Thursday, February 14, 2013

Which Park to Visit on Each Day at Disney World

With a little over 100 days until our next Disney vacation, me and Tracy have been planning out our itinerary for the week. we have done this multiple times and are (almost) old pros at this. But for your first several vacations, I really recommend purchasing a membership to a website that helps you plan such as Tour Guide Mike or Touring Plans. These website will give you detailed crowd information for each day of your trip, and that can make a BIG difference in the crowds you will encounter. You can also find plans that will help you tour the parks the most efficiently so you avoid crowds and long lines.

But I thought I'd share with you a few of our tips when deciding which park to choose to visit on each particular day. Knowing the reasoning behind what makes a park busy will help you plan your vacation, as well as enable you to make good decisions if you are changing your vacation "in the moment" while already in the land of the mouse.

First, it's important to know that the "off-season" at Disney World really refers to the off-property hotels. All of the Disney resorts are pretty much booked all year long. Disney does a great job offering discounts and promotions to sell out rooms during the slow months. So when someone says "low crowds" at Disney World, that really means there are less visitors staying in non-Disney resorts. So, that means Disney comes close to selling out their nearly 30,000 hotel rooms every week of the year.

That's important to know because of the next thing I'm going to discuss- Disney's Extra Magic Hours. Each day, Disney opens a park an hour early, or a park stays open two hours later for Disney resort guests only. Sounds like a great perk, huh? In reality it is like a giant flashing arrow pointing to all of those 30,000+ families telling them to go to that park that day. Most families don't even make it there that early or manage to keep going that late, never-the-less, that is still what they use when planning which park to visit. Extra Magic Hours will always make a park busier than others without magic hours. So it also makes sense to visit a park the day after it hosts extra magic hours, especially if it was a late extra magic hours. Most people will move onto a different park the next day, and many stayed up too late at the previous nights extra magic hours, so they are sleeping in anyway.

Next are nighttime entertainment... especially Fantasmic at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Wishes and Main Street Electrical Parade at the Magic Kingdom. Except for the peak weeks, these shows only occur certain nights of the week. With limited showings, many guests decide which park to visit based on which nights they offer these highly popular nighttime entertainment. Even thought these events happen in the evening, since most people just choose one park to visit per day, that ends up bringing hoards of guests to those parks earlier in the day. Because of this, I recommend purchasing the Park Hopper option. That way you can visit a less busy crowd during the day, then go to Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios for the nighttime entertainment. AllEars Ticket Chart

The same logic behind visiting a park after it hosts an Extra Magic Hour applies to nighttime entertainment. As long as there isn't extra magic hours the day after one of these events, it usually makes it a good day to visit that park.

When planning our itinerary for the week, I usually have some sort of file or visual aide where I start penciling in which parks to visit each day. I start by penciling in the parks hosting the extra magic hours, then add the nighttime entertainment. From there I write in which parks to avoid, and narrow my list from there. I also want to point out that you should do this BEFORE making your Advanced Dining Reservations You don't want to have dining reservations at The Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom on a day where you want to avoid that park. Since you really should make your dining reservations 180 days in advance, it's best to start planning your daily park itinerary at least 6 months in advance.

One of my favorite Disney blogs has a great spreadsheet that they share in order to help you plan out your vacation. Chip and Co.'s spreadsheet has a place to write in everything, from which parks to visit, dining confirmation numbers and transportation notes. While you are there, check out their wealth of all things Disney. I bet after you do, you'll be daydreaming of starting your own Disney blog!

So now you know which parks to visit on each day (or better yet, which ones to avoid), but my most important tip of all- MAKE IT TO THE PARK AT OPEN! I can't stress this enough. If you make it to the park early enough to see the opening show, you will be among the lowest crowds of the day. You can do just about everything you want before lunch, then head back to your hotel for a nap or cocktail by the pool. You're rested and ready to go back out for dinner or one of Disney's magical nighttime shows or parades. That is way more relaxing than sleeping in, pushing through crowds and waiting in long lines, only to be frustrated and tired and over Disney by dinner.

Have a magical vacation!

Park Opening (aka Rope Drop) at Magic Kingdom