guidebooks Archives

November 20, 2014

Review: 'The Complete Walt Disney World' by Julie and Mike Neal



My family and I have long been fans of the series of independent Walt Disney World guidebooks that are written and photographed by Julie and Mike Neal. The 2015 edition of "The Complete Walt Disney World" has just been released, and I would again recommend it to anyone planning a trip to the Orlando resort.

Certainly what first attracts the reader to this book is the plentiful gorgeous photography. There are more than 550 color photos, and half of them are new to this particular edition. With such visual appeal, the guidebook almost could serve as a coffee-table book -- or at the very least, a great souvenir to help relive your vacation -- when you return home. My 12-year-old son, who has been to Walt Disney World too many times to count, has spent many enjoyable hours over the years studying these guidebooks.

But "The Complete Walt Disney World" is not just beautiful to look at it. It's also packed with valuable information that is organized in an easy-to-access format. Each ride and show is showcased on its own page or pages with a description, frank review and details such as hour-by-hour wait times and FastPass availability. And, there are some changes in the current guidebook to consider, as well.

"A big difference [in the 2015 edition] is in the tips and opinions," author Julie Neal told me. "We realized that information is a dime a dozen, but informed advice isn't. So we played up the tips and honest opinions to help readers make the best of their own trip to Walt Disney World."

As a former cast member and Florida resident who has spent more than 1,500 days at Walt Disney World, Neal certainly has the background to offer such guidance.

The tips sections may be especially important to families because these areas offer the practical information that visitors with children seek.

"For example, the Jedi Training Academy article goes to great lengths to help families who want to sign their children up to participate. And the writing for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train stresses to sit in the front for a milder experience that spends more time on the "show" aspects of the experience, and to sit in the back row for a more "roller coaster" experience. And like before, we have expansive tips on how to score big on both the Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story Mania attractions," Neal said.

I noted in a review of a previous edition of this guidebook that I especially liked the swimming-pool information in the Accommodations chapter, and that is included here, as well. It has a description of every Disney resort swimming pool and compares it to the other pools. My family especially can appreciate this because the quality of the water slide where we are staying is of the utmost importance to my children.

We also like the Animal Kingdom wildlife guides, especially since we recently stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Habitat maps that have been expanded for this edition make it easy to spot exotic creatures throughout the park.

The only independent Disney guide ever honored by The Walt Disney Company, "The Complete Walt Disney World" is the winner of Disney's iParenting Media Award for Outstanding Family Product. Altogether the title has won 21 national and international book awards. Its list price is $24.95.

The Neals have another new Disney book coming out at the end of the year, too. "The Complete Walt Disney World: Fun Finds & Hidden Mickeys" focuses on the hidden and fun details Disney hides on its property. Plus, the Neals travel up Interstate 4 to offer their experience on touring Universal Orlando in their guidebook, "Complete Universal Orlando," which is scheduled to be released in the spring. Expect the same quality and quantity of photos and helpful details in both new guidebooks.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of "The Complete Walt Disney World 2015" to review. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.


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