I often receive questions about “touring strategies”, that is, how to go about visiting the parks to make the most of your time on your Disney vacation. Everyone wants to get the most for their money, and so questions about how to see the most attractions, rides, and shows as possible are common. With that in mind, I thought that I would take today’s blog post to chat a bit about the touring strategies that my family has used successfully in the past, and share how we go about planning our visits to Walt Disney World.
So let me start by saying this: we don’t use prepared-by-others, published touring plans…… We never have, not even on our first visit as Disney newbies. While I know that these plans can be extremely helpful for many folks, using a general plan that was developed by someone else just never made sense for me and my family. Now part of this is due to my need for control over our vacation: I just can’t let anyone else plan ANY part of it, even….and especially….the part about what and when we see and do things.
But, while it’s important for us to make the most of our time at Disney World, I also like to make the most of my energy. Any touring plan that has me running back and forth multiple times across a park, so that I can insure I see/ride/do everything is not the right plan for me. I’m all about saving money and time on my Disney vacation, but I like to save my energy a bit too. I tend to enjoy things a bit more that way.
So how DO we plan our touring then?
A big part of how we approach things is dependent on the time of year and expected crowds, as well as how long we will be there. More crowds mean that if we want to see/do a lot of things, we need to plan more than if crowds are lighter. Likewise, shorter trips mean more careful planning than a longer trip where we can build in more time to go at a slower, less structured pace. So first, we see how many days we have, and decide which parks matter the most. The ones that have the most things we want to see get more days than the others do.
Next we make a list of what we REALLY care about. Again, this is not nearly as important now as it was on our first visit when we had a 7 year old: then it really mattered if we did, or didn’t do certain things. So back then, we created a list for each park (and absolutely had her input on this!):
- Things we HAD to see
- Things we WANTED to see
- Things to see if we had TIME
After that, we decide which days we will go to which park. I take into consideration Extra Magic Hours (during high crowd days, we always took advantage of the morning ones with a young child…evening ones were a bit iffy for us then ) and plan mornings at the parks with those morning EMH if possible….and then are there during those hours. Afternoon breaks are always planned for us as well, and then as we typically get Park Hoppers, we often go to a different park in the evenings (usually decided by where we wanted to eat dinner.)
And what about when we get to the park? This is where my planning takes conserving energy into account. Let’s consider Magic Kingdom for example. We typically will plan 2 half-days to visit MK. This allows us to focus on a “half” of the park each time. The first time may be Adventureland/Frontierland/Liberty Square, and the 2nd visit will be Tomorrowland/Fantasyland. Within each of those areas, we will decide which rides are priorities, get FastPasses for the ones likely to develop lines quickly and ride the other must-sees in the general area, while waiting to use our FastPass or to get another one.
Doing this has always allowed us to see and do everything we want to do, take a mid-afternoon break, and not wait in long lines…even during the busiest week of the year.
Now this is the most important part of this discussion: this is what works for US. And this is precisely my point, and maybe the biggest reason why I am not fond of pre-published touring plans….I think everyone needs to approach this in the way that works best for them. No two families are the same, and no two Disney vacations are the same. At least they shouldn’t be. You need to consider the needs/wants/likes/dislikes of your own family, and then develop a touring strategy that is right for YOU.
Having said this, I thought it would be interesting to get some thoughts about this on our Facebook page. So here is what some of our Affordable Mouse Facebook friends had to say about how they plan their touring strategies:
- Tara: I start by checking the times/dates of Fantasmic and the MK parade. Then, I factor in EMH. Then I plug in parks for the rest of my days.
- Kevin: I think that touring plans effectiveness varies based on how busy it is. I use the concepts from the touring plans, and then wing it around those concepts. For example, getting there early, grab a fast pass then move on to a second major ride. Use the fast pass during the busy afternoon times, when lines are longest.
- Suzy: I base mine on where we are eating. Whatever park I have the first reservation at is where we start and we always end our first day and last day with Wishes.
- Susan: We do one park a day and I make dining reservations ahead of time that coincide with the park we will be in..I usually only make lunch reservations in case we want to visit another park and take advantage of the Extra Magic hours in the evening
- DeAnna: Dining has much to do with our plans as well. I print out all park/parade etc times & plan accordingly. We only hit the rides we all like, skipping the ones we’re not that fond of …i.e. “The Land”!
- Kelly: We always travel with a bunch of people. Our strategy is to plan hard before we go and then relax when we are there. We never know what we will feel like doing once we are in the park. We always plan our day around EMH though…always. We actually hit the parks for both morning and late EMH. We never avoid them…but we do go in October when crowds are less.
- Debbie: We usually hit the parks early then ride the busy rides first and picking up fast passes. Then out during mid-day for a dip in the pool and rest and back in for a late evening. I don’t avoid EMH, but being flexible on what rides to do and when makes a more pleasant trip. In all my trips, I can count on one hand the number of times I have spent more than 15 minutes in line.
- Kristin: My plan depends on what type of ticket I have. If I have a park hopper- we will do EMH. No park hopper-we avoid EMH. We always get to the parks early and we have somewhat of a touring plan where we hit the headliners first get FPs for later when the lines get too long and tour minor attractions waiting for return FP’s times.
So what is the right way to tour the Disney World parks? As with pretty much everything when it comes to planning a Disney vacation….the answer is, it depends on what is best for YOUR family!