If you are perusing blogs about WDW, it is likely that you are the trip planner in your family or group. As trip planner, you are the person that everyone will look to while on vacation and say, “What are we going to do today?”
Unfortunately, you are also the person that everyone will glare at when standing in a long line and say, “We’ve been in this line forever!” or “I wanted to ride Space Mountain first, not Dumbo!”
Over the years, I have found that the best way to answer questions on the spot or defuse bad attitudes before they start is to have a touring plan in hand for each day we spend in a park. I realize that detailed plans do not work for all personality types. If the idea of a schedule goes against everything you believe about a vacation, then don’t make a detailed plan, but at least familiarize yourself with which attractions are most popular and plan to visit those either very early or very late in your day. The point of a touring plan is not to stifle spontaneity. The point is to experience each person’s favorite attractions and minimize the time spent waiting in line while maximizing the number of attractions you can experience in a given day.
You can visit various web sites and pay to have a professional create the perfect touring plan for your group. Or with a little reading and planning, you can save your money for WDW souvenirs and create your touring plans yourself. It’s easier than you may think. There are basically four steps: make a list, schedule attractions, repeat for another day, then ordered your days.
Make a list
Using a guidebook, read the descriptions of each attraction in the park you want to visit (e.g. MK, Epcot, HS, or AK). Discuss each attraction with your family. Make a list of the attractions that are most important to each of the family members. This will become your “must-do” list. Have a second list of attractions that you’d like to do if there’s time. This list would not include any family members’ “must do’s.” Make a third list of attractions that you (or any member of your family) would not want to ride. This will be rides you don’t even look at, or rides that your group may split up to enjoy.
Using a good guidebook, like The Unoffical Guide To Walt Disney World, find the best times to visit each attraction on your “must-do” list. Fill in empty time slots with attractions from your second list. Read through your dining options and note several counter service restaurants or snack options that your family would enjoy. Include these on your touring plans as options depending where you are in the park when you get hungry. If you are planning any table service meals, make your reservations and incorporate that time into your touring plan.
Repeat the above steps for each of the parks you plan to visit. We usually visit one park per day, but if you want to buy a park hopper, schedule your day to fit in your “must-do’s” in each park you want to visit that day.
Order Your Days
Once you have a schedule for each of your days in the parks, order your days so that you make the most of the hours of operation for each park. If you are staying on property, consult the WDW calendar http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/magic-kingdom/calendar/ and plan according to the extra magic hours. If you are staying off property, you may want to avoid the parks with extra magic hours.
Type up your daily plans. Discuss them with your family so that everyone knows what to expect. And don’t forget to take your touring plans with you to the park! Last, but not least, give yourself the freedom to deviate from your plan when the situation warrants.
Keep in mind that no touring plan is perfect and there are some things that you will work in once you get to the park. Get a map and Times Guide when you enter the park (if you’re staying on property get them from the concierge the day before). The Times Guide tells show times and character greeting times and locations for the day that you can work in to your schedule.
I like going in to each park with a touring plan in hand. I always tell my family it is a guide, not strict orders. We can deviate from it or change it altogether, but I refuse to waste any time wondering what we should do next. And I would hate to miss some of the best attractions because we spent too much time waiting in lines.