Best Disney World Guide Books & Vacation Planners
Walt Disney World offers something for everything from the moment that you arrive. There are rides, food galore, and the always exciting moments of running into the amazing Disney characters as well.
(Even as adults, there’s always time to snap a quick photo with a Disney star or two!)
But planning a Disney World can also be very overwhelming.
And no wonder — the entire Walt Disney World Resort is roughly twice the size of Manhattan!
The best way a first-time visitor can prepare for a successful Walt Disney World vacation is by getting their hands on a good resource. Yes, even with all the info on the Internet, it’s uniquely helpful to have a trusted source in your hand, where you can flip to exactly what you’re looking for and get a helpful, concise answer. A good will give you detailed information on wait times for the most popular attractions, descriptions and reviews of the best restaurants, and, of course, money-saving tips.
This is why you’re going to be delighted to check out some of the best Disney World Guide Books to get answers to all those questions (and probably answers to questions that you haven’t even thought of yet!)
After reading this post, you’ll be able to purchase the best resource for you so you can take control of your trip, make the right choices, enjoy the planning process, and have the perfect stay.
Now let’s look at some great books, both for planning your Disney trip and just learning some cool facts and Disney World and its history.
Birnbaum’s 2023 Walt Disney World (Birnbaum Guides)The Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the MagicThe Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2023 (Unofficial Guides)
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2023
This is, hands down, my favorite guide. I actually have a fair amount of nostalgia for it. It was invaluable to me years ago on our family’s first visit. and I’ve continued to buy the current edition every few years to get the latest updates.
Authors Bob Sehlinger (a Lowell Thomas award-winning journalist) and Len Testa give in-depth reviews and ratings, plus plenty of quotes and comments from Disney guests. But I love this book for two main reasons:
- It doesn’t pull any punches about what isn’t so great at Disney
- It’s highly entertaining and can be downright hilarious at times
I remember our family sitting in the living room years ago with me reading sections of this book to them, and all of us laughing out loud.
Sigh … good times. 🙂
Don’t let the size of this books scare you off. It’s pretty easy to just go to the topic that interests you at the moment. I would recommend having a highlighter pen and some sticky tabs on hand when you read it. (I would also recommend NOT buying the Kindle edition.)
Amazon reviewers mhb calls the Unofficial Guide “A must for all Magic Kingdom visitors”:
I first ordered this book 10 years ago for my family’s trip to Disney World. It did not disappoint! Following the directions, we did not stand in line for a single ride!!
In a few months, Hubby and I are going to Epcot and Hollywood Studios for our 25th Anniversary. This book provides detailed info about what is going on at both parks. Following plans in the book, we expect to have a great time!
Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World: The Official Vacation Guide
Steve Birnbaum has been creating and updating this guide book year after year and has been doing so since 1981. There is so much information in this book that it’s a dream guide for
anyone taking a trip to Disney World.
People seem to fall into two camps: Team Unofficial Guide (listed above) or Team Birnbaum Guides.
People who prefer Birnbaum often say that the Unofficial Guide “has too much information” and is “too bulky.”
Also, the Birnbaum guide is more visual. It has color photos and graphics, list, and blurbs.
The Unofficial Guide, on the other hand, reads more like a narrative, is more subjective and has more of a personal voice to it. (Which is what I like about it.)
Grandma and Amazon reviewer Donna M. Toohey calls this book “the perfect planning tool”:
I can’t say enough about this book. Great planning tool. Loaded with up to date information, great tips and photos.
We’re planning a trip with my grandkids and even the 3 year old liked this book because of pictures.
Added bonus: coupons! ❤❤❤
Best Walt Disney World Hacks
102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World
Author Lou Mongello is the host and producer of the WDW Radio show, which was named Best Travel Podcast for eight years in a row.
I know a lot of us feel like we’ve “heard it all” when it comes to saving money at Disney, but Lou includes several things you may not have known (or fully understood) before.
Amazon reviewer Dennis Keithly calls it “a useful guide to planning and saving”:
This book presented one of the best and most concise descriptions of the dining plan that I have found so far.
Lou did a good job of outlining the pros and cons of whether you should stay on Disney property or whether you should rent a house or stay in a nearby hotel. Furthermore, he did well in outlining the advantages of staying at the various levels of resorts (value vs. moderate).
NOTE: This is the only book on this list that I would recommend getting the Kindle version for, because of all the links included.
Great Ways to Save Money on Disney World Food and Tickets
Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets
If you already know the basics (or already have a guide book) but want to take your Disney trip to the next level, you could get this guide that focuses solely on finding Hidden Mickeys.
My daughter Rebecca is particularly interested in finding Hidden Mickeys, so I got this book for her for Christmas one year.
While it’s a neat idea and did provide some entertainment while waiting in line for rides, we were unfortunately a little disappointed in this book. It was often hard for us to understand the descriptions of exactly where some of the Hidden Mickeys were located.
Amazon reviewer RR had this same sentiment, but, uh … said it a lot more strongly. You can read his somewhat angry review here.
Still, as long as you go into it knowing that there are no photos and that you might be a little frustrated at times when the verbal instructions aren’t clear enough, I would recommend this book if you like the idea of adding some free fun to your trip.
Mousejunkies: Tips, Tales, and Tricks for a Disney World Fix
I’ve never read this book, but it sounds fun and interesting, and definitely different from most guide books.
The Amazon description calls it:
A collection of amusing travelogues and savvy insider’s tips gleaned from a group of seemingly rational adults who find themselves inexplicably drawn to the Magic Kingdom …
… Packed with useful information, from touring plans to restroom reviews, these funny, affectionate personal accounts paint a vivid portrait of a creatively engineered world where unexpected surprises create lasting memories.
So it sounds more like an entertaining narrative than a replacement for Birnbaum or the Unofficial Guide.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Amazon reviewer Jerrie S. Walker described what this books’s strengths and weaknesses are:
My husband and I are planning our fifth trip to WDW for Sept. 2012. We would consider ourselves mini-Mousejunkies. I read the excerpt for this book on Amazon and found the authors writing style quite engaging and downright funny at times. Being pretty well versed in all things Disney, we didn’t really get many new tips, but for a newbie, this would probably be a helpful read.
It is heavy in Epcot. It is obvious that the Mousejunkies enjoy that park the most. We are a Magic Kingdom kind of family and would prefer to have a little more insight there.
Overall, I am not disappointed with the book. We read it for the comedy and it did provide us with a little refresher on some of the fun things to do at ‘the World’. It has been nice because it has been the first book we are reading to get us amped up for the trip, so the reminder of why we love the place has been joyful.
It’s worth noting that Mousejunkies was written in 2015, so you’re not going to get any cutting-edge information.
The Ultimate Disney Packing List
Now that you know the best Disney World Guide Books, let’s take a bit of time to talk about a
few other great book choices that should be on your radar as well.
Books about Disney World History
The story about the start of Disney World is actually pretty fascinating. What started out as a vision and a dream for Walt Disney was transformed into an amazing destination for families to
enjoy and make memories. But do you know all the history of how it all came to be?
For me, reading about Disney World trivia always gets me excited for an upcoming trip and helps me enjoy the parks even more.
The Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic
Here’s another book by podcaster Lou Mongello.
This book isn’t a guidebook or planner, but a unique collection of hundreds of multiple-choice trivia questions about all aspects of Walt Disney World.
The book is divided into six chapters: one chapter covering the “World” in general, four chapters cover each of the theme parks, and one chapter focuses on things like the resort hotels and water parks.
One thing worth noting is that the trivia questions are in one section of the book and the answers are in another section. Some reviewers found it annoying to have to keep flipping back and forth.
One Amazon customer was able to turn this book into a fun family activity:
This book is the quintessential Disney fact book! I absolutely love it! It is the type of book that you can pick up briefly and “thumb through it”.
Oh and by the way, the information is not just boring facts listed on a page, the facts are in a multiple choice format-we read it in the car and make it a “Quiz Show” type game with the kids-they love it!
The facts are amazing within themselves but what I really enjoy is that I can pick it up at anytime, quickly read a few facts and be on my way!
For Disney fans this book is a “must-have”–think you know everything there is to know about WDW well you may be pleasantly surprised at all of the new tidbits of trivia you will find with this book!
A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World: Volume 1
If you’ve ever found yourself sitting and wondering about how Walt Disney World came to be, this is the book (or really, series of books) for you.
You’ll find answers to questions to things like:
- Why Walt Disney wanted a Jungle Cruise
- Why the original conception for Tomorrowland didn’t work out
- How the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace is really the work of a forgotten Victorian architect
Amazon reviewer Wulfstan describes what makes this Disney World history book different:
There are a number of books about the history of Walt Disney World and it’s attractions. You can read these and find when Pirates of the Caribbean first went in , how long the ride is, what was Walt’s involvement, how the attraction changed, etc.
This nice little book by neophyte author Andrew Kiste covers all that- but more.
See, Andy (is it OK if I call you that Mr. Kiste?) is a History teacher, so not only do we get the history of the attraction or park, we get the history behind the history.
So, for example, when Andy covers The Jungle Cruise we get the usual tidbit that Walt originally wanted it to have live animals (who’d be sleeping during the day), but also a little history of Colonial Africa, a mention of Heart of Darkness, African Queen and The African Lion- all sources for this wonderful attraction.
When A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World: Volume 1 ( and I am really looking forward to Volume 2!) covers Pirates of the Caribbean, is also mentions a few historical inaccuracies of that E Ticket ride. We also get the Crystal Palace, Main Street, the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Carousel of Progress, and Tomorrowland.
In other words, the author is a history teacher — and it shows.
Disney World Planning Binder
Now that you’ve consulted your favorite guide book, maybe you’re ready to start making some notes, plans, timelines, and reservation information about your own Disney vacation.
I have a set of printables that are perfect for that.
You can print them out and arrange them any way you like. You can hole-punch them and put them in a binder, laminate the cover (or make your own customized cover and staple them together, bind them with colored yarn … you choose!
More Disney World Vacation Planning Posts
- The Best Shoes for Walking in Disney World
- 65 Walt Disney World Vacation Hacks & Secrets
- The Best Sling Bags & Backpacks for Disney World
What’s your favorite Disney book?
Now it’s your turn.
Have you tried any of the books on this list? Do you have your own favorite that you recommend? Are you Team Birnbaum or Team Unofficial Guide? What was the most helpful resource you used in planning past Disney vacations? Let us know below in the comments!