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  • Disney World

    Ratings and Research

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TouringPlans.com performs the statistics and data analysis that power several of the Unofficial Guide series of travel books. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, alone, has sold millions of copies, and we have been collecting data on theme park experiences for more than a decade. We are a truly unofficial, objective source that combines professional reviews with real-life, reader-submitted experiences to present honest data to our customers.

The ratings on our website come from two separate sources:

  • Experts. We have paid, knowledgeable inspectors with expertise in hotels, restaurants, and theme parks. When possible, objective measures (for example, we have a methodology for assessing pillow fluffiness) are used in our scores. When we provide "author ratings" or show a score that is not explicitly a "reader rating," you are seeing an assessment by experts.
  • Readers and TouringPlans.com Users. Those who use TouringPlans.com and readers of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, and The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line are invited to submit a survey after their trips. These surveys are the data behind what we share as "reader ratings." The reader-sourced ratings on our website are updated at least once per week and span back no more than two years.

Our surveys are linked below:

An excerpt from about our research methodology from The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World follows:

We received this query from a Manchester, Vermont, reader and feel it deserves a serious response:

I read a review criticizing the Unofficial Guide because it was "written by a team of researchers." The reviewer doesn't say why he thinks the team approach is inferior, but the inference is along the lines of "too many cooks spoil the soup." Why do you use this approach?

There are several reasons. Most guidebooks do a reasonably good job with the what and where; Unofficial Guides add the how and why. Describing attractions or hotels or restaurants (the what) at a given destination (the where) is the foundation of other travel guidebooks. We know from our research, though, that our readers like to know how things work.

However, no individual author can possibly be qualified to write about every topic in the vast range of important subjects that make up a good guide to Walt Disney World. Our team approach enables us to provide deeper explanations of Disney’s operations and undertake much more sophisticated and extensive research. Creating touring plans, for example, requires statisticians who can analyze millions of attraction wait times to predict how and why lines will build throughout any day. Another project, monitoring the Disney transportation system, requires riding and timing every bus, boat, and monorail route, a task that takes four researchers almost a week to complete. Our Walt Disney World with Kids chapter was developed in consultation with three nationally respected child psychologists and an advisory group of parents. Similarly, our professional culinary experts ensure, say, that the pollo al forno you order at Epcot’s Italy Pavilion is a decent approximation of what you might get in Rome.

We also conduct extensive research on you, the reader. Your tastes, preferences, and opinions—expressed in reader surveys, e-mails, and blog comments—dictate the subjects we research and the content of our books. Other guides are researched and developed by individual authors or coauthors, the content filtered through the lens of their tastes, preferences, and opinions. If the information is compatible with the needs of the reader, that’s largely accidental. Known and respected in both the travel industry and academe, Unofficial Guide research has been recognized by the BBC, CNN, the Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, the Travel Channel, USA Today, and Wired.com, plus numerous academic journals. We (the authors) put the fruits of our research into words, but behind us is an organization unequaled in travel publishing.

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