What I Learned Wednesday is taking a little break this week. It has been preempted by more DISNEY POSTS!!! Yay!!
OK, so maybe I'm the only one excited about that, but it's my blog so I can do what I want on it :).
As I said in my previous Disney post, I am all about the Unofficial Guide to Disney and their corresponding website, touringplans.com. (Touringplans.com is a subscription service; however, if you buy the book, you get a free 1 year subscription.)
In the book, they have some nice, pretty graphs that show crowd levels over the whole year. You'll see that crowds are highest over Spring Break, followed closely by mid-June through mid-August. Holidays also draw big crowds. But the first week in May - not crowded at all. That is the main reason we decided to travel when we did and to take our kids out of school - to miss the crowds.
After you determine the dates you're going, flip over to the touringplans.com and look up each individual day to see the predicted crowds by park. For example, our first touring day would be May 2. On May 2, it shows that the overall crowd level for all of Disney World will be 6 out of 10. If a 10 is the most crowded it's ever been, May 2 will be 60% as full as that day. Broken up by park, Magic Kingdom (MK) is predicted to be a 7.7 out of 10; Epcot (E), a 2.8 out of 10; Hollywood Studios (HS) a 2.3 out of 10 and the Animal Kingdom (AK) a 4.6 out of 10. (Both the book and the website go into a lot of detail about how they get these numbers. I won't bore you with that here.) Obviously, if you were picking parks based solely on crowd levels, you would pick either Epcot or HS for May 2.
Armed with all that information, we made up our schedule: Epcot on Monday (2.8), MK on Tuesday (2.7), swimming and shopping on Wednesday, HS on Thursday (2.6) and MK again on Friday (5.4). Please note, if you choose to go the lowest crowd option like we did, you will probably have to give up some things. For instance: Fantasmic, the nighttime show at HS was only shown on Tuesday. We went there on Thursday based on crowd predictions. Because of that we had to give up seeing that show. But that was something we were OK with. You'll just have to make that decision for yourselves.
Now that you know where you are going on which days, you get to pick your touring plan. This is the best thing about touringplans.com. For each park, they have done extensive research to find out the optimal order to ride/see every attraction to minimize wait time. There are many touring plans to choose from. You can choose plans for parents with young children, with tweens, with teens; plans just for adults, or senior citizens. You can also choose plans that are based on what type of attractions you want to see, i.e. princess plans, pirate plans, character plans. You can also customize your own plan by entering in the attractions you don't want to miss. The website will then tell you what order to visit those to minimize your wait time.
For example, for the Magic Kingdom we chose the 2-day touring plan for Junior Pirates and Young Adventurers. It was written with 4-8 year old boys in mind; however, it had every ride that my daughter really wanted to ride as well. The plan has a map at the top labeled with each step so you know where you go next. This is how that touring plan starts:
Magic Kingdom Entrance - Arrive at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom 25 minutes prior to opening.
Peter Pan's Flight (FP) - Ride Peter Pan's Flight in Fantasyland.
Mickey's PhilharMagic (FP)- See Mickey's PhilharMagic.
The Haunted Mansion (FP) - See The Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square.
Splash Mountain (FP)(40") - Ride Splash Mountain in Frontierland. Obtain FASTPASSes if wait exceeds 30 minutes here or at Big Thunder (whichever is longest).
It continues on with 15 steps for Day 1 and 9 for Day 2. "FP" tells you that a ride has Fastpasses available. "40" " tells you the height requirement for that ride. Armed with your optimal touring plan, your visit is really easy. You just do everything in the order they tell you, cutting out the things you don't want to do, and you'll hardly have to wait in any lines all day. This worked out beautifully for us. We only had to wait in one attraction line that was longer than 10 minutes and that was for Soarin' at Epcot (with a Fastpass no less). Several attractions we rode multiple times but by using our plan, we didn't have to wait in line for any of them. It made our visit so much nicer.
I will tell you one caveat though, and that is the character lines. We always had to wait in line for characters. They pretty much run the lines so that you are guaranteed at least a 15 minutes wait to see a character, so just be prepared for that.
If you want to check out touringplans.com and see which plans we used, we went with the tweens plan for Epcot, but amended some of the more rigorous rides. We also did the tweens plan for Hollywood Studios minus the Rock 'n Roller coaster and the Tower of Terror.
I am a HUGE planner, if you hadn't already guessed. Some of you more spontaneous folks may think this is going overboard, but I can't stress how much I think theses plans helped our trip. Waiting in lines with bored kids is the worst and it was my biggest fear on this trip. How much will they fight? How will we keep the whining down? After our plan worked so well on the first day, I was completely hooked! I HIGHLY recommend going into Disney with a plan. If you don't choose touringplans.com, find another book or site to help you. It makes your trip so much more peaceful.
No, touringplans.com didn't reward me in any way for this post. I wish they had. But I will recommend their product wholeheartedly whether I'm being paid to do it or not.