Warning: VERY long post!
The other day, I posted my first final draft of the first day of the WDW vacation I’m planning (I’ve been messing around with TPs for a few months). I posted a little bit of my methods, but I thought perhaps a more detailed breakdown of the steps would be helpful to those who are thinking of using touringplans.com in the future, or even right now.
Here, I am going to take you through the creation of my first final draft of my FIRST day at Animal Kingdom. It is important to note that I love animals, conservation, science and well-themed spaces, so I can spend longer at AK than the average person. I disagree that AK is a “half-day” park if you plan on completing most of the attractions, but I can understand how it is a single full-day for some, particularly those who enjoy only thrill rides, or are skipping a bunch of attractions.
But…I need two days.
The first thing you should do is flip through a touring book, Disney’s own website, or a site like jamboeveryone.com to get an idea of what you want to see in Animal Kingdom and how much time you’ll need.
Las time I checked, a subscription to the touringplans.com website was ~$13 for an entire year. Well worth the price for the touring plans software, the Lines app, and the chat function on Lines. I would easily list it among the best planning investments I’ve made (compared to guide books). The first screen, when you make a touring plan from scratch, looks like this. Here, you type in your plan name (Animal Kingdom Day 1), choose a date to optimize the plan for (January 22), choose a park (AK), choose the start and end times (default, 9 to 5pm which are the park hours), and add in any additional instructions. You can edit these instructions later. For now, I just wrote that the plan after the park closes is to go back to the resort and walk over to Art of Animation for dinner.
Next we have this screen that asks which attractions we want to see. Since I am going for two days and appreciate the themes for the lands, I am going to divide up my attractions by land.
For this, we need a map. My favorite way to look at a park map is to go to Disney’s website…https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/maps/. You can zoom in to get all the detail you need and the attractions, restaurants and shows are labeled. It’s way easier than looking at a regular park map.
Normally, I have a “save the best for last” mentality, which would result in Africa being on the second day my trip as that is my favorite area of the park. However, my first day at the Animal Kingdom has a predicted crowd level of 1 out of 10. It should be EMPTY. Therefore, I want to take advantage of that and experience my favorite environment without crowds, and check out the new Harambe market when it isn’t too busy. As a result, I will start my day in the Oasis and end in Africa, saving Dinoland and Asia for the second day.
Oasis is equivalent to Main Street in MK, just without the shops. The Oasis doesn’t have any rides or major attractions. It does have the performer DiVine, along with exhibits of giant anteaters, boar, wallaby, and various birds.
Next, we’d proceed to Discovery Island. Here, we have It’s Tough to be a Bug, a cute 4D movie experience located in the Tree of Life, along with the Discovery Island Trails where you can see storks, cranes, porcupines, otters, kangaroos, tortoise, lemur and vultures. I may add “Discovery Island Trails” to my list twice to allow for more time (or a second trip), but for now I just added it once. I skipped the character meet and greet. The only thing listed on the show & diversion tab is the Wilderness Explorers, which is an activity geared more for kids that I do not plan on doing.
In Africa, the major attractions are the Safaris and the Pangani Exploration Trail. I’ve added both to my schedule twice, since I want to ride the safari at two different times of the day, and I’d like spend longer on the Pangani trail, or go twice. The train takes you over to the conversation area. If I end up overbooking this day, I’ll save the conservation station for the second day.
I also selected all the African shows, I may not watch the full musical performances, but I’d like to have the opportunity to see them.
Lastly, I’m throwing in Rafiki’s Planet Watch area, but I may remove it if things look too busy. Since I spend extra long at the conservation station, I’ve scheduled it twice.
I’ll also add in all the extra diversions in Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
Once I’m done with my attraction choices, I hit “Proceed to Meals & Breaks”. I’m not going to schedule my flexible meals or my small breaks in this step, I do that once I have a touring plan in place and know where I’m going to be in the park. However, if you have any ADRs or plan to leave the park for an extended break, you should add those in this step. For this day, we plan on eating at Harambe Market, which is a counter service and does not have ADRs. Therefore, I am going to skip this step and hit “Proceed to Evaluate & Optimize”.
This is the next screen, where I will tweak and finalize. I will return to this screen many times between now and our trip. For example, at the 60 day mark when I make my Fast Pass Plus reservations, if I find out a new helpful tip I want to remember, if I find out about a new snack I want to try, or if park hours change, I will edit the plan appropriately. Just to name a few reasons. At the top, you can edit your notes, select your walking speed (average worked well for us last year, but if you have kids or prefer moving at a slow pace, adjust!), and you can also edit your preference on walking vs. waiting. Would you rather spend less time walking, but are okay with more time standing in lines? Or do lines drive you mad, and you’d prefer to spending your time walking to the next shortest line? “Balance” worked well for us last year.
When I make my Fast Passes, I’ll return here to enter them in. For now, I am just going to tell it how many FP+ we will have (right now, always 3), and allow it to give me some recommendations for attractions and times that will work well for FP+.
The initial list is not optimized, it is just in the order in which I added attractions. The data columns are, therefore, blank. I’ll scroll down to the bottom and hit “optimize”.
The system spends a set amount of time calculating the ideal order in which to visit these attractions taking into account crowd patterns, predicted crowd levels, predicted wait times, my preferences, etc… If you hit “optimize” again, it will continue re-ordering the list. Since you’ll then be starting the clock from an already optimized point, it may be able to determine an even better configuration. I continue to hit “optimize” until I get the same result for the bottom line (total, in line, busy, free, walking) repeatedly. For this TP, I optimized ~8 times. Usually, it’s only 3-4 times.
As you can see, the optimization ends our touring plan at 4:05pm. Now, as you may recall, I did not add in lunch, breaks, snacks, etc… I want to allocate about 2 hours for this, so I’d like my touring plan to end at ~3pm for this step. That way when I add in breaks and lunch, it should extend the plan until about 5pm, when the park closes. In other words, this touring plan with no breaks or meals, will take me all the way to 4pm- only an hour from park close. This tells me I have too many attractions in my list. I decide to eliminate the Rafiki’s Planet watch area (which consists of multiple items). Since I have two days in AK, I’m not concerned about this. If I only had a single day, I’d eliminate some of the other items (such as my duplicate safari) since I love Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
When I eliminated the Rafiki’s planet watch area, my last attraction begins at 2:45pm and lasts until ~3:30pm (if I want to see the whole thing). I’ll see if I can work with this.
After additional optimizations, now that we’ve removed attractions, it had me first going to Africa (safari, then trail), then going to the Oasis/Discovery trails later, and then back to Africa. I decided to add in my preferred lunch of 11:45am in Harambe Market. I simply clicked the “add meal” button down the bottom, and chose my restaurant and time. If you had a reservation, you’d add it there as well. For counter service on an average crowd level day, I’d set aside 60 minutes for lunch, for table service increase to 75 minutes. However, this was a crowd level 1 day, so I chose 45 minutes for our counter service lunch. After adding in the lunch, I hit optimize a couple more times, and I got the above plan…Discovery Island and Oasis in the morning, Africa in the afternoon.
This plan is fairly close to what I want, so I am going to stop optimizing here. Now, I will just tweak it, step-by-step, and use the evaluate button to update the data. Remember, the evaluate button will give me the new wait times, but will not re-order my plan.
If this was an average to high crowd level day, I’d be less inclined to shuffle attractions around. However, as you can see above, the anticipated wait time for the safari (one of the more popular rides) is a short 9 minutes at 12:30pm, which is when the park will be at its busiest! I’ll keep an eye on wait-times, but as long as nothing jumps by 10+ minutes, I’m comfortable moving things around.
First, I moved one safari and one Pangani trail to the morning hours (remember I had two of each). While, it may be more efficient to the touring plan to do them back-to-back, I want to see the animals at different times of the day. Some animals may be more active, or in a spot better for viewing, depending on the time and weather. This adds a bit of extra walking to the TP, but no extra waiting.
Moving those two items to the morning was going to make us late for Divine’s performance. So, I relocated the first Discovery Island Trail until after Divine.
Divine’s performance isn’t one to gather many crowds or require a queue, particularly on a low crowd level day, so I have a bit of time to spare. I wanted to add in a snack break around 10am. I used a map to track our route from the Pangani trail to the Oasis, and considered the food options along the way. I decided stopping at the Fruit Market before we leave Africa would be a good idea. We can eat while we walk back to the front of the park. I made a note that we’d probably enjoy the pineapple spears, a pretzel or one of their elephant ear pastries depending on what we were in the mood for. After our snack stop, we can check out the Oasis exhibits while waiting for Divine (she’s right next to the walkway).
After the Oasis exhibits, we head over to Discovery Island…we walk some trails, check out the It’s Tough to Be a Bug movie and then explore the trails some more before it’s time to head back to Africa for lunch at the (new!) Harambe Market. After lunch, we watch the Tam Tam Drummers show before checking out the Pangani Trail and the safari once more. However, notice after the second round of the trail we have a free period of 28 minutes? It’s actually a bit longer than that since I’m not concerned about being on time to the Burudika Band performance, as it’s just a musical act seen from the walkway (not a theater). So, this is a perfect place to put a 30 minute break for shopping and exploring Africa. I particularly want to check out the new Sweets shop.
After the shopping and the band, we’ll end our day with the Festival of the Lion King.
Here is what our finalized plan looks like:
Pardon the two screen shots…
While the plan will continue to be tweaked as we get closer to the date, I am very happy with how this day turned out! It’s filled with fun, but is also fairly relaxing thanks to some music performances. We end the day with the 4pm performance of the Lion King, which gives us 30 minutes to stroll casually to the park exit, maybe grab a snack or do some last minute shopping.