Three Tips for Making the Most of a Summer Visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World and Disneyland Summer

OK, so you’re thinking of visiting one of the Disney theme parks this summer while the kids are out of school, but are dreading the crowds and the heat. Here are three tips to help you get the most out of a visit this time of year.

Tip #1: Arrive Early!

I seem to say this a lot, but if you’re trying to beat the crowds — and the heat — there is simply no substitute for arriving early at the park, and this normally means being at the front gate about 30 minutes before the park opens for the day.

By arriving early, you not only get a jump on the crowds, but you also are able to visit attractions during the cool part of the day, leaving you less fatigued and more energized to actually enjoy your day at the park.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Queue

Arriving early helps you get a jump on the line build-up for popular attractions, such as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, shown above. Compare with the wait just an hour or so later, shown in the picture below:

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - One Hour Later

Tip #2: Take an Afternoon Break

If you use the RideMax planner for Disneyland or Walt Disney World to plan out your day, you’ll often find that the optimization software leaves you with a large block of “free time” during the afternoon hours. You may be tempted to fill up every minute of the day with more attractions, but you may want to reconsider, and use the afternoon hours for a break back at the hotel instead. This is especially the case if you’re visiting with young children. The afternoon hours typically see the highest crowds of the day, and temperatures are at their peak as well. Taking a break will leave you refreshed, rather than hot and tired, for the evening entertainment Disney offers during the summer months.

Tip #3: Watch the Shows!

All of Disney’s theme parks offer indoor attractions or shows where you can take a load off your feet and enjoy a break from the crowds in air-conditioned goodness. Shows that are good for this (and often not crowded) include:

  • Magic Kingdom: The Hall of Presidents and Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Epcot: Captain EO (or the movie preview in the same theater), and Ellen’s Energy Adventure
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Festival of the Lion King
  • Disneyland: Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
  • Disney California Adventure: Aladdin (shown below)

Aladdin show at Disney California Adventure

So, there you have it. Of course, planning out your Disney day with RideMax should also help reduce the amount of time you spend in line — and in the heat. But whether you use RideMax to plan out your Disney day or not, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor in terms of beating the crowds this summer by arriving early, taking an afternoon break, and ducking into a show when you find yourself getting hot or tired.

I hope this helps. Enjoy that trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World this summer!

New eBook: The RideMax Book of Tips for Disneyland

I’m excited to announce the completion of a new eBook that I’ve been working on for a while now, called The RideMax Book of Tips for Disneyland. It officially began shipping last month as an optional add-on to Disneyland RideMax subscriptions.

One thing I really like about this book is that it gave me the opportunity to share some tips with larger, more detailed photographs than the regular “Tips & Hints” pages inside RideMax were really designed for. It’s currently at 81 pages of full-screen goodness, though this may increase in the future as new pages are added.

For those wondering what’s inside the book, you can view the table of contents page here below (click the image for a larger view):

RideMax Book of Tips for Disneyland - Table of Contents

Now, you may also be wondering if the eBook replaces the “Tips & Hints” we’ve always published in the RideMax planning tool itself, and the short answer is no, it does not. You’ll still find the great information inside “Tips & Hints” that you’ve come to rely on. The eBook does contain new pictures and some information not found in the “Tips & Hints” pages, but the eBook is not required to enjoy using RideMax in the way you always have.

And of course, to make the eBook as risk-free a purchase as possible, it’s covered by our normal 30-day money-back guarantee, just like the RideMax subscription itself is.

I hope you enjoy the new eBook, and that it helps you make your visit to Disneyland even better!

RideMax Book of Tips for Disneyland - Preview Pages

Fun Friday: RideMax Roulette at the Magic Kingdom

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

If anyone wants to join me, either virtually or in-person, I’ll be in the Magic Kingdom again this coming Friday, May 8th, doing live tweets and Facebook updates as I play another round of RideMax Roulette.

For those not familiar, RideMax Roulette is a game using the RideMax planning tool, where I select a list of attractions at random and plug them into RideMax. RideMax then creates an optimized game plan using those attractions designed to minimize my waiting and walking. I then take the plan to the park to see how it works out. (Just FYI, because I’m biased, I call this a “RideMax plan,” but I know that some would call this a “touring plan” instead, lol).

Playing this “game” helps me keep things real by actually using plans the software produces, as well as having me ride attractions that I might not normally visit, but which customers very well could. (“Business philosophy” note here: There’s nothing quite like putting yourself in the shoes of your customers and actually, you know, *using* your own product, to help you know where the strengths of that product are, as well as learning what could be improved.)

For this week’s test, my only requirement going into the process was that I wanted to at least hit the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. So I made sure I included that attraction, then added attractions to the list using my handy-dandy random number generator, until I had enough attractions to fill a half-day at the park.

In alphabetical order, here is the complete list of twelve attractions I plan to visit from 9:00am, when the park opens, until noon-ish:

  • Aladdin’s Magic Carpets
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Astro Orbiter (Yes, I’ll be visiting this one twice.)  :-)
  • Barnstormer
  • Barnstormer (Yes, also twice!)
  • Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Splash Mountain

Before creating the plan, I had to decide what I wanted to use my three FastPass+ reservations for. While this can sometimes be a hard choice, this time it seemed obvious: Peter Pan, Splash Mountain, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train probably offer the most opportunity for time-saving with FP+. (And If I couldn’t get a FP+ reservation for 7DMT, I’d probably use it for the Haunted Mansion instead.)

Well, as luck would have it, there was still a FP+ slot available for 7DMT in Disney’s reservation system, so I went with it.

Here is the plan RideMax came up with for Friday, and which I plan to use:

RideMax Touring Plan for Disney World's Magic Kingdom

So, you might be asking yourself, “But what if you weren’t able to get that 7DMT FastPass+ reservation? What would the plan look like in that case?”

Well, since you asked, here is the RideMax plan the software produced when I told RideMax to use FP+ for the Haunted Mansion instead of 7DMT:

RideMax Plan riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train standby

As you can see, this plan estimates we’d wait 43 minutes longer overall using FP+ for Haunted Mansion and visiting 7DMT using the standby line right at opening time. As I look at this second scenario, the estimates for Astro Orbiter look a bit high to me, but even if the actual combined wait for Astro Orbiter ends up being 15 minutes less than shown on the plan, this second scenario would still involve an extra 30 minutes or so of waiting over the first plan.

The other thing to note about this second scenario is that the 10-minute estimate for 7DMT right at opening time depends on your ability to follow some pretty specific instructions, and to get to the ride right after rope drop. (That note in the plan next to the 7DMT entry to “see tip #1 below” is crucial to the plan’s success.) RideMax subscribers will see various tips like this sprinkled throughout their RideMax plans, and this particular tip is probably the longest and most detailed of any, as you’re trying to stay ahead of a rope-drop crowd that looks like the scene below, with many or even most of the crowd headed to 7DMT:

Magic Kingdom Rope Drop

I guess the moral of this story is that if you can use FP+ for the Mine Train ride, do it, since it can help you avoid this whole rope-drop mess. (And of course the second moral of the story is that RideMax makes plan comparisons like this very simple.)

So, please join me Friday morning for live tweets and Facebook updates as I go along, including pictures of the day as it progresses. And if you want to join me in person, watch for me near the Newsstand outside the Magic Kingdom tunnel just before the rope drop. I’ll be the really tall guy with a large-ish camera hanging around my neck, getting ready to make a beeline to Astro Orbiter as soon as the opening countdown finishes. :-)

Tax Day: RideMax Roulette at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom

Similar to last week’s round of RideMax Roulette at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I’ve decided to celebrate tax day, which falls on Wednesday, April 15th, by doing another round of RideMax Roulette, this time at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. If anyone is in the park Wednesday and cares to join me, feel free to look for the really tall guy in the rope drop crowd holding a camera over his head and taking pictures of the crowds (hopefully) behind me. I’ll be making my way to Fantasyland on Wednesday as soon as the park opens.

I’ll be doing another half-day visit, and again, I ran my trusty random number generator to come up with a list of attractions to plug into RideMax. This time, the list doesn’t happen to include any of the big “mountain” rides, but the plan might be suitable for someone with young children who just wants to drop in for the morning.

Here is the randomly-generated attraction list, in alphabetical order:

  • Aladdin’s Magic Carpets
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Dumbo, the Flying Elephant
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Tom Sawyer’s Island
  • Stitch’s Great Escape
  • Swiss Family Treehouse
  • Winnie the Pooh

As far as FP+ selections go, there’s nothing here that would absolutely call for FP+. I first tried using FP+ for Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Winnie the Pooh, but this close to my visit date Disney’s system didn’t have my needed time selection for ETWB, so I swapped it out for the Teacups. FP+ there isn’t really needed, but the new plan RideMax came up with looks good, at least on paper. (And despite the lack of the more “thrilling” attractions, I know this exercise is good for helping me to “keep RideMax real” for customers. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually visited TSI, for example.)

Here’s a screenshot of the game plan RideMax came up with. Remember, RideMax’s goal is to minimize both waiting and walking time:

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Touring Plan

Like last week, I’ll be posting live updates from the park Wednesday on Facebook and on Twitter.

Follow along there, or if you want some exercise, join me at ETWB right after rope drop, and enjoy tax day in the park!

RideMax Roulette at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tomorrow!

Tiger at Disney's Animal Kingdom

I’m headed to Animal Kingdom tomorrow, April 10th, to test a half-day RideMax plan. You can follow along for live updates from the park:

I’m calling this “RideMax Roulette,” because rather than using a predetermined list of attractions, I decided to plug in a (mostly) random list of shows and attractions into RideMax, then created my half-day plan from there.

I say it was “mostly” random simply because I knew in advance that I wanted to visit both of the trails — Pangani and Maharajah Jungle Trek — and I also wanted to see the Lion King show. (Sorry, but I also knew I didn’t want to sit through the 40-minute-ish Finding Nemo show, and I didn’t want to get soaked on Kali with my DSLR in hand, so I omitted these from the list of possible attractions.)

After adding my three “must-do” attractions to the list, I used a random number generator to come up with five others, and I was left with the following list of eight attractions altogether:

  • Dinosaur (twice)
  • Expedition Everest
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
  • TriceraTop Spin

I know this may seem like a pretty wimpy attempt, given that the plan doesn’t include the Safari, but hey, it is what it is. I think it’s also good for me to test RideMax plans that include non-obvious ride selections, as it has sometimes helped me to see and/or fix problems that might come up with various ride choices.

Given this list of attractions, I decided to use FP+ for at least Dinosaur and Expedition Everest. I would normally use the other FP+ for either the Safari or Kali River Rapids, but since neither of these are in my list, I’m using the third FP+ slot for It’s Tough to be a Bug! (Yeah!)

After crunching on this list of attractions, here is what RideMax came up with. Remember, RideMax’s goal is to minimize BOTH waiting AND walking time:

Disney's Animal Kingdom RideMax Plan

Notice the large-ish block of “free time starting just before 9:00am. I think I’m going to use this to go see DiVine near the park entrance.

After creating this plan, I went into Disney’s “My Disney Experience” application and reserved my FP+ time slots to correspond with the times shown in green on the plan. (And yes, I realize that I most likely won’t need those Dinosaur and ITTBAB FP+ tickets that early in the day. If this were a full-day plan, you’d likely see those FP+ slots set up for later in the day.)

I’ll keep you updated on Facebook and Twitter as I progress through the morning. Feel free to comment there or below as I go!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2015 – Hyperlapse Video Tour

I expect to post more about Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival in a future update, but since the festival just opened yesterday, I thought it would be nice to provide a high-level overview of what’s available this year around the World Showcase. I hope this video gives you a feel for where those food kiosks and topiaries are located in relation to one another.

I also should say that as I shot the video, I tried to pause briefly at each kiosk so you could see the menus, but looking at the video now shows plainly that I didn’t pause long enough. Keep your mouse on the “pause” button if you want to gaze at the menus for more than about a second each, lol:

Note that if you’re using RideMax to plan your visit to Epcot and want to take in the Festival, my advice is take one of two approaches when creating your plan.

The first approach is to simply try creating a plan that begins when the park opens and which closes in the evening, with no scheduled breaks in the plan. This should typically leave you with a large block of “free time” on the plan, which you can use for touring World Showcase, viewing the topiaries, and sampling the food at the various kiosks.

The second approach is to use one of the activities listed in RideMax as “World Showcase, 3 hr Clockwise,” or similar, depending on how much time you want to spend here.

I suggest you experiment with both approaches or play “what if” for a while, until you arrive at plan you’re happy with.

Bon Appetit!