AJ Wolfe, writer of the online "Disney Food Blog" has written a very useful and extremely comprehensive guide to dining at Walt Disney World. The guide is available as an e-Book and was written in such a way as to take the best advantage of that format.
The 250-page guide includes some very basic information that will be quite useful to Disney dining newbies (and that the veteran user might want to skip over), but also includes very detailed information on planning, costs, discounts and dining options. I found that while the guide is focused on dining, the advice, tools and tips on budgeting and planning - including including choosing resorts and vacation package types - will help the reader plan his or her entire Walt Disney World vacation.
The guide includes:
• Wolfe's "5-Step Guide to Stress-Free Dining Planning";
• Detailed Information on the Disney Dining Plan options and other dining discounts;
• Introductions to each Disney restaurant, listed by park and resort. The entries include an overview of the restaurant type ("Is it for me?") and recommendations on what is special about each restaurant that guests might like to explore (" What to try?");
• An overview of holiday and dining events;
• Tips on Dining with Kids - including recommended best restaurants for particular ages, and for picky or adventurous eaters, and pointers on how to eat healthy at Walt Disney World;
• Tips on dining with special dining needs;
• Tips for solo dining;
• Information for dining in large groups.
The guide also includes Wolfe's recommended dining options for: table service, counter service, bakeries, snacks and alcoholic beverages. Wolfe also offers some sample dining itineraries: on the cheap, for vegetarians, for large groups, for certain WDW resorts. These itineraries will be especially useful in guiding readers in the best strategies for planning a dining (and overall vacation) strategy that takes into account where they will be staying and what park(s) they plan to visit on a particular day.
A few notes on the e-Book format. The guide is an e-Book, and is downloaded as a .pdf file upon purchase. I downloaded the file to my laptop. It was a simple, straightforward process. Once you have downloaded the file, you can save the file as an e-Book in iTunes, and then download the file to your iPad or iPhone. I did both, and tested using the guide on all three devices. First, let me say that this is not your grandfather's .pdf. The book contains links to other sections of the book itself, links to various internet sites (including The Disney Food Blog) and links to fillable worksheets. VERY cool!
When using (I think "using" is a preferable term to "reading" in the case of this e-Book) the guide on a desktop or laptop machine, remember that the "home" and "end" keys are your friends. Clicking on links to other sections of the book (for instance a section on "Where to Go" includes a link to the "Dining Recommendations" section) works well, but then I found it a bit difficult to get back to where I started, since there is no "Back" button. Pressing "Home" will bring the reader back to the front of the book, and pressing "End" will take the reader to the last page of the book.
The Table of Contents, at the front of the book, has links to take you directly to each section, and there are several "Top 5" lists and indices at the back of the book. When I was reading the book on my iPhone the text was barely legible to my aging eyes (although I could make the print bigger, but then couldn't see the whole page). Because of this, I found the book slightly less easy to use than on the other devices. However, if you need instant information while in the parks, the guide is certainly portable in this format.
I LOVED using this e-Book on the iPad! From my perspective, this is the best way to read the information and get quick links to other sections of the book and to outside websites. The fillable worksheets were easier to use on my laptop, but every other feature of the book worked best on this platform. Links were quick, the pictures were great, and navigation was fast.
Note that if you are reading the book on any device in a place where you cannot access the internet, many of the links, including the links to the fillable worksheets, will not work.
A few notes on the fillable worksheets. You must have live web access to open the worksheets. Once you have opened them in a browser window, they can be saved to your computer, and you can use them again and again. (I am tempted to replace "The Spreadsheet" with the Calendar Worksheet below. I may try using it to plan my next vacation, and see how it goes. I'll let you know!)
The Calendar Worksheet includes spaces for two weeks of planning - which parks, breakfast lunch dinner times and ADR number - notes on snacks/food to try and space for other notes on events and activities
The Budgeting Worksheet will help you to estimate how much you will send on each adult/child in your group, depending on what kinds of meals you plan to eat. It also helps you to decide how to pay for meals (out-of-pocket, using the Disney Dining Plan, etc.), and includes a discount checklist for various discounts available (e.g. Tables in Wonderland, DVC, AAA, etc.). It also helps price out different resort and ticket options, that when combined with estimated food costs, will give you a good idea of what you are likely to spend on your Disney World Vacation.
The Brainstorming Worksheet is a place to record your, well, brainstorming about different dining and vacation ideas.
The Booking Worksheet is a place to record all of the reservations you want to make, and any details you need to remember about the reservations (like if you will have a vegetarian in your party for that meal, if you want to order a special cake for the meal or note a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion on the reservation.
Here are the things that I liked about the book:
• It includes a full index of Disney World bars and lounges.
• The worksheets are a very cool feature.
• The planning guidance is clear and outlined step-by-step.
• Amazing pictures! They really made me hungry!
• Once you get the hang of it, navigation is relatively easy.
The e-Book format may not work for everyone, and is a bit difficult to use on the iPhone. However, it is amazing having a 250-page dining resource in your pocket. Again, I thought it rocked on the iPad!
This book is definitely for: Planners! Or people who really want to be planners, and need help figuring out how to do it. People who are feeling a bit overwhelmed with the idea of planning their Walt Disney World vacation, and would like a helpful, step-by-step approach mapped out for them. People who want to know more about the types of dining (and drinking) offered throughout Walt Disney World.
This book may not be for: Those for whom the idea of planning where to eat ahead of time is not appealing. Those who like a traditional paper format in their guidebooks.
To purchase the book with a 20% Discount, use Code: ALLEARS
DISCLOSURE: Photos provided by DFB Guide. AllEars® received a complimentary review copy of the book. Deb Wills was given a pre-publication copy of the book and provided a quote for advertising purposes. Once the e-book went on sale, AllEars® became a member of the DFB affiliate program. This did not influence the review in any way by Alice McNutt Miller, an independent reviewer and guest blogger for AllEars®.
Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was ten years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited Disney parks all over the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.
The previous post in this blog was Dining on the Boardwalk at Big River Grille.
The next post in this blog is Magic Kingdom: What's New, What's Next Early July 2011.