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The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World

Whether you've visited Walt Disney World once or one hundred times, and whether you've visited recently or not, you'll get helpful information about useful things you didn't previously know in this book.

This book is an encyclopedic guide full of helpful and sensible information for all visitors.

NOTE :  See also the free excerpts from her book, and a related book review 'Hidden Mickeys'.



There are very many guides to the Walt Disney World (WDW) theme parks.  For a guide to be valuable, it needs to have easily accessible information and be easy to use, plus, it also needs to tell you things you wouldn't otherwise know or easily find out.

This new book by Cara Goldsbury passes all these tests.


This book has been superseded by the second edition, with massively revised material and new content.  The second edition is reviewed here.

What the Book Contains

The large paperback book measures 6" x 9", and with 510 pages, measures just over 1" in thickness.

The book is printed onto good quality white paper and includes a 16 page section of color photographs.  It was published in September, 2003.  The book sells for $19.95, and can be obtained through Amazon at a discounted price.

Eleven chapters cover almost everything from pre-trip planning through accommodations, the different theme parks, other activities at WDW, shopping and dining, plus brief sections on Universal Orlando, other theme parks, and the Disney Cruise Line.

Rating and Recommending

For such a book to be truly useful, it needs to be more than a factual listing of everything about WDW.  It needs to contain sensible opinions and offer helpful recommendations.

The book does exactly that.  It includes highlighted panels with recommendations and suggestions, and also includes ratings for the various attractions and rides, helping you to better understand which are the 'must see' and which are the less essential activities.

The book contains generous measures of advice, and the author seems to be sensible and helpful in her suggestions.

Does the Author Know More than Me?!

My favorite part of WDW is Epcot.  I first visited Epcot in 1983, and have been there at least twenty times since, and have definitely spent more than a month in total, during these visits, at this one theme park.  Accordingly, I consider myself an expert on Epcot, and I used my own knowledge as a standard to judge the thoroughness, accuracy and completeness of the book.

The main section on Epcot covers 43 pages.  Extra coverage is given in other chapters (for example the chapter on dining) and so in total there is plenty of material on Epcot.

I found myself generally agreeing with most of the comments and suggestions for Epcot, and soon found things I'd never known before.  For example, a fascinating page described various 'behind the scenes' tours - something I'll definitely do next time I visit.  I also learned about how to get on a boat and watch the marvelous nightly fireworks from the lagoon - another thing I'll be sure to treat myself to next visit.

And there were various other small things that I had not previously known or even stopped to think about - 'Places for Romance', or a suggestion to go out of Epcot through the International Gateway entrance/exit to visit close-by restaurants and shops.  All in all, and even with me considering myself an absolute Epcot expert, I learned plenty of helpful new things that, within this single section, were more than sufficient to justify the purchase of the complete book.

It is probably unsurprising that author Cara Goldsbury knows more than me.  She spends up to 12 weeks, every year, at WDW, and as a former travel agent, she has gained a broad understanding not only of what her personal likes and dislikes are, but also of what other people, across the board, tend to prefer.  She also has been regularly taking her daughter with her on visits to WDW, and so has had a chance to see how children of all ages (her daughter is now an adult) react and respond to the different parts of the park.

She writes with authority and credibility, and explains 'I never critique a resort where I haven't spent plenty of time or a restaurant I haven't dined at several times'.  This is obvious, and the information she offers is fresh and very different from the recycled hotel brochures and supplier press releases that sometimes find their way into other publications.

Choosing a Hotel

For a second test of the book, I used it to help me choose a hotel.  I decided that I wanted a 4 star hotel with some type of novelty theming to it, and within walking distance of Disney transportation that would conveniently take me to all parks.

The good news :  The book has 102 pages devoted to accommodation issues.

The other news :  I immediately discovered that the book limits itself to consideration of deluxe hotels and condos.  Perhaps this is not surprising, considering it is titled 'The Luxury Guide'.  So I revised my test scenario and continued looking for information on five star choices.

What I most hoped to find, rather than read through all 102 pages, was a map that showed where all the hotels were located, and perhaps a couple of tables that listed the hotels and summarized their respective features.  These aids to selection were not included.

Fortunately, there were several pages of recommendations, and after quickly reading through those, I decided that I'd probably prefer the Grand Floridian or perhaps the Contemporary or Polynesian Resorts.  Unfortunately, there was no easy way to then go from the recommendations to the detailed descriptions of the hotels - a quick sub-chapter listing of where each hotel was reviewed would help.

There were six and a half pages of information and tips on how to choose the best rooms at the Grand Floridian, plus another three and a half pages of restaurant reviews.  Amazingly complete and thorough.  There was a six page review for the Polynesian Resort and five and a half pages for the Contemporary Resort.

Which did I choose?  It was difficult to select based only on the information in the book.  I wanted to see pictures of the room interiors, and wanted to understand exactly where they were located.

So, for this test, I'd give the book perhaps only 3 out of 5.  Yes, it presented a lot of information, but there were still things I wanted to know and understand that the book didn't help me with, and the information it did present was sometimes hard to conveniently find and work with.

Only Luxury Information?

Although the book describes itself as being a luxury guide, that does not make it less relevant for 'ordinary' people on 'ordinary' budgets.

Much of the information - for example on the various rides and attractions - are of relevance to anyone, on any type of budget.  And even people on ordinary budgets might sometimes wish to treat themselves to something a bit special as a highlight of their visit, and so this book truly is helpful to everyone.

Bonus materials

In addition to all the information on WDW, the book also includes shorter sections on Seaworld, Universal Orlando, and Disney Cruises.

However, if you're considering a broader central Florida vacation, you'd probably benefit from additional reference material that can tell you more about more attractions around the region, and stretching of course to Tampa and Busch Gardens as well.

Companion Website

The author also publishes a website containing helpful additional information, including update material that covers changes since the book went to print and a free newsletter you can sign up for.

The book itself plans to have more or less annual updated editions, so it should always be reasonably up to date as well.

Sample Material

Author Cara Goldsbury has graciously provided us with some summary material from her book.  Many pages of this very helpful information can be found, starting from here.  If you find the material helpful, please repay her kindness and consider purchasing the full book.


This is an encyclopedic collection of sensible and current information and advice about how to get the best out of a visit to the WDW area and the many attractions within the complex.  The 510 page book costs $19.95 but it worth much more to you in terms of helpful suggestions and advice.  It can be obtained from Amazon (with a 15% discount on new copies and a greater discount on used copies) or most other retailers.


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Originally published 2 January 2004, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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