Saturday, January 10, 2015

Touring Plans

Just yesterday, my husband called me to ask me for help for one of his colleagues. She is starting to plan a trip to WDW for the end of June but was looking for some advice. Clearly she knew the right people to come to!

She was asking about the crowds during that time of year, the weather, and if I knew of any helpful blogs and planning sites to recommend. I gave her a list of my favorites, but the top of the list was, hands down,

I was first introduced to Touring Plans after reading The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. After being bitten by the mouse on my first trip to WDW, my research for my next trip led me to this wonderful book. I only wish I had known about it before my first visit. When I read the first few pages of this guide, I knew I had found my kind of people - not just Disney World fanatics, but Type-A obsessive researchers. Len Testa and his incredible team of analysts, statisticians, researchers and developers created Touring Plans which takes the guess work out of taking on the World. 

Since I have the experience of visiting WDW before and after reading this guide and investing in a membership on, I can tell you definitively that this will be the best twenty bucks you have ever spent. They cover any question you might have about planning a Disney vacation, based not only on their own in-depth research but also scrupulous reader surveys. These people are obviously in love with Disney but aren't afraid to tell you the honest pros and cons of a Walt Disney World Resort. Any reader will remark on the impressive investigation that went into writing such a manual, but when I got to part where resorts were rated on lighting and pillow quality that I realized that these people took this business seriously and that their advice was worth following. In the Unofficial Guide, Testa and Bob Sehlinger will give you advice on everything from what to say when requesting your resort room and what steps to take for your best chance in landing a hard-to-get advance dining reservation. Reading this book made me more confident in my Disney vacation choices, and not once did I regret any of their advice. 

Touring Plans take your WDW vacation to the next level. I had already had my own extensive list of the attractions I most wanted to see and those I'd prefer to skip (remember the part about obsessive researchers being my kind of people??). Touring Plans not only told me which day would be the best day to visit what park, but I could input which attractions I wanted to see, what time I was planning on arriving at and leaving each park, where and when I was going for meals, and out came a personalized plan for the day of what attractions to see laid out in chronological steps. In the end, seeing what I wanted to see in their recommended order and using the FastPass+ selections they suggested made a world of difference. I don't think we waited more than 20 minutes on any single attraction, despite visiting in August, one of the heavier trafficked times of the year. 

The site also has ready made Touring Plans that you can use depending on how much time you have for each park and who is in your party (for example, if you are a group of adults that has one day to see Hollywood Studios, they will give you a full day plan including all of their "not to be missed" attractions for adults in HS.) These are great for those who are looking for some guidance but may not know exactly what they want. 

I used their Personalized Touring Plan feature. You simple click "Create a Plan" and it takes you to a screen where you start filling out some basic info:

It's helpful to know at this point what park you might like to visit on what days. For strategizing, their Crowd Calendar and Crowd Tracker features are invaluable. Next you choose the attractions/rides/shows, etc. that you'd like to see and the number of times you'd like to see them. Next you add in any meals and planned breaks you'll be taking, accounting for travel time. 

Finally, you add in your optimal walking speed, and what kind of balance between waiting on lines and distance walking between rides you'd prefer. Often, to minimize waiting, you'll have to walk from one end of the park to the next in every step. In order to experience attractions that are nearby one another, you may have to wait a bit longer in line. Ultimately, we went for a "relaxed" walking speed and a "balance" between waiting and walking. 

Also here is where you add in either any FastPass+ reservations you already have, OR how many FastPass+ opportunities you have in each category and they will recommend what FastPass+ reservations you should make. (In EPCOT, for example, you probably will not be able to have a FastPass+ for Soarin' AND TestTrack since they are in the same group. Touring Plans will tell you which you are better off using the FastPass+ for - depending on the date you visit and the time you arrive in the park.)

In the end, I had a completely customized 19 step plan for my day at the Magic Kingdom. At the bottom of the plan includes a map enumerating the steps, and options to optimize your plan "based on latest estimates and real-time lines data." Absolutely magical. 

How did my personalized plan pan out? Perfectly, even though I had to make some calls on the fly to skip some attractions and come back to them later. The Touring Plans are stringent enough to give you a serious plan of attack yet flexible enough to withstand whims. Even though my family is more laid back than I am about travel itineraries, I think they were happy to have some direction that didn't wear us out while allowing us to see everything we wanted to see. Needless to say, I highly recommend Touring Plans for your next Disney vacation!

Check 'em out at !

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