Want to Save Time in Line? Use a Touring Plan!

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My last trip was during the busy Presidents Day week which I’ve always avoided in previous years since the crowds are heavy and the Disney resorts charge a premium.  Usually, my friends and I wouldn’t let the crowds phase us since we generally take a pretty relaxed approach to the Disney parks.  There have been many days when we’ll just hang out in World Showcase and not do a single ride.  But this time around we had a long to do list, especially at the Magic Kingdom.  Since we wanted to try to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time during a busy vacation week we decided the only way to accomplish this feat was to use a touring plan.

What is a touring plan you ask?  Many of you who are reading this are well aware that our site is named for these helpful tools our staff has developed and tested over many years.  But, for folks who are less familiar with touringplans.com let me explain.  Since guests’ opinion of a park is very often based on how much they wait in lines for attractions, we at touringplans.com and the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World have set out to help families minimize their time spent in line.  Touring plans were created to outline the most efficient way for folks to experience their favorite rides and attractions throughout Walt Disney World’s four theme parks.  It has been proven that our plans can save guests up to four hours of waiting in queues!

There are a variety of plans available for different age groups, family dynamics, and interests which you can find here.  Keep in mind, you can also access our plans via our mobile app: Lines so you don’t have to worry about carrying around a printed copy.  Since our group was a bit unique in that we were a group of about 15 adults who are all Disney geeks there didn’t seem to be a plan that fit us perfectly.  I wound up combining the plan for families with small children and the one day adult plan.  The plan for kids focuses on rides and attractions most suitable for little ones and starts out in Fantasyland where princesses and fairy tales abound.  However, this plan does not include many of the thrill rides such as Space Mountain which were definitely on our list.  Therefore, I took the advice from both plans to make our own perfect morning in the Magic Kingdom.


Printed touring plans also provide a map of the park!

So now that everyone has brought up to speed on the basics of touring plans, let me tell you about our very successful day in Magic Kingdom as an example of how useful they can be.  I thought sharing the events of my day in the park during a busy period would be especially appropriate at this time of year since spring break is in full swing.  Hopefully, this will help those of you who will be heading to WDW for your spring break.  So without further ado, here’s a brief run through of which attractions we hit with lots of fun pictures to help you visualize our adventures.

The first thing to know about touring plans is it is recommended to arrive at the park at least 30 minutes before opening.  On this day the park opened at 8 a.m. so we planned to be there at about 7:30.  We got a bit of a late start and arrived congregated in front of the Main Street Train Station just as the opening show was running. Here’s a photo of the show as well as my friends with coffee in hand ready to get things started just before 8 a.m.

Photo by Steve Bassett
Photo by Steve Bassett











Despite this minor set back, we got inside and booked it to our first stop on the tour: Dumbo the Flying Elephant.  Dumbo is the first attraction on the list on kids’ plans, but it is not included on those for adults.  Since we are all big kids at heart we rode first thing before the line got long. We had so many people we almost had the entire attraction to ourselves!  Here’s a few pictures of us before and during our ride!








Space Mountain was next on our agenda since it is the first attraction on the adult plan.  We were able to basically walk on even though we took a detour to Dumbo.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was next on the adult plan, but we decided to skip it in favor of going back to Fantasyland.  We hit the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh next where we took a few minutes to play in the new inter active queue although there was hardly anyone ahead of us in line.  Here we are being silly with the waiting area and aboard the ride vehicles:

Photo by Doug Uhlig








Peter Pan’s Flight almost always has a massive line, but since we did it early in the morning we only had to wait a few minutes!  I got to ride it with someone who had never been on before and point out some of the fun visuals inside.  Here we are preparing to ride this fan favorite attraction:

Snow White’s Scary Adventures was next on our list.  We made sure to do this one since it won’t be open too much longer and many of us hadn’t been on it in a while.  We walked right on and were quickly onto our next ride.

Next up was Prince Charming Regal Carrousel.  While this ride was not on either of our used plans it was close by and had no wait at all.  We had so much climbing aboard our horses and acting like kids.  Our deviation from the plan was well worth the photo ops on this ride!  Here we are on horseback!

Photo by Steve Bassett









it’s a small world was next up.  Again, there was no wait at all and our group all piled into one boat.  Here’s a picture of all of us!

We hit Haunted Mansion with a minimal wait next.  We tried our best not to disturb the other guests with our reciting every line in the stretching room before making out next move.

A few people who were not keen on thrill rides and were hungry since we started so early decided to grab a snack while the

Photo by Doug Uhlig

rest of us headed to Frontierland to grab fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and to ride Splash Mountain.

After finding our laughing place (after waiting about two minutes) on Splash Mountain, we all agreed it was time for lunch.  At this point it was just before 11 a.m. and we had knocked many of our desired attractions!  We leisurely strolled over to Pecos Bill’s hoping it would be open by the time we arrived.   Lunch was quick and easy since we were there before the lunch rush (just another bonus of starting early and following a touringplan!)

We opted to head to the Pirates of the Caribbean after finishing our lunch.  There was just a short queue and we had a swashbuckling good time on this classic.

While we waited to ride Pirates we decided we were pretty satisfied with what we had accomplished so far and would tone down our pace a bit.  We devised a plan to head back to Frontierland where those of us who had fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road would use them and then all of us would board the Walt Disney World Railroad at the Frontierland station where we road it to the Main Street Station.

Photo by Neil Citro









We all wanted to hit a few shops on Main Street, USA and since we felt satisfied with our day so far we actually took some time to browse (something I rarely do).  A friend and promised me a pair of birthday mouse ears so buying them was on the top of our list for this area.  We also got the chance to take in the Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It Street Party.  Yes, I know the choreography. No, I’m not ashamed.

Photo by Megan Annunziata
Photo by Steve Bassett










Shortly after the party we headed to Tomorrowland to hit the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, the Carousel of Progress, and Buzz Lightyear.  We also had time for a snack at the Lunching Pad.  After a little down time and some cream cheese pretzels, it was time to head over to the Hall of Presidents for the touringplans.com meet!

We ended our day in the park with the Hall of Presidents since some of us had dinner reservations at the California Grill that night.  But, as you can see we were able to tackle a ton of attractions, have lunch, and even do a bit of shopping all before 3:30 pm all while crowds were at very high levels.  While I may have modified existing plans a little bit to fit our needs, my group was guided by the provided sequence with great success.  This just goes to show touring plans are not the gospel, but are meant to be flexible.  If you don’t want to ride something go ahead and skip it on the plan.  Your kids just love Peter Pan?  Go ahead and ride it again.  We do our best to save you time in line, but we also want you to have a blast!  Just be aware that we recommend only making substitutions for similar attractions close by when you decide to monkey around with a plan.  For example, do not take in a show rather than riding it’s a small world because they are completely different time commitments.  Speaking of commitments, you also don’t have to dedicate an entire day to a touring plan; our group started to wing it and do some less popular attractions after we got the big ones out of the way and we left by 4:30.

I hope this post encourages some of you who might be reluctant to try a touring plan to give it a shot!  I usually take a more laid back approach to touring, myself, but sometimes I think its fun to set out with a goal of riding as many attractions as I can.  How about the rest of you?  Tell me about some of the successful and fun days you’ve had in the parks using touring plans!

Next week I’ll discuss my recent dinner at the Rose and Crown in Epcot’s World Showcase!


Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is khelmstetter05@yahoo.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

16 thoughts on “Want to Save Time in Line? Use a Touring Plan!

  • April 13, 2011 at 9:04 am


    Great post and I couldn’t agree more. With two young children (1 and 3), my wife and I had 2 post-cruise days during the middle of spring break. Starting at rope drop made a big difference. Our touring plan helped identify the (soon to be) busy attractions and hit them first. Like you, we didn’t follow the plan exactly, but without it, we would have been lost and spent much more time standing in line rather than enjoying more attractions.

    But do you have to keep telling everybody? Shhh…. Let’s keep this between you and I.


    • April 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      Thanks, Kevin! Sorry to say, but we here at touringplans.com believe in spreading the word about our fine products! Can you blame us? I’m glad you’ve been able to make good use of touring plans and rope drop with your family. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • April 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I am going to share this post with my family and friends – if they didn’t believe me before that Touring Plans are amazing, maybe this will convince them!

    • April 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      I hope it helps, Claen! You can always mix things up and do a touring plan one day and relax more a bit the next day in order to keep everyone happy. And remind them that its fun NOT to stand in line all day! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • April 13, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Loved your post — great advice! My only problem with vacationing with 6 year olds, they want to ride the same rides 2, 3 times in a row and the worst line rides – Splash Mountain, Great Thunder Mountain and Test Track. Does touring plans have a recommendation of how to deal with this situation?

    • April 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm

      Thanks, Jen! I’ll ask the experts to chime in on your question. I’d say making use of fast pass would be your best bet though. I’ll check into it for you.

  • April 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Great post Kristen! Getting there before park opening and following a touring plan on those heavy crowd days should be everyone’s mantra! Makes such a big difference and you can knock out most attractions in the first few hours when the hordes of people are still arriving.

    • April 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      Thanks, Doug! I couldn’t believe how much we got done in next to no time. Even though I usually take a more relaxed approach, it was fun to actually tour like most people do with rides being the name of the game. Thanks for the comment!

  • April 13, 2011 at 11:08 am

    When I first used a touring plan a few years ago I was amazed at the difference they made. We use them every trip now at least to start off the day with.

    • April 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Isn’t it amazing? Even the most skeptical people have great resorts and are converted after one use! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • April 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Our family loves the Touring plans! Using the plans is a must when we are at WDW. Once we have all the major attractions we want to hit out of the way we will wing it a bit and hit some ride again. Use of fast pass helps for the Mountains and with 2 boys 5 and 7 we ride the moutains a lot.

    • April 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      I’m so glad you’ve had good experiences with our plans! They are great tools for families like yours to get the most out of their vacations. Thanks so much for the comment!

  • April 13, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I would never visit a Disney park without a touring plan! I usually modify the plans to meet our individual needs, but even then they save us lots of time and make touring so much more enjoyable.

    • April 13, 2011 at 6:02 pm

      It’s always good to hear when our plans work for guests! If you are familiar with the parks it’s easy to make them perfect for your group. I hope you have continued success with touring plans!

  • April 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Hi Kristen,
    Thanks for the great article. We had a tale of two President’s Day Touring Plans experience. Both trips were to celebrate our anniversary. In 2006, we followed a Touring Plan and, like you, couldn’t believe how much we accomplished by 11:00 am. It felt like we were three steps ahead of the crowd all day, so much so that we risked a side trip to AK for part of the afternoon and still got everything done we wanted to see.
    In 2009, we arrived early, but I knew it would be a different day than 2006 at the opening show. Completely packed. So much so that they stopped letting people through the ticket counters until after rope drop. Apparently, there were 10,000-15,000 more people in the parks that day than Disney (or Touring Plans) had anticipated. We followed a touring plan, but we felt like we were with the crowds all day. Still got through most of what we wanted to do, which was probably better than those without a plan. I guess we were spoiled by that day in 2006 and it goes to show that, sadly, there are days that even an outstanding touring plan can’t predict or make better. 🙁

    Thanks again for such a practical demonstration and post of a touring plan!

  • April 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I loved your blog!! I was so glad to see other adults who love riding the kids’ rodes, like Dumbo. Unlike you, though, I always end up riding them alone, so I have the embarassment factor. I also love the parades like Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It too. You said you know all the moves; did you dance with them? I’ve done the parade both ways: much more fun to dance along, but the humiliation factor when you are no longer 5-10 yrs old is huge!!!

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