I’ve never been to Universal Orlando, but in anticipation of a vacation there, I thought I’d check out a guidebook. When I went to my library I was shocked at the lack of guidebooks for Universal. The entire “theme park” section was dedicated to Disney. I had no idea there was such a monopoly on the market. Luckily enough, a librarian friend of mine recommended “The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando” as a new library acquisition.
Only twice in my life have I used guidebooks. The first was when I backpacked around Europe one Christmas break in college. While my two friends who accompanied me laughed at what they called my “travel Bible,” when the recommendations and suggestions saved our kiesters on several occasions, the derision ceased.
The second time was when I chaperoned/shepherded a senior class trip to Disney World. I decided to check out the guidebook mostly to get suggestions on how to see the most without wasting any time. Some of the suggestions worked well, particularly on helping me avoid rides I didn’t want to waste time on waiting in line.
These two experiences with guidebooks helped me see that while I don’t need to tie myself down to a guidebook and all of their suggestions, a guidebook can help you create a strategy ahead of time to cut down on the “What do you want to next? I don’t know, what do you want to do?” loop that can suck the time out of a theme park vacation.
What I really appreciated about “The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando” is that they give rides ratings based on how kids, thirty-somethings, and seniors would be interested by them. This was helpful in knowing how to plan what rides I want to ride. Another aspect I really liked, is the ratings for the restaurants they give. I hate spending money on expensive food you can find at any generic fast food restaurant. The restaurant reviews help point me in the direction of food worth spending the money on.
A unique feature of the “The Unofficial Guide” is touring plans. The editors of the Unofficial Guide have layed out an order for which rides to hit when and in what order based on crowd statistics and which rides tend to attract the most crowds. While I may not follow the touring plan exactly, I appreciate the structure and general order they suggest. I want to get the most out of my time and spend my time on the rides and attractions that are most important to me.
If you’re ever going Universal Orlando or Walt Disney World, I would highly recommend “The Unofficial Guide” collection of books.