Preparing For An Ultimate Touring Plan

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Let’s face it, planning is a huge part of every trip we take to Walt Disney World. In many ways it defines our experience and ultimately our enjoyment of the trip because a well planned trip is generally a less stressful one.  And the last thing your vacation needs is to be is stressful,  right?  Well, sometimes that’s not the case for everyone.

Once upon a time, before I had ever even heard of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, I was a mad crazed commando when it came to touring WDW.  I’d have to be at the gate for park opening and had no plans to leave before it closed.  In the park, my hands were always full with a pen and a park map.  As each attraction or show was completed, it got checked off and numbered.  For me, knowing how much I’d done measured the success of my vacation.

Since I’ve moved down to Central Florida, things for me have changed quite a bit – as they do for most locals.  Eventually you stop counting how many times you’ve been on a given attraction, or have visited Magic Kingdom, etc.  More and more I find it’s about the experience of just being at Walt Disney World.  But oh so often, I crave the madness of my old ways.

Ever since learning about Ultimate Touring Plans a few years back, I’ve wanted to do one.  The concept of being able to go to a park and complete almost everything it has to offer in a single day is very satisfying to me.  But, I could always tell two things just looking over the tour for Magic Kingdom – Ultimate Tours require a lot of physical activity and a lot of knowledge of the park.  The latter is probably easy for most everyone reading this blog entry.  However that first part can be tricky.

For certain, you want to make sure you’re at least walking regularly for exercise before attempting this.  You will be moving constantly and criss-crossing the park numerous times.  There will be little downtime outside of the attractions themselves, and if you happen to find “free time” in the Tour, it’s best to use it to eat (quickly!) or visit the bathroom.  I just can’t stress how important this one part of being ready for an Ultimate Tour actually is.

Next up is picking a plan, and if this is your first time, your most likely inclination is the tour for Magic Kingdom.  It was my choice too.  There are a number of reasons for this, but overall I think it helps that if you check out the Hall of Fame, that you’ll see that it’s definitely the most popular.  From the looks of it, I don’t think anyone has completed the Epcot Tour.

Now that you’ve got your Ultimate Tour picked out, pick a date.  To do this I suggest heading over to our Crowd Calendar and start looking up some days your interested in.  Some things to look for that will help contribute to your success at the Tour are longer park hours and an indication that your park is predicted to be the best park on the day you visit.  These two choices alone will greatly contribute to your success or failure.

Once you’ve got your date its time to sit down and study up.  Familiarize yourself with the plan you’ve chosen.  Get a general idea of the flow into your head you don’t need to memorize it, but it helps to know how your day is going to lay out in advance – avoid surprises.  There are a number of timed events that you can’t miss due to them being core attractions, many of which may only have a single time on a given day: Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade, Flag Retreat, Wishes, Main Street Electrical Parade, etc.  These events will anchor your Ultimate Tour day.

There are also a number of minor attractions and shows that you can visit during your tour for bonus points.  These are best covered in any free time that you find throughout the day.  For most of these you need only view the show for 5 minutes.  The real advantage is that many of them are on Main Street and can be picked up while waiting for the parades that occur in this area.  You’ll definitely want to consult a list of showtimes to manage this.  Use of mobile wait time applications like Lines is permitted.

Next up are the rules.  Participating in an Ultimate Tour isn’t just running around and participating in attractions – there’s bookkeeping involved.  You’ll need a watch or other device so you can tell time.  When you visit an attraction – core or bonus – you’re going to need to do several things: record the current wait time, the current FASTPASS return time, the time you enter the queue, the time you board the attraction, and the time you leave the attraction.  There is a data sheet to help you with this.

You’ll also need to take a picture of yourself participating in the attraction.  Some rides this can be difficult.  For something like Space Mountain you may just want to snap a picture of your PhotoPass picture as you get off the ride.  Other things like Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor can be difficult because technically no photography is allowed.  All I can suggest is being creative and/or quick.

There are some key important rules that it helps to remember.  You must view a full show unless otherwise indicated – no matter how long it takes.  Parades can be fast tracked by capturing a picture of yourself with the first float and then walking to the end of the parade an taking a picture with the last float.  Street party’s are an exception to this rule.  When obtaining an autograph, you may not use the same character twice – no matter where they are in the park.  FASTPASS tickets must be obtained using your pass on the day of your tour.  You may not use any that are physically handed to you – even if by a castmember.

Finally decide if you’re doing this solo or with a team.  I wouldn’t pick too large a team, that is likely to slow you down.  Teams take some coordination: where do you meet in the morning, how do you get there, who’s bringing what, etc.  Plan in advance, don’t wait until the last minute.  Make sure you have plenty to eat along the way, you may want a change of clothes, etc.  Remember you won’t be going back to your car, and I wouldn’t recommend a locker either.  Plan to carry everything you’ll need – especially some snacks and water.

One key thing I did was set up a portfolio to take with me.  Something easy and light.  Inside I had a pad of paper and pen (plus several extra pens in my bag).  In the portfolio I used tape to affix the Touring Plan itself and my data sheet.  This way they wouldn’t fall out.  I also had in the sleeve the rules, a list of show times, a list of wait times, and the list of attractions.  Ahead of time I marked up the plan with a simple code so I’d know which attractions had special directions beyond “ride this”.  And I also clearly indicated my anchor show times so I could make sure that I didn’t miss these.  When entering the park I stored a times guide and park map in the sleve as well.

Once all your preparation is done, notify the TouringPlans.com staff by emailing ultimate@touringplans.com letting they know your team members and the date of your attempt.  And then enjoy your Ultimate Touring Plan day.

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Posted on April 21, 2011

20 Responses to “Preparing For An Ultimate Touring Plan”

  • Todd, Awesome post. When we first went to WDW we always had a map we printed out for the disney site and we would mark it up by putting a strategic plan in place, but as the yrs have went by we know in our heads what rides are a must do and the others are extra’s :). Now a touring plans plan does sound like it takes time & effort.

    • Hi Shelley! I think it’s important to keep in mind that I’m talking strictly about Ultimate Touring Plans here. They are work because there is a game involved in doing them. A goal. Something to beat.

      Standard Touring Plans like the ones for Magic Kingdom ( http://touringplans.com/magic-kingdom/touring-plans ) have the planning pretty much built in for you. Just print it out, bring it along and follow the plan. They are a lot easier to work with.

  • by Becky Lovins on April 21, 2011, at 10:33 am EDT

    My biggest word of advice is to download the pictures from the day as soon as you finish, because if you lose your camera two days later in the park, all the hard work is down the drain.

    Especially look at newer core attractions. The Rapunzel meet and greet in December had a several hour wait time and we made the mistake of planning on doing it later in the day. By 11 am we knew we couldn’t complete all the core attractions.

    • Yes when we did it we found the Rapunzel & Flynn Meet & Greet to be a colossal waste of time. Not that the characters themselves were the problem – they were great. Just the entire thing is not worth the time – we spent close to two hours dealing with it. Disney could do a much better job managing the attraction.

      The camera suggestion is a smart one.

      • by Becky Lovins on April 22, 2011, at 9:33 am EDT

        I went to a technical theatre convention and talked with one of the heads of attractions at WDW and asked him what they were thinking creating an attraction that can only service 400 people max in a single day.

        Parents (especially mothers) are very competitive about making their little ones experience as special as can be and the ferocity that I saw in the Rapunzel line is definitely not magical. One mother said she had been holding their place for 4 hours. She got to the front and her little one was in the “watch but don’t dance and color” group and she let someone else in and waited another 1.5 hours to get back in.

  • Love this post! An Ultimate Touring Plan is definitely on my bucket list!

  • Ever since the first time I read about the Ultimate Touring Plan in the Guide, I’ve *loved* the concept of it! I know I’ll probably never do one myself. Well, not “officially”, but who knows, maybe the husband, the kids and I will embark on our own wacky attempt at it someday. :-)

  • Congratulations, Todd and JL! This is something Sherri and I have talked about doing someday. I’ve heard Len compare it to a marathon. How exhausted were you at the end?

  • I definitely want to do this one day! I’ve done the Dumbo Do or Die, so now that the little one is growing up, we’ll have a chance to do the Ultimate!

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