guide, the Unofficial Guides team included kids! who share their own personal experiences at WDW. Other highlights include:

* WDW Tips from more than 12,500 families
* Tips for pregnant or nursing mothers
* Fright-potential warnings, for those families with smaller kids
* A NEW SECTION on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter



Speaking of Harry Potter, we spoke with Bob about this new attraction - you can hear his take (and tips) here: Expert Shares Tips for Wizarding World of Harry Potter


Let's get down to contents, shall we?


The book starts with the reason for Unofficial - a declaration of independence, reader surveys, and a quick tour of the theme parks.


It then delves into Part One, Basic Considerations. Even if you've been to WDW before, this section is a must-read. It covers things to see, the age thing, inviting your kids friends, single parent tips, grandparent tips, and more.


Part two, Getting your act together, covers researching WDW, the best times to go, budgeting, and even babysitting.


Part three, where to stay, is a gem. Covering costs, locations, and even lodging outside of WDW, it will save you money and time.


Part four, dining, is one of my favorites, since I loathe a bad meal. I'd rather eat a granola bar than a bad meal. So, when I picked up the book, I went straight to this section. At first discouraged, the reader comments helped me immensely. Interested in the Dining Plan? Be sure to read ALL the comments and decide if this is for you or not. All of the food - and restaurants - are rated, usually with prices, and tips for dining are exhaustive. For this reason alone, the book is more than worth the price.


Part five focuses on basic training for WDW vacations. Now, don't be thrown off by this - it's chock full of useful tips for preparing for and getting the most out of your trip.


The rest of the book focuses on specific parks - Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Universal Orlando and Sea World, and "The rest of the world" - by which they mean Orlando proper. These last sections include information on all the rides, wait times, best times to go, maps, and more. Of great interest to us was a description of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - which covers 20 acres! I've now got a much better idea of how we'd like to proceed to there.

When all is said and done, this is the most complete guide to WDW and its environs that I've ever seen. At 480 pages, it's enough to carry around and reference, and enough to give you all the information you'll need to make your family trip to Walt Disney World a success.


The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2011
Bob Sehlinger, Menasha Ridge, Liliane Opsomer, Len Testa
ISBN: 978-0-470-63237-6
480 pages



Note: We were sent a review copy of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2011 - THANK YOU!