A Local Perspective

Since TouringPlans.com is a site with a basis in numbers, I thought I’d throw some basic ones at you to get the ball rolling:

  • There are more than 6.5 billion people living in the world today.
  • Approximately 50 million of those people visit Walt Disney World each year (0.77%).
  • There are 18.5 million people living in the state of Florida.
  • Using 0.77% as a basis, at least 143 thousand of those visit WDW each year (likely more due to proximity).
  • Approximately 900 thousand of those live in the Central Florida area.
  • Again, using 0.77% as a basis, at least 7 thousand of those visit WDW each year (likely much more).

And I am one of those few.  Those of you that follow me online (tperlmutter on both Twitter and Facebook) know that I head to WDW at about once a week, sometimes more though I occasionally miss a week.  This is not as frequently as some locals, but it’s what fits with my schedule.  Believe me, if I could go more, I would.

There are locals that go maybe a half dozen days all year long.  For them going to the park, works the same as anyone else who’s coming down for a family vacation from out of state.  And they fall into the same three groups: the planners (yay!), the ones that don’t know what they missed, and the ones who know exactly what they missed (aka “the miserable”).  The planners use the same resources as a non-Local: tour books such as The Unofficial Guide or websites like TouringPlans.com. I actually have one co-worker who will sit me down and plan her park days for her.

When I lived up North and was coming down three to five times a year, I was a complete commando.  Rope drop to lights out every day with the sore feet, aching back, and sleep deprivation to prove it.  Park map and pen in one hand, tour guides in the other.  I wouldn’t be satisfied on any trip until most, if not all, of the rides in a park were checked off on that map before I left. Every minute not spent in a park was, to me, a wasted minute. (does this all sound familiar?)  Today, I’m fairly certain that if I tried to do that on a weekly basis that I’d slowly go insane.

But when I first moved down, and my schedule was more flexible because I was working from home, I tried to do this three or four times a week.  I literally wanted to be in each park once a week.  Within a few short months I did get burnt out a bit. Going this often, trying to do all the rides each week, it was crazy.  Inside of 3 months I’d been to WDW many more times than I’d been in my entire life prior.  Looking back I realize now that this was the wrong approach.  It was overload.

My wife (cherylp3) and I decided to take a break and rethink our approach.  And the new approach came down to one simple thing: moderation.

That’s really what works for us.  We pick a park, maybe two if we’re going to get an early enough start.  We may book a dinner, or we’ll just go with a counter service.  We’ll pick just a few rides here and there, sometimes based on weather or crowds (Crowd Calendar).  We might “call an audible” depending on how things look when we get there and change our plans on the fly.  There are some days when we’ll got to a park like Epcot and just walk around, never even riding a ride.  Just enjoying the scenery, the people, and the atmosphere.

Planning? Generally the most important things for our weekly visit come down to two things: crowds, and parking.  Crowd levels found on the Crowd Calendar are often the best way to go, and these days I do this using Lines (my addiction!).  Whereas crowds dictate where you’re going, parking can very often be about where you’re going to end up.  For example, if you know you’re going to start your day in Epcot, but finish up in Magic Kingdom (yes, we do hop) then parking at the TTC rather than Epcot is, to me, the better choice.

You’re also probably wondering if we ever stay overnight at WDW?  You bet. For starters, we’re still Disney Vacation Club members, and just two weeks ago we stayed in Bay Lake Towers for our Anniversary Weekend.  And had a fabulous time, despite the quirkiness of the BLT Studio rooms.  This past weekend with it being the first Star Wars Weekend, and the StudiosCentral events as well as Lou Mongello’s 24-hour livecasting event, we decided to stay over, spending one night at the nearby Sheraton Safari (worlds largest pyton waterslide!!!) and one night at the Boardwalk Villas.

These “staycations” are a lot of fun for us.  All of our vacations prior to moving to Central Florida were to Florida to see family and WDW anyway.  So just taking short trips down the road serve the same purpose well for us.  Disney is a very self contained place, once you get in there, it really doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, or how you got there.  All guests are treated the same by castmembers.  That specialness is applied equally to all.  It’s easy when you’re there to forget that you live just down the road.

But you’re probably wondering what keeps drawing me back?  For starters, I just simply love being there.  The sights, the sounds, that unmistakable feeling that I get every time I arrive in the parks, that music that makes me bounce and dance during IllumiNations or SpectroMagic.  There’s the fact that once you have an Annual Pass being able to go to the parks becomes just a matter of getting there.  And very often it’s you.  My wife and I are constantly making plans to meet up with others in the parks.  Talking to you online is a lot of fun, but taking those online friendships and translating them into real world ties, seeing you at a meetup, talking with you in person.  It strengthens the bond of our Disney addiction, there’s a tremendous about of value in that for me.

Enough about me though, what about you?  What keeps bringing you back?  How do you Plan your trips? I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say, and to maybe meet you in person one day if I haven’t already.

Todd Perlmutter

Todd is a Central Florida local who just so happens to be a mega geeky Disney, tech, and gaming nerd. Lives or dies by his iPhone - it spending a significant amount of time in his hand while he's at Walt Disney World. In addition to being blogger here at TouringPlans.com he is also a developer working on the Touring Plans Engine, the Chief Technical Officer for The Disney Driven Life, and co-host of the Disney Film Project Podcast. Loves his wife (@cherylp3) and pup (@DisneyDoggie). You can reach Todd via Twitter (@tperlmutter) or Facebook (tperlmutter).

29 thoughts on “A Local Perspective

  • May 25, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I love it Todd. I can’t wait to visit with you in person again, and I really appreciate the friendship we have formed.

    • May 26, 2010 at 5:26 am

      Thanks a lot Jeff. Folks like you and Katie are a perfect example of what I’m talking about – people I’ve formed a bond with beyond the text we share online.

  • May 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    My family and I also recently relocated to the central FL area and we are also HUGE disney fans and we would vacation there 2 to 3 times per year! Your article couldn’t have summed it up anymore! We also have planned a “staycation” this summer at WDW. Even though we could easily drive back and forth from home we are choosing to stay on property so it will truely feel like a vacation! Thanks you for the great local point of view!

    • May 26, 2010 at 5:32 am

      Hi! Cheryl and I moved down in the beginning of 2004, we do meet a lot of people who still consider that recently – seems like ages ago to me now. I’m really glad to see that my post resonated with you.

  • May 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    It was really cool meeting you (both of you) over the weekend. I used to live in Orlando and my love for the parks is what inspired the move back then… and reading this (and feeling it lately) I am reminded of the thoughts of doing it again.

    Awesome to know some of your story 🙂 Hope to see you again real soon!

    • May 26, 2010 at 5:34 am

      Stevie, I’m sure that Orlando will take you back with open arms. Meeting you in person (1st time!) was great, and better was how we instantly clicked.

  • May 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I totally understand everything you are saying! I’ve only lived here since last Sept (passholder since Dec), and I find myself trying to do rope drop to close every time we go (no easy feat being 5 months pregnant and with a 15 month old). I’m discovering the moderation. We went today just for a couple of hours for the lines meetup, and I can see that we DON’T have to be there all day long. I hope we get to see you again sometime soon. We are pretty open and would love to get together!

    • May 26, 2010 at 5:39 am

      Hey Scarlett! Funny that we literally only met a few nights ago, no online contact prior, only to find we’re both locals. A reverse effect (RL -> online), now that we’re friends on Facebook. Just holler when you’re heading to the parks – I usually send out an “I’m here” in Lines, and I know you’re in the chatroom there.

    • May 26, 2010 at 5:40 am

      Thanks Matt! It’s been great knowing you all these years, and I really wouldn’t if it wasn’t for Disney and WDW Today.

  • May 26, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Hi Todd – I’ve been following you on Twitter for a while now and finally saw you & Cheryl last weekend from the box during Lou’s 24 hr show. It’s great to know that you don’t lose your joy of Disney by moving to the Magic. Even though we only come down once a year, we spend most of our ten days enjoying the Disney atmosphere rather than running from ride to ride. (I do use Touring Plans. Why not go to the least crowded park ?) We’ll be back in the World the end of Sept and hope to meet you in person.

    • May 26, 2010 at 7:32 am

      Hey Cathy great to hear from you. Hope you enjoyed some of my more prominent “box” momemnts, such as chewing a butterfinger cupcake for the camera – I still vote for the Carrot Cake Cookie btw. When it gets closer to your vacation just send me a message and we’ll arrange to meet up.

      • May 26, 2010 at 8:52 am

        I’m with you Todd. I love Beci and wanted to support her, but I’m drooling just thinking about the carrot cake cookie. Yummmmmm

        • May 26, 2010 at 9:16 am

          Well, I’m a bit biased, Carrot Cake is already my favorite cake to begin with. The cream cheese filling in the cookie is just far superior to the mouthfull of light (not even thick) buttercream icing. Now… if there were butterfinger crunchies mixed into that icing we might be having a whole different conversation.

  • May 26, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Todd, great article. Like you, we too are locals, but I took the next step forward and work Part Time at WDW, a couple nights each week piloting a pontoon boat for the IllumiNations Cruise. Great Fun, and no, I never tire of seeing IllumiNations. I know it’s one of the best “jobs” at Disney. Also, nice to meet you Saturday Night (aka Sunday Morning) at Lou’s 24 Hour Webcast.

    Captain Mike

    • May 26, 2010 at 8:37 am

      I don’t tire of IllumiNations either (granted that you’ve seen it many more times than I have). I also enjoyed talking with you in person and getting even more of your backstory. I’m pretty sure I was one of your passengers in your pre-IlluminNations days.

  • May 26, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Although we used to make annual trips to Disney, we are now FL residents (Naples/Ft. Myers area) and head up anytime we can. Since my husband lost his job due to the construction downfall in our area, our World trips have definitely been altered! Now we come with my parents and stay at Fort Wilderness in thier RV. And although I do miss some of the luxuries at the on site hotels, I could not be more pleased with the campground. My boys (15 & 8) have so much fun that many days we just hang out doing all the the campground has to offer. We come every year for the New Year celebration but never even step foot in a park (too busy for me to even attempt). This past year we added two visits to take part in the Home School Days program offered by Disney and have not been disappointed. I must admit though….I was unaware of all the things I am missing out on as I just found touringplans.com!! We have always been the type that just kinda go with the flow and I can see there is a much better way! I can’t wait until our next trip up to try all the fabulous tips and tricks I have learned since finding the site! Thank you so much!

    • May 26, 2010 at 8:38 am

      Opps! The computer read my son’s age, 8, as a smiley. Forgot that the number 8 and a ) do that!! lol

    • May 26, 2010 at 9:12 am

      First let me say welcome to TouringPlans.com – enjoy your stay 🙂

      I love Fort Wilderness – granted I haven’t stayed there since I was a teenager. During October Cheryl and I love to hop on the various buses and just ride around to see all the decorations. People do some really amazing things then and again during the holidays. I’m sure you’re familiar with this staying during New Years. You can get fantastic viewing of the New Years fireworks from the Fort Wilderness docks.

      And if you’re ever looking for some BBQ companions when you’re at the campgrounds, just give a holler.

      • May 26, 2010 at 3:04 pm

        The fireworks from the beach are a MUST everytime we go! I have some great pictures of the display from this last new year’s. Plus, if you take the wagon ride, they will stop lake side for a special viewing spot.

        Speaking of the wagon ride….it’s a great deal!! I think it’s $8 for adults $5 for kids and the last time we went we were the only ones!! The driver told us that we got one heck of a bargain…private wagon rides are normally $250!!!

        And if there are any that have not cruised the campground during the holidays…you don’t know what you’re missing! Some of the displays that people put up are incredible. There are some that you can even walk through. Nothing better than climbing int he golf cart with drink of choice in your hand and seeing everyone’s displays.

  • May 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    My husband & I moved to Orlando right after college in 2004 and haven’t looked back. We love being able to have our pick of all the local parks to go spend an entire day at or even just a few hours.

    I guess the only “downside” to living 15 min from Epcot is that we don’t stay at hotels anymore.

    • May 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm

      Yeah, we live about 35 minutes away from the parks, which was what we concluded was the “perfect” distance for us. It makes us close enough to go when we want, but far enough to make staying over make sense on late nights. I’ll get into that a bit more in an upcoming post.

  • May 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    In theory, your .77% reflects WDW’s penetration of the world’s population. Of course, your first paragraph undermines that calculation entirely.

    WDW recorded 50 million visits in 2009 (actually, TEA/ERA claimed WDW received 51.096 million between the theme parks and water parks…Disney doesn’t report anything to the public). If you divide that number by the world’s population, you get something like .77%. But that only works if each visit counted is a unique person. But as you state, most of that 51 million number is derived from the same person visiting multiple times.

    The magic of WDW IS in its ability to attract the same repeat audience. Your article celebrates that fact with the question “what keeps bringing you back?” I think this piece would stronger if the opening statistics emphasized the prevalance of repeat audience at Disney.

    • May 26, 2010 at 4:33 pm

      Well to be fair, the TEA/ERA really do not specify what “visitor” means at all. And ticket type sales are part of the annual reports to stockholders. And they do state they take those into account in their calculations.

      However it does seem that you did, get out of the article what I intended, which was not the statistics themselves.

  • May 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Great post, Todd! Looking forward to seeing more. And excellent usage of pictures!

    • May 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks on all counts man. And thanks for letting me play in your sandbox.

  • May 27, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Great post! My family and I live about a half an hour from WDW and try to have annual passes at all times. We’re definitely more of the off-the-cuff variety; we stay in tune with the awesome Crowd Calendar here, and when we feel like going, we pick a park and go. The freedom a pass provides is just awesome–WDW did an ad campaign a few years back with the theme of “You’ll feel like you own the place,” and it’s so true! We go, stroll around, ride what we feel like, and leave when we’re ready. That said, I’d like to take a day now and then to do a park properly and pack in as much as we can–but our girls are still a little young to go that long.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the read, thanks!

    • May 27, 2010 at 9:41 am

      Glad you enjoyed!

      A little secret, when Cheryl is out of town, I will do a commando day just to get it out of my system. I think my single day Lines entry record is 77 entries – I know the time loops very well 🙂

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