Friday, June 27, 2008

A Passport to the Happiest Place on Earth

Passporter Disneyland Resort and Southern California Attractions (First Edition), By Jennifer Marx and Dave Marx. Ann Arbor, MI; PassPorter Press, 2006; 282 pp.

Just for the sake of variety, I thought I'd do a review this week of a guide to the Disneyland Resort. Now, being a native southern Californian and having been to Disneyland so many times I can't even begin to count, I need a Disneyland guidebook like a fish needs a bicycle (sorry, Gloria Steinem). But if I did need a guidebook for a visit to Anaheim, I'd most likely choose this one.

Several years ago (no, I don't know how many - I'm not going to ruin my blog by doing silly things like research!), Jennifer and Dave Marx came up with the first of a unique series of travel guides. The PassPorter guides provide a lot of great information about Disney destinations, but they provide a lot more - a planning workbook, a easy-to navigate reference, and a keepsake/souvenir of the reader's vacation. A couple of years ago, with an excellent guide for Walt Disney World under their belt, Jennifer and Dave decided to create a PassPorter guide to Disneyland and southern California. If there was any concern that the original PassPorter was some kind of fluke, they've dispelled those concerns with this book.

Jennifer and Dave have created a great guide for planning a southern California vacation with an emphasis on Disneyland. They cover almost everything you'd need to know in a thorough yet concise manner, all organized for easy access. From accommodations to attractions to dining, the PassPorter Disneyland Resort provides the information you need to plan your vacation, and provides honest opinions on what you'll see and experience. Jennifer and Dave have included lots of references to websites (including theirs), so you can explore your options further and gather additional information; they also provide some of the nicest looking and most useful maps I've seen in a Disney guidebook (and that includes the Birnbaum guides). And it's all presented in a manner that doesn't leave you feeling either overwhelmed or like you've missed something.

But the neatest part of the PassPorter is that it isn't just intended to help you plan your trip - it can also be used to document it. Behind the guidebook text is a series of "PassPockets" that you can use to organize and plan your trip before you go and to record your expenses, photos and recollections of the days' events; the PassPockets even include sleeves where you can store items like receipts, ticket stubs, and other items you might want to save. When the planning's all done and you're on your way, bring the book along -- you can add a few autographs, notes, and photos to your PassPorter (there are pages for that, too), and when you get back home you can fold over the flap in the back of the book, close it up with the elastic band, and now you have a memory book of your vacation.

My problems with the PassPorter Disneyland Resort are very few. First off, if you're planning a trip to Disneyland later than a couple of months or so from now, I'd recommend holding off on purchasing the PassPorter until the new edition comes out in a few weeks; since the book was written in 2006, several items are out of date. Of course, guidebooks begin to go out of date almost from the minute they're published, and most of the book's tools for planning and preparing for a Disneyland vacation are as valid now as they were back in 2006, so if you're going sooner, don't give the PassPorter a pass (pun intended).

Second, if you're searching for optimal touring plans, you'll probably want to supplement this book with another book or website that emphasizes touring plans, like the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland; the Marxes provide one touring plan per theme park, but don't provide plans optimized for certain age groups or for varying lengths of stay. But both of these are very minor complaints.

The PassPorter Disneyland Resort is an excellent, thorough, and unique guide for planning and enjoying a trip to southern California; like its counterpart for the Florida theme parks, it'd be one of the two or three books I'd recommend to anyone making their first trip to experience the Disney theme parks. Now, how about we take up a collection to send Jennifer and Dave on some research trips to the overseas parks so we can have some great guides to those places, too?


Wiley said...

Hi Paul, I just discovered your blog--and I've really enjoyed reading your thoughtful comments on Disney guidebooks. I'm the publisher for Frommer's Guidebooks--we publish quite a few Disney guides, including the Unofficial guide and the Pauline Frommer's guide, which you've reviewed here in your blog. I'd be happy to send you our guidebooks for you to review. Keep posting, Ensley

Paul Schnebelen said...

Ensley, thanks for the positive comments! I'd be happy to review any guides you'd like to send - please get in touch. Thanks!