How to Create Your Own Itinerary and Why You Should

When it comes to planning a vacation an hourly itinerary is probably the farthest thing from your mind. You’re caught up in imagining yourself on all the rides, planning out your pool day outfit, and thinking of all the amazing snacks and drinks! But, how are you going to get on all those rides? And which snacks can you not live without? On my first trip to Disney World, I was out voted on the idea of creating an hourly itinerary – my family thought I was insane. “Oh, are you going to schedule bathroom breaks too?!” So, I threw my hands in the air and conceded to do it their way. Well our first day was at EPCOT; we were there for 5 hours and went on 1 ride. Not because there were lines – because no one could agree on what to do.

We walked into the park and I was the only one who knew the names of any of the rides! We’d all been to Disneyland more times than we can count, but Florida is different. Here in California we don’t have half of the rides at Disney World. But, this is the way they wanted to do it so I let the rest of my family lead the way.

Ugh it was a mess. We took a photo with Stitch, rode Spaceship Earth, bickered a bunch, and then decided it was time for lunch and a nap.

On our way out, I grabbed a park map. And once we got back to the hotel I rationally and maturely conveyed my argument back to my family. “I TOLD YOU SO!” See? Rational. While the youngster took a nap we all crowded around the little table in our room and started circling what we wanted to ride and drawing our routes along the park. When we re-entered the park that afternoon we had direction, we knew where we were going, and how to get there. The difference was night and day and we were able to knock out a huge chunk of the park. We used this strategy to cover the rest of the parks for the duration of our vacation. When it came time to plan the next one, I didn’t get any lip about my OCD tendency. I was even able to start converting my niece to the dark side, as she was in charge of holding us accountable to the schedule and crossing off everything as we rode it. I’M SO PROUD!!!!

So, how do you even start to create an itinerary?

I think this is a big problem that people come across, even once you start to understand why you need a game plan most people are in the dark about how to set it up. There are so many rides, how do you know what will be the best choice for your group? How do you keep a 6 year old and a 16 year old both entertained and happy at the same time? How do you know when is the best time to do which rides, once you’ve figured all that out?

Well the good news is that these are EXACTLY the right questions to be asking yourself, better yet – to be asking your family. Planning all of this should be a family endeavor, so get everyone involved and get started!

Research Rides and Attractions

The first thing you want to do is familiarize yourself with all there is to offer at Disney World. You can check out my article Ultimate List of All Disney World Rides by Age (with FREE Printable), or visit Disney Online.  Once you have an idea of what you’re dealing with you can start to determine what the people in your party might be most interested in.

I start my itinerary planning by talking with my family. Asking them what they liked best about the last trip, what they saw that they would’ve liked to do, what they’ve heard about and are interested in checking out. I also check in on which characters the little ones are obsessed with lately (please, God, let it me anything other than Frozen) – it’s usually Frozen. 😐 I’ve found it really helpful to show my party members videos, but I do it ninja style. Rather than having everyone come over for my 45 minute slide show (yes, I did this. No, they didn’t like it. I’m so underappreciated, really)I tag them in stuff on Facebook, or I send them links via text. “Whoa! Check out this ride! What do you think? Looks almost too crazy for me!” See what they say. If you don’t get any feedback from your party, well then jokes on them and we’re doing whatever YOU want.

Keep track of everything you want to do while you’re there. I made a spreadsheet, cause in case you didn’t notice I’m a little crazy. Crazy for organization. Aha hahaha!! Anyway…make a list and write things down as you think of them or as you hear about them. Start this process well in advance of when you are planning your trip. You’re party will lag on getting you actual opinions, and my ninja style only works if you space it out so they don’t realize what you’re doing. As the dates get closer you’ll want to prioritize your list. You’re not going to have time to do everything, but you can get in most of the must-dos.

Learn About Optimal Ride Timing

Well, if you’re really looking for a good time you can check wait times on rides throughout the day, every day, in the weeks leading up to your trip. If you want to get crazy, you can then create a graph that will track the average wait times and help you to create a model that projects wait times for your dates. Or – if you’re not quite on that level (I told you, crazy), you can check out Touring Plans’ Wait Times pages for that info, or even subscribe to receive their projected wait times.
Hollywood Studios
Animal Kingdom
Magic Kingdom

Take Advantage of FastPasses

If you are staying on property (which I can’t speak highly enough about) you’ll be able to book your FastPass+ Reservations 90 days in advance of your trip. Fastpasses can be a lifesaver as they let you cut the line for most major attractions. Unfortunately, the number of fastpasses you’re able to reserve is limited. You can read more about the FastPass+ system HERE. While every Disney post you read is likely to give you just as many opinions on this, my suggestion is to use your fastpasses for late morning/early afternoon rides. This is my preference because the parks are fairly empty until 10:30-11:00am, and ride lines start to clear up during the nighttime shows. If you are parkhopping, you may want to consider using fastpasses only at the second park. You can click HERE to read about all the don’ts of fastpass reservations.

Write It All Down On Paper

Whew. It took a lot to get here but we can finally start putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and get down to business. You are welcome to download any of my itinerary templates from my Etsy store for 50% off. This is an exclusive discount for my readers. Just enter code DISNEYPLANNING2017 at checkout. If you’d like to create your own I recommend giving my templates a look for some inspiration. You’ll definitely want to include an hourly breakdown, an area for show times, a list of “must do’s” or “don’t forget’s”, and a place to record any restaurants you’re looking to try.

Once you have you’re template fill in the name of the park you’re visiting and the hours of operations. Next fill in your FastPass reservations, it’s a good idea to write these in a distinctive manner that stands out from everything else. That way you can tell at a glance that there is limited flexibility for these entries. Now we get to the tricky part, you want to hit as many E-ticket type attractions as you can within the first 3 hours of rope drop. This is things like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Test Track, Na’vi River Journey (you’ll want to use the FP for Flight of Passage), Kilimanjaro Safari, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller-coaster, etc. You can estimate about 30-45 minutes per attraction until about 11:00am. From 11:00am until park close you can expect the average wait times, 60 – 90 minutes or more for major attractions and 15-30 minutes for minor attractions. Don’t be fooled, just because it’s in Fanstasyland does not mean that it’s a minor attraction. Peter Pan’s Flight routinely has lines over an hour.

It is my recommendation that from 11am – 5pm you focus on the less popular rides, or even leave the park all together in favor of a break. Go to the pool, take a nap, grab some lunch, and re-charge. Depending upon your fastpasses of course. Be sure to head back to the parks in time to see any shows outlined on your itinerary and to enjoy the extra magic hours, if available. Ride times during extra magic hours are comparable to rope drop – OR BETTER. So make the most of it.

That’s all I got folks. So what do you think? Have I converted you to be an itinerary junkie? What’s at the top of your must-do list?

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments! I love to hear from you guys and I’m more than happy to talk you trough anything that doesn’t quite add up.

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