Go to any Disney Facebook group and ask the question “What’s the best hotel on Disney property?” You’ll most likely get about 30 different answers and become completely overwhelmed by competing opinions. If you’d rather not use a Travel Agent and consider yourself a vacation DIYer, you might look to guides for help. There a quite a few blogs that offer their insight (like myself), but the most comprehensive and unbiased information you can find is from a guidebook. So, here’s a list of awesome Disney Guidebooks (and a couple eBooks) that helped me plan in the past and will hopefully help you too! Don’t worry about choosing the “right” one. Each suggested resource is just as beneficial as the next. You can click on my links below to find the books on Amazon!
P.S. I’ve only listed links for Disney World books, but most of these publishers write books for Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line as well.
This guidebook is referred to as the “Disney Bible” and is written by the same people who own and operate the reputable touringplans.com. Every year they come out with an updated version of their unofficial guides and every year they get better and more detailed. I started buying these books in 2012 and have purchased it every new version since. The size of the book can be intimidating, but I treat it as an encyclopedia rather than something I need to study cover-to-cover.
- 5-Star Ratings: Every attraction, show, restaurant, and resort is graded by their 5-star system, and I agree with their ratings most often. Restaurants are divided by Quick-Service and Table Service, then described in detail ranked by quality. Resorts, both on and off property are treated the same and contact information is provided for all of them.
- Packing tips and “bare necessities” are described in detail. From credit cards to souvenir shopping, to finding gas stations, it’s all there.
- Advice for a spectrum of travel groups like Disney for seniors, Disney for toddlers, and how to entertain your teenager.
Bonus: If you’re a true Disnerd, also read Unofficial Guide’s: The Disneyland Story. The story of Walt’s first conception of the park and how it evolved to the current form. I prefer listening to it on audible, but I also have the physical book for novelty reasons.
This is the only guidebook with Disney’s official stamp of approval. It’s also the most compact guide of the three I’ve mentioned. This may sound juvenile, but I love it because of the high-quality, colored photographs. It’s a fun guide to look through if you have kids, or if you’re a kid-at-heart, like me. And a great book to get you excited about your vacation!
Frommer’s is a trusted destination publisher that covers more than just Disney books. Their overviews are not quite as detailed as the Unofficial Guide and not quite as colorful as Birnbaum’s, but still very as useful. At this point, I would say buy it if you are partial to the Frommer’s brand.
Lou Mongello is among the elite Disney experts out there. He offers Disney guidebooks, podcasts, and videos dealing with tips and history to enhance your vacation. Always well-researched and entertaining, his tips for budgeting for your vacation will help you immensely. It’s mostly targeted at first-time visitors, but I found a few tips to be helpful as well. 102 Things To Do at Walt Disney World At Least Once is also a joy to read.
Making a dining reservation at Disney World has become one of the most difficult things to do when planning your vacation. Also, the restaurants on property are constantly being updated, replaced, or closed down completely. This can be both exciting and aggravating. The Dining Guide can be a really helpful resource when deciding where you’d like to eat and how to get those reservations. It’s also updated every year to keep with Disney’s ever-changing atmosphere.
Passporter’s has more general tips and guidance for the planning process, so if you’re looking for a categorical overview, it would be a good choice. Also, the structure of their planning binder actually makes planning fun! With Trip Diary pages and pockets placed inside, you can keep all of your printables and resources in one place.
I know I said to be wary of blogs, but there are two websites that I trust wholeheartedly. That’s Disney Food Blog and Disney Tourist Blog. Both of these offer eBooks that can be helpful as well.
Pretty much any restaurant and food item on property is reviewed on Disney Food Blog. Their eBook is beautifully done with photographs, four planning worksheets, updates on closures and refurbs and fun tips like the “trendiest bar” or “best hot dogs.” The other advantage of an eBook is that they have the ability to embed hyperlinks into the text. Not sure what a Mickey’s Premium Bar is? Click on the links inside the ebook and it will send you to a description. Pretty nifty. And if you’re already an expert, it’s fun to peruse for the sake of Disney daydreaming.
Disney Tourist Blog is the first the Disney blog that I followed and they are constantly inspiring me to create a more beneficial blog for my readers. If you can’t find everything you’re looking for in a guidebook and prefer to book your own vacations, then you’ll find this website and their eBooks very helpful.
If you’re not familiar with a Hidden Mickey, it’s the image of Mickey’s head hidden subtly by Imagineers around Disney property (and movies). A sort of inside joke from Imagineers throughout the years. The book helps you seek out the Mickey’s hidden around the parks. This will help you pass the time while you’re waiting in line or taking a break!
I couldn’t resist promoting this book! It won’t help you plan your vacation, but if you’re a Disney buff it’s a fascinating read. It will give you a profound respect for the Female Animators who reigned during Walt’s time. It is very large though, so don’t think it will be a good book to read on your flight!
These are the books and resources that shaped me into the Disney expert I am today. Since I’ve discovered them, I can plan a mean Disney itinerary like nobody’s business. Also, let me reiterate: you don’t have to read them all, so don’t be overwhelmed. Just find your favorite, make yourself a cup of tea, and start planning!