I just spent a week in Walt Disney World with six apps. This is the sixth in a serious survey of the apps, what they can do for you and deciding on the best ones to load onto your iPhone or iPod touch to make the most out your visit to see the mouse.
Disney World Lines from TouringPlans.com Free—but requires a US$11.95 annual subscription, is the best app available. This Universal app works well on the iPhone or iPad with a cellular connection. It’s not pretty, doesn’t have maps, is free, but to get it to do anything, you’ll need to fork out US$11.95 a year as either a web site or in-app purchase. However, it, more than any other app, gives you what you really need to make the best of your vacation at Walt Disney World. It’s really half an app and half a web site and the site is tremendous and gives you just about everything the app doesn’t — but then I’m not reviewing sites.
Disney World Wait Times from TouringPlans.com
The app was developed by the authors of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and these people have been in the business of researching and providing rock solid information on everything Disney since 1985. They know what you need to know and give it to you simply and effectively. Using a combination of on site reporters and time honored algorithms, information is provided that you can’t get anywhere else.
The home screen simply displays whether the parks are open in real time and which ones have Extra Magic Hours. These are times that resort guests can attend a particular park, while having it closed to everyone else. It also gives you the first inkling of what makes this app special. Right now it says that the general crowd level on March 1st is four out of ten. The best parks to attend are Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom while the park to avoid is Hollywood Studios. If you click on the ten day button, it gives you a ten day forecast of park attendance.
For example on Monday March 3, 2012 Magic Kingdom is open from 9am-12am and is the park to avoid with crowds expected to be 8.3 out of ten or 83% crowded. The best park to attend is Epcot, open from 9am-9pm with expected attendance of 1.6 out of 10 or 16% crowded. Hollywood Studios has Extra Magic Hours in the evening and expectations of a 7.2/10 crowd, with Animal Kingdom having Extra Magic Hours in the morning and crowds of 7.2/10. The overall crowds for all the parks aggregated will be six out of ten, or 60% full. This information is, when I was there, deadly accurate, and well worth the $12 alone.
Tap on Park and choose any of the four. At the top are two buttons: Attractions and Dining. Tapping on Attractions gives you wait times that I found were accurate within 5-7 minutes. Tapping on an individual attraction gives you a picture and the current estimate of both standby wait times (meaning how long you’ll wait if you just show up), and Fast Pass times (meaning what time the Fast Pass will tell you to come back to beat the line). These are algorithms that are amazingly accurate, but it also gives you a listing of user reported wait times and when they were submitted. It also gives you forecasted wait times for every fifteen minute block, what time the peak standby time is or was, and when the Fast Pass machine is expected to run out Fast Passes.
You can report times if you wish, but their system works. Really works. And at about $100 a day for the pleasure of being in a park, information like this is worth big money.
If you tap on Dining, you won’t get chapter and verse, but you will get where the venue is, basically what it serves and much more importantly, whether or not it participates in the Disney Dining Plan, and if so how many credits it uses. Trust me, this is important.
You are also given touring plans for each park and lots of them covering just about any eventuality. For example there are 49 step by step plans for the Magic Kingdom starting with “Unofficial Guide One-Day Touring Plan for Parents with Small Children” and going through every possible grouping of people and wishes including: “Two Day Touring Plan for Active Seniors”. Epcot has 21 tours, Hollywood Studios offers 21 tours, and Animal Kingdom presents 19 tours.
You don’t need glitz to see how valuable this information will be to anyone attempting to make the most out of a finite amount of time and money. But you should understand that this does need a cellular connection since it’s constantly updated. Your connection can be slow as molasses for good reason: the app is graphically very sparse.
At $11.95 per year, even if you only use it for a week, I consider it very very cheap. It gives you the information you just can’t get from any other of the dozens of apps on the market and this information is critical. It’s not one-stop-shopping, but it’s a vital part of your vacation toolkit.
Pros: Provides insanely useful information not to be found in any other WDW app, low bandwidth requirements so it will work fine in any park, well worth money. This app will save you time, money and give you insight that 99 percent of everyone else doesn’t have including accurate parade/event times and very accurate wait times.
Cons: No glitz, no maps, no basic information, nothing on resorts or restaurant fare; no phone numbers; hardly anything the other apps provide
Last up: Building a workable vacation plan and a few neat tricks