Trip Planning

Disneyland Preview — Week of January 20, 2018

by on January 19, 2018

A week of very low crowds, pleasant weather, and the kickoff to Disneyland’s Lunar New Year celebration!  Read on to find out more in this week’s Disneyland preview.

Special Events and Notes

While much of the week will be business as usual at Disneyland Resort, Friday the 26th kicks off the Lunar New Year celebration, as California Adventure welcomes the Year of the Dog. In addition to special food and drinks, and traditional ornamental lanterns and banners to set the celebratory mood, there will be several special events and opportunities to experience, including:

  • Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession, a parade that will run several times a day in the Paradise Pier area;
  • Hurry Home nighttime water show at Paradise Bay featuring Mulan and Mushu (temporarily taking the place of World of Color);
  • Disney characters in special Lunar New Year attire;
  • Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese foods at Paradise Garden Grill; and,
  • The Lucky Wishing Well.

For more information about the Lunar New Year celebration, check out Rikki’s preview, or Disney’s event page for daily event schedules.



Crowds will be very manageable this week, making it a fantastic time for a visit.  The highest crowds will be on Saturday when they are at a level 5, but most days this week you will see level 2 crowds.

Full details, including park-by-park crowd levels, are available on our Crowd Calendar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aloha, Aulani: A Resort Primer

by on January 17, 2018

TouringPlans welcomes guest author May Flaum.

When I plan a vacation to Walt Disney World my desk is like a war room complete with plans of attack, alternate arrangements, current restaurant menus, and more. I build and optimize touring plans, I read blogs daily, and I love every planning minute of it. That said, sometimes it is wonderful to plan a trip quickly, easily, and without multiple notebooks and Excel spreadsheets.

If my budget isn’t tight and I get to pick said vacation? My pick is Disney’s Aulani on the island of Oahu. It really is an ideal vacation place for so many people of all ages – and perfect if you want a Disney fix but travel with someone who doesn’t love the parks. As someone who has been fortunate enough to visit the resort a few times, I’d like to share with you my strategies for planning a trip to Aulani.


Let’s address the elephant in the room: budget. There are a lot of ways you can flex the cost of an Aulani trip. But the bottom line is this: Hawaii is an expensive and popular high-demand destination. Take a look at airline routes, costs, and Aulani (and other hotel) rates to begin your planning process.

If you’re able to swing a trip to Oahu but not stay at Aulani, you still might want to visit for a half day. You can book the character breakfast, shop the gift shops, and walk through the resort, out to the lagoon, and around the Ko’olina resort area. Note that character meets other than at breakfast, as well as all amenities, pools, and slides are for the exclusive use of registered resort guests.

If only a short stay is possible, or if you want to explore more of Hawaii, then save Aulani for last. Visit other areas of Oahu or even other islands first while staying at a less expensive hotel, apartment rental, or time share. Then head up to Aulani first thing in the morning and check in. Your room likely won’t be ready, but bell services will store your bags, there is a lounge with shower you can access until your room is ready, and you’re able to use all amenities including pools and slides. You are able to utilize all resort amenities all day on both check in and check out day – use that to your advantage.

If the budget allows of course, my ultimate recommendation is to stay at Aulani for as long as you possibly can and simply enjoy all that this marvelous resort has to offer.

What to book in advance?

Read the rest of this entry »

Disneyland Preview — Week of January 13, 2018

by on January 12, 2018

This week presents two wildly different experiences — busy holiday weekend, followed by some of the lowest crowds you’ll see all year. Also, the first Disneyland After Dark is this week!  Read on to find out more in this week’s Disneyland preview.

Special Events and Notes

In large part, this is a “regular” week at Disneyland. The holidays are over, no festivals are running, and operations are more or less normal.  With that said, Disney is doing its first “Disneyland After Dark” after-hours event this week on Thursday, January 18.  It is a hard-ticket event (i.e., your regular park tickets or Annual Passes will not get you in), and it costs $95 per person.  The event runs from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., though your ticket will get you admission to the park as early as 6:00 p.m.

This first installment will be “Throwback Nite” (making it very appropriate that it’s being held on a Thursday), and it will have a 1950s/1960s theme. Guests are encouraged to dress the part (think: Dapper Day). There will be jazz and swing music, special photo opportunities (along with unlimited PhotoPass downloads), characters, and exclusive food and drinks. Also, you’ll be able to see the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show, which first ran in 1958, that you can typically only see on New Year’s Eve. You can find more details here and here. As this goes to press, there are still tickets available, but we nevertheless recommend getting tickets sooner than later if you’re sure you’d like to attend.


Crowds are high for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, but drop off sharply immediately thereafter.  Seven and eight level crowds for the weekend, and nothing higher than a three the rest of the week.

Full details, including park-by-park crowd levels, are available on our Crowd Calendar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Overview + Video

by on January 9, 2018

It’s January, which means the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is just around the corner!

Click the video below to learn all about this aesthetic event.

Is it super obvious that I googled artistic synonyms” to come up with the word, aesthetic? Let me know in the comments…

Trip Planning 101 (3.0): Deciding When to Visit Walt Disney World

by on January 8, 2018

Welcome to our periodic refresh of the TouringPlans Trip Planning 101 series, where we walk new WDW trip planners through some of the basic components of getting ready for a trip to Walt Disney World. Here we’re looking at factors to consider as you decide when to make your Disney visit.

The first step in planning a visit to Walt Disney World is deciding when to take your trip. This basic decision can have a big influence on the pace, mood, and cost of your vacation. Here’s a guide on how to choose the best timetable for your Walt Disney World experience. We’ll do this from two perspectives: a family with kids in school and adults not traveling with children.

Gather Your Tools

Before you sit down to plan, you’ll need to gather the following items:

  • A blank calendar. I like having one where I can see whole year in front of me, such as the 2018 calendar above.
  • Your school district calendar (if applicable).
  • Work schedules.
  • Calendars for your family’s activities: sports, church groups, dance recitals, etc.
  • Your personal appointment calendar.
  • The Crowd Calendar.
  • The Walt Disney World attraction closures schedule.
  • Access to information about Disney’s special events each month. There’s a great section about this in the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.
  • Access to your favorite weather website, such as
  • Access to your favorite airline website, travel aggregator website (Expedia, Travelocity, etc.), or travel agregator app (Kayak, etc.).
  • Access to your favorite Disney discounts website, like
  • Several colored pencils, highlighters, or markers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Disneyland Preview — Week of January 6, 2018

by on January 5, 2018

The new year is here, and with it comes much lower crowds and chillier weather. Read on to find out more in this week’s Disneyland preview!

Special Events and Notes

Disneyland MonorailThe busy holiday season comes to a close at Disneyland Resort this week, and with the end of that season comes the far less busy refurbishment season.  Yes, several popular attractions are going offline starting this week.  Some, like Haunted Mansion, Dumbo, Grizzly River Run, and Splash Mountain are undergoing brief downtime for scheduled maintenance or to remove holiday overlays.  Others, like California Screamin’, are gone for good, at least in their current forms.


Crowds are all over the map this week, ranging from quite high this weekend as winter break wraps up, to very low towards the end of the week once most kids are back to school.  Wednesday and Thursday notably have level 2 crowds, which are about as low as you’re likely to see all year.



Full details, including park-by-park crowd levels, are available on our Crowd Calendar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Disney’s Contemporary Resort: Part 2 + Video

by on January 2, 2018

Happy New Year Friends!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you all the best for 2018.

Today’s video is Part 2 of my Disney’s Contemporary Resort overview. I’ll be talkin’ pools, dining, recreation and amenities.


Oh! and here’s Part 1 if you missed that!

I’m just now realizing that I used the EXACT same picture for both video thumbnails. *face palm*

Did you make any Disney resolutions for 2018? Mine is to take more photos. Leave yours below!

Five Reasons to Visit Walt Disney World in 2018

by on January 1, 2018

As workplace calendars take shape for 2018, attention turns to vacation destinations. For the Walt Disney World addicts among us, it’s not a question of whether we’ll go, but when and for how long. Others may need additional incentives to choose theme parks over the beach or big city.

For those of you with the challenge of convincing your significant other to spend their valuable vacation time armed with MagicBands and Touring Plans, we’ve got you covered. Read on for five reasons you can use to argue that 2018 is the year to visit Disney.

Let’s see Andy’s backyard

New lands don’t come around every year, but for the second straight summer, Walt Disney World will take down the construction walls and invite visitors to a new theme park land.

While not as impressive in scope as Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the new Toy Story Land will bring kid-friendly attractions to a park that badly needs them, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney announced an opening of summer 2018 for the land. If it follows the same pattern as Pandora, that would mean soft openings in May.

Two new attractions and a quick-service dining location will be added with the opening of Toy Story Land.

The land, which will include the existing Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction, will be modeled to look like Andy’s back yard. Visitors shrink down to toy size in their surroundings. The two new attractions, the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster and Alien Swirling Saucers, should be kid-friendly, but with enough clever theming to appeal to everyone.

Add a quick-service dining location, Woody’s Lunch Box, and you have enough to bring visitors back to Hollywood Studios, even as a large portion of the park continues to be blocked off by construction walls (more on that later).

Read the rest of this entry »

Disneyland Preview — Week of December 30

by on December 29, 2017

Another super busy week at Disneyland Resort as we transition to 2018, though it becomes slightly more manageable as the week progresses. Read on to find out more in this week’s Disneyland preview!

Special Events and Notes

We get to usher in 2018 this week, and that means we get to experience the special New Years offerings at Disneyland! The New-Year’s-only (generally) Fantasy in the Sky  fireworks will run twice on New Years Eve, at 9 pm and again at 11:55 to welcome the New Year. If seeing the fireworks from Main Street U.S.A. is important to you, you’ll want to make sure you stake out a spot even earlier than usual. California Adventure will also ring in the New Year at Paradise Pier with its Fountains and Fireworks countdown. Special dining events are available at Napa Rose and PCH Grill; advance reservations are strongly recommended for these experiences. 

Read the rest of this entry »

International Parks Round-Up — What to Expect in Early 2018

by on December 26, 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time to look ahead at 2018 in the International Disney Parks. There’s a lot happening over the next few months, so let’s dig in to each park!

Season of the Force

Star Wars: A Galactic Celebration will be lighting up the Tower of Terror in Walt Disney Studios Park. (Photo Courtesy of Disney)

Disneyland Paris

The first part of the year at Disneyland Paris is dedicated to Star Wars. The Season of the Force is taking over both Disneyland Paris parks from January 13 – March 25. This event includes a wide range of entertainment and special offerings, including:

  • Star Wars: A Galactic Celebration. A new nighttime extravaganza that includes projections, special effects, live characters, and music. You can find this in Walt Disney Studios Park.
  • Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away. This stage show takes place in Walt Disney Studios Park and features breathtaking displays of the Force.
  • First Order March. Captain Phasma will be leading a battalion of stormtroopers throughout Walt Disney Studios Park at various times of day.
  • Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is launching in Discoveryland at Disneyland Park.
  • Hyperspace Mountain is taking over Space Mountain, giving you the chance to enlist in the Rebel Alliance and battle the Imperial Forces on your flight in Disneyland Park.
  • Lastly, there is a mysterious component to the Season of the Force, but all that Disney is announcing is that a fleet of intergalactic surprises will be coming soon.

Read the rest of this entry »