the domestic tales of four sisters

How to do Disney with TouringPlans

It’s cold and rainy in Orlando today… still better than the 6 degrees we’re currently experiencing in central PA so I’d still rather be there. Sigh.

Today I’m going to share about our experience using touringplans.com and their Lines App. As I mentioned in my post on using the Magic Bands I don’t go to Disney without a plan.  I understand that for many vacation is to be just that, a vacation.  No schedule, plan, or feeling of urgency welcome.  Well, for us, that just doesn’t fly.  I’m far to Type A for that nonsense and  my husband has little to no tolerance for a 3 year old meltdown that could have been avoided.  So, we ALWAYS have a plan.  Now, I’m not saying we don’t build ‘down time’ into the plan and *gasp* veer from it from time to time but there is always A Plan and it is followed most of the time.

Why are we so psycho about having a plan? Well other than my borderline obsessive nature, Disney is a vacation unlike any other.  I mean think about it, most families load up and go to the nearest amusement park once or twice a summer and spend the day.  It’s usually a long day, which includes at least one meltdown, and you spend all day standing in lines having ‘fun’.  Now, multiply that by a minimum of 4 and that is Disney.  Add the fact that you’ve more than likely saved for a very long time to pay for said vacation and little Susie and Tom each have a laundry list of things they ‘must’ experience while there.  Finally, consider the fact that you are trying to accomplish all of this with 20,000-50,000 other people and you’re bound for disappointment.  You NEED to have a plan.  At least if you’re traveling with little ones.  Someday the husband and I may venture to The World, just he and I, sans plan… who am I kidding! I’d even have a plan for that.  You need a plan. You just do.

Now, how do you create such a plan? Enter touringplans.com!

I want to take a moment to express my undying love for all the people who work for this wonderful website.  They are all equally as Type A as me, probably more so, and spend their lives watching stats and crowd numbers and how people tend to move through the parks so if you follow their plans you can avoid most of the mayhem. They have helped to make my visits to Disney magical and I love them.  Ok, I’m done.

In all seriousness, if you follow the plans, you will avoid much of the craziness that most deem ‘part of the Disney experience.’ Using the touring plans I created for our trip, we did not stand in a line for more than 20 minutes.  Lie, my husband and daughter stood in a line for about 30 minutes (to ride Big Thunder Mountain in MK) BUT that ride was an add on, that was NOT included in our plan. We were leaving the park and noticed the line wasn’t bad so he took her and let her ride.  Other than that, we did not wait more than 20 minutes.  I really don’t think that’s bad, especially considering the posted wait times were all about 30 minutes and the ‘headliners’ were all in excess of an hour.

So, how does it work? Well, FIRST (if you’re sure you are going to Disney within the year and if you’re dates are flexible) spend the $12.95 (I know, it may break the bank) and buy the one year subscription to the website.  Then your first stop should be the crowd calendar. These people have spent countless hours tracking park attendance for years and know when you should go and when you shouldn’t. Example: First two weeks of December- Magical, the last two weeks of December- they usually hit max capacity and turn people away at the entrance. The lower number the better, aka 10 is BAD.  Pick your dates based on what days have the lowest numbers in your window of when you’d like to travel.  This was a mistake I made, I purchased my subscription after booking our trip only to find out the first two days of our trip were going to be PACKED.  Had I purchased before booking we would have bumped our dates back two days and avoided it all.  Now, my touring plans saved me as far as wait times went but we were still walking through the parks brushing elbows with pretty much everyone for those two days. Ugh.

Second, you need to decide which park your going to each day of your trip picking the day when the number is lowest for each park. Now, there are definitely parks that can handle crowds a bit better than others.  I would suggest you start with Magic Kingdom, pick the day you want to go there first (whichever one has the lowest number), then pick your Hollywood Studios day, then Epcot, then Animal Kingdom.  Now, this is just may personal opinion based on the number of ‘rides’ in each park and the regular wait times for said rides.  Magic Kingdom has by far the most actual rides so I prefer to hit that one with the least amount of people.  Animal Kingdom has probably the least so you can still have a great time there even if it is rather packed. Now, your day choices may or may not match up with Extra Magic Hours.  To be honest, we never worry much with EMH. Most parks only have certain attractions open and everyone in the park is trying to visit those attractions so, to us, it was never really worth it.  The only exception would be evening hours at Magic Kingdom but that’s only if your crowd can hang til 1am.  Since we ALWAYS arrive at the parks for opening, 1 am doesn’t happen for us.  At least not yet.

Third, once you’re inside the 180 day window, you need to make your dining reservations. You do this third because you’ll know which park you’ll be in so you won’t try to make a reservation at Hollywood & Vine (in Hollywood Studios) if it’s your Magic Kindom day and you have a base ticket.  That won’t work.  It would if you have a hopper but that would kill a LOT of time when you could be enjoying the park of the day. My suggestion is to pick a park for the day and stick to that park.

Forth, you’re going to pick your FastPass+ selections AFTER your dining reservations.  You do this because when  you’re given options for when to use your fastpasses the website will tell you if it’s overlapping an existing reservation and you can decide if it will work or if you have to choose another option.  Ex. Breakfast with the Princess as Akershus at 9am and FastPass for Soarin’ that runs from 9:15-10:15am is not going to work.  You’ll more than likely need a minimum of and hour and 15 minutes for character dining experiences (I plan for an hour and a half) PLUS Akershus is in pretty much the middle of World Showcase and Soarin’ in inside the Land Pavilion in Future World a minimum 5-10 min walk (if you’re really hauling).  A plan that would work- breakfast at 9am and that FastPass for Soarin’ with a window that ends no earlier than 10:45am (11am to be safe).

Finally, you get to make your touring plans! This is my favorite part, though to some it would be tedious.  You need to get all your dining reservations and FastPass selections (I ususally just keep two tabs open in my browser) and pick a park to start. Under the Touring Plans drop down there is a choice for Personalized Touring Plans. Click that and away you go! They now include the ability to enter your dining reservations and FastPass selections (though it may not include those in your plan, don’t panic!). You can go through and eliminate attractions that don’t interest your group, add ones that do, and plan needed breaks into your day. Then you click the magical ‘optimize’ button at the bottom and it organizes your plan into the best order to keep you away from the lines! You can print these out to take with you on your trip (Optimize and print the day before you leave), but if you have a smart phone it will get a whole lot better using the FREE Lines app!

If you can use the App I HIGHLY suggest it, especially considering that there is free Wi-Fi everywhere in Disney it just makes sense to use the app. Then you have the ability to optimize in the park while you’re touring and really avoid the lines and bonus, you’re not even using your data!  I didn’t realize this until midway through our first day.  I was just following the plan as it was and we were doing ok.  Then I realized I could optimize while there and we really started moving.  After each ride I would mark that we had completed it and then optimize.  There were several times it reorganized our plan and sent us to a different ride because there had been a spike in wait times at one ride and it saved us from waiting in that line.

Now, I know I keep joking about my obsessive nature, but if you’re doing Disney with little ones you really need to plan your days.  Disney is TONS of fun but it can also be VERY loud, scary, overwhelming, and meltdown provoking for a little one. If you plan the day, including breaks to rest and eat, you may find that you make it through the week with more of your sanity than you expected.  I know I did, my three year old surprised us BIG time.  We were worried about taking him as my now 5 year old didn’t have the best time when she went as a three year old.

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Poor Reagan 🙁

Now, it was summer and nine million degrees and humid, but she spent a lot of time in that seat. But we soon learned that it was just her personality as she was very much the same, in much cooler temps (we wore sweatshirts several days), and two (almost three) years older.  The little man on the other hand…

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Meeting his heroes!

Had the time of his life and did this most of the week…

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Little man walking at Disney!

It really has much to do with their personalities but having a good plan that includes breaks for food and rest will make a world of difference!

I wish you a wonderful week! Happy Disney planning!

Danielle

 

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