By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Category — The easy Guide

Get an Updated easy Guide for Almost Nuthin!

As co-author Josh points out here, we have two bits of news:

  • First, we just published a stem to stern update of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, and
  • Second, if you use the Amazon code HOLIDAYBOOK, you’ll get $10 off for any order of $25 or more.  Buy two easy Guides, one to give away as a present and one for yourself, and you’ll pay just around $7 for the second one!

the-easy-guide-to-your-walt-disney-world-visit-2017

Find the full scoop in Josh’s post here. Or just buy it here. And those who have forwarded their Amazon confirmations to us will get their updated PDF copies starting late next week!!
The 2017 easy Guide

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November 25, 2016   No Comments

Where to Eat at Disney World

Chapter 7, Where to Eat, is one of four core chapters in The easy guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit—the 2017 edition of the best-reviewed Disney World guide book series, ever. (The other core chapters are When to Go, Where to Stay, and How to Spend Your Time.)

chapter-7-of-the-easy-guide-where-to-eat

We—and especially my co-author Josh of easyWDW.com—put a lot into this chapter, as of the more than a hundred options you will be able to dine at only a few restaurants at Disney World, so understanding your alternatives and picking just the right ones for your party are one of the ways you optimize your Disney World experience.

There’s been a dozen major restaurant openings or major-redos in the past year or so, and of these a least half a dozen are profoundly significant. So the 2017 easy Guide, updated as of early August and with more free updates yet to come, is a handy way to sort through all of what’s new to pick just the best for you.

Chapter 7 of The easy Guide begins with the basics of Disney World dining, with a particular focus on suggestions that might make sense for various types of visitors.

chapter-7-of-the-easy-guide-where-to-eat-contents

We then cover a couple of peculiar features of dining at Disney World, Advanced Dining Reservations and the Disney Dining Plan, and after some thoughts on saving money, turn to the meat of this chapter—overviews of dining in the parks, and individual reviews of all the table–service options in the Disney parks, Disney Springs, and the Disney-owned hotels. (See the excerpt above from the table of contents; If you don’t know yet what “table service” means, you really need this book.)

For example, here’s part of the overview of dining at Magic Kingdom, with some thoughts on the new table service restaurant here, Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen:

skipper-canteen-from-dining-overview-from-the-easy-guide

And here’s the full review of this restaurant later in the chapter:

skipper-canteen-from-the-easy-guide

This is an example of the kind of care and detail you’ll find in our reviews. And note that last lines of the first bit “Disney is expected to make changes that make the menu more appealing to the unadventurous.” In fact, Disney just made some changes here, and they simplified the menu much less than we thought they would. (See Josh’s note here.)

Because our is the only major Disney World guide book that offers free updates, buyers of The easy Guide 2017 will get for free the updated versions of the 2017 easy Guide that we’ll be publishing later this year and in 2017, including changes to this text! See the image for how to get yours:

Updating your easy Guide

Disney Springs—the old Downtown Disney—has seen a particular renaissance in fine and fun dining. Josh’s reviews of all the new and re-imagined offerings here are, for returning visitors looking to try something new, well worth the entire price of the book.

Here’s some brief excerpts of a few Disney Springs reviews from Chapter 7:

  • Planet Hollywood: “Planet Hollywood is set to later in fall 2016 with a planetarium theme and new menu, though little else is known about what exactly will be offered.”
  • Paddlefish: “Paddlefish replaces Fulton’s Crab House in the same location in a riverboat on the water and it will be operated by the same company that elevated it into becoming one of the 15 most profitable restaurants in the country.”
  • Morimoto Asia: “Officially helmed by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto Asia opened in October 2015 to great fanfare. The restaurant is sleek and stylish, with impressive chandeliers said to resemble jellyfish.”
  • Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar: “Jock Lindsey is Indiana Jones’ longtime pilot and his bar is ornately themed to his hangar which was recently converted into a bar for the enjoyment of his fellow members of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.”
  • Homecoming—Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar: “Chef Art Smith is perhaps best known as the personal chef of Oprah Winfrey, but those that appreciate his history with Disney will remind you that he completed a Disney internship as well. Homecoming Florida showcases the state’s fresh flavors with appetizers like house-made pimento cheese hushpuppies served with red jalapeño jelly and deviled eggs.”
  • Frontera Cocina: “Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless, who operates around ten Mexican restaurants mostly in the Chicago area, brings what is easily Disney’s best Mexican restaurant to Disney Springs”
  • The Edison: “Themed to a 1920s-period electric company, The Edison celebrates an era of invention, excitement, and imagination. Much more than just a restaurant, The Edison is expected to bring live singing, dancing, palm readers, contortionists, and a lot more.”
  • The BOATHOUSE: “Offering picturesque waterfront dining, multiple bars inside and out, and a number of diversely themed dining areas, The BOATHOUSE brings upscale cuisine wrapped up in a casual atmosphere to Disney Springs.”
  • STK Orlando: “STK is a significant departure away from anything else at Walt Disney World, blending an ultra-modern steakhouse aesthetic with an atmosphere that resembles more of a Las Vegas club than a traditional steakhouse.”

For the rest of these reviews, and all kinds of great advice on Disney World dining, buy the book!

Ok, that’s it for now. More to come on other changes in the 2017 easy Guide later! Meanwhile, buy the book, OK?
The 2017 easy Guide

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October 17, 2016   2 Comments

How to Spend Your Time from The easy Guide

The heart of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit is the same as the heart of Disney World itself–the theme parks.

chapter-6-of-the-easy-guide-how-to-spend-your-timeYou don’t go to Disney World for the hotels, or because a certain time fits your schedule; you go to experience the magic of the parks and the attractions within them.

Co-author Josh of easyWDW.com and I thus make the parks the most important part of our book, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit–the 2017 edition of the best-reviewed Disney World guide book series ever published.

We cover them in Chapter 6, by far the longest of our chapters, and the one that get the most updates over the course of our publishing year.

In the era of FastPass+, never has planning paid off more–and never has failure to plan been more of a risk to a great visit.

Chapter 6 makes all this easy for you. It begins with an explanation of FastPass+ and how to use it, and then talks about itinerary design:

chapter-6-of-the-easy-guide

Next we go into each of the theme parks, beginning with an overall introduction–an example from the beginning of our Epcot section:

how-to-tour-from-the-easy-guide

Next we talk about the specific areas of the parks, first highlighting the lay of the land, dining, shopping and other features–an Animal Kingdom example:

example-land-overview-from-the-easy-guide

Then, continuing the area by area discussion, we give full reviews of each attraction–an example from the Magic Kingdom:

example-ride-review-from-the-easy-guideNote that this attraction just shifted to being only seasonally available. We will be updating the book soon with this and many other changes, and buyers get a free updated version.

No other Disney World guidebook is as up-to-date as ours, and no other offers free updates to those who have already purchased it. The scoop:
Updating your easy Guide

We follow this same basic format for each of the four parks.  Then we move on to the cheat sheets, one for each park:

whats-in-an-easy-guide-cheat-sheet

The cheat sheets give thoughtful itineraries, beautifully designed by Josh, that simplify your planning, ease your time in the parks, and minimize your waits. A bit of an example from the Studios.

example-touring-plan-from-the-easy-guide

These itineraries are not designed for a year from now–they work this second.  That’s why our free update policy is so important–as the parks change in ways large and small, so does our advice.

In the cheat sheets, we also repeat some of the information from the earlier parts of the chapter–with the thought that you can tear them out and bring them with you into the parks.

You can follow our cheat sheets exactly, or you can modify them based on what you have learned about each ride from the reviews earlier in the chapter!

No one knows how to design good days in the parks like my co-author Josh does. His influence is all over Chapter 6, and pervades the cheat sheets. Buy the book, follow our advice, and you will indeed have an easy Disney World visit!

That’s it for now. More to come on other features of the 2017 easy Guide later! Meanwhile, buy the book, OK?
The 2017 easy Guide

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October 5, 2016   2 Comments

Where to Stay at Disney World from The easy Guide

There’s no single topic that Disney World guide books, websites and forums get wrong more often than the Disney World resorts.

chapter-5-from-the-easy-guide-2017

There’s several obvious reasons for this—most important among them being that frequent and recent stays among all the room options is critical, but hard to pull off because of how much time and money it takes, so most don’t bother.

Without frequent and recent stays, however, it’s hard to offer accurate, up-to-date descriptions of the resorts and their rooms themselves, or to do sensible current comparisons among them. As a result, writers can mislead people about which rooms they will fit or be comfortable in, or which will best fit their plans, causing them to miss their best options.

Where you stay matters because you’ll spend more than a third of your time in your resort, and, if you are like most people, you will pick just one of the more than 40 different options (including distinct room variants) on offer. Moreover, with reasonable options ranging from around $100 to $1,000 a night, what you spend on your room is the single biggest budget variable in your trip.

No one knows more about the Disney World resorts than my co-author Josh of easyWDW and I do. For example, I’ve stayed in 135 different Disney World-owned rooms, villas, suites, cabins, and campsites, (and also a dozen key non-Disney rooms at the Swan, Dolphin, Four Seasons, and Shade of Green) plus sat around here and there in the resorts and done next to nothing.

Chapter 5 of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, Where to Stay, brings together our experience and perspectives into a short, easy to read, but complete and accurate set of material.

  • We start with why we think you should stay at a Disney-owned resort—especially if you are a first-timer, or have not visited Disney World since FastPass+ began.
  • Next we go over the basic differences among the three main Disney resort price classes, highlighting pros and cons of the options within them as we go.
  • Then we do detailed reviews of each Disney-owned resort, so you can make the best fit to your budget, wishes, and preferences.
  • Finally we offer thoughts on the principal alternatives, including detailed reviews of the main non-Disney options.

Here’s a bit of an example, a few lines from our review of Port Orleans Riverside:

excerpt-port-orleans-riverside-review-from-chapter-5-of-the-easy-guide-2017

While we don’t have everything right (I know of at least one floor plan I’ll be fixing as part our next free update), a simple comparison will show you how hard it is to get things even close to right.

I just looked through the 2017 edition of a guidebook that I commonly recommend as an alternative to ours and have a lot of respect for (except for its materials on the Disney World resorts).

Here’s some of the issues I found in its presentation of the Disney Word resorts:

Values

  • At Art of Animation, the claim that “The resort’s Family Suites are rarely discounted” is wrong. The Family Suites have been included in discounts for years. It’s the other rooms here, the Little Mermaid standard rooms, that have yet to be included in discounts.

Moderates

  • The description of the Port Orleans Riverside floor plan refers to a “trundle bed for child (54” long)” that has been gone for years, replaced by a ~66” murphy bed in 2012.
  • The refurb at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness yielded a queen bed in the back bedroom, not the incorrectly shown and described full bed.
  • At Coronado Springs, the “overly complicated…stamping tickets…and multiple tickets to pay” at Pepper Market are long gone.

Deluxes

  • The floor plan for the Animal Kingdom Lodge has the connecting door and mini-fridge in reversed positions.
  • The Beach Club floor plan is slightly outdated after its 2015 refurb.
  • The Contemporary boat service goes not only to Fort Wilderness, but also to the Wilderness Lodge.
  • The dressing area in Grand Floridian Rooms does not “include a sliding door that separates it from the sleeping area”—the dressing space between the sinks and hall is open, like in other Disney deluxe resorts.
  • The Polynesian floor plan shows an outdated sink and toilet layout; the Great Ceremonial House has two stories, not “four,” and the Poly “sofas” are also flip-down beds.
  • The Swan room description (“large, round mirror”) is outdated since its 2015 refurb, and both the discussion of it and an included reader comment about it confuse the Dolphin’s bath for the Swan’s bath.

Disney Vacation Club

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village has 493 “rooms,”*, not “ 324.”
  • Bay Lake Tower One Bedroom villas do not include “the studio bedroom.” The Studio bedroom is the second bedroom of lock-off Two Bedroom villas, and has no role in One Bedrooms. Also, Bay Lake Tower has 428 “rooms,”* not “295.”
  • The Beach Club Studios floor plan is outdated, as it does not show the drop-down bed installed in the 2016 refurb, and its guest occupancy limit “4” is also wrong—it is now 5.
  • The BoardWalk Villas Studios floor plan is also outdated, as it does not show the drop-down bed installed in its 2015 refurb, and its guest occupancy limit “4” is also wrong—it is now 5.
  • The Old Key West One Bedroom description should include the fold out chair, rather than omitting it.
  • The Polynesian Studios probably should be labeled “Polynesian Village Studios,” not “Polynesian Village Villas.”
  • Saratoga Springs has 18 buildings, not “12.” Its floor plan is mis-labeled as “Sarasota Springs.”
  • The Villas at the Grand Floridian has 147 “rooms,”* not “200.”
  • The Villas at the Wilderness Lodge has 181 “rooms,”*, not “136.”

I have a lot of sympathy for those who try to write such material without recent frequent stays. It’s hard to keep up with refurbs and other changes, and it’s even harder to judge and write about them if you don’t actually stay in the rooms, and as I’ve learned since I got into the guide book game, it’s harder than you might think to assure that your new insights actually make their way into your book.

But, if you try, you can avoid errors like these, as we mostly do.

My most recent stays, by resort:

latest-hotel-stays-from-yourfirstvisit-net

The asterisks indicate a stay booked for later 2016; the color code is to remind me where to go next, although some of these resorts are in refurbs or expected refurbs soon, so the priority will be to visit them when they are done—these include Kidani Village, Bay Lake Tower, the Dolphin, Coronado Springs, Pop Century, etc.

Ok, that’s it for now. More to come on other features of the 2017 easy Guide later! Meanwhile, buy the book, OK?

And when you do, don;t forget to sign up for the free updates:
Updating your easy Guide

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*There’s no one best way to measure DVC spaces. The only repeatable way is “keys,” which is the number of separately rentable spaces. This is the industry standard, and what I have used above. Using this industry standard, a dedicated Two Bedroom Villa would count as one key, and a lock off Two Bedroom as two keys–one for the Studio, and one for the One Bedroom.

But since the proportion of lock-off vs dedicated spaces varies so much across the DVC resorts, for comparisons of relative scope it would also make sense to talk about bays, or about two bedroom equivalents (that is, bays divided by three), although the peculiar inventory at the Polynesian makes either of these a little less sensible than they used to be.

This particular guidebook sometimes uses keys, and sometimes seems to use something else, like two bedroom equivalents. For consistency, it should use one or the other, and I’d recommend keys.

September 26, 2016   No Comments

When to Go to Disney World from The easy Guide

You won’t find two people more qualified to advise you on when to go to Disney World than me and my co-author Josh of easyWDW. (The photo below is of neither of us.)

chapter-4-of-the-easy-guide

We worked together to make Chapter 4 of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017 the best and most succinct guide to when to go to Disney World that you can find.

The chapter has sections covering crowds, prices and weather, and then, most valuably, goes through 2017 month by month.  Here’s an example:

when-to-go-from-the-easy-guide-2017

This chapter is the only part of The easy Guide that’s solely about 2017. All the other key material in the book–hotel reviews, park touring plans, dining reviews–works right now, this instant, so the book is also a great guide for those making visits later in 2016.

There will be changes–we’ve already seen a couple since we published in early August.

But ours is the only guidebook that can help you with those changes, because as noted here we will prove free updates to purchasers when we update the book!

Here’s the scoop from the book itself:

Updating your easy Guide

Ok, that’s it for now. More to come on other changes in the 2017 easy Guide later! Meanwhile, buy the book, OK?
The 2017 easy Guide

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September 25, 2016   No Comments

Argue With Us In Person About the New easy Guide Title 8/28 at Epcot or Magic Kingdom

Meet Dave and Josh 8-28 at Epcot or Magic KingdomAs noted in the Orlando Sentinel yesterday, for the just-released 2017 edition of The easy Guide, co-author Josh (of easyWDW.com) and I have removed the word “First” from the title–it’s now The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit.

You can meet us and argue about the title in person this Sunday, 8/28

  • At Epcot we’ll be outside (not inside like in the photo) and to the right of the Pyramid entrance in Mexico from 1 to about 2p.
  • At Magic Kingdom we’ll be in Tortuga Tavern, which is back towards the Frontierland end of Adventureland, from 4 to around 5p.

We had a number of good reasons for changing the title, and all were captured by commenter Jeff on Friday:

“The name change is very smart.

“I actually put off buying the book for a couple years because I’m such an experienced Disney World visitor, and I didn’t see the point of buying a book geared to rookies.

“Once I finally purchased the book, I realized how much I’d been missing and was then inclined to visit your two great web sites.

“It really is the best WDW guide book, by far, and I’ve bought ALL of them.”

Thanks, Jeff!!

We changed the title, but did not remove one word of material aimed at first timers. Rather, we added material for returning visitors–especially to Chapter 1, see the example below–and changed the language to be more inclusive of returning visitors in multiple spots later.Returning Visitors Need to Know

We knew from our first 2014 edition that this book was quite valuable for returning visitors–especially the 80% of the book that is about when to go, where to stay, what to do in the parks, and where to eat.

Chapters 2 and 3 frankly are not helpful to returning visitors.  They are on how old kids should be, and on how long to stay–returners have figured all that out.  We left them early in the book even so because they are such key topics for first timers.  However, between them they only include 12 pages, and because of our simple organization it’s easy for returning visitors to skip them.

Changing the name makes it more likely that the book will find its way to helping other people like Jeff!

And remember, also new for 2017 is our free update program.

If people forward their 2017 edition Amazon purchase confirmation to us as instructed in the book, we will let them know on that email address how to get a PDF version of our updated book!

Here’s explicitly what the book says about updates in the Introduction:

Updating your easy Guide

We talked about many other titles before settling on simply taking out the word “First.”  I happened to especially like “Dave and Josh’s Best Walt Disney World Guide Book Ever,” but no one else did.

Come by and meet us on Sunday, and suggest a different title!  But get the book first, OK? You’ll be glad you did.
The 2017 easy Guide

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August 23, 2016   3 Comments