Optimized Touring Plans Update!

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As you probably noticed if you’ve looked at our beta Optimized Touring Plans over the past few weeks, we’ve been working hard to improve the whole experience, from a new UI to new features to behind-the-scenes upgrades. Today we’ve pushed an engine update that will give you even better results when using the optimize feature.

When you optimize a plan, the engine looks for the most efficient attraction order to give you a great experience in the park. Previously, it did each optimization independently, so each optimization would have no relation to any previous optimizations you may have performed on your plan. Because there may be several “optimal” plans (each with the same projected total wait time), in some scenarios you could optimize several times and get different attraction orders each time. This was confusing.

In our new update, the engine take into account the last optimization when searching for the best plan. This means that when you optimize twice, the second result will only change if the optimizer finds an order that is better than the one you have now.

Why does this matter? Here’s an (overly simplified!) example: let’s say that you want to ride Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, and the optimizer determines that you’ll have the same wait times in your plan regardless of which you ride first. In your first optimization, it gives you Space Mountain first and Splash Mountain second.

In the old way of optimizing, if you optimized a second time, it could return Splash Mountain first and Space Mountain second; this alternative still qualified as a “best” plan since the waits were exactly the same.

In this new way, the second optimization will still return Space first and Splash second if the wait times stay the same. You will only get a new step order if we determine a change that would actually reduce your wait time.

We think this new way of doing things will be a great improvement and much less confusing. Let us know what you think!

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Posted on May 3, 2012

32 Responses to “Optimized Touring Plans Update!”

  • by Andrew Drummond on May 3, 2012, at 9:05 am EDT

    Sounds great Sarah!

    The more consistency between optimizations, the better I think it will be for everyone.

    I can’t express in words how much I love the new UI, and when all the kinks get worked out this will be the best trip planning resource ever!

  • Thanks – your “tweaks” have been speedy and are noticably improving the already-new-and-improved system. Another tip to pass along to the IT folks: when I go to print personalized plans, the numbered steps are correct on the map, but the listed steps always start the numbering with #2 instead of #1, meaning that the list ends up being one number off from the map. I don’t know if the list is expecting me to have an “arrive at the gate” step like your touring plans, but there’s no way for me to add this to a personalized from-scratch plan. Still, I’m loving the new features.

    • I noticed that, too. I pen-and-inked the list because it didn’t match up with the map numbers.

      But overall, this is an amazing resource!

  • Ut oH!!!! My personalized plan that I filled out yesterday….. all the steps disappeared this morning………

  • Is it just me or does the “Add attraction” dropdown box for Epcot lack the World Showcase country pavilions? I don’t see Project Tomorrow either and it used to be there.

    • by Tiffany Bell on May 3, 2012, at 11:38 pm EDT

      Yes, while this resource is awesome and we are going to put it to the test for seven days soon, I am wishing that you could put in world showcase locations into the plan. Also, when I am optimizing my touring plan options for Epcot it is not taking into consideration that World Showcase opens later than future world and has me doing activities in the world showcase first thing in the morning.

  • Also, the optimizer scheduled a Fastpass return 1 hour 6 minutes after the return time. Isn’t this 6 minutes after the Fastpass expires? Now that return windows are enforced, is this going to be a problem?

    • by Andrew Drummond on May 3, 2012, at 11:38 am EDT

      Matt,

      One of the people from the site could answer better, but I believe the current policy is to give you a 15 minute window to use the FASTPASS after it expires.

      Though for the plan that it probably cutting it close.

      • Yes, the new policy is to give 20 minutes total leeway: 5 minutes on the front end and 15 on the back.

        • I thought that you could use a fastpass at any time after your ticket becomes valid?

          • I believe it was March 7th of this year that Disney said they were going to begin enforcing the time window printed on the fast passes. I believe you are allowed to go in 5 minutes early and up to 15 minutes after the FP time ends.

    • Matt – the folks below are correct. Disney gives you up to 15 minutes after the expiration time, and the optimizer knows this.

  • Love the new UI, and anything that would make it better is a win, but the only problem I can find is that there is no ‘delete’ function anymore so can’t delete any old plans if we want to start again

  • Hi! When making a new MK personalized plan, Flag Retreat and MK Welcome Show appear twice on Shows&Paredes list on step 2 (Choose your attractions)!

  • And Gi-Tar Dan appears twice on Entertainments&Parades on AK personalized plans!

  • by Janet Sala on May 3, 2012, at 3:38 pm EDT

    Wow! That means you actually save the current order. Do you use a linked list? Whatever the implementation, thank you for spending that extra few bytes per object! An ordinary developer would have just taken a plain list and then optimized raw–no doubt having copied and pasted the thing. This way, you are actually persisting the state of the touring plan, bothering to compare to new results, and thoughtfully providing a useful response. This means you have a design and you can think and you can iterate! You guys and gals at TouringPlans rock!

    If you ever need a job doing software development, I am almost always hiring! Sorry, Len, but you should be flattered–I only poach from the best. ;-)

  • I love love love the changes! One suggestion – could you mark rides that will not be open on touring plans? I just finished a super MK plan using the Extra Morning Magic hour only to realize 2 of my rides won’t be open until 9….but the plan shows my wait times??? Shouldn’t it show – Closed? Would be very helpful for the late starting rides like Haunted Mansion too!

  • On the personalized optimized plans how do you change your plan preferences (walking speed, etc)? Also, I don’t see Tinkerbell’s nook listed on the personalized magic kingdom list.

  • Still having trouble with adding in character meets and some other odd things. Before the updates and now, still always has a zero minute wait regardless of time of day. Really wanting to put several characters in and want to see how it fits in our plan. Here is an example:
    http://touringplans.com/plans/159897

  • I think the optimized planning tools are amazing, and it’s obvious a tremendous amount of work and talent goes into their development. That said, I’m struggling mightily to make them work for me. Because I’ve gotten so many results that just fly right in the face of all of the ‘not-so-conventional’ wisdom I get from my continuous study of The Unofficial Guide, I was going to ask if someone from the team could make a few comments about whether these optimizations have been tested live in many instances as yet. I can understand how the algorithms are working through each attraction vs. projected wait times, etc., but when I get an optimized plan result that loads our morning with shows and parades and suggests we get a Space Mountain FastPass at 4pm, I have a crisis of confidence. I’d love to hear the extent to which plans optimized with these algorithms have really been put to a live test. Also note that I’m getting lots of odd, buggy results — many attractions scheduled outside of park operating hours, the suggestion to depart the park at the gates coming in the middle of my itinerary, etc. — that undermine my confidence further.

    Don’t mean to sound this critical. It’s an amazing tool, clearly. But I’m wondering if it’s still very much a work in progress or what you can say to increase my confidence in the system and persuade me to take a leap of faith with a counter-intuitive optimized plan.

    Thanks!

    • I have been having some of the same issues. Normally busy rides scheduled in the early afternoon showing a 5-minute wait time…rides being scheduled after the park closes… I stopped using the optimizer due to strange results (Carousel of Progress as the first attraction???) and ordered things myself using the Evaluate option to see times.

      Also, it would be nice if the optimize and evaluate options would abide by the times set for meals and breaks. If I have a reservation for lunch, I don’t want to arrive 30 minutes after the scheduled time. Maybe there should be a “strict time” check box for meals and breaks so the scheduler knows whether it can fudge the times or not.

      Once the bugs are worked out, this looks like an awesome program!

    • by Andrew Drummond on May 4, 2012, at 2:59 pm EDT

      For what it’s worth Sally, I had the same “crisis of confidence” with my Animal Kingdom plan. The optimizer has me doing Dinoland first, hitting Everest and Kali after 10, and then doing Kilimanjaro with a FASTPASS in the afternoon.

      That seemed strange to me, so I spent the better part of 2 hours making my own plans to try and do it better. I didn’t once get within 30 minutes of the optimized plan.

      As long as it doesn’t look buggy (things before/after park closing etc.) I think that it might be right.

      That said, I’d love to see some results from the live testing.

  • One thing I’m struggling with is the optimized plan having me arrive exactly on time for a show (like Aladdin). Depending upon the day I think we should arrive ~30 minutes early. Have you guys considered adding either a fixed early arrive window for shows or allowing us to input how early we want to arrive? I’m having trouble trying to wiggle things around to arrive early to the show… Any suggestions? Thanks! TP: 157750

  • by Donna Coughlin on May 5, 2012, at 8:45 pm EDT

    I know there are a few bugs to work out, but I have to say I love love love this whole concept of the touring plans. Wow has it come a long way, I remember I bought my first book way back when??? and I thought that was fantastic. Just keeps getting better and better. Now if only you could find a way to optimize my budget!

  • by CuteCitCat on May 6, 2012, at 7:07 am EDT

    Love the new interface. Can’t wait till all the bugs are worked out!

  • I was working on my Christmas party touring plan yesterday (a bit early, I know)and it doesn’t list the Party activities (such as Celebrate the Season or Holiday Wishes) for the date we are going. I noticed the activities ARE listed on another date when the party isn’t scheduled. I believe this is based on the projected party dates instead of the actual scheduled dates. Any idea when this will be fixed?

  • This is such a fantastic tool! The planner in me loves it just to use it as a reference to plan the day and not necessarily be at a ride by 10:13 am.

    I have two issues that I am not sure what is happening. No matter the walking speed…the results and times are always the same for me. I want to slow down and smell the roses but it seems as when I do…the plan does not change (odd).

    Secondly, the day my family and I are at MK (crowd 1.1), the optimizer is indicating that I can do 12 attractions before lunch at noon (http://touringplans.com/plans/150868). I’ve been at MK on slow days and the best I have done is 8 attractions. Again seems odd.

    Not sure if anyone else is seeing this as odd.
    Otherwise, I really do love this functionality!!!
    Thank you!

    • @Chad, went to MK this year April 9 week, Easter season, crowd 10. Got there for 7am RD twice that week & did at least 12 attractions with nearly no wait for anything. Granted, this is a SEVEN AM RD, but I imagine with a 1.1 crowd, it should be possible. FYI, we did Fantasyland, then Adventureland/Splash one morning, & Tomorrowland/others the other morning. Left park around 1pm each day w/only a couple of attractions missed which we saw during evening EMH. Best to you.

  • A couple of outstanding issues with the plans that I mentioned in another post…

    I still routinely get world showcase steps in my plans before 11:00 am- especially Maelstrom.

    Rock-n-Roller Single Rider Line isn’t in the drop-down menus.

    Also- Is there a plan on adapting the opening times of the parks to represent the current “rope drop” routines? For instance, if a park is letting guests in at 8:45am, the plans are still assuming we’re allowed in at 9:00am.

    thanks- Loving this new UI.

    Scott

    • Sarah-

      I’m still getting world showcase steps in my plans before 11am… any plans to address this so that the optimize plans are realistic at epcot?

      Thanks-

      Scott

  • Hi TP Guys & Gals,

    A slight issue with this plan: http://touringplans.com/plans/113634.
    Step 2 has me grabbing a FP for Kali Rapids at 2:21pm, return time at 5:10pm.
    Step 6 has me grabbing a FP for Primeval Whirl at 4:14pm.
    I think this is invalid because 4:14pm is 7 minutes too early; the earliest a second FP could be obtained would be the earliest of either (a) 2 hours after the first FP was obtained (4:21pm) or (b) the first FP window opening time (5:10pm). However, the plan shows 7 minutes of free time in step 6, which is either your way of telling me to wait 7 mins before grabbing the 2nd FP, or a coincidence! If this 7 mins period was shown in the wait column for step 6, or in the free time column of step 5 (with step 6 bumped to 4:21pm), it would make a lot more sense.

    Two low-priority suggestions for future versions:

    1. Currently you list estimated FP return times as the opening time of the window, perhaps it might be better to show both the opening and closing times, especially now that the windows are being enforced, and also to include the word Expected? i.e.
    Current:
    Return Time: 5:05PM
    Suggestion:
    Expected Return: 5:05PM – 6:05PM

    2. Add a note similar to “Using the Fastpass obtained earlier” or “Using the Fastpass obtained in step xx” when returning to ride using a Fastpass (like the printed plans do).

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