By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Review: The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014

By Dave Shute

I thought that last year’s version of the Unofficial Guide was the best Disney World guidebook in a decade…and this year’s is even better!


Review The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World from The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014 is the annual revision to and update of the long standing leader among Walt Disney World guides. It was released in early August, and I read it almost cover to cover on my resort-hopping visit in mid-August.

The 2014 edition maintained the key improvements in usability that characterized the 2013 edition–nicely re-organized material on the Hollywood Studios and Universal parks, and a much more detailed table of contents–and added even more improvements.

As co-author Len Testa said in his blog post about what’s different in the 2104 version, “the front half of the book was edited and reorganized to ensure important topics are covered completely in a single section, instead of over several chapters.” This is another usability improvement, as it reduces the chance you’ll miss a key point if you don’t read every chapter.

Among many other new features in 2014 is an extended discussion, of what Fastpass+ might look like, and how the second part of the Wizarding World–to open at Universal Orlando in 2014–will likely work.

These last two are necessarily somewhat speculative–and I sympathize with the Unofficial Guide team for having to go out on a limb now over developments that might not be fully clear until well into 2014–or even later, in the case of Fastpass+.

At least based on my limited knowledge, these sections track well to the best understandings of how these things will unfold, and don’t go in for much “maybe this maybe that.”

From p89 of 2014 TUGI guess one possible exception is the qualifiers in the page excerpted to the right, about how under Fastpass+ the best rides might eventually be allocated partly based on where you stay.

But if I had to make the call about sharing this possibly versus suppressing it in the chance–or with the hope–that it won’t happen…well, I’d publish it too.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014 is not for those who like their material brief and uncomplicated.  Disney World is vast, and the choices to be made in fact are complex.  The Unofficial Guide covers all of it in all its complexity.  This helps for better decisions–but not easier ones!


While the traditional suites at Disney World deluxe resorts (and at Coronado Springs) are indeed excluded from most discounts, the Family Suites at Art of Animation and All-Star Music are typically in the deals. (110)

I’ve been campaigning for years that TUG should label Coronado Springs as a “centrally located” resort (the link explains the logic of this)—and this year, Len emailed me that in fact they were doing so—as you can see at the top of 119.  However, mid-way through 119, Coronado Springs is included in the resorts labeled as “not centrally located…” and it is un-mentioned on the “Unofficial Tip” about centrally located resorts on the left bottom of 118

The floor-plan material that’s on 122-125 gets better every year, but I still see some issues with it:

  • I don’t know why standard Jambo House rooms are labeled as holding 2-5 people.  Four people is the max in standard rooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and while there are some 2 person rooms, there are king rooms at other deluxes (like the Polynesian) which are shown simply at their standard capacity (in the case of the Polynesian, 5), rather than with a range.  AKL rooms should be labeled the same as Wilderness Lodge rooms—“Rooms accommodate 4 guests, pus one child under age 3 in a crib.”
  • The note (about DVC capacity) at the bottom of 123 so far as I can tell is totally correct—a nice development compared to prior years.  However, some of the studio floor plans have lost their detail—e.g. Old Key West, Bay Lake Tower, and BoardWalk Villas.
  • Len was kind enough to give me a heads up ahead of time that he didn’t agree with my critique of last year’s Art of Animation Family Suites floor plan.  I had objected to showing the dining table chairs scattered about the suite, and Len noted that both in his suite and in Bob’s suite that that’s what they saw. I can’t argue with that—you have to write what you see.  But I’ve now stayed in the Family Suites three times, and here’s the layout of the dining table chairs what I saw when I entered the rooms on three different occasions:
  • Entry to Nemo Family Suite in Disney's Art of Animation ResortFinding Nemo, from June 2012
  • Dining Table in Cars Family Suite at Disney's Art of Animation Resort--from yourfirstvisit.netCars, from August 2013
  • Dining Table in Lion King Family Suite at Disney's Art of Animation Resort from yourfirstvisit.netLion King, also from August 2013
  • Regardless of this point (which tells you more about how Disney geeks obsess over things than about what you will actually find in your own room), there’s a floor plan typo in the Art of Animation.  The dining table is shown as a sofa…
  • Some other nits related to these floor plan pages: The floor plan for Coronado Springs should show a desk rather than a two person table, and no room air conditioner below the window; There’s more difference in the use of space in the All-Stars and AofA versus Pop Century than the plans imply—there’s more open space by the door in the All-Stars and Little Mermaid rooms, and more by the bath in the other two; The different scales with which the value resort standard rooms are displayed might mislead some; I continue to insist—but won’t be able to prove until I stay in both on the same visit (update: proved, see this)—that Pop Century and Little Mermaid rooms are the exact same size. (Why: because two of three Little Mermaid buildings were built the same time as Pop was…)

On 133, it would be great if the Moderates all had two queens, but that’s not true for Caribbean Beach among the traditional moderates—nor of course at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.

The second sentence in the first full para on 134 (“At Disney’s Value…resorts…and Disney Vacation Club Resorts…each room’s exterior door opens into the great outdoors” was true a long time ago, but has not been true at the DVC resorts since the BoardWalk Villas opened in 1996, and not true at the values since the Family Suites at Art of Animation opened last year.

On 136, on-line check has been available beginning 60 days before check-in for a while, and this oughta be emphasized.

The sentence beginning the last para on 150 has lost its verb, and needs an “are.”

Shades of Green has two buildings, one three stories and one five—not “one three-story building” (154)

In my view, the five person capacity of the Alligator Bayou rooms at Port Orleans Riverside deserves more emphasis than it gets on 180—since these are the only traditional moderate rooms (at the moment—I hear rumors about Caribbean Beach) that can fit five.  On the same page, the fifth sleeping spot is now a murphy bed, not a “trundle bed.”

In the discussion of the layout of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the map has been rotated, but not the references to it, e.g. Ostrich Trail is now on the right of the map on page 184, not the left as noted at the bottom of 185.

I’m not keen on the intro material on the All-Stars (198), which is written a little bit as though these are the only value resorts, just as the material on the Family Suites at All-Star Music (192) is written as though Art of Animation doesn’t exist. I also think the portion of the comment on 191 that says “our room was about 1 mile from the bus stop” should either be suppressed or addressed in the text, as it gives a factually incorrect opinion.  No room at the All-Stars is more than a thousand feet or so from the bus stops, and it’s not even a mile from the beginning of Sports to the end of Movies.

I really don’t like the first couple of sentences in the second para about Art of Animation on 197: “Like Pop Century, Art of Animation consists of four-story buildings and exterior-facing rooms…However, most of Animation’s accommodations are suites similar to those at Disney’s All-Star Resorts.”  While the para goes on to mostly correct itself, I’d revise it so that it begins with something like the current third sentence (‘[Art of Animation] has 864 standard rooms and 1,120 suites”) and then goes on with something like “The standard rooms are similar to those at Pop Century—in four-story buildings, with exterior corridors.  The Family Suites have some similarities to those in All-Star Music, but with different floor plans and interior corridors.”

I’m not liking the second part of the first sentence in the next para, either. It currently reads “Art of Animation suites are…the result of combining two value rooms into one suite.”  True of the family suites in All-Star Music, but not of Art of Animation, where these suites were designed from the ground up, with only the exterior envelope of the building carried over from prior work at Pop Century.

Some other minor points…

  • The left side of the image at the top right on 322 cuts off the text at the right margin beside it
  • The first sentence of the material introducing the Advance Reservations (#9 on page 351) is confusing—especially the material following the “moreover,” which is both redundant and not entirely true.
  • The sentence ending the Akershus material at the bottom of 353 needs to be updated a bit to reflect the opening of the “castles” of New Fantasyland

Hefty, long, missing photos, and with, as detailed above, some errors…even so, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014 is by far the best Walt Disney World guidebook you can buy!

(Disclosure: As noted here, since summer 2011 I’ve had a business relationship with, part of the Unofficial Guide intergalactic empire.)

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1 Tracy { 10.29.13 at 6:59 am }

I am in a panic – after 10 years of talking about it, we just booked a family trip to Disney for December 3rd to 14th. I am completely overwhelmed with where to start – obviously on your site, but I am still totally overwhelmed with events, parks and where to begin. I like the idea of a paper guide book in my hands for starters and a companion to your info. Would you recommend the 2014 version or an earlier version since this one has much that is not yet available until 2014.

2 Dave { 10.29.13 at 7:57 am }

Tracy, so does the 2013 version lol! So I’d go with the 2014 vsn.

3 Tracy { 10.29.13 at 8:43 am }

Thanks so much! Your site is amazing – so much info I have spent my entire morning and have only touched on the info that you offer. Thanks for your help!

4 Dave { 10.30.13 at 2:31 pm }

Thanks, Tracy 🙂

5 Rusty { 11.20.13 at 9:32 pm }

I will be going the week after thanksgiving . My question is about the fasspass+. I bought the 2014 book, and it shows in the tour plans to use multipal fastpasses. But from my understanding , you can only use 3 a day per park? So, am I not going to be able to follow the tour plans because of only being able to get 3 fastpass+s a day? And im hearing if you have the wrist band, you cant use or get any of the paper ones if they are still being used. I’ve been 2 other times in last 3 years, and love the touring plans.
Thanks Rusty

6 Dave { 11.21.13 at 7:26 am }

Rusty, it’s a little complicated right now. Most who are using FastPass+ can also get paper fastpasses. But the intention is that people will have to use one or the other, and that’s being tested at Pop Century right now. Disney might roll this out to other resorts in May or tomorrow–I dunno.

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