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Daring to Disney: Using Touring Plans (the non-touring plan parts)

With Disney fast approaching, I’ve been in turbo planning mode. You’d think that once you’ve booked your flights, hotel (though that’s changed), dining reservations, and tickets you’d be done right? For most people that’s true, but for the truly crazy – you can plan out your day to the minute thanks to Touring Plans. I went pretty deep down the rabbit hole so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found out.

What exactly is Touring Plans?

Touring Plans is a website designed to help with Disney planning created by the same people who wrote the Unofficial Guide(s) to Disney. The site has a ton of features, including super helpful stuff about when to go, where to stay (including info on pretty much every single room in every single Disney resort), links to cheaper (barely) tickets, info on every single ride and restaurant, but most importantly: access to their premium touring plan creator and optimization software.

You can get a lot of this stuff on their free site, but signing up for a year long subscription is where the magic truly happens. The site subscription only costs $12.95 a year, though if you scroll all the way down on the homepage you can find a 20% coupon code making it even cheaper.

The crowd calendar is what initially attracted me to Touring Plans
The crowd calendar is what initially attracted me to Touring Plans

Almost everything I’m going to be talking about is as a subscriber, I decided early on that ~$10 was well worth it. But I should let you know the one big caveat: you need to trust that Touring Plans has quality crowd calculators and line optimization software. They supposedly have people in the parks every day and they also crowd source data via their Lines app, but if you don’t trust their ability to make the right calculations then you probably think the entire website is a crock. I choose to think that they take their jobs pretty seriously and know what they’re doing, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard a ton of good things, but who knows. Anyway, let’s go through Touring Plans features one by one. They have a handy dandy checklist for planning a trip, so I’ll just use that. I’m sure they have a ton of features I haven’t even scratched the surface of too!

Pick Dates and Pick Parks

I originally paid for the Touring Plans subscription for one thing only: the crowd calendar and tracker. Basically, Touring Plans uses historical data, data they gather from the parks daily, and…I dunno, magic? They use this information to predict the sizes of crowds at each of the four Orlando Disney parks for every single day of the year. They offer an overall crowd level for Disney, along with individual crowd levels for each park. It’s on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most crowded. Also if you want to get into the nitty gritty they have graphs for how long you can expect to wait at certain attractions depending on the crowd level.

Graph of potential wait times with variance!
Graph of potential wait times with variance!

Without a paid subscription, you are limited in the days you can look at (usually I think it’s just some upcoming dates). With a subscription, you can look at all the days they have predicted thus far, up through a year in advance or so. So you can plan your vacation around less busy times. Most of these coincide with what you would think, but Touring Plans takes into account the school vacations of the entire country and just has access to more information than your common sense.

Another nice feature with the paid subscription is you can track dates – Touring Plans will notify you if the crowd sizes they are expecting changed. I booked this trip over six months ago and have received one or two such notifications for our trip.

Finally, using the Lines app, you can actually track how crowds are looking on the day of, including current wait times at the park. Obviously I haven’t tried this yet but I’m looking forward to seeing how well it does. Touring Plans also uses this information to reflect on how well their predictions went.

Find a Hotel

Touring Plans also has a lot of information about on site hotels. What is specifically useful is they have pictures of many (all?) of the rooms on site. They also will fax in a room request for you if there is a particular room you like. Their room search is very extensive. You can search view, floor, accessibility, walking distance from lobby – you name it you can probably search for it. While I think there are better resources out there when looking at Disney hotels, Touring Plans definitely has a lot of breadth that you can get lost in if you want to find that perfect room.

There are tons of search criteria to help you find the perfect room
There are tons of search criteria to help you find the perfect room

Buy Tickets

If you want to get a feel for how much money you can save on tickets, you can use Touring Plans to do that as well. They have links to various places you can buy tickets for a slight discount (I assume they are some kind of affiliate links). Ultimately, I ended up making my own discount – check out the comments from that post for a lot of great ideas from people better at this than me!

Explore the Parks – Attractions, Shows, and Dining Options

Again, Touring Plans does a comprehensive job of listing all the attractions, shows, and dining options in the World. They have information about wait times, busy times, whether rides are good for kids, height restrictions, rider switch availability – again, it’s very comprehensive. They have a rating for pretty much every single attraction for every age level which I found very useful. I also found it useful to know what kind of “scares” to expect so I could decide whether to take M or not.

Follow Touring Plans' ride rankings or make your own
Follow Touring Plans’ ride rankings or make your own

Touring Plans

Now the absolute, most wonderful thing about Touring Plans, to me, is their touring plan software. To simplify: they basically take all the knowledge they have about park attraction wait times, throw it into a computer, and help you determine the best route through the parks. But that is worth a post in and of itself, because I went pretty deep down the rabbit hole. Let’s just say that if you like maximizing itineraries and want to go to Disney, Touring Plans is the website for you. But more on that later.

Final Thoughts

Even without the touring plans themselves, Touring Plans is a great website for planning a Disney vacation. It can assist in planning every aspect of your trip, even if you are using the free version. If you pay a little bit of money for a year long subscription, you get a ton more features that personally got me more and more excited about the trip (if that were possible). Stay tuned to see how crazy using Touring Plans can get!

Other Posts in this Series

Flights, Hotel, and Car

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

Dining Reviews

Tips for parents of toddlers and infants

Things I wished I knew before I went to Disney

Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

5 thoughts on “Daring to Disney: Using Touring Plans (the non-touring plan parts)

  1. Eager to see how you liked the plan they made for you. We used it and found the wait times to be way off and about half way through the first day just stopped using them.

  2. We’ve used Touring Plans (free version) leading up to some of our Disney trips. It spits out a plan that seems great in principle, however, things rarely go to plan and you need to improvise on what rides to do when. Not saying it is a bad resource. Just saying that you aren’t going to be able to necessarily count on it.

  3. I’ve used Touring Plans for all of my visits to the parks, the most recent one using the app on my phone. I have always had good experiences using them.

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