As a Disney World veteran, there are two things I don’t bother with much anymore: park maps, and extensive planning. I know where everything is, I know when I want to see it, and I know how long I am willing to wait for things (about twenty minutes, generally). I think at this point my feet carry me from place to place without my brain directing them.
But for our first (of many, we hope!) Disneyland Resort trips, I knew that I needed to do some extra planning. Standing around with my face in a park map, trying to figure out where to go next, was simply not an option. I don’t even carry a bag in the park, let alone a map. But I needed a plan to get my family around Disneyland and Disney California Adventure without wandering aimlessly and getting caught in long queues. And, just in case of attraction breakdowns or unexpectedly long wait times, I needed the ability to make an on-the-spot back-up plan. How could I manage that in a park I’d never been before?
After a lot of reading, and studying the Disneyland touring plans in the back of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2014, I knew the kind of park days that I wanted–two days at Disneyland, early starts each morning, out of the park after lunch, back for evening fun after a resort break. I wanted the same at Disney California Adventure, but thanks to fewer must-do attractions on our list, I wasn’t quite so keen on power-planning those days. For Disneyland, there was a very long list that had to be fit in, and during high season at that.
I decided to take a Two Day Touring Plan and modify it using the personalized touring plan option on TouringPlans.com, allowing for personal choices: for example, I wanted all the Fantasyland dark rides first and Peter Pan’s Flight first of all, no arguments, and I wanted a little bit less criss-crossing of the park than the printed plan, so that we could immerse ourselves in the feel of each land a little better.
The plans automatically showed up in the mobile app, Lines, so I had them with me at all times. We could tumble out of an attraction, look around at the blur of people and buildings around us and say “what’s next?” and I would just pull out my phone and see. I also took an iPhone picture of the printed plan in the back of The Unofficial Guide for quick reference in case my plan fell through, or if I needed a quick map to orient myself.
It might sound like micro-management, but in fact, the plan kept us from leaving seemingly obvious things out, kept us from rushing, and kept me from stressing out that I might miss something. The touring plan was a constant reminder of what attractions were nearby, and which we hadn’t experienced yet.
Just imagine: you are standing in the center of Fantasyland at six o’clock one summer evening, the calliope tinkling and the crowds swirling around you, and trying to remember your carefully-thought-out plans you made at your kitchen table one quiet evening two weeks before — if you can do it, you have a better memory than me. I nearly forgot to do Casey Jr. Circus Train about ten times, and it was right in front of us every time we walked through Fantasyland. Luckily, it showed up on my second-day plans, and not only did we get to ride one of the best little trains anywhere, we got to ride in the monkey cages!
The back-up plan came in the form of the Lines App’s crowd-sourced and estimated wait times. Lines App users can send in updates on wait times, including posted vs. actual waits, plus there are forecasts for wait times based on historical data. I used the Lines App at Walt Disney World last fall with great success, navigating Columbus Day and Food & Wine Festival crowds without a single FastPass+ reservation. Our longest wait that trip was 30 minutes for Test Track — I watched the wait times throughout the afternoon and when it finally dropped below 45 minutes, we sprinted over and jumped in the queue. It was back to an hour by the time we were finished, and strolling over to World Showcase for more munchies.
I didn’t find the Lines App to be as consistently updated at Disneyland as it was at WDW, but that could easily have been the time of year, since high summer isn’t the best time for passholders to visit. But it was still a huge help when something went awry with our touring plan, such as an attraction malfunction at Alice in Wonderland. Before we had even ducked out of the queue, we had a new destination lined up. The historical data gave us an idea of what to watch out for throughout the day — if a line looked long now, would it be ten times worse later? — and helped us make a few on-the-spot decisions.
The Lines app was also the source on our evenings, when we were navigating much more busy parks, and on our second days in each park, when we were mainly trying to catch favorite attractions one more time. It saved a lot of unnecessary walking to far-flung corners of the parks — “Splash Mountain has how long a wait? Let’s stay in Tomorrowland, thanks.”
Between the optimized touring plan that I created with Touring Plans, and the Lines App’s reported wait times and forecasts, we had a nearly flawless Disneyland vacation. We never waited in line for anything longer than thirty minutes (Toy Story Midway Mania, once, and Pirates of the Caribbean, once) and checked off nearly everything on my extremely long must-do list. If we didn’t do something on the list, it was because it was closed during our days in the parks (the Sailing Ship Columbia, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes). And we also managed to spend an extraordinary amount of time relaxing by the pool or gazing at the sights over a martini. All in all, the perfect vacation.
If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World and you’re just not certain about how to fit in everything on your list, the touring plan combined with the Lines App is a great tool. Having all of your information stored in one place, for easy reminders of where to go next, can save even a theme park veteran from missing out on something in the midst of a busy day. And even if I’m just wandering the park on a quiet day, I don’t do it without my Lines App. I really, really, don’t do long lines!