Here's an insider's secret to missing the crowds at Disney World.
When you picture your Disney World vacation, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Space Mountain, and setting sail on the Pirates of the Caribbean probably come to mind. Throw in a fireworks display, a photo with Minnie and the gang, and a stroll along Main Street, U.S.A., and you've got the perfect day in the Happiest Place on Earth.
What you probably don't fantasize about when you plan your Disney getaway are the lengthy lines that can separate you from a Mad Tea Party twirl. That's where Touring Plans comes in, which, as Popular Science points out, will set you back less than a giant turkey leg and a Dole Whip. Touring Plans is a subscription-based service that includes a Disney World "Crowd Calendar," a sophisticated Lines app for iOs (also available in Google Play), and customized itineraries for your days at the park. For only $14.99 a year, they also throw in money-saving tips, ride and restaurant reviews, and up-to-date general park info.
But even if you don't buy the app, Len Testa, the mastermind behind Touring Plans, has one piece of advice to offer all Disney travelers. "Get to the park entrance before it opens, so you'll enjoy a couple of rides with no lines. Our studies show that if you arrive after the park opens, you'll wait an extra two minutes in line for every one minute you're late," Testa, who's also the co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2018, shares with Southern Living. "[This means] if you get to the park 30 minutes after it opens, you'll wait in line 60 minutes more than someone who was there at opening!"
Testa was first inspired to start Touring Plans after his own trip to Orlando. "The summer before I started my Masters in computer science, I went to Disney World with my twin sister. We waited two hours in line for The Great Movie Ride," Testa recounts. "That's when I had the idea for a computer program that would plan your route through the park to avoid long lines. It turns out that avoiding lines at Disney World is an example of one of the famous problems in computer science — this thing called the Traveling Salesman Problem." TSP, as it is known, is a planning quandary that looks at finding the shortest route between cities. In this case, Testa was swapping the classic comp sci conundrum to create visitors' personal Disney maps .
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Customers' ratings and reviews speak volumes of the app's power. "Invaluable! I used Touring Plans to plan my first trip to Disney World and loved it! I could not have known how to plan for fastpasses in advance or how to manage my time during without Touring Plans!" a recent Google Play review praised the service. "While at the park we were able to adjust our plans as needed and use the App to continue maximizing our fun! We never waited in line longer than 15 minutes for a ride the whole week! The combination of Touring Plans, the Disney experience App, and a great travel agent equaled the best trip E.V.E.R.," the post continued. Indeed, Testa noted to us that the "we never waited in line longer than 15 minutes" sentiment is pretty common.
Bottom line: If $15 a year means the difference between standing in queue purgatory and soaring with Dumbo high above the tangle of line-waiters, we'll take the latter.