How to Plan Your Park Days
I’m sure everyone has their own system, but I’m going to show you mine, step by step.
Let’s get started:
I open up my Word document that we worked on before. Remember that? Well, I’m actually planning a different trip now, so don’t let that confuse you. I’m planning my son’s birthday trip. He is turning 3 on March 27 and I wanted to squeeze in one more trip before I have to buy that Annual Pass for him!
So, I’ll have my word doc with all the pertinent info (we are driving this time so I don’t have the chart with the times to help me with the airport. Driving is so much calmer.)
Next, I go over to Touringplans.com A word on Touring Plans: it’s worth the money. Seriously, you’re dropping thousands on this vacation and then you’re like, “No, I’m keeping my $14.95. I want to stand in line all day.” Don’t be stubborn. They are going to save you so much time. SO SO much time. Go sign up. I’ll wait.
I am an information junkie. I need to have info so I can make the best decision possible. Touring Plans has the info I need. Sign up! And if you scroll all the way to the bottom of their home page, you’ll see a note that says, “Wow, we didn’t think anyone would look down here. Here’s a 20% off code.” So do that if $14.95 is too much. It’s brings it down to $12.
Ok, assuming you signed up, you should have access to their crowd calendar for all the days now. I think if you aren’t signed up you can see some of it, but not all.
Here’s how to get to the crowd calendar:
My next step is to go to my dates and copy and paste them into my Word doc.
Now the reason my days look a little wonky in there is because I copy and paste the days separately so that I can make my notes in between them. I don’t care if they aren’t super neat. If you care, you can take a little more time with it and probable straighten them up.
Also, I know just by experience what all the numbers mean and in what order etc. But you may want to copy the explanation and add that to your sheet as well.
It’s all the way at the top of the crowd calendar:
The numbers underneath the big numbers are the hours. So on March 12, Magic Kingdom is a 6 out of 10 for the crowd level and they are open from 9am to 11pm. Easy enough. If you see multiple open or close times, those are Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours are a perk for onsite guests. The park is open only to onsite guest during that time. You see that under Hollywood Studios: it’s a 7 out of 10 for crowd levels and they have Extra Magic Hours from 8a-9a. The Park opens to all visitors at 9am and then closes at 9pm.
A note about morning EMH:
I’m not a huge fan. The crowds are low during that hour, but then they grow. The EMH sends a lot of resort guests to that park. If you have hoppers or can leave around 10am, you can get a lot done from 8am-10am, but then it gets busy. So don’t go to that park if you can avoid it, unless you’re going early and getting out early.
Let’s do this!
Now, it’s time to make your brain do some work. Look over the crowd days and sort out where you want to be. If you’ve already scheduled ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) on certain days, that can help you make decision. Ideally, you would do this before you schedule your ADRs, but I’m never that on top of things for my own trips.
First, I make notes to help me make my decisions:
Now, on this particular trip, I have mostly 6s and 7s, only one 5. So you’d think that it doesn’t make any difference which park we go to. But it really does. A 6 is a lot better than a 7 and a 5 is way better. So I’m going to try to set up my days to hit the 6s unless there are other items to consider.
Once I decide on my parks, I put those in bold:
Here’s why I decided like I did:
My kids will be super excited when we first arrive and it’ll be a good time to see either Wishes or Fantasmic. I’ll keep an eye on the crowds at HS (with the Touring Plans “Lines” App) and that and the kids will decide if we go to MK of HS. I’ll book FPs at MK
My kids will be worn out from traveling. Plus, they never really get up early. So they’ll want to sleep in. As long as RoL is showing, we’re going to break my rule and head to AK (even though it has morning EMH. Eek!)
Evening EMH are our friends. My kids are used to staying up late and sleeping in. Don’t judge me. We’re self-employed and we homeschool so we just do whatever. We don’t have a FP for FEA so this might be a good chance to ride it. Seth and I actually walked on FEA once. We got in line at 8:58p when the park closed at 9 and it was a ghost town. Hoping for that again.
We will want to hit the MK EMH, but we didn’t spend any time at HS. So I’ll add HS for the morning and then we’ll go to MK in the evening. I’ll book my FP at HS early and hope for some good ones left at MK.
We need to start our drive back to Kentucky. Depending on how we feel, I’d like to get at least halfway home. That’s 6.5 hours. I’m fine with spending time at a park and then leaving around 5-6 and getting to a hotel around midnight (or even later if the kids are sleeping in the car.) I’ll probably book my FPs for MK and then change it up if we want to.
A word on down time:
We take our downtime each day. We don’t take entire days off. You’ll see more about this in the next post where I schedule my FPs. We usually take the mornings slow and easy, breakfast in the room (thank you Instacart! See here for more info.) Then we head out for a fun afternoon and evening. Sometimes, we head back early if we’re tired. Asher sleeps in the stroller and Cy sleeps in the Tula so we don’t head back for naps.
If you are doing an entire down day, I suggest you look at the busiest day that’s about in the middle of your trip. You want to be out of the parks on the day that everyone else is in the parks. And you want to be rejuvenated for the rest of your trip.
Ha ha, you thought this post was over didn’t you?
So did I, but then I wanted to make sure that River of Lights was playing on the 20th and it wasn’t. So I needed to re-evaluate.
Side note, if you click the date on the Crowd Calendar:
It’ll take you to a very nice summary of the day:
Here’s how I settled:
I switched Rivers of Life to our arrival day. I love that idea, actually. My oldest will be extremely excited when I tell him we’re going to do a new show. I’ll save that information for when he’s dragging on the drive.
Then we’ll do MK in the morning on the second day and AK in the evening if the crowds are low. I am a huge fan of AK in the evening. Walking on Expedition Everest with no line? I’m there!
Ok, now I think we’re really done!
Next post will be about how to schedule your FastPasses.
As always, any questions, comments, concerns, put them below or email me at LJ@SmartMomsPlanDisney.com
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