First timer: Can you OVER plan? How to balance

Background: We are a couple in our 30s, taking 2 children (7 & 4). We are going to WDW in May 2019 for 7 days (5 days of parks). We are first timers, although my husband and I have been to Disney Land as well as Disney World Paris. I have been to WDW a few times, but it was in High School. So we get the gist but consider it our first time since we have children to create memories for :slight_smile:

Question: How do you plan enough so that you are familiar with where to go and when, but without over planning/scheduling to where everyone is miserable? I am definitely a PLANNER when we go on vacation, but I realize with 2 young children, we will need to be flexible. And we are fine with that! But I read others’ amazing trip reports and how they knew to be at the Tomorrowland entrance at Rope Drop so they could ride such-in-such, and then head over to Frontier land because it’s nearby (clearly I have no idea, I made that up). And then later in the day they rescheduled their FP for so-in-so and went to ride some other ride because it had a shorter line at the time, and my mind is blown by their knowledge. Obviously I’ve looked at maps and understand how to follow it, but it seems there’s more to it at WDW. Do you suggest making a Touring Plan and just blindly following it? And memorizing the maps of each park? (I’m being sarcastic but… seriously? Ha!)

Side note: I’ve researched a lot. Which is probably why I’m panicking hah :slight_smile: I’ve scheduled my ADRs and chosen which days we’ll be at which park. I’ve done some “test run” Touring plans, but I’d like to familiarize myself with the parks as best I can so I won’t be fumbling with my phone trying to figure out where to go if we need to adjust. Lets be honest, once we get on the plane to go, Mom (aka Me) will be the only one who has done research. So my 3 guys (husband and 2 sons) will be 100% following my lead. Between park hours changing and FP updating and which direction to go at Rope Drop, etc etc… whats your best tip for being prepared?

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I don’t think you can over plan. However, I think a lot of people make the mistake of sticking to their plans too much. I have spent 17 park days at WDW over 2 different trips and in 17/17 of these days, we were not able to do everything that was on our plan. However, I had planned A LOT and I made sure that everyday had some stuff that I would not mind not having enough time for. For both trips, I had multiple days at each park (we did not do Epcot at all on the 2nd trip) so everything that was really important to us was present on at least 2 plans. Everything planned that got dropped was stuff we didn’t really care about. Would have been nice but was not a tragedy. Also, I always put as much free time as possible in each plan and set walking speed to slowest, which makes for good buffer as everything ends up eating more time than you would think (bathroom breaks, snacks, meals, etc…).

I think the secret is planning a lot AND being very flexible, which may seem like an oxymoron for most of us OCD-type people here LOL

I do suggest making touring plans and following them as much as possible, re-optimizing them on your phone as you go because stuff WILL happen and you probably won’t be able to follow the original TP for the entire day (sure never happened to me !). Memorizing the park maps, yeah I did that (not kidding) and it was super helpful.

Rope drop sounds great if you have that type of family. I don’t. We never RDed and we’ve had incredibly awesome trips. I think it’s great if you can RD but if waking your kids up at 5 am will make them crabby for the entire day then I think it’s a bad idea.

So, plan like crazy, hope for the best but be ready for the worst and keep a positive attitude no matter what happens and you will have the best time ever ! :smiley:


You speak my language. I totally get what you’re saying. So when you say re-optimize as you go… does that mean while you’re in the park every so often to update wait times?

Besides memorizing maps and optimizing touring plans… what are your favorite ways to prepare?


This. I plan the hell out of every day. I know what time we are getting up, what time we are heading out the door, what time we are riding various rides, eating, etc. But I that is so that once we are there I can relax and just enjoy. Which means using the plans as a guide to your day, but knowing when to call an audible. See a character you didn’t know you needed to meet? Go do it! Too hot and wanting more pool time? Get out of the parks then! I think it’s important to have a plan so that you aren’t standing around wondering what to do next - and so you have a pickup point when you decide to get back on plan (if you do). IMO there’s no such thing as overplanning. Rather, there’s a thing called overexecution. Don’t make that mistake and you’ll be good~


You install the Lines app on your phone, which is the app version of your dashboard on this site. It has all your plans in it. You can see the actual wait times without re-optimizing or re-evaluating so no need to do it for that. What I meant was, if something happens that throws your plan out of whack (again, it WILL happen LOL), if you are an hour late on your next step, you can delete something that is not too important for you and update your plan so that you can be as efficient as possible despite whatever happened.

The first time I went, I read the unofficial guide cover to cover (really fun to read IMO; I actually re-read it the 2nd time but that may be crazy). I read every single ride description and for everything I wasn’t sure about (DS was 4 yo then), we watched it on youtube as a family to help deciding. Then, I made a list of all the rides we wanted to do in each of the parks. For MK, we split the park in 2 so that we would spend each day in different parts of it to minimize the walking. Also, I decided which rides we wanted to do only once and which we wanted to do multiple times. I also decided which FP+ I wanted to get for each day. After that it was just a matter of waiting for my 60-day and then I built my TPs around those FP+.

Also, one thing that is absolutely HUGE is day-of FP+. Try to get your 3 FP+ as early as possible and as soon as you tapped the 3rd one, right there and then while you walk the FP line, get on the MDE app and get another one and repeat that all day long. You can actually finish your plan and do several extra rides if you are lucky. Refresh the screen many many times until you get what you want. I was able to get up to 3 day-of 7DMTs FP+ in the same day and many many Splash, Space, Big Thunder, Tower of Terror RnR coaster, etc…that way. When you do that, it feels awesome. And when you hear other people talking about how they wonder what is this fastpass thing they see written everywhere, you feel like a genius !!! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I agree with everything that has already been said. It is really not possible to over-plan, but somehow for us having everything planned makes it easier to switch things up along the way.

My absolute worst-case scenario are people who are standing in the middle of a park, the whole group huddled over a map having the “so, what do you want to do now?” conversation. I don’t want to be those people.

On the other hand, I am fine with “I know the plan was to do X, but the kids had so much fun yesterday doing Y, let’s do that instead!”


Also, realize that just by being on this site you are going to start in probably the 95th-97th percentile of people who go to Disney. The vast majority of people who go do very little planning before they start. For instance, just knowing how the FP+ system works (or even that it exists, is free, and is available to everyone with tickets) is going to put you ahead of SO. MANY. PEOPLE.

But please, continue to ask questions! The people on this board are great and we all truly love helping people with their plans!

Then eventually you’ll get the park and giggle to yourself as you overhear the people saying things like “where is the bus to the harry potter park?” and “I don’t know why that giant golf ball is there, its such a waste of space since there’s nothing inside of it.”


Got it! I feel better about my need to over plan just for the sake of being more relaxed while in the park. This forum makes my OCD heart fee at home. I will pick rides, optimize my plan with fast passes and familiarize myself with park maps. It’s overwhelming to think about, not only rides, but shows and character meets and knowing when to be where. You guys are awesome! If you think of any other tips for how to be the most prepared, I’m all ears.


To me there is a difference between researching and planning. The former is learning as much as you can before you go, and in my opinion it is impossible to do too much of this. Planning is determining which park to visit, what specific rides you want to do, ADRs, etc.

For me, planning is determining which parks I want to visit each day, making ADRs and FPPs, and creating TPs for each day - that I may or may not follow once I’m there.

Every plan, no matter how well researched and designed, WILL change once you’re there. CLs and wait times could be off from the predicted values (this has happened to me more than once), rides can be broken, weather could affect touring, etc. - you get the idea. This is where the research comes in; if you plan gets derailed, you have the knowledge base to make informed decisions on how to proceed.

One other important distinction is the difference between a “plan” and a “schedule”. A plan is what you want to accomplish and a rough order in which you plan on following. A schedule is doing a specific item at a specific time. The former is the key to a happy vacation, the latter an invitation to stress and despair.

And a final note - there is NO WAY to do everything that the parks have to offer in 5 days. There WILL be things that you won’t be able to do on this trip. Accept this during your planning; pick the attractions that you really want to do, and if you are able to squeeze some “bonus” things in, so much the better.


Hi: I’m also going in May for our first family trip. Girls aged 7 and 4. I haven’t been to Disney in a long time. I’m also a big planner and found setting up touring plans each day to be helpful. At least a draft to familiarize myself with the attractions, etc that we may want to do each day. What’s helping me is mentally trying to prioritize my top rides for the day. I set up each touring plan with 8-10 rides or attractions each day. Not sure if that’s doable but out of the 10, I prioritized 5 that I really want to do. I’m thinking if I can do my top 5, anything after that is like a bonus. We’re going the week of Memorial Day so I know it will be busy. Also I have no idea how my girls will do in the crowds and heat so I’m going in assuming we probably won’t get a ton of rides in everyday. I was actually hoping Disney would offer Early Morning Magic because I’d love to go to the Fantasyland one but doubt they’d have it over a holiday week.


This is very true. The first decision you have to make (I think) is how you mange those 5 days and whether or not you add the park hopper option. You will get many different opinions about this so it might be a good thing to discuss this here, now.

Personally, I would skip Epcot, especially with young children. Or maybe, if I had the park hop, I would spend a half day there. But personally (again this is only my own humble opinion and a lot of people here will totally disagree LOL), I didn’t like park hopping much when my son was 4. It’s a lot of walking, a lot of waiting for the bus, a lot of folding the bloody stroller…I would do 2 full days at MK, 1 day DHS and 1 day at AK and then, depending on the 4 yo’s height and level of adventureness, either 1 more MK day or a second DHS or AK depending on family’s interests (if you are huge on Star Wars DHS vs if you are big animal lovers AK).

But a lot of people LOVE epcot and some people don’t like AK much. You know your family better than anyone so it’s up to you. :slight_smile:

With a good TP and good knowledge of FP+ system, you will get LOTS of bonus ! :smiley:

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Mhaas54 we are kindrid spirits! Any idea when they will release the Early Morning Magic for May? I check every day!

The age of our children leaves a lot of “unknowns” which is another factor Thats causing me some confusion while planning. We never truly know how they will react to a ride, an experience, the weather, etc until we’re there.

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Good thoughts jflaff! Id say thats where I have put most of my research in so far- Ive decided on Epcot, DHS and Animal Kingdom one day each and MK 2 days. No park hopper. The bus/travel thing is what KILLS my families mojo when on a vacation so we are going to compartimenatalize and tackle each park each day. I am planning a break in the middle of each day (my kids do great after a mid-day nap) which adds some extra bus/travel but decided it was worth it.

Someone mentioned splitting MK in half if doing 2 days, which sounds efficient.

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There is no overplanning when preplanning a trip. You learn so much that can help you do be flexible during your trip. I am the planner in the family, so I had 4 guys following my lead. My family thrives on schedules (my kids were 8 and 4 the first time we went with them), so it really benefitted us our first trip. We had times where we skipped or did impromptu moments, but through the knowledge I gained by planning, we hopped right back into our schedule. Our second trip (kids were 9 and 6), I knew what worked for our family, so the planning was to make sure we got to do the things that were our must dos. We could be more flexible because I knew how things worked at DW and how to tour with my family.

Oh and it’s really difficult to know exactly where you are going until you get there. Just get the general gist of locations and grab a paper map on the way in just in case.

So, happy planning!

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I would not skip any parks for a first trip. My family prefers Epcot over AK (and I have younger children). Each family is different and should experience the parks for themselves.


Hi, I check the early morning magic schedule a lot and only see dates through February for the Magic Kingdom Fantasyland one. I hope they put more dates on the calendar!

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Random Thoughts:

Get your husband involved, if possible.

Have a backup for when tower of terror, Test Track, and RockNCoaster are down.

Have a backup for when that line at rope drop is 30 minutes when you thought it should be a walk on.


Spend some time in the pool with the kids. NO, spend as much time in the pool with the kids as possible (unless you have a pool in your backyard.)

If your kids are early risers, use it to your advantage.
If your kids are not early risers, tell them they are about to be.

Don’t waste time doing stuff you don’t want to do.
If the kids can’t go on the same rides together, split up when possible, if it makes sense.

Learn how to refresh for fastpasses.

WDW extras might be worth every penny, don’t be thrown by prices. Do your own research on dessert parties or emm, or special tours. Sometimes what they can offer are worth every penny.

Learn how to refresh for fastpasses.

If the kids wat to stop and smell the roses somewhere, that is different than them being distracted. Let everyone know that sometimes you want to take them to something way better than what they might be looking at. Tell them before you go leave for the trip.

Little legs get tired faster than big legs. Do not run the kids ragged. You’ll just be miserable on an expensive vacation. Prioritize what is important. Don’t try to see everything. Be realistic about walking 10 miles per day. You might just have more fun walking 6 miles, and then splashing in the pool, and having a great dinner.

Learn how to work the fastpass system.

Takes a decent amount of research to whittle down a plan that hits everything you want, but also allows it to be a vacation. You have to just be realistic about what you can do. 8am to 9pm every day really means 7am to 10pm. Travel time is real. Getting kids ready in the am is real.

Learn all about getting same day fastpasses - please. Please learn how to work fastpasses.

Most of the stage shows at WDW are FANTASTIC.

All of the 3d shows are fantastic. (There’s always a family leaving with screaming kids at Bug, tho. It’s not scary at all, but it could be for the right type of kid.)

If your husband doesn’t get involved, and you are a type a planner, you’ll be going back. As the pack lead, this trip, you’re gonna miss out on some of the fun. That’s ok. It is what it is. At least make sure your husband keeps the kids in order while you are working mde on your phone. Your next trip, you’ll have a blast like everyone else.

Learn how to work fastpasses!

Research the food options. Quality control is haphazard at best. Some of the food is great. Some of it is garbage. They might cost the exact same, too.


Hi Laura, I’m not sure they’re going to have EMM in May. I’m going in May as well and have been keeping an eye out for DAH (similar to EMM but at night). Those seem to end in April/early May & there have been no additions for a while.

Park hours are longer in the summer and there’s not a lot of time left to do these special events. If they do extend hours I think it’s more likely to be EMH to accommodate more people, or just straight up make park hours longer for everyone. I could be wrong of course but I don’t think I would plan around the possibility of EMM.

Where are you staying? I would generally agree with the mid-day break idea and the decision not to park-hop- for our first few times with young kids it was just one more variable to deal with and I didn’t want to do it. So I know exactly where you’re coming from.

But that only applies if you ARE NOT staying at a monorail or EPCOT resort. If you ARE, and you are doing a mid-day break, then it’s a much better idea to park hop. This was not at all obvious to me until I actually stayed at an EPCOT resort last time. and realized we could spread those nasty bus rides through the week instead of doing two round-trips on some days and then none on others.