Update on Computer-Optimized Touring Plans

by on November 30, 2011 72 Comments

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More than 20,000 touring plans have been optimized since we launched the beta of our new software two weeks ago, and for that we’re thrilled! Also, many of y’all have submitted excellent suggestions for how to improve the user experience or the plans themselves. And while we’re keeping track of every suggestion, three things tend to get the most feedback. Today I’d like to update you on how we’re working on those areas.

First, we’re improving how we predict future show times for live performances and events. As many of you have recognized, the software needs show times if it is to build a touring plan that includes live performances. However, Disney only releases its full entertainment schedule about a week in advance. And that’s a problem if you’re trying to get an idea of what a good spring break plan is going to look like. Fortunately, we have a database of daily performance schedules going back at least three years. We’re going to use that to predict, for example, the most likely performance times of the Magic Kingdom’s Castle Forecourt show next February. It maybe off by a few minutes here and there, but it should be a solid first step. Keep in mind that you can re-optimize, too, when the official schedule is released.

Second, we’re re-designing the way you choose attractions. One of the great things about the software is that it can schedule up to 70 different things in the Magic Kingdom. We recognize, though, that sorting through a drop-down list of six dozen things each time you want to add a step, probably isn’t the best experience in the world. We’ve brought in a great designer to help re-imagine this part of the UI, and should have samples early next week for y’all to comment on. On a personal note, I’m really, really excited to see your feedback on how we can improve this aspect of the software.

Third, each plan will show the expected arrival times at each attraction, your anticipated wait, and how long it should take you to walk to the next step. This information has always been part of the plan, but we were concerned that showing it would cause undue stress if, for example, you ended up a couple minutes behind schedule. However, as some of you have pointed out, that extra information would be useful for knowing when you’re ahead of schedule, too, in order to repeat attractions, do some shopping, or grab a snack.

We expect to have the show schedules and arrival/wait/walk times available before the start of the busy Christmas holiday. The UI re-design should be done in January. Again, thanks very much for your feedback so far, and keep sending in suggestions!



Posted on November 30, 2011

72 Responses to “Update on Computer-Optimized Touring Plans”

  • by Nick Dakuginow on November 30, 2011, at 3:03 pm EST

    That’s great news! I really like the third part you mentioned with the arrival times, that’s golden.

  • Bummer. We’ll be there in two weeks, so will use the “regular” touring plans from the book. Our first Christmas visit, but think plans will still saves us bunches of time since we arrive at least 30 minutes before opening.

  • Sounds great Len! Can’t wait to test this out during our trip starting this Saturday.

  • Sounds awesome! I cannot wait to see the walking times!

  • That’s awesome. Thank you very much for requesting, listening to and responding to user feedback!

  • That sounds great. Can’t wait to try it out.

  • You guys continue to amaze me! Thank you! I love the addition of the arrival times and expected waits.

  • This is fantastic. I hope the walking/waiting part is live before Christmas because that’s when I leave, and I really hope to beat the pavement and get as many attractions done as possible during Christmas week.

    I know with the “Optimize” button there’s no need for you guys to make new touring plans because you can make one any time, but I’m having a problem.

    Magic Kingdom is opening for EMH every day at 7am Christmas week. I don’t have EMH access. So I’ll be an hour behind the 8-ball. Laurel answered me with a great idea of following up a night EMH so less people will be awake in the park, but is there a way to create a one-day Magic Kingdom touring play that starts one hour after EMH. Thanks!

    • At the end of your plan click “Edit Plan” and at the bottom of that page click “Click here to edit the plan details”. Now you can enter the start time for your plan.

  • I plotted numerous TPs 3 mon prior to Thanksgiving trip, then day before learned about the new Personalized Plan with OPtimizing– as if my wishes were overheArd!! I was to quickly learn the system, print Next days plan nightly from hotel, then enjoy clicking on “optimize” a few times during eAch day ! I was only disappointed one time, and I had edited stRtart time when we got a later start than expected our last dAy. We arrived per plan to grab SoArin Fastpass and they had been all out for 30’min. :(. Otherwise really love your work , amazing technology. Kids reluctant to follow TP , until I showed them how to “check done” and “optimize” then they really got into it can’t wait for the uPgrades& our next trip ! Thx!!

  • Have tried to mark steps on a custom plan as Done on a Blackberry using the mobile site, but getting error messages. Didn’t think to test that before arriving. Also no option to edit or optimize. Am I missing something?

    • Hey Todd, what’s the error message? We’ll take a look.

      • Hi Len.

        Sorry I’m just getting back to you on this today. We’ve been back in Canada for a few days now and I don’t have access to the Blackberry now, as it belongs to a travelling companion, so I can’t tell you the exact error message. I think it was something like…

        Unable to play content */*

        or maybe…

        Unable to display content */*

        Anyway, it occurred when I tried to mark a step in my customized plans as Done. There was no Optimize button available on my plans.

        So we weren’t able to do any real-time optimizing in the parks, but given the lower crowd levels, there was really no need to optimize anyway. We just went with the printed versions we had customized beforehand, and were able to ad-lib a little, adding more attractions because of the short wait times.

        e.g., We spent a few hours in Tomorrowland later on Day 1 of the MK 2-day Happy Family plan because we really took advantage of the order in which to visit attractions in the rest of the park.

        We’ll definitely use Touringplans.com for our next trip to the World in a couple of years. 🙂


        p.s., When I see my travelling companion again I’ll get her Blackberry and try marking a step as Done. I’ll get you the exact error message… with a screenshot if that helps too.

  • What do you consider “before the start of the very busy Christmas holiday”? Does that include the “12 Days of Christmas” as in it might be ready a couple of weeks before Christmas as in a couple of weeks from today or are you thinking right around the 25th? I’m heading down the 15th for the first time ever and would love to have that feature for use. I do think this feature is going to bring it all together for me. Without it, I personally find some of the other touring plans on the Web, even free ones, to be a little easier for me to follow as they include timing aspects in their write-ups. I’m a down to-the-minute kind of guy. Good to know you are working on it though.

  • Very odd that I cannot seem to copy a plan anymore. I used to be able to and then could edit it and optimize it. Now I get an error message every time. Here is the URL of the error message. Any ideas on how I can solve this? http://touringplans.com/plans/copy?id=55

    Going in January and very excited to use the new features!We were there during March Break last year and my family couldn’t beleive how much we were able to do, even though it was a 10 everyday. Touring plans are da bomb!

  • I am working on developing a touring plan and wondered if you can please add BBB to the MK attraction list? Thanks!

  • My touring plans don’t optimize. I tried for Magic Kingdom and Epcot, both Safari and Firefox, yesterday and today. It never actually refreshes to an optimized plan. Just keeps saying to refresh in a few seconds. After many many refreshes, it just resets to the original data- no optimized plan. Any ideas?

  • http://touringplans.com/plans/101046/2011-12-16 is one of them. Thanks- because I sure can’t figure it out! Unless it’s supposed to take 10 minutes to optimize…

  • Not sure if this is the right post to ask this question, but here it is: Is there any way to make a copy of a personalized touring plan so that I can further tweak and thus have alternate versions of the same base plan? It appears that I can only copy the standard plans, not one of my personalized plans. Thx.

    • Hey Dan, that’s a good idea. We don’t have the functionality yet, but it should be straightforward enough to implement. I’ll ask the team to add it to their list.

  • I can’t find the original feedback form, so I hope this is an acceptable place to post. I created a DHS plan for February 21st. It’s telling me to do the Magic of Disney Animation first, then get a FP for Voyage of the Little Mermaid, then the Animation Academy, and only then to go get a FP for Toy Story. Does that seem odd to anyone else? Never have I heard that the Animation pavilion should come anywhere near the early morning, certainly not first thing. The plan id is 102988.

    Paul Lalli

    • Thanks for the ID, Paul. I’ll look at it now.

      • Hey Paul –

        The software’s indicating there are more steps than can be completed in a day. Try dropping two shows and a couple of steps and see whether the plan makes more sense.

        I’ll see if we can add a message when returning these kinds of plans, to indicate possible solutions.


  • This is an “after the trip” report/feedback. Optimizing seemed to help but not as much as it would during a busy time at the park, our resort crowd levels were no higher than 3 during our week there. One issue I had was with a DHS plan. The first LMA Stunt show was at 1 PM but as we entered the park we were told to go their first. Of course we ignored this and got TSM FastPasses and then took our kids to Disney Junior Live on Stage 🙂

    • Thanks Roger! If you recall the ID or URL of your plan, I’d like to take a look at that.

      Also, how was the response time of the app while you were in the park? I’m concerned about AT&T’s network over the holidays.

      • Hi Len. I didn’t keep the plan after the day I used it so I don’t have the URL or the ID.

        In regards to the response time, it was OK and could have been better. I blame Sprint’s network more than anything though.

        • Ah, thanks. Yeah, our numbers indicate that slightly more than half of the time it takes to optimize a touring plan is taken up by network latency. So when we say 45 seconds to 1 minute to optimize a plan, 20 to 35 seconds of that is just communication between your phone, our servers, and back again.

  • Love the new time information at the bottom of the plans Len!

    • Just noticed that the duration of the Rock-n-Roller Coaster Single Rider Line ride is 0 minutes…

      • Ah, we’ll look at that. Thanks!

        • Thanks. One other thing- and maybe it’s my misunderstanding of Fastpass during EMHs, but figured I’d bring it up.

          I am optimizing a plan for DHS with evening EMH projected. The plan is suggesting getting a Fastpass for Tower of Terror at a time when the projected wait times show that fastpass return times will be at 10:30 or so. But the regular park close would be at 9.

          Can you enlighten me?

      • Now if you optomize your Touring Plan you should see a duration of 10 minutes.

        • Thanks! Is that 10 minutes including the pre-show? 10 minutes seems like a long time for the R&R Coaster.

          • Yes – we thought the “ride duration” should encompass more than just the in-vehicle time. This is more representative of the time it takes to experience the attraction end-to-end.

  • Our optimized plans seem to be having us getting fastpasses for two different rides (which I thought was not allowed… unless they changed the rules since our last trip?). So, it says to get a fastpass for ride #1 and then eventually get another fastpass for ride #2 before we go on ride #1.

  • How do I schedule shows and live performances up to six months in advance? where on your site do I do this?

  • I want to put all the items that we will be doing on 1 plan and what we don’t get done go back another day and complete it. If I mark the rides as complete the next day will it show that or will I need to remove them at the end of the day to see what I have left? Taking a toddler so not sure what we will get done each day.

    • Interesting question, Jan. I think you should see just the uncompleted attractions. You’ll need to change the date to the next day, and then you should be able to re-optimize. I’ll check this in more detail shortly.



  • I can’t tell you how excited I am to try this out. So if I wanted to set up plans for my trip in August now (January), I can just optimize it again when we go and it will work out the best schedule? This is what I am understanding.

    • Karen, your understanding is correct. In addition of optimizing once you get to the park, if you choose to take a break or add an attraction, just re-optimize your plan when you are ready to pick it back up and it will optimize based on the current time and conditions.

  • Can I ask a question about the duration of character greetings in Hollywood Studios? I have been working on an optimized plan and it is predicting a duration of 3 minutes for Character Greetings around Hollywood Studios. Anyone with young children would attest that this seems like a gross underestimate. Should I be adding in a “break” as an estimate of how long it will take?

  • Hi – this is a really cool program, there are a few things I wish I could do and some things that are confusing. I am an experienced park hopper so I have some specific things that work for us. I would like to be able to alter your plan and then optimize the plan keeping my changes in the order in which i made them. For example, at HS we like to get a fast past and ride toy story 1st then use the fastpass later in the afternoon. After toy story we like to ride rock and roller coaster and get our next available fast pass for that roller coaster as well. Other than that we are flexible. I couldn’t really find a way to make your program follow my plan and optimize using my way.
    2. Also, if i chose the fast pass for an attraction do I also need to select the attraction as well.
    3. Finally, I don’t understand the purpose of adding the details/ directions or how they should be written.
    Thanks for making this cook program

    • Michelle-
      One nice thing about the optimized Touring Plans is that you can re-optimize them as you go. For what you want to do, there are two options that will accomplish what you.

      1. Create a plan with all the attraction you want to do. If you want to do an attraction more than once put them in. The day you are in the park, ignore the plan and follow your morning ritual. In lines click the done button for those items even if they are not the first steps. Now click the optimize button and it will rearrange the remaining steps with the current conditions in the park.

      2. Create a plan, excluding your morning attractions. On the website you can specify a start time. When you are done with Toy Story Mania and Rock in Roller Coaster re-optimize the Touring Plan.

      If you are using the optimize Touring Plan there is no need to select fast pass booth or enter details/ directions. The software will decide when to get a fast pass. Sometimes making two trips to an attraction will take more of your time than just waiting in the standby line.

  • First of all, I love this software! I am having a bit of trouble with designing a custom Touring Plan for our day at Animal Kingdom. We want to do all of the animal viewing attractions in the morning (when animals are tyically more active) and then do the rides and other attractions after that. Is there a way to do this that I haven’t figured out yet? If not, could you make one, please? 🙂 Thank you!

    • Oops, just read your reply to Michelle on January 26th and I realize that would work for me, too, if I had a smart phone, which I don’t. Any ideas for those of us who haven’t yet joined the 21st century?

  • Just curious about taking a mid-day break; we typically go to the MK at rope drop and leave around noon, then head back to MK around 6 or 7PM. When I put in the break time and duration it doesn’t seem to be in the correct place in my plan, it shows up at the end. Will that correct when we are actually there? Also can you create a customized 2 day plan?

    • I really want to like this but it’s still not able to optimize this type of day, if I’m doing something wrong please let me know, it does seem good if you have a vanilla type day planned though, thanks

  • The new software looks really impressive. Given the recent fastpass changes, I’m hoping to make the most of this on our April trip. I do have two areas I would like to see improved, however:

    1) in the pull-down menus for attractions, dining and such you should not sort on an initial “The” in the title. You should ignore common articles like “The” when alphabetizing.

    2) It’s too easy to accidentally change the date of a plan. When editing plan details it seems to change the date back to the current date (or tomorrow) or something like that.

  • I am putting together some customized plans for a future visit in May and I came across something that may or may not have been accounted for. My family would like to ride ToT at DHS twice, so I added an attraction twice and added ToT twice. As far as I can tell, it has me getting a fastpass, then waiting a while, then riding (as it should) with a wait time of 5 minutes, then it has me riding AGAIN with another wait time of 5 minutes but no additional fastpass. Could this be correct? Or is the code having me use the same fastpass twice? The URL is http://touringplans.com/plans/138075/2012-05-09
    Thanks! You guys ROCK! I am having so much fun playing around with this and I can’t wait to try it out in May!

  • Hi guys – I absolutely love the new optimization and am excited to use it for our trip in a couple weeks. I have one question, though – I created a couple personalized plans on my computer for the first couple days we’ll be at WDW (4/9 and 4/10). I then pulled them up on my phone and iPad to see if I could get them there. Each time I pulled them up on my mobile device (either one) and added an attraction, for instance,and re-optimized either plan, the plan reverts back to the current date instead of the future date I originally set it for. This, in turn, changes all of the times to the current time. If I go back to my computer and re-set the date, its fine. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks!

  • Hi guys,
    Do you have an update on when the UI redesign is going public?