The Best Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Tools

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Walt Disney World vacations are not cheap.  Not only does a Disney vacation cost a lot of money, they require quite of bit of time to plan.  Proper planning can save you time and money.  It is important to choose the correct resources to plan your Walt Disney World vacation.

There are many resources out there to help you plan a vacation to Walt Disney World.  Many are free and some will cost you money.  It is important to pick and choose where you spend your time and money wisely while planning your vacation.  So, what resources are best?

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is considered the “Disney Bible” to even the most experienced Walt Disney World vacationers.  It is meant to give you all the information you would need to have the best Walt Disney World vacation possible. 

PROS:  The book is massive and leaves no stone unturned.  The Unofficial Guide, as it is called for short,   There is a team of writers who put together the book each year.  It contains information on Walt Disney World Resorts, Walt Disney World tickets, various activities, information on rides, in-depth information on restaurants and specials tips to make the most of your time and money.  It is objective—giving both what is wonderful about Walt Disney World and what is left to be desired and both sides of each issue.  The Unofficial Guide comes out for the next year around September (give or take a month) the previous year.  It is updated around February, as Walt Disney World is never static.  Sometimes, there is even a third edition.  If you only pay for one thing, buy The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.  It is money well spent. 

CONS:  The book is massive.  The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World takes awhile to read and it is easy to get lost; sometimes it feels as though there is more information than is necessary to the average Walt Disney World tourist.  It can leave some people a bit more confused than when they started.  Despite their many indexes, it can be difficult to find specific information.

www.touringplans.com

The website, www.touringplans.com, is the website that is run by The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World team. 

PROS:  This is updated regularly, if not daily.  It offers updates to the book, but ownership of the book is not necessary to use the site.  It offers more details than what the book has, such as more touring plans, including customizable plans.  Touring plans are the best way to navigate your way through the theme parks, regardless of their source, and The Unofficial Guide team offers the best ones available.  There are apps available from touring plans that can help you on the go.  They even have a blog that accompanies the website and book for regular information not included in either otherwise.

CONS: The website costs $10.95 per year (365 days), even if you have already purchased the book. If your Walt Disney World vacation is 13-15 months out, you do need to start planning, but will not have access to last minute information or changes without having to reinvest in another year. For the regular Walt Disney World traveler, that is not a problem, but for those that only go once in their lives, or once every few years, it becomes a waste of money. While the website is updated and offers more details, most of the details aren’t necessarily needed. Almost everything on touring plans can be found in the book.

Tour Guide Mike

Tour Guide Mike is an online service (www.tourguidemike.com) that is meant to help you get the most out of your Walt Disney World vacation.

PROS: There is an excellent “Best Days” guide; it outranks The Unofficial Guide’s suggested park crowd level calendar.  This gives you an overview of which theme parks you should go to, which theme parks who should avoid, and precautions of those that fall in the middle.  Tour Guide Mike is purchased for your entire planning period till 30 days after your vacations.  If you are 15 months out from your Walt Disney World vacation, you will have access for 16 months.  It is easy to find coupons online for a discounted membership also.  There is an active forum with helpful members on the website also.

CONS: The website is extremely hard to navigate.  Information is difficult to find, and much of it can be outdated.  Mike (the owner’s actual name) is slow to update items; it is not uncommon for information to have changed over a year ago.  He is also slow to put up his best days guide, which is essential to planning to make sure you get the correct ADRs for your dining.  Mike also tends to eliminate attractions that he simply does not like, but you might.  He also does not tend to offer any flexibility and falls into making you accept one-size-fits-all advice that might not fit you.  Mike’s reasoning is that you can make adjustments and get help planning on the forums; however, the forums, while it has excellent people there to give advice, are not very active and it can take awhile for you to get information.  Plus, most of the information Mike gives, including his “secret tips” is information you can find online for free.  For $21.95 you are basically buying a Best Days Guide only.

The PassPorter Guides

This is a series of PassPorter planning guides.  The publishers’ state: “A PassPorter is a travel guide, a planner, an organizer, a journal, and a keepsake book all in one neat, take-it-anywhere package.”  There are many editions for every aspect of a Disney vacation.

PROS: The PassPorter is a great Disney World planner.  It is reasonable in price and will walk you through what you need to know to get you through a Walt Disney World vacation.  There is a companion website that you don’t need to own the book to have access to, which includes a decent forum and a newsletter.  Updates are readily available when they are made to the books.  If you register your book, you’ll be sent coupons for additional purchases.  Since there are several different books, if you don’t need information on one aspect of Disney, you don’t need to pay for that information.

CONS:  The PassPorter tends to be light, as it is meant to be carried around with you.  While the information in it is good, it isn’t very detailed and leaves many things out.  While you do have access to updates fairly quickly, updates are slow to be made.  Additionally, each book is segmented, so you don’t get all-encompassing Walt Disney World information. 

RideMax

RideMax is planning software that you download.  There are two versions, one for Walt Disney World and one for Disneyland. 

PROS: RideMax is a touring plan Walt Disney World planner and is quite accurate.  People who use RideMax rave over it.  If you don’t like it, they offer a 30 day money back guarantee.  You can plan to repeat or skip attractions as you choose.  You can create many different itineraries as you like. 

CONS:  This is not a planning tool.  You still have to do your research and planning elsewhere.  If the guarantee is to be worthwhile, you have to wait until you are less than 30 days out from the end of your Disney vacation to purchase and plan your days, which may throw a wrench into your dining plans.  Itineraries only become available 2 – 4 weeks out.  RideMax only will allow for morning Extra Magic Hours and does not give you information for Sunday visits on your Disney World trip.  It also does not allow for any changes or variations from your stated plans.  Your purchase is for a temporary subscription, $18.95 for 90 days or $29.95 for a year.  There is no Mac version and you must use Internet Explorer.  RideMax also requires a screen resolution of 600 x 800.  You can get a decent enough plan for park touring using touringplans.com. 

In Conclusion

Walt Disney World information can be found in abundance.  It is important to use the right tools the right way.  The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is for research and general planning.  Touringplans.com is best used for supplemental information and finding the best way to tour the theme parks.  Tour Guide Mike is best for good forum advice and exceptional advice on picking which park to go to which day.  PassPorter guides are best for keeping you organized and can make a nice souvenir of the trip for those that don’t go often.  RideMax is for those that will not change any plans at the last moment, want to push through the day commando-style, and want a detailed touring plan.

The best thing to do is purchase a copy of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and if you have money to spare, think about of investing in Tour Guide Mike to help you pick the right days to be in each park.  Planning a Walt Disney World vacation isn’t simple if you want to get the most out of your time and money, but with the right tools you can plan a wonderful trip to Disney World. 

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