No matter what time of year you decide to travel to Disney World, having a well thought out touring plan can make sure you’re maximizing your time in the parks. You’re spending a lot of money on this vacation and you want to make sure you’re getting what you want out of it.
Before we dive deeper into how to set up your touring plan, there are a few tips I want to share with you that are important to consider before you dive into making your plans. Knowing what you’re willing, and not willing, to do when it comes to your plans will help you determine how to structure your days.
Consider Rope Drop
I know. I know. It is vacation and you want to sleep in. If you’re willing to trade sleeping in late for a nap later on in the afternoon, you can get considerably more done in the parks. On many of our trips, we’ve accomplished as much in the first 2 hours in the park as we are able to get done the rest of the day – simply by arriving EARLY.
Consider Avoiding Extra Magic Hours
Again, I know. You’re paying extra to be on Disney property, so why shouldn’t you take advantage of a park that has extra magic hours? Well, simply, because everyone else is too! On our most recent trip this March, I decided to do a little experiment. Rather than avoid the extra magic hours park, I decided to make all of the plans for the day at the park hosting extra magic hours. What. A. Nightmare. Not only was it harder to secure dining and FastPass+ reservations at these parks, but often, before the magic hour was up, ride wait times for headlining attractions were well beyond what we are used to seeing. For example, Rock n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios was at an 80 minute wait within 20 minutes of the extra magic hour starting. It remained well over 60 for the rest of the day – during value season.
Unless it’s a very short trip and you’re trying to squeeze out every last second from your trip, I strongly recommend avoiding the extra magic hours.
Park Hopping…Is it Really Worth It?
Besides the fact that it’s extra money to add the park hopping option to your ticket, we haven’t found it to be worthwhile to Park Hop. We’re Annual Passholders now, but still prefer to pick a park and stick with it. The amount of time it takes you to park hop can be lengthy. There’s the amount of time it takes you to get to your vehicle or wait on Disney transportation, drive to your new park and then you must go through security again. This is all time you could be spending on rides or at shows.
I recommend picking a specific park to visit each day and planning your FastPass+ and dining options around that park. You will be able to accomplish so much more, simply by remaining in one location.
If you absolutely must park hop, I recommend the Disney Express Transportation option. It will cost you $29/person for up to 7 days. This is a relatively new option offered by Disney and one of their most genius ideas as of late. Not only do you get picked up inside the park (in a backstage area), avoiding the need to go all the way outside to the bus stops, but you are then dropped off inside the new park, avoiding the need to go through security again.
Again, my recommendation is to avoid park hopping, but if you absolutely must, Express Transportation is the way to go.
There are many different strategies on how to maximize the use of Disney’s new FastPass+ system. I will share with you what has worked really well for us. I’ll be covering FastPass+ in a later blog post, so if this all doesn’t make sense to you yet, don’t worry, it will soon.
Many people will tell you to schedule your FastPass+ reservations as early as possible, therefore being able to take advantage of the additional FastPass+ selections you get once you have completely used your first three selections earlier on in the day. If you’re not going to make it for rope drop (and again, I beg of you to do so), then this is the strategy you should follow.
However, we have found it most productive to follow our rope drop strategy, meaning we arrive at least thirty minutes before the park opens. When I say arrive, I mean we’re through security and standing in the line to enter 30 minutes before its go time. We ride our favorite attractions/headliners immediately, followed by the lesser attractions, and then make FastPass+ reservations for after 4 PM, when wait times are at their peak.
Following this strategy, we’re able to accomplish most of what we want to do by lunch time. We will typically enjoy a nice, relaxed lunch in the park or at a nearby resort and return back to the hotel for a nap or pool time. We’ll then return to the park for 4 or 5 PM, use our FastPass+ for the day and enjoy the nighttime entertainment at the park.
Know Thy Limits
For many, you will view Disney as a once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-great-while type of trip. And because of this, you have the urge to pack as much into your day as humanly possible. It’s really important to know what your limits are, and get buy-in and feedback from others in your travel party during the touring planning stage.
Speaking from experience, and many adult meltdowns, having a good pulse on what you’ll be able to accomplish, and remaining flexible when someone is tired is really important. Make sure your travel party is aware of what your plans are for each day, so they can be prepared.
Don’t forget to consider that Florida can get HOT, and shade isn’t always readily available. If you’re not used to the warm, humid climate, it can really take a lot out of you. On my very first trip (in August, YIKES) I was shocked by the fact we needed a nap almost every day for a few hours. It was great time to recharge our batteries, but it did eat into the plans I had made.
Make A List, Check It Twice
Before you begin to plan, make a list of rides, entertainment and characters you want to see for each park. If you have any restaurants you want to go to, make sure to include those as well. Once you’ve compiled your lists, organize them by parks with the most ‘to do’ items to the one with the fewest items. Determine how many total days in the park you’ll have, and budget those days out for the parks based on the amount of items you have to do in each one.
If you’re there for an extended trip (5 or more days) consider having a ‘free’ day to explore Disney Springs or other resorts, or just hang by the pool.
Once you’ve thought through each of these items, it’s time to start making your touring plan! I’ll cover the ins and outs in the next post!
Need help getting started on your touring plans? My Deluxe Planning Guide is available as a digital download. Updated monthly, this guide includes detailed attraction, entertainment, character and dining lists and a must do attractions list for each park. Once you’re ready to start making your plans, it includes itineraries and schedules to organize all of your touring plans. You can purchase it in my Etsy Shop here, for $15.