by JollyFrogger Diva
I am fortunate that my love of all things Disney is something I share with my parents. In fact, my father is probably more of a Disney fan than I am. Everything I know about planning a trip to Walt Disney World comes from watching my father plan our trips during my teenage/early adult years. In fact, my parents love Disney so much that I’ve only been to WDW once without them. We are fortunate that so far, they have been able to travel with us whenever we head down to Florida to visit The Mouse.
Traveling with a group of people with such a wide age range could pose some planning challenges, so a travel plan is a great way to minimize any surprises. On our last trip, we were traveling with a 3 year old, my sister who is in her mid 20s, my husband and I who are in our 30s, and my parents who are in their 60s. While doing some research for our upcoming trip, I discovered Touring Plans and it ended up being a great tool to help us plan our visit. While Touring Plans does offer a paid subscription that includes a wide range of benefits and features, they also offer a free account that allows you access to pre-made plans as well as giving you the option to create your own custom plan. I found that creating my own plan was the best option for our group.
To start creating a custom plan, you first choose which park you want to visit and what day. The Touring Plan builder tells you the expected park hours for that day, but you can change them if you don’t plan to be there the entire day. It also advises you if that park is scheduled to have Extra Magic Hours that day, so you can adjust your plan if you are staying on property and will be taking advantage of those extra hours. My family is a huge fan of Hollywood Studios’ evening Extra Magic Hours so we made sure to choose to take advantage of the extra time on our plan.
The next step is to select the rides and shows you’d like to do, how many times you’d like to do them, and if you want to utilize Child Swap for that ride. All rides and shows are listed, as are most character meet-and-greets, so it may take a while to sort through all the options to decide what you want to do. While planning our trip, I did find that a few new or temporary meet-and-greets weren’t on the list, but there is a way to add time for those later, so don’t panic if there’s something you want to do that isn’t under the attraction list.
Once you select your attractions for the day, your third step is to include any meals and breaks. If you have dining reservations, you can input those, choosing what time you expect to arrive for your reservation, where it is, and how long you plan to stay for your meal. There’s even a space to add your confirmation number, so you can see it on your day’s plan in case you need to refer to that number later. You can also list any breaks you plan to take here. Both of my parents have mobility and health issues that impact their stamina and the heat on our last trip was so oppressive that it was simply impossible for them to spend an entire day in the parks without a break, so this feature was especially helpful because it allowed me to schedule a mid-day break for us to go back to the hotel to cool down or grab a nap. I also used this feature to schedule time for things that weren’t on the attraction list. For example, the Olaf Meet-and-Greet at Hollywood Studios was so new that it wasn’t listed yet, so I added an in-park break to the time slot where we planned to visit Olaf.
Once you have arranged your meals and breaks, Touring Plans will create a tentative plan for you based on all of your suggestions and input. At the top of the plan is a place where you can add your FP+ reservations so the plan will reflect the correct estimate wait times for those attractions that you’re using FP+ for. You can also drag and drop any attraction, easily changing the order you plan to visit them. There is even a feature that allows you to estimate your walking speed as well as whether you want it to focus on minimizing waiting time at attractions, minimizing walking distance between attractions, or finding a balance between the two. This was an exceptionally helpful feature for our group, because minimizing the distance we walked from one attraction to the next was important for our group due to my parents’ limited mobility. At the bottom of the screen is a map, which shows the location of each attraction so you can see how far you’ll be going between selections so you can adjust if needed.
You have the option to let Touring Plans optimize your plan based on your preferences and FP+ selections, or you can have them evaluate the plan you create and let you know if everything will work as you’ve chosen it. Regardless of which option you choose, the plan will show you metrics such as the estimated time you should arrive at each attraction, how long you can expect to wait in line for the attraction, the duration of the attraction, the time you’ll have free until your next selection, and how long it will take to walk to the next selection. It will also recommend attractions that would be a good use of your FP+ selections in case you haven’t made those yet.
Once you’re happy with your plan, you can hit “View & Print” and it will show you a printer-friendly version of your schedule and map. Since my parents and husband don’t use smart phones, we still make hard copies of our schedules and reservations so we can refer to them in the park easily. However, there is a Touring Plans app if you prefer to access your schedule digitally or want to be able to change things on the fly.
Having a plan was especially helpful for my family because there were times when we divided up to do different things. My Mother has never been a fan of roller coasters, and my father is selective about the ones he likes. My sister and my husband, however, are big fans of Rock N Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Having a touring plan allowed us to schedule a time for them to ride those ride while my parents, toddler, and I did something more family friendly with my toddler and the grandparents. Everyone could refer to the printed plan so they knew where we’d be so we could meet back up.
Although there were times when we ended up straying from the plan (like whenever my daughter saw a character, she became a meet and greet fanatic), having a basic outline of where we were going and when really ended up being helpful for our family. When traveling with a group of people who are widely varied in age, having a plan allowed us to include something for everyone and helped us remain on the same page regardless of what was going on.
Ready to book your next vacation? Why not contact our own Disney Diva Travel Agent, Patricia, from All for Dreams Travel? She can help you plan all of your travel needs… for FREE! Click here for a free quote.