“It seems like there are a million Disney travel guides out there, so why would anybody think we needed another one?”
J.M. Sparks, the Executive Editor of the VIP Tour Book Walt Disney World Resort, asked herself this question. “Even I thought the idea was crazy.”
J.M. came to Orlando after deciding to “semi-retire” from a professional executive position in Hawaii. “This was my dream, a chance to take it easy and enjoy my favorite place on Earth.”
Her love of Disney began when she came with her family for the first time as a little girl. Her dad made sure that the family was able to take the coast-to-coast journey several times as the family grew.
His passing just a few short years ago solidified Ms. Sparks’ interest in doing something special, in his name, to show respect for the enduring love he shared for his family.
“This book is really about honoring all mothers’ and fathers’ love and devotion to their families,” J.M. shared. “These parents spend years saving their hard-earned money for that once-in-a-lifetime family vacation, and our team is dedicated to making that experience as magical as a Disney vacation can be.”
After living in Orlando for a number of years, J.M. found herself constantly being a source of information for visitors she would encounter.
She had, they often told her, a unique perspective that they did not find in existing guide books.
And, most importantly, her advice was up-to-date!
“I couldn’t believe these brand-new books people were reading were already so out-of-date,” J.M. said. “When I started putting the VIP Tour Book together, I realized it’s not the fault of the book writers. It is also not the fault of their publisher.
Disney often makes unannounced, last-minute decisions. Combine that with the lengthy publishing process, and most guides are already about six months out-of-date when they hit the store shelves.”
Living in a resort community, J.M. felt obliged to console parents on occasion. These were people who had terrible experiences taking their loved ones to Disney for the first time and not being properly prepared.
“I met a mother the evening after her family’s first day of visiting the parks. She was exhausted and upset because her family experienced very few rides and wasted a lot more money than they had budgeted.”
While spending a couple hours soaking in the hot tub, J.M. helped her develop a plan for the next couple days at the parks.
“I told her what to bring along, when she needed to get to the park, and how to get on the popular rides.” The mother pulled out her smart phone and started taking notes.
A couple nights later, the two ladies met again at the hot tub. This time, the mother brought her family.
When she saw J.M., she approached eagerly. “I was hoping I’d find you here! You saved our vacation!”
Both parents waxed on about how happy they were and how “spot-on” the advice was that had been shared.
A Book Is Born
Ms. Sparks asked for a copy of the notes that were started that night, and realized that over 2,000 words had been written down from that short conversation. “This was really the start of the book,” J.M. shared.
With the support of her family (who tied her in enthusiasm), her husband and friends, she continued jotting down notes. Eventually, J.M. pulled together a team of Disney enthusiasts, which includes former Cast Members and locals who know the parks inside and out.
She knew it would have to be different than what was already out there.
“We decided an electronic book was the only way to go. We could make changes and push updated information to our readers in a matter of days, not months.
Plus, our clearly dated editions would make it easy to determine how current the information is. This fixes another issue. We noticed that a lot of people learning about Disney World do their research on line. We discovered so many old blog postings online that are outdated, and they don’t even provide the date the information was posted. This has the effect of mis-informing readers.”
The first VIP Tour Book Walt Disney World Resort travel guide was published on Walt Disney World’s 45th anniversary (October 1, 2016). “It took about five years to get the book to this point. Just like the parks, it will never be finished. If this book helps even one family discover the Disney magic, all the time and effort will have been worth it.”
Have you ever helped someone plan their Disney vacation?