I need some R and R. Badly. Work is stressful. Home life is stressful. Being a parent (of two animals) is stressful. Luckily for me I am headed to Walt Disney World in a week with my husband and two of our friends. There is no stress when you’re in a Disney park. I feel so completely carefree and in my bliss on vacation. I’m insanely excited to be taking Barbara, my friend that hasn’t been to Disney World since she was 10 and Ben, her boyfriend who has never set foot in a Disney park. Lately I’ve been thinking about how many other repeat guests take newbies and the concerns that they may face. Sure, us “Disney Experts” worry about if our friends and family are going to like the attractions, the food, the shows, the accomodations, etc. The thing that is currently on my mind, though, is the practice of touring plans and how it’s going to work out with two people that not only are virtual Disney newbies but also are not used to using touring plans.
We’ve decided to make this a trip in which we do not park hop in order to save time and money. This is my first time not park hopping so coming up with our infamous day plan was a little trickier than usual. When I plan my days out I only note where we are going to start our day. I determine that by taking a look at the crowd calendar. I trust the crowd calendar 100%. Either I pick the best park or a neutral park. I make my advance dining reservations from there and make adjustments to my day plans if need be. I don’t freak out if I have to make a park day change because I remember that the use of a touring plan is five times more important than choosing the right park on the right day. It starts to feel like a science to me. I have a process of how I choose park days. This is what our plan of attack looks like.
Friday – Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Neutral Park
Saturday – Animal Kingdom - Best Park – While this is a crowd level 9 day overall we’re only spending time in the park until about 2:00 p.m. After that we are spending time celebrating Barbara’s birthday with lunch at Sanaa and enjoying Downtown Disney in the evening. Not being the parks much on this crazy day will be wonderful in avoiding the crowds.
Sunday – Magic Kingdom – Neutral Park – While it’s going to be a busy day, the Magic Kingdom is open until 2:00 a.m. To break up the day we’re having dinner at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
Monday - Epcot – Neutral Park – Finishing up what we didn’t do on Thursday.
Tuesday – Departure Day – We have no definite plans but we’ll probably hit whatever park we feel like for a few hours and then fly out in the afternoon.
See? I don’t stress about having the perfect park picked out. I try and find a balance between what I want to do on a specific day and what statistics say I should do. I have my key points all taken care of. I’m avoiding Epcot on weekends due to the Food and Wine Festival. I’m hitting up all four parks and giving time to Downtown Disney. I’m even going to enjoy some bonus time at the Magic Kingdom by utilizing Extra Magic Hours.
To a newbie this all has to sound totally ridiculous. It probably sounds insanely thought out and over planned. When you add in the idea of touring plans this whole trip intimidates a Disney newbie. As I understand it, a first timer wants to be spontaneous in the parks. There’s this dream of seeing an attraction, pointing in excitement, and running at full force into the queue line. I can understand wanting this very exhilarating idea. You know why? Because I dream of it too. In fact, I don’t just dream of it… I get it.
The great thing about touring plans is that they’re flexible. I stick to the general touring plans guideline which is to use a touring plan continuously, by the book, up until noon. I, of course, substitute attractions and still find time to stop and smell the roses. Though, once the afternoon rolls around I’m much more relaxed and I pretty much do things as I please while using the Lines app for my phone. I do, however, advise that no one check the app while standing in the middle of a walkway. I check it while I’m line for another attraction. I like to make sure an attraction is still open or that the next show time is coming up soon so I won’t have to wait forever. These are the amazing benefits of Lines.
Okay, I’m starting to sound like an infomercial. You all must be thinking that I’m getting paid in dole whips to promote TouringPlans.com, Lines, and the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. I’m not. I just really feel passionately about the research team and all of their hard work. I don’t just write about touring plans… I use them. Why anyone would doubt ten years of research is beyond me. With mentions in the New York Times and USA Today, it’s not hard to see that using a touring plan or consulting the crowd calendar pays off. If the use of the crowd calendar and a touring plan can save you up to four hours a day waiting in line… why would you not do it? I know when I’m at Walt Disney World I want to see and do as much as I possibly can. If I get the key attractions out of the way that means I have more down time to sit on a park bench and people watch with my dole whip in hand (note my obsession). Everyone loves that, right?
In the end, I think that the newbies coming along with my husband and I will trust my decisions. I think that they’ll have trust in me that I will get them on Splash Mountain… just after we hit up Peter Pan’s Flight. If you’re a Disney vet going with some first timers, try and put yourself in their shoes. Sure, you’ve ridden The Great Movie Ride a hundred times and might be sick of it but they haven’t. Let them take the reigns at some point and decide where you’re going to visit. Enjoy touring the parks through a first timers eyes. Make the adventure your own.
Does anyone out there have any experiences with using the crowd calendar and touring plans with Disney newbies? Any tips for myself and others in the same position?