323 Days! Initial Touring Plans

After lots of pinching and tweaking, my initial Touring Plans and schedules are set. How did I break things down? What were the hiccups?

So, earlier this week, I officially completed my initial round of creating Touring Plans. I use touringplans.com for this, always have. I don’t know if there are alternatives to this or not, but if so, feel free to let me know in the comments. A few weeks ago, I posted lists to our event page on Facebook, where we can all congregate to talk about our trip, of all the attractions and shows in each of the parks, along with markings of whether or not I was planning on including those attractions or not. I then, pulled those attractions into my touring plans, and optimized. There are a few hiccups in the TouringPlans system, but I managed to get everything hammered out in a way that should work.

I will note that the primary problems I have with personalized plans on the Touring Plans site, is it’s very reliant on the timing of your schedule, so if you want to end after the fireworks or after dinner, and don’t note that in your time, it will leave giant breaks in the middle of your schedule. I also find that if I add multiple meals in the initial setup of a plan, it ALWAYS changes the times that I input for those meals, and I have to go back and edit them again. Not too big a deal, but it can be kind of annoying. I also sometimes have to go ahead and schedule a break to get it to give me as much lead time as I want for finding a spot for nighttime shows etc.

The other problem I have in the program is fastpasses. Especially, with the parks that have groupings. For instance, in EPCOT, I’m wanting to get a FastPass for IllumiNations, but I know that it will be available later in the day, so I can go ahead and use a FastPass for one of the other big ticket rides. The problem is, to be able to go back in and get a Fastpass for IllumiNations later, I have to not only use my FastPass for Soarin’ or Test Track or Frozen: Ever After. I have to also use 2 FastPasses for Group A attractions. I sometimes have a hard time finding attractions that need a FastPass from those attractions, and almost always have a hard time getting¬†TouringPlans to allow me to use those FastPasses when optimizing. It can be done, but it’ll often take some tweaking.

Other things I had to personally tweak were getting my allotted time for the Valley of Mo’ara at Animal Kingdom in after Rivers of Light, so that we can tour it in the dark, when the area comes alive with bioluminescence. Apparently, it’s less crowded when it’s not dark (who knew?), and TouringPlans wants me to go then, so I have to manually move it back to the end of the night every time.

Anyways, after lots of tweaking and squeezing, I managed to get everything done (for now). I’m sure everything will change in a few weeks, and of course, as soon as I posted my tentative schedule to the Facebook group, I got an email from Touring Plans with Crowd Calendar changes, and ended up swapping a day.

My breakdown worked out as, 1 and a half days in Magic Kingdom (full day in Fantasyland, half day in Not-Fantasyland), 1 Day in EPCOT (as a group of adults, we’d probably do at least a day and a half at EPCOT, but it’s May, so the wait times aren’t too bad, and we’ll probably skip most of the shows in World Showcase on account of the kiddos, so we do it in a day), 1 Day in Hollywood Studios (This was kind of a tough one, with the sporadic show schedules, but I managed to squeeze everything in, I assume some parts of our group will skip some things and do their own thing within this schedule. Also, we’ll have to go back for Star Wars: Galactic Spectacular),¬† and 1 Day in Animal Kingdom (we’re skipping Rafiki’s Planet Watch and most of Dinoland, so it’s not too hard to squeeze this into a day, but there’s a lot to experience in this park, and I didn’t get to fully immerse myself last time around, so we’re going to do a few new things for us this trip here). Since we’ll have 6 day tickets, this means we actually have an extra free day to just go back and reride things or do some shopping, maybe head to Disney Springs. I noted if parts of the group wanted to go to Universal, this could be the spot. Anyways, free time is always good. Maybe not so good for my tight scheduling desires (shoot, where are we going to eat), but still good for other folks in the group who might like to play it by ear.

We’ll see how much we change from here, but hopefully I can take the hands off for at least a few weeks (I probably can’t. I live for this stuff). Also, if you made it this far, what do you think I should do on that free day?

Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you next time.

Planning Our Perfect Vacation

So, as I’ve noted in my about page everywhere, we’ve been planning our upcoming WDW trip ever since our son was born. I’ve been to WDW a few times with my parents (once with my wife and parents), and my wife used to go every year as a cheerleading coach, so we have a decent feel for it, but I like to delve into travel plans, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading reviews and tips, watching videos, and crunching numbers to try and get everything just right. I thought I’d write this post to give you an idea of some of the things we’ve considered in locking down our plans for our reservation.

First off, this is what we’re calling our “all-in” trip. For us, that means we’re trying to knock out as many quintessential must-do Disney World things as we can in one trip, so that future visits don’t have to be so inclusive. Thus, if our plans exceed your personal budget or thoughts, don’t worry. There’s a WDW plan of attack for everyone and on a lot of budgets.

One of the first things to consider is “When can we go?”. For us, we ended up with a 1-week window to work in. I’ve only ever been in the summer, and it’s always ridiculously humid and crowded. My wife used to go for Cheerleading competitions in the fall, and really liked the weather and crowds for that time of the year, so while her teaching schedule doesn’t work for the fall, we found a week in the Spring that we should be able to go. If you want to find a less crowded time of the year (the park is pretty much always somewhat crowded at this point in time), TouringPlans.com posts crowd calendars and I think weather estimates, so you can get a feel for how your dates are going to look. I know that when I was looking at dates, going in the summer was 50% more crowded than going the week we ultimately chose.

The next important things to consider are where your priorities are. Our son will be 5 years old when we go to Disney. He’s a pretty chill kid, but even so, he’s probably not going to have the best temperament if you try to drag him around a park all day. Therefore, one of our priorities is to make sure we can build in several hours of rest time back at the hotel to nap or swim or do something aside from being dragged around a crowded park all day. To this end, we decided to prioritize a resort on the Monorail, as these resorts are fairly convenient to Epcot and Magic Kingdom (and with the new Express Transportation option in the parks, pretty convenient to any of the parks at mid-day).

You also have to consider the makeup of your party. We have our son, who’ll be 5, and we may also have my brother and sister in law, with their daughter, age 6, and son, age 9. With all the kiddos in tow, we know we’re going to want to do a lot of the age-appropriate rides and get in some character meals. The character meals keep your kids from getting bored at a meal time and allow you to skip waiting in line for pics and autographs from your favorite characters in the park. We decided since a lot of these character meals best fit at breakfast time and using a table service credit for breakfast is not exactly the best value, we decided to go with a Deluxe Dining Plan, so we can have the extra meal credits to use on nice dinners and show packages to get the value out of our plan. Once we knock out some of these experiences, we can go out of pocket or on a more traditional dining plan on future trips. The makeup of your party also helps determine how many days you need to devote to each park. With kids in your party, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to want to devote 2 days to the Magic Kingdom, you might can cut back on Epcot (a lot of attractions more catered to adults, and won’t keep kids’ attention). Depending on your kids, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studio can be anywhere from a half day to a day and half (or 2 if you want to spend a lot of time exploring Animal Kingdom). If you’re in an adult only group, you’ll probably spend more time at Epcot, and maybe enjoy more of the shows and music at Animal Kingdom, or spend a good amount of time at Disney Springs.

All in all, we’ve targeted 7 nights at the Contemporary or Polynesian with a Deluxe Dining Plan and Memory Maker and 6-day park hoppers. I crunched a lot of numbers in the process, but generally didn’t do it across the board for a lot of things, so I’ll try to spend some time doing that, so I can give you rankings based on specific data points, like the ones I used in planning our trip. Good luck in your planning, and feel free to send me any questions you might have.