Congratulations! You’ve decided that you are going to Disney World. A trip WDW is not your average vacation–careful research can mean the difference between hours standing in line and so-so food and short waits and gourmet feasts. Unless you’re in a much higher income bracket than me, a WDW stay is one of the more expensive vacations you’ll take and you’ll want to get maximum bang for your buck. Even if you’re Type B (and absolutely if you’re Type A), a good guidebook is invaluable to planning your WDW experience.
I strongly recommend that any potential Disney guest invest in The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa before buying any other book. The good folks at the Unofficial Guide compile staggering amounts of data, surveys, tips, news, and touring plans into a nearly 900 page behemoth of a resource. I love reading it cover-to-cover but for those of you not crazy enough to share my Disney obsession, there is a handy topic index to get the info you need fast and a large chapter dedicated to reviews of all WDW dining establishments. The Unofficial Guide is unique amongst the Disney guidebooks because it’s written and researched by a team of writers (they survey everyone from preschoolers to grandparents each year).
The Complete Walt Disney World 2012 by Julie & Ben Neal is another good resource. Full of beautiful color photos and easy to read, I find that the The Complete Walt Disney World 2012 makes a nice supplement to The Unofficial Guide.
Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World 2013 is the official guide to the World, which I recommend only as a supplement to other guidebooks. The Mouse has a vested interest in getting you to stay on property, buy the dining plan, and generally contribute to the World economy. That said, I did buy a copy to plan my current WDW trip.
All three of these books publish new editions every year and unlike college text books, the information does change enough to justify buying the new edition – Disney adds and closes attractions, premiers new shows, and switches chefs around (and therefore the restaurant quality) every year.