Book Review: “The Not-So-Evil Stepmother in the Most Magical Place on Earth: Planning Your Walt Disney World Family Vacation”

I was sent the book “The Not-So-Evil Stepmother in the Most Magical Place on Earth: Planning Your Walt Disney World Family Vacation” to review. As someone who is in the Walt Disney World parks several days per week, almost every week and has been visiting for 40 years, I rarely read planning books but our readers and viewers are always looking for helpful tips for the parks. The author, Trisha Daab, is a mom (and stepmom) who has traveled with as many as 11 family members at one time, and the chapters are separated into various trips taken or as she describes it, “…four Disney experiences with multiple chapters within each experience”.  In the intro, she sets it up where it won’t be like other planning guides – but more like “having coffee and a chat with a clever friend who is telling you about her Disney trips while helping you plan your own'”.

The book is easy to read – better written than most similar books I have read, flowing from chapter to chapter with details of her trips as well as planning information with few typos or major grammatical errors. The first chapter begins in 2005, and includes the good (mostly) and a couple of missteps of her Disney wedding. There are amusing stories about her family at the parks. The one thing I always say about any sort of Disney planning guide – and it doesn’t matter who writes it, including Disney’s own Birnbaum’s books – is that visitors need to supplement it with the most recent information gleaned online. Just in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there is no longer a Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground, Star Wars Weekends, Osborne Lights nor Phineas and Ferb meet and greet. Toy Story Midway Mania added a third track, and is now a pretty easy Fastpass to get. The standby lines are also not as long for it. And there hasn’t been a Wishes fireworks Fastpass in a year, and after this week there won’t be a Wishes, it will be replaced by Happily Ever After. Spectromagic has been gone from the Magic Kingdom since 2010, there is currently no nighttime parade since the Main Street Electrical Parade headed back to Disneyland. And there is also not a Celebrate the Magic show, it was replaced this past year by Once Upon a Time. Gaston’s Tavern dropped it’s famous pork shank a couple of years ago. I don’t remember a period of change in the Walt Disney World parks as has happened in the last 5 or so years, except when new parks were being built. It is hard to keep up with even for me. So while enjoying the book, make sure to keep up to date online.

This book is probably better for someone who has been at least once, with at least some familiarity if not a lot. For example, she mentions how the best part of staying at Disney’s Beach Club Resort is being close to World Showcase – but the book doesn’t say what World Showcase is. So a little familiarity with the parks and resorts goes a long way when reading the book. Also, the great thing about the Disney Vacation Club villas (besides the extra space, as is mentioned in the book) is that there are owners wanting to rent points – so even if you can’t go through Disney reservations to book one, you may be able to still reserve what you want through an owner or company that deals with rentals. I have many friends who do that.

It was interesting to read her view that Epcot’s Les Chefs de France should have outdoor seating. It actually did many years ago, I used to dine there quite a bit in the 90s. Outside seating, even covered is tricky in Florida. Between the heat, humidity, rain, and chill at night or in the winter – I usually prefer climate controlled dining here.

While I am in the parks upwards of 100-150 times per year and have stayed at most resorts, there are experiences that she has had that I have not. I have not had a Disney wedding nor attended one. I have not traveled with a large family to the parks for any length of time. I have never used Magical Express nor any form of transportation other than a car to get to Walt Disney World property. So those looking for information in those categories may find this book interesting and helpful in a way I cannot personally provide. I found The Not-So-Evil Stepmother in the Most Magical Place on Earth: Planning Your Walt Disney World Family Vacation an easy and enjoyable read with helpful hints for the parks and resorts.