As I mentioned in my last post, Touring Plans is a web site dedicated to making the Disney experience either. The site is named after their touring plans – itineraries designed to minimize your wait times in the parks. According to the website, “using a touring plan is 5 times more important than picking which park to visit.” In this post I’ll discuss really optimizing your time at Disney using Touring Plans!
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Now as you’ll see in this post, touring plans are really well suited for Type A sorts. If you are happy to wander in the park and go where the wind takes you, touring plans aren’t for you. If you are trying to squeeze every last drop of fun and maximize every last second in the parks…well, the year long subscription is only 13 bucks.
To be clear up front, I have not yet gone to Disney, so I cannot evaluate how well Touring Plans did at this very moment. I will, however, go through how I used the website (paid subscription) to optimize optimize optimize our times in the parks. Or at least attempt to. Once we’re back, I’ll come back with some thoughts on how well everything went.
Pre-set Touring Plans
Part of the overwhelming nature of Disney is that there is so much to do. Four parks, dozens of things to see/do/experience in each park, etc. etc. What’s good for adults? What’s good for toddlers? What’s good for families traveling with grandparents? I found that the pre-set touring plans on the website really helped me to narrow down what I wanted to see.
If you have a paid subscription, you have access to all the touring plans that Touring Plans have come up with. There a ton of different touring plans for different preferences – I counted 14 for parents of small children in the Magic Kingdom alone. Some are very specific, like utilizing evening Extra Magic Hours, while some are more general, like “hit up all the highlights in a day” sort of plans. Each touring plan has a list of recommended attractions to see – they are listed in a recommended order of visiting (usually with busier attractions front loaded). Of course, these are just lists that don’t take into account predicted crowd levels for a given day, time of year, what time you’re getting to the park, etc.
As an example, I chose the “Two Day Dumbo or Die” plan for small children. Here’s the top of the list of attractions they recommended:
I chose similar plans for each of our days in the park (having already used the crowd calendar to decide which days we will go where). Of course, this just gives you a list of attractions to see, not very fun in and of itself. Where I really started going nuts was with the personalized touring plans and optimization software.
Personalizing and Optimizing your touring plans
If you subscribe to Touring Plans, you can copy one of the pre-set templates and fiddle with it on your own. So for example, if you look at the above, I determined that the Haunted Mansion might be a bit much for M, so I took it off. I also threw a couple extra rides on It’s a Small World onto the touring plan, an extra Dumbo ride, and subtracted things like Wishes (she’s too young and she already told us she doesn’t want to go because it’s too loud, though of course I’ll ask again). You also give Touring Plans your expected date at the park so it can factor in crowd levels.
Once you have your personalized touring plan, you have the option to optimize, evaluate, or view and print your plan.
Viewing and printing your plan is obvious. The “optimize” button takes all the attractions you are interested in, throws it into some kind of algorithm, and then spits out the best possible order you can visit the attractions. You can add in rest times, breaks, dining reservations, etc. at certain times to help break up the day and the software can account for that as well. The “evaluate” button updates the wait and travel times for the attractions in the order you have them listed. So, if optimize spits out something you don’t necessarily like, you can move things around a bit and then see how that affects your wait times. Every step of your touring plan has something like this:
Touring Plans calculates your estimated wait time, the duration of the ride, and the amount of time it will take for you to walk to your next step. You can tell Touring Plans what you want it to optimize in your touring plan. There is a slider for you to give your preference of walking less or waiting in line less and a slider for you to estimate your walking speed.
Finally, once you are done, Touring Plans spits out a map which is useful to get a general feel for the geography and the ground that you will be covering.
I started getting a little crazy with this information, but I should talk about how Touring Plans works with Fast Pass+ first.
Using Fast Pass+ with Touring Plans
If you already have Fast Pass+ reservations, you can add them into your touring plan and Touring Plans will take them into account. Interestingly enough, Touring Plans sometimes doesn’t use your FP+ reservations. When that’s the case, it explains why (usually it’s because they don’t think they are going to save you time). If you want to still use it, you can “force” the program to use it via the Evaluate button as discussed above.
If you haven’t made your FP+ reservations yet, there is a way to get Touring Plans to recommend FP+ to shoot for, though I found it a little difficult to figure out at first. Basically, you need to open up the FP+ reservation tab in Touring Plans and tell them how many FP+ reservations you have to make. Everyone of course gets 3, but there might be instances when you have less than that. For example, Jess and I are planning on heading back to the Magic Kingdom one night on our own – we can theoretically “save” a third FP+ reservation for the night and thus would only have 1 to put into our separate touring plan. We’re not, but I’m just saying that is a possibility.
The group one and group two business is for parks like Epcot that have tiered attractions. For example, you’ll never be able to reserve a FP+ ahead of time for both Test Track and Soarin’ in the same day. Anyway, after you’ve put in the number of FP+ selections you have, hit optimize and Touring Plans will recommend which rides to use them on. Then you can go to Disney’s site and try to sync as much as possible.
Going down the touring plan rabbit hole
So I optimized our touring plans for a couple of days in the park (though not the last day because I want to see what M is into) over a month ago. A funny thing happened when I logged in last week. I hit “optimize”, and lo and behold, Touring Plans calculated a whole new order of attractions for us! My guess is they use Fast Pass data or…I don’t know, magic? Either way, it threw a real monkey wrench into things because I had spent the last two weeks going over our first Magic Kingdom day itinerary with M. (I know, I know, maybe that wasn’t wise but I was excited and she was too).
Long story short, I spent a few hours messing with our touring plans – moving a ride from one day to another, flipping around FP+ options, splitting FP+ options – it got pretty intense. Of course, I loved every moment of it. It’s kind of silly – who the heck knows if their estimates are going to be on point? – but I took extreme joy in fine tuning our plans. I spent most of my time on the Magic Kingdom stuff, though we have a full day at Epcot that I want to maximize as well. Animal Kingdom is whatever and we likely are going to pass on Disney’s Hollywood Studios because M is too young (though Star Wars stuff is tempting).
Anyway it will be straight up hilarious if the touring plan completely sucks and is off – but I think it should be okay (we’re also not going at an extremely busy time so that’s going to help a ton). Either way, I’ll be sure to let you guys know. At the very least, I think I got my money’s worth just “gaming”.
Our Magic Kingdom plans
So we’re likely spending three days at the Magic Kingdom – this is what I’ve got on tap for us.
On the first day, M and I are going to “rope drop” – aka get to the parking lot by 8:15 AM and to the turnstiles by or before park opening. After hitting Winnie the Pooh first, we’ll hit a few attractions in Tomorrowland including a FP+ reservation at Tomorrowland Speedway. I was really nervous she wasn’t going to be tall enough to sit behind the wheel herself (we’ve been on similar rides and she’s always been disappointed). Thank you, growth spurt! After we’re done with Tomorrowland we’re going to spend the rest of the day in Fantasyland – FP+ at Peter Pan, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Little Mermaid (we’re working with four adult tickets so I’m playing fast and loose with our FP+ reservations. I’d play even faster and looser but I’d like us all to ride some stuff together). Hopefully we squeeze in two rides on It’s a Small World and Dumbo before we take M home for the night. After her nap Jess and I are gonna head back to the park and hopefully do Pirates, Haunted Mansion, and one or two thrill rides.
On our second day we’ll hit the attractions in Frontier and Adventureland that we missed – Jungle Cruise, Country Bears, etc. etc. I FP+ most of the same things from Day 1, figuring if she likes them a lot we’ll probably want to skip the lines. That second day is also a day we can take her to see shows if we think she’s going to be into it, and we’re planning on hanging around for a parade. By then I’ll have gauged how she does on rides and we’ll be able to talk about whether she can do something like Haunted Mansion. I sincerely doubt it but who knows. That’s also the day we can do stuff like ride the train or ride the People Mover six times in a row if she wants (or if I want…pretty sure I’ve done that before).
For day three, I’m planning on taking all her favorites and throwing them all into one mega over-stimulation station of a touring plan!
Anyway, after typing this last section, I realize nobody probably cares except me (I’m including my wife, parents, and even M) but you know what I’m so excited it just came out! Sorry!
Creating your own personalized touring plans with the Touring Plans software is every Type A Disney fan’s dream. Well, it’s mine, at least. We’ll see how well the software does – plus I’ll be monitoring crowds in real time using the Lines App. Hopefully I’ll have good news to report!
Other Posts in this Series
Making Disney Dining Reservations
Saving Money on Disney Tickets
Using Touring Plans (the non-touring plan parts)
Optimizing a visit using Touring Plans’ touring plans
Saving money by staying off site
When a Disney annual pass makes sense
Touring Epcot attractions with a toddler
Touring Animal Kingdom with a toddler
One perfect day at the Magic Kingdom
Tips for parents of toddlers and infants
Things I wished I knew before I went to Disney
Brandi Parshley says
As someone who has been to Disney and loves using touring plans, I really enjoyed reading this post. It’s nice to see your enthusiasm. I would suggest you download the app, not only is it helpful for when you’re in the park and something doesn’t go according to ‘schedule’, some people also find it interesting to watch the actual ride times before you’re really in the park. Not that I have ever done that…
Yes…I may or may not have done that today myself…
Though the app always defaults to Disneyland for me – what gives?
I use touring plans religiously for all Disney trips and generally they work well. At Disney time is money and I like to have a productive morning/early afternoon before heading back for naps so I think it is money well spent. Disney rewards the type A – even if you’re not a type A person it’s a good place to pretend to be one.
Is it bad I was slightly disappointed the crowds were low when we got there this afternoon so I didn’t get to test it out for real 😛 #kiddingnotkidding
Hey! We are here now. Or there now. (Not sure the proper way of phrasing that:-) )
I’m not type A, planning stresses me out until close to the event. My type A sister is joining us Friday, though and maybe we should try optimizing her plan. I’m pretty sure my husband is going to leave me by Friday, though. Not in the divorce sense, but in the “I’m not going back to the Magic Kingdom” sense. 🙂
lol…think my wife is already there. Crowds seem higher than expected!
Friday was great at MK. Wish we had skipped it Tuesday, then we probably would’ve had more energy to take advantage of Friday’s low crowds (at least crowds seemed low that day).
Hubby hung in there till the end, but drew the line at staying for extra magic hours at Hollywood Studios. All of us Loved the Star Wars show and ride.
Biggest disappointment was the seven dwarfs mine train. Fun but so short that it’s not worth more than a 10 minute wait to me. Really really loved Expedition Everest at AK.
We really enjoyed Epcot and Animal Kingdom, the rides and attractions were great and the atmosphere much more relaxed.
Our kids are 7 and 9 and the most important thing seemed to be giving them a realistic idea of what the “ride” was going to be. We went on the Jungle Cruise and at first they thought it was pretty lame, because they were expecting something more like a roller coaster. But the jokes won them over after a couple of minutes.
I think we will actually return to Disney again, which makes the trip a success in my eyes! 🙂
A true victory! Where’d you stay on site?
AK was my wife’s favorite – and I think she was glad we weren’t eligible for EMH 😛
We stayed at animal kingdom lodge. I really liked it, but we would be hesitant to stay there again, because of the price tag. This time it was a value week, so I figured we never know when we would be at Disney during an off week again, so took the chance this time. The activities for the kids are great. We should’ve planned more time to stay at the resort and do more of them. I don’t see myself paying anywhere near $400/night to stay there.
I did really like the size of it. Looking at the All Stars, they are Huge, and I’m not sure we’d like that. AKL seemed very nice and intimate. That being said, it’s nowhere near a luxury hotel. It’s definitely a lodge. (I’m not sure that’s a technical term, but seems to fit. Good quality and comfortable, but definitely not fancy or luxurious).
Had a couple of housekeeping fails while we were there. It seemed like one a day, nothing big, but always something. First day: one of the coffee cups was dirty like it went through the dishwasher but didn’t get clean, second day: went to take a shower and there was a swimming suit hanging on the rail from the previous guest Third day (something yucky I won’t mention) fourth day: they emptied all of the garbage cans into one bag but then forgot to take that bag out, so we had a big bag of our garbage sitting by the sink.
I was worried that it would be crazy driving to the parks, but it works so smoothly that we only took the busses one day.
And I will say it again… The seven dwarfs mine train is lame! Use a fast pass or don’t wait more than 20 minutes tops. All four of us have it the thumbs down for being way too short.
Can’t wait to hear about your trip and where you stayed. If you stay off site you really have to consider parking fees. $20 at Disney plus whatever fee your hotel has really adds up. Makes it even more important than ever to take those added fees into account.
Hey joe! Just got back from Disney and we definitely used touring plans. We went during the crazy week between Christmas and New Years. I was super nervous and did a lot of planning. Touring plans was defnintely a great help!!! Hope m loves the happiest place on earth. :). No baby?