As you may recall, I am a firm believer in the concept that “time is money” so making good use of my time at the Disney parks is super important to me: I want to know that I am getting the absolute most value for my vacation dollars! So planning my time….what we see and when we see it….is super important. And of course, as a travel agent, this is a conversation that I often have with my clients as well. With that in mind, I would like to chat a bit today about the touring strategies that my family has used successfully in the past, and share some tips for what I recommend when planning a visit to Walt Disney World.
Let me start by saying that 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. Which is one reason why I’ve never been a big fan of some of the pre-published touring plans that are out there. I know they work for many folks, which is great, but 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 beyond this, what else goes into making a good touring plan?
A big part of how I 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 partial-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 in advance for the ones likely to develop lines quickly and ride the other must-sees in the general area, while waiting to use our FastPass.
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.
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!