Book Review: Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World: The Official Vacation Guide 2020

Hi everyone!

I received Birnbaum’s 2020 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides) to review. Birnbaum’s guides have been published since maybe the mid-80s, when Stephen Birnbaum was editor. The guide has expanded through the years (it is even bigger since last year), and includes Alexandra Mayes Birnbaum as a consulting editor. It releases on September 17th, 2019.

Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World is getting to the point where you won’t be throwing it into your purse. I prefer a little smaller of a book so I can carry it around. But it’s always worth having this souvenir guide, which offers fun photos, coupons and practical information. And for the record, I’m in the Walt Disney World theme parks a few times a week. I’m not a tourist, so my review is based on a strong familiarity of what is going on in the parks and resorts right now.

With any guide, you will want to make sure you are up-to-date online as well. No matter how good the information is at publishing, opening dates (and closing dates) can change. For example, the Word from the Editor mentions the new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and it will be new in 2020 – but not until at least spring. And the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party isn’t new, as the book says – it will be six years old in 2020. It is a terrific show and I highly recommend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, but Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular began in 2015.

What I like about Birnbaum’s 2020 Walt Disney World is that it has a lot of practical tips including information on Magical Express, what to pack, theme park tickets and such. There are money saving tips, many that I would personally give guests traveling to Walt Disney World. There are tips for guests traveling with children, for international travelers and those with disabilities. There are also many, many other helpful tips and the aforementioned coupons. The coupons can be easily worth buying the book for, and I will talk about that a bit at the end of this review.

The resort section is helpful for those looking to stay on Walt Disney World property, it is a good jumping off point for figuring out a resort. The Disney Springs Resort Area is included, as is Four Seasons Resort Orlando. Then it is on to the parks, with information on each attraction, including a “Birnbaum’s Best” notation on some attractions. Most I would agree with, though a few I’d not – like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which is over 20 years old and could use a major upgrade. Still fun, but it wouldn’t be at the top of my list in the Magic Kingdom.

For Epcot, the book does mention the multi-year transformation. For those who don’t know, Epcot will be under a lot of construction – it has started, but there will be more starting in the next week or so. And I do like that Birnbaum’s mentions the option of heading to World Showcase first and then heading back to Future World. Although – mostly I’d head to The Land first and then World Showcase (which does not officially open until 11:00 a.m., although Frozen Ever After does at 9 a.m.).

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is included on a page in the book for 2020, and mentions both Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance (the latter opens December 5th, 2019).

One of my favorite locations on Walt Disney World property, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, also has construction as Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge is built. That is noted more than once in the book. But it does mention that pony rides and Tri-Circle D Ranch are behind Pioneer Hall, and those aren’t there anymore. The barn will be relocated soon.

There is a lot more to read, including about the various restaurants on property, hidden Mickeys, shopping and quite a lot more. Most information is current and correct, but a book is very different than a website that can be updated at any moment – so I do recommend utlilizing it as part of Walt Disney World trip planning. Birnbaum’s is official, and it can use photos and artwork that other books may not be able to. It is a terrific souvenir guide.

I mentioned earlier about the coupon section, which is one of my favorite aspects of the Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World and Disneyland guides. Some are similar to discounts we already have with our Annual Pass, but some aren’t. Coupons in the back of the book include Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs 10%, Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs 20%, Spice Road Table at Epcot 20%, Joffrey’s at Walt Disney World 20% (not on alcohol) and The Polite Pig offers a free Chef’s Appetizer with the purchase of an adult entree. There are quite a few more good coupons as well.

It is very likely you may find the coupons are worth the book in itself. If you are a Disney fan, the souvenir aspect makes it well worth buying. And especially if you have never visited (or have not visited often), there is a lot of helpful information in Birnbaum’s 2020 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides) that will make your Walt Disney World trip easier.


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