Thursday, September 8, 2011

Planning Tips, Tricks, and My Best Disney Secrets- Part III

This blog entry is the third installment of my planning page "Disney Planning and Touring How To Guide".  I will be posting a little bit at a time to the home page. If you'd like to read the touring page in its entirety now you can click here to view it. 

Touring Plans 101
Once you are getting closer to your actual trip, you can work on a touring plan for each day.  Just like scheduling what park you are going to for the day and having ADR's prevents the old "Where are we going today?" and "Where should we eat?" debate, having a touring plan prevents having an entire family huddled around a park map deciding "What should we do next?".

There are several ways to make or get a touring plan for each park.  You could look at a Disney guide book and park map and decide on your own which attractions you would like to take in, and in which order.  I would not recommend this unless you are an experienced WDW traveler.

My best recommendation is to use's tour plans.  This website was born out of "The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World" books. I really feel they are the best guide books out there for Disney. If you're only going to buy one, this is that one. See it here on Amazon. 

I personally have used and always recommend these touring plans.  The first year we went with kids, I decided to use their guide for families with small children.  My family thought it was a little nuts to have the day so scheduled, but it WORKED!  My family thought me a genius!  It used to be that you were mostly limited to the several touring plans located in the back of the book, but now with their website, there are many many more plans. You're bound to find one that fits your family.'s plans are well thought out and well researched by their own in-park teams to figure out the best way to see the most of the parks in the least amount of time.  That first morning in Magic Kingdom, without EMH, we were able to see the opening show, then rode: Dumbo, Carousel, Peter Pan x2, Small World, Haunted Mansion, Mickey's Philharmagic, have an ice cream break, Winnie the Pooh, the Teacups, the Barnstormer x2, AND ride the train to the front gate all by 11:45. And this was in the summer!
Screenviews on's app "Lines"
I won't re-post their plans here, as they belong to them, but the small $11-$12 subscription is well worth it. I do believe they have a free touring plan for each park available on the site.  Choose which plan appears to be best for your family, and print it out. If something on the list is not appealing to you, just skip it and move to the next attraction on the list.  Now, don't turn into a drill sergeant with those plans, but use them as a guide. You will save time just by having a plan, and their plans in particular are designed to save you time based on when certain rides have the longest or shortest waits.  If you do not want a subscription, but are interested in their plans, you can almost always find a copy of "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World" at the library.

You can download their app "Lines" for free, and as long as you have a subscription to the website, you can login to the app, and get all that handy information on the go! Plus it gives you current wait-times for rides, and FastPass return times.  Before you hike across the park to get FastPasses you can see if there are even any left!

While at the Most Magical Place on Earth

Rope Drop
    Rope Drop (RD) is the moment that Disney literally "drops the rope" and lets everyone into the park for the day.  Yes, they actually do drop a rope! (okay, maybe they don't "drop"  it, but there is a rope) Making Rope Drop means you are there when the drop happens, and are one of the first people let into the park. To really get the most out of your time at Disney, you must make Rope Drop. Do you need to be the person AT the rope? No, of course not, but you should be part of the crowd behind those folks.  You can accomplish in that first hour, what will take most people 2 to 3 hours to do in the mid-afternoon.  RD is the least busy time of day.  Do not sleep in, you can go back for a nap later!

At the Magic Kingdom, there is an opening ceremony where Mickey arrives on the train, and everyone counts down from 10 to open the park with the "Family of the Day". Instead of the crowds of 20,000 to 50,000 that will share the park at 3pm, there may only be a couple hundred to thousand at opening. If you'd like to watch the opening show below, pause this blog's soundtrack prior to playing the video. 

There is also an opening "show" at Animal Kingdom, and a little countdown at Epcot.  Hollywood Studios also has a little coundown, and then honestly it is slight chaos as everyone chooses Toy Story Mania or Star Tours as their starting point.  Rope Drop is the ideal time to pick your top two rides and get a Fastpass for one and ride the other!

How to Use Disney's FastPass System

FastPass is a great way to help make your wait times for popular rides shorter.  While this type of system also exists at Universal Studios, theirs has a fee, where at Disney the service is FREE!  (Shhh...a  lot of folks don't know this....more FastPasses for us!)  

Once a ticket has passed through the turnstiles, it can be used to get a FastPass for select rides.  What I suggest is having one family member be the "FastPass runner", and be responsible for all park tickets in the group. (Please don't actually run!)  That person can then go by themselves to the FastPass ride kiosk to get the passes for the entire group.  Then the runner can rejoin the group at a pre-determined attraction.  

While at the FastPass Distribution Kiosk, you put your park ticket or KTTW card if your tickets are on there, into the FastPass machine.  It will drawn in and read the ticket, then spit it back out.  This is to make sure you don't forget your ticket! Pull out your ticket, and then the machine will spit out your FastPass into the slot below!  Your Fastpass will have a return window of which you are to return to ride the ride. That time may  be in an hour, or 8 hours, as they are distributed on a first come first serve basis. It will also have printed in small letters at the bottom, when you can get a subsequent FastPass. Usually that time is in 2 hours, or the time at which you can use the FastPass, whichever comes first.  

Now, the following is a source of debate.  Although Disney will strictly enforce the return time on the pass, until recently they did not enforce the expiration time on the pass.  Some feel this it is wrong to return after the window, others feel it is not a big deal.  Since I have personally heard two Cast Members at a FastPass return line shouting to the crowd that it is okay to return after their FastPass time has officially expired, I felt it was okay.  However it has been reported that changes are coming to Disney involving Next Gen technology.  In preparation for this new system, Disney is now instructing Cast Members not to tell guests they can return after the pass has expired.  It appears as of this date, they are still not stopping people from using them after the expiration time, but they will if it is very crowded.  At this point it is up to you to decide if it is worth the risk or not.  We may try it during our upcoming trip and I will report back.  I'm not sure entirely what this "Next Gen[eration]" techology entails, but I suspect Fastpasses may become available for Resort Guests only, or perhaps Resort Guests can make a reservation or sorts for a certain number of Fastpasses per day.

Here is a quickie video on using the machines. Don't forget to pause this blog's soundtrack at the bottom of the page.

My oldest after a long Disney day
 Take a Break. Take a Break! Take a BREAK!

Disney can be an overwhelming place with lots of people, lights and noise.  Even for an obsessed Disney person like me, it can be sensory overload.  I highly recommend if you are staying more than 2 days in the parks, that you incorporate a mid-day break. This is probably one of the single best pieces of advice I can give.  The only exception to this is a day at Animal Kingdom. Since the park closes early, this is the only day I don't recommend leaving and coming back later.

Ideally you are staying on property, and can take a quick bus ride back to your resort. Nap, swim, do both, whatever, just get out of the parks for a few hours.  If you have small children, or even elementary school kids, a nap is a good idea. While none of my boys nap at home, all are required to nap at Disney.  Honestly, they are so tired from getting up early and going all day, staying up late for fireworks, they all seem to nap just fine!  You can either grab lunch in the park, and then head back to your resort, or grab a quick lunch at your resort before your swim/nap time.  Then return to the park in the late afternoon/early evening.  We are usually out of the park by noon, and returning around 4 or 4:30pm.

If you are adults who don't or can't leave the parks easy, or a family with kids who just needs a break, you can try to find some down time nearby. Ideally you'd like to find some air conditioning, and a place to sit, escape the crowded parks, and just get a break from the overstimulating place that Disney can be.   

At the Magic Kingdom: 
My oldest son with my Mom and Dad on the WDW Railroad
The Magic Kingdom has the best places to get a quick rest. Get on the Walt Disney World Railroad.  Just stay on and ride around as many times as you need. Its cool and much quieter than the rest of the park.

 Ride the Tomorrowland Peoplemover. It is a slow and cool ride, and often it is not very busy and the Cast Members will allow you to stay on board.

You can leave the park entirely and ride the Monorail. It is also cool and quiet. You can ride to Epcot and back or the Resort Monorail Loop as much as you would like. If you would like to get off, you can explore some of the hotels on the loop, either the Contemporary, Grand Floridian, or  Polynesian.

At Epcot:
You can also jump on the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom, and ride back and forth as much as you would like. 
At Epcot, the Monorail actually goes through the park!
You could exit Epcot via the International Gateway (between Great Britain and France) and walk to either the Boardwalk, Beach Club, or Yacht Club resorts and wander, or just find a bench to sit down and rest.

The American Adventure is a 25 minute animatronic stage show that is cool and dark, several of my family members have fallen asleep during this show. It really is a very moving show, and I highly recommend experiencing it, even if some members of your family are not up for the history lesson.

At Hollywood Studios:
This park is a little more difficult to find peace and quiet.  If you can't return to your resort, you can take the long walking path to the Yacht and Beach Clubs, or board a Friendship Boat to the Beach Club or Boardwalk.

At Animal Kingdom:
Usually I think it is better to just push through the day and leave around 3 or 4 o'clock for a restful late afternoon and evening.  If you really need a break, first consider the Finding Nemo Musical. It is inside and air conditioned, and it lasts around 45 minutes.

If this is not an option, you could always bus over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and explore the resort and animal viewing areas, or sit down in the large lobby and take a rest.

Coming soon, the fourth and final installment of this page "Do You Have Your Exit Buddy?".

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