The Future Is Now! Computer-Optimized Touring Plans Available for Disney World

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Sample Touring Plan

(11/30/2011 – Click here for the latest news on computer-optimized touring plans.)

In the fall of 1998 I was a computer science grad student putting the finishing touches on my first journal publication, describing what would become the Unofficial Guide‘s touring plan software. My advisors, Albert Esterline and Gerry Dozier, suggested a concluding paragraph explaining a future use of the technology. I wrote:

“The authors envision an integrated system where theme park customers would select the rides they wished to visit from a list on a rented hand-held device such as the Palm Pilot. Computers installed at each ride would send estimates of that ride’s current wait time to a central computer. The central computer would broadcast these wait times to receivers attached to the hand-held devices, which would dynamically recalculate and redisplay the remainder of the touring plan based on the most recent wait times at each ride. Global positioning could be used to keep track of where the customer is located in the park so the time to walk to the next ride could be included in the calculations.”

It’s too bad Palm didn’t make it, because today TouringPlans.com is announcing the public beta release of computer-optimized touring plans for Walt Disney World on our website and Lines mobile application. Tell us which attractions you want to see, and we’ll give you step-by-step instructions for how to visit them with minimal waits in line: a touring plan optimized just for your vacation!

Your plan can include rides, meals, breaks, parades, fireworks and more – everything from live shows at Epcot to seeing the daily Flag Retreat on Main Street, U.S.A. We also include entertainment for special events such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Lines' New Optimize Button

When you’re in the park, follow your touring plan on your smartphone with Lines. Just tap the new “Optimize” button in Lines to update your plan based on what’s actually happening in the park that day. If other Lines users have reported a huge tour group is queued up at Dumbo, Lines will figure out what to do next instead.

Our touring plan software will make you happier with your Disney vacation in two ways:

1) It increases the number of attractions you can experience

2) It reduces the time you spend standing in lines

On average, guests using our touring plans see almost 40% more attractions than those not using a plan. To put that in perspective, a recent New York Times article said that after making extensive improvements to its crowd management system, Disney was able to increase by 1 (from 9 to 10) the number of attractions the average guest sees in a day. Using our touring plans most guests can easily see around 14 or 15 attractions.

Hundreds of thousands of families have used our Disney touring plans since 1986. On a busy day in the Magic Kingdom, our software can help your family save up to four hours of standing in line. For example, if you start your day at the Magic Kingdom when it opens, your average wait per ride should be somewhere between 4 and 12 minutes.

The new optimization feature works with Disney’s current FASTPASS ride reservation system and will recommend when to get FASTPASS tickets to minimize your wait in line. Plus, you can adjust settings for your walking speed and your preference for walking versus waiting in line.

By making the touring plans available to as wide an audience as possible, we hope to fine-tune how the software runs and learn more about how people actually use touring plans in the park. Use this form to provide feedback on the software, the user interfaces, and anything else you’d like to suggest.

We’re very proud to offer on-demand optimization of touring plans, and we hope this new feature makes touring the parks even more fun. Again, this is beta software – use this form to report strange or unexpected behavior.

Thanks very much for your support of TouringPlans.com.

Sincerely,

Len Testa and the TouringPlans.com Team

P.S.: We’ve tested the touring plans extensively at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. We plan to announce the availability of customizable computer-optimized Disneyland touring plans by the end of the year.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What happens if everyone starts using the plans?
A. We’re updating Lines’ wait time models so they self-adjust based on the number of people using the touring plans and the attractions they’ve selected. That is, Lines knows how many people the touring plans are sending to different attractions later in the day, and at what times we expect them to arrive. Lines adjusts the expected wait times at those attractions accordingly.

Also, our touring plan software uses Amazon’s Elastic Cloud infrastructure for scalability. Based on our load tests we’re confident that we can scale to at least 40,000 families – essentially everyone in Walt Disney World on an average day – without difficulty.

Q. How do I include shows and live performances when Disney has not yet announced their schedules?
A. We usually have Disney’s live performance schedules about a week in advance. We suggest re-optimizing your plan a few days before your visit, to ensure the park hours and performance times are up to date.

Q. Can you give me advice on my specific touring plan?
A. We can’t. More than a hundred thousand people use TouringPlans.com every year, and there are about ten of us. Because of that, we aren’t able to answer every question personally. If you have feedback about, please use our online form here.

Q. What future enhancements are planned?
A. We will add Disneyland in California soon. GPS is another feature in which we’re interested. We also built in features to integrate with Disney’s next-generation XPASS system when Disney launches that in 2012. Mobile device support for platforms other than iPhone and Android are also on our list.

Besides those, we’d like to hear your feedback for enhancements and improvements. Also, if you happen to work at Thorpe Park in Surrey, England: We love your park, and we’d really like to talk.

Q. How long will the beta last, and when will you start charging for it?
A. This is brand new software, so it’s difficult to say how long the beta will last. A few months at least, maybe longer. Again, our primary goals are to get the software tested and to have it used by as many families as possible.

Q. How do I start using the new optimized touring plans feature?
A. You can create a new plan from scratch or optimize your existing personalized plans. TouringPlans.com subscribers can optimize our premium touring plans to fully customize them for daily crowd conditions.

Visit http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/touring-plans and choose or create your plan.

Q. How often should I tell Lines to optimize my touring plan?
A. Once every couple of steps should be sufficient for most situations. When you’re leaving an attraction, be sure to mark it as “done” in Lines before optimizing the plan again.

Q. How long does it take to optimize my touring plan?
A. It takes less than a minute. Many plans will be optimized in less than 30 seconds.

Q. What can I do to make this feature even better?
A. Thanks for asking! You can improve our data models by using the wait timer in Lines to measure your actual attraction wait times. This will help your fellow users today and in the future with the most up to date information. You can enter FASTPASS return windows in Lines. AND you can use Lines to tell us and everyone else when an attraction is down.

Q. How much data is sent and received by my mobile phone when I optimize a touring plan?
A. Lines is fast and cheap to run because it’s primarily text-based. Each action on Lines uses around 10 KB of data on your mobile phone plan. If you’ve got a 2 GB limit per month, that works out to around 200,000 clicks per month!

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Posted on November 16, 2011

227 Responses to “The Future Is Now! Computer-Optimized Touring Plans Available for Disney World”

  • by Carrie Kelleher on February 10, 2012, at 1:10 am EDT

    Hello – Planning my family’s FIRST trip to DW and I cannot be more excited! Touringplans is awesome and my kids and I love the app! I’ve had the app for a few months now but I don’t see an upgrade or anything so that we can use the beta with the optimization option. How can I get the Lines app that is the beta version? Thanks so much, Len!

  • Are changes going to be implemented to the optimized touring plans to reflect the enforced FastPass return time policy in time for the March 7th start date?

    I have created several plans and found that when optimized, the plans call for getting a Fastpass earlier in the day for use at a later time (which we now know will not work under current policy)

    • Hi Carol- Yes, they will as soon as we hear something official from Disney. That should happen a few days before March 7.

  • by Charlie Wright on February 18, 2012, at 11:19 am EDT

    Love the customized plans app! Invaluable. As a geek, though, I’m always thinking of possible enhancements: (1) Add a check-box (?) for attractions with baby-swap so the optimized plan can reflect the additional time required to ride twice. (2) Add an option to enforce a “hard” time for specific attraction(s). I realize this would substantially impact optimization. But sometimes you just want to do things when you want to do them. At least you would be able to “see” what enforcing a hard time would “cost” you. (3) Allow user to enforce a specific sequence for every step. No optimization here. But it would allow a user to see the time their plan would require based on your database of crowd size and wait times. Then compare it to an optimized plan to se time saved. Keep up the good work!

  • Len- it seems like American Adventure has been converted to a schedule based show model in the main site’s Wait Times for even beyond 6 months. But, the optimizer only seems to be allowing it as an optimizable step during the next month. That means that I can’t really do a plan for Epcot if I’m going after March. Do you know if it’s just not linking with the main site? or is it a glitch? Thanks!

    Scott

    • Ah, it should be fixed now. Let me know if not. We’re having to enter the AA schedule manually.

      • I just tried it Len. It still isn’t optimizing AA past the next few weeks. Thanks-

        Scott

        • OK, I’ll have someone check.

          • Len- after today, AA is not schedule-able. Just an FYI.

            Thanks-

            Scott

          • AA scheduling now works! Thanks!

            A couple of other things I’m noticing-

            1) The optimized plans routinely have you visit a scheduled show late, and has you waiting the amount of time you’re late by. For instance, if Wishes was starting at 10:00 PM, the plan will have you show up 10:03 PM, wait 3 minutes (10:03 – 10:00 = 3), and then have the same duration of show from there. I’ve seen this happen very commonly.

            2) At Epcot- I am often sent to a World Showcase pavilion or attraction well before 11 am. This happens on any date I use.

            Thanks!

            Scott

  • Is there any update on the Disneyland version of the computer optimized app? Last post I saw about it was January 25 with an estimate of 2 weeks.

    Specifically I’m interested in the Android version. If it’s already out there how can I get a copy of it?

    Thanks.

    • It’s out and available on all platforms.

      • Len – That’s great news! How do I get my hands on the beta version? I seem to have the release version installed on my phone because there is no optimize option that I can find. Also it appears that only the release version is available on the Android Marketplace. Thank you.

        • Hmmmmmm…when you look at a Disneyland plan on Lines – one that you’ve personalized – is there an ‘Optimize’ button on it? Touch Plans > Personalized Plans > and then any of the plans listed there. You should see an ‘Optimize’ button.

          Also, we enabled optimization from the existing version of the software, so no new download needed.

  • I was wondering why my optimized plan rearranges my schedule? When it does this I makes attractions not available in the time frame and it makes much longer wait times and longer free times. I was really loving this feature as I am traveling to Disney World for the first time and with small children but I can’t get it to work right am I missing a step?! Thank you so much for this site I really do love it.

  • If someone posted this already, disregard. So, in an attempt to be secretive about our upcoming visit to WDW in less than 30 days now, I have been hesitant to download the Lines app until this past week with a new phone that I got in which I can hide apps.

    Anyway, I notice that at the moment on Lines, that I’m unable to Optimize on a specific day, as well as I’m not able to see the recommended times as it provides on the website. Is there a future release with both of those options? Thanks in advance for your reply.

  • As you make updates, enhancements, and bug fixes to the computerized touring plan program, can you let your users know? Can you provide “release notes” that details exactly what all the new features/functions are and what has been changed or upgraded? This is a great idea and us die-hard Disney Junky park planners would love to use the program as well as be informed when updates have been made. Thanks!!

  • Hi,

    How do you delete personalized plans? Also, I keep trying to delete an attraction by clicking the X. It is not working. Can you advise?

  • Heading to WDW next week! Still trying to wrap my head around the touring plans and Lines. If I customize a plan on my laptop, my only option is to print correct?

    Because of this problem, I turned to my Lines app (iPhone) and decided to see if my customized plans could be saved and viewed later. Success! It looks like I can do that…BUT….when I copy a plan and edit it, why is there no field to change the date like there is when I edit on my laptop?

    When I click “Edit Timing,” I see morning EMH, evening EMH, hard ticket event, and start/finish times. Nowhere do I see where I’m able to edit the date?? Am I missing it? How does the app know what date I will be in that park that I just customized? I think that would make a HUGE difference.

    If there is no way to change the date of my plan and I create one today, what set of data is it using? Today’s data? Obviously, I want the data for the day next week during my visit. I know I can do this on my laptop but didn’t see it in the Lines app.

    My apologies if I missed it!

    Thanks!