Mark Winters here, the developer of RideMax — a planning app designed to help folks spend less time in line at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
Josh’s note: Mark and I go back seven or eight years, in large part because we both live in Orlando and frequent the Parks ourselves to see how things actually look on the ground, in addition to crunching all of the collected wait time data. We may see more easyWDW rolled into RideMax as the future unfolds. Stay tuned.
The backstory for this post is that I’ve been something of an “easyWDW fanboi” for a long time now. To me, Josh always seems to know how to balance his in-depth knowledge of the parks with just the right amount of “I don’t take myself too seriously” snark.
As an easyWDW fan, when Josh recently suggested that I create a RideMax plan for both of us to try out at Epcot, I was all over it!
With recent changes to crowd patterns due to all of the social-distancing standards, entertainment changes, and more, it’s been fascinating to see how much change has also come to “optimal touring strategies” as a result.
I’ve been doing RideMax for almost twenty(!) years now, and I’ve never seen plans like those it’s producing with no FastPass+, shorter hours, no nighttime entertainment, and so much else.
It makes ZERO sense to use a 2019 touring plan in 2020!
Josh will give the play-by-play of how our “RideMax day” at Epcot unfolded, but I thought it might be helpful to know what went into planning the day in the first place.
First, I’ll cover important tips for getting the most from RideMax during the planning phase, then I’ll give some advice for actually using those plans in the park — especially as it comes to adjusting on-the-fly for unforeseen events.
Let’s begin at the end with the RideMax plan we used for Epcot, which I’ve copied below, and which you can find in the RideMax app itself.
(Apple users can follow along by downloading the RideMax app from the iOS app store. The Android version is still in beta officially, mainly because we haven’t navigated the Google Play Store approval process just yet. In the meantime, you can install it here.)
Note that if you’re not ready to buy a RideMax membership, you can still login to the app as a guest, where you’ll find our plan listed as one of the free samples as of October, 2020.
With that housekeeping out of the way, here is the RideMax plan we used to tour Epcot, broken into several screen shots:
We’ll start the day at Frozen Ever After, then hang around World Showcase for a while.
We’ll then move to Future World West, including the attractions in the Land Pavilion…
…then finish the day at Test Track.
So, what went into creating this plan? As you can see above, RideMax breaks the plan creation process down into three chunks: Attractions, Breaks, and Plan Options. (An invisible fourth section deals with FP+, but that doesn’t apply in today’s standby-only world.)
The “attractions” screen is fairly straightforward. You basically hit that “plus” sign for as many times you wish to include a particular attraction in your plan. I chose each attraction once for this plan, but omitted Mission: SPACE due to my own personal aversion to the dizziness factor. (Josh’s note: Oh, we’ll make it to Mission: SPACE, all right).
The goal of RideMax will be to take these attractions and order them to optimize our day, by giving us an itinerary designed to minimize our waiting and walking time.
You can also add any necessary “breaks” to the plan. I typically only use these for meals. Note that you can also choose the specific restaurant at which you want to eat. This is helpful to RideMax because it also wants to minimize your walking time, so it can take the restaurant’s physical location into account if you have a reservation at a specific restaurant.
Finally, RideMax gives you this catch-all Plan Options screen, where you can choose your plan name, the time at which you want to begin and end your day, your touring speed, and whether you want to visit “water rides” during the warmer time of the day. (Note that Epcot doesn’t have any of these, at least by the RideMax definition of “water rides.”)
So, now that you have the high-level overview, what are some tips I use when putting my own plans together?
- Planning Tip #1: Understand “Free Time” on the Plan
- Planning Tip #2: Don’t Use a Break Unless You Have To
- Planning Tip #3: Plan for Meals Early in the Day
- Using a RideMax Plan: Adjusting On-the-Fly
- Adjustment Approach #1: Create a New Plan
- Adjustment Approach #2: Skip or Add Attractions to Your Day as You Go Along
- And Finally…
Planning Tip #1: Understand “Free Time” on the Plan
When RideMax creates your plan, it looks at the start/stop time you specified on that options screen, and adds your attractions to the plan. Time left over after wait optimization is done is listed as “free time” on the plan. It’s important to note that RideMax doesn’t just take your list of attractions and add them to your plan starting at the beginning of the day and going until it runs out of attractions. It will use the “free time” strategically to help minimize your waiting and walking within the start and end times you told it to use.
An extreme example of what this means is shown above, in a RideMax plan containing just three attractions. Here, we told RideMax to start our plan when the park opens at 9:00am, and that we would queue for our last attraction ten minutes before the park closes, at 5:50pm.
As you can see, RideMax has us visiting Big Thunder and Pirates right at opening time, but then waiting until just before closing time to do 7DMT. The rest of the day is listed as “Free Time” on the plan.
The reason RideMax did it this way, rather than just having us do all three rides in a row at opening time, is because this timing results in the lowest estimated wait, given the start/stop parameters I used to create the plan.
What if I don’t want to have such a large block of free time in my day? Well, this is where some “playing” with the software helps. I can either move my ending time up to earlier in the day, or I can add more attractions to my plan. It’s especially helpful from a “free time usage” standpoint to add some of those “filler” two-star attractions to the plan if you’re just trying to soak up some of that busy afternoon time, since these can often be boarded in the busy middle of the day without much wait.
Planning Tip #2: Don’t Use a Break Unless You Have To
Even though the software allows for breaks, I normally first try to create a plan with NO breaks included, just to see where the natural “free time” falls in the plan. If the free time already covers the break I wanted to make, I’ll just omit the formal break and use that free time instead, since this can result in a more optimal plan.
The second advantage to trying a plan with no breaks is that it helps me to see where the natural flow of the plan wants me to be during various points during the day.
For example, in our Epcot plan above, when I first created the plan with no breaks, it was easy to see that RideMax preferred to have us in the area of the Land Pavilion around dinner time. This, not my love of all things food court, is what led me to make that dinner break at Sunshine Seasons.
Had I tried to force my own dinner preference on the plan without checking the natural flow first, by scheduling dinner at Via Napoli, for example, it likely would have led to much more walking and/or waiting, since being in World Showcase at dinner time runs completely against the grain of the natural flow of the day.
Planning Tip #3: Plan for Meals Early in the Day
Because the parks close early right now, and waits are generally lower in the late afternoon and evening than they are earlier in the day, it’s a good idea to take your meal breaks by early afternoon and leave late afternoon and evening for touring.
I didn’t follow this advice in our Epcot plan, with the break at Sunshine Seasons for dinner, but you may want to consider this when undertaking your own planning, since evenings are now your most valuable resource from a wait-minimizing perspective.
Using a RideMax Plan: Adjusting On-the-Fly
Once I’m in the park, it would be naïve to think that I could simply pull up this plan on my phone and expect everything to run perfectly. Rides break down, kids need attention, and try as hard as we might, waits may not always match what’s expected, whether due to technical trouble, downtime, deep-cleaning, or what have you. RideMax offers a 30-day money-back guarantee when you purchase a subscription through their site at https://ridemax.com/orderwdw, so there is no risk in downloading the software and seeing what it can do for you. You’ll simply enter your login details into the app’s welcome screen and be off on your planning adventure.
RideMax will likely offer some alternative solutions to some touring quandaries that you didn’t even realize could majorly impact your day. Just about everyone has less experience touring the parks in the present conditions, which continue to change weekly. If anything, experienced visitors may have more trouble adjusting to the realities of the available attractions, how crowds and wait times flow throughout the day, and actually needing to”unlearn” some of the old touring tactics that may actually now put you at a disadvantage and cost you more time. Never forget attractions like “it’s a small world” now post longer waits than Peter Pan’s Flight. The updated software with the updated wait time estimates will take all of these new changes into consideration when outputting a plan that will save you the most time.
There are basically two approaches to adjusting to unforeseen circumstances: Create a new plan taking your new situation into account, or keep the plan, but skip or add attractions to your day as you go along, depending on whether you’re behind or ahead of schedule.
Adjustment Approach #1: Create a New Plan
If we want to create a new RideMax plan on the fly, it’s fairly simple.
While viewing the plan you want to tweak, just click on those three dots in the upper-right corner of the RideMax app…
…and hit that “Modify plan” selection in the dropdown menu.
This will bring up the main “plan creation” screen, with all of the current plan’s parameters selected as a starting point. You can then add or remove rides, choose a new starting time, or change other options, before creating a new plan. Note that this process will leave the previous plan intact, leaving you with both the old and the new plans in your list for easy reference.
Adjustment Approach #2: Skip or Add Attractions to Your Day as You Go Along
This second approach is probably the one I use most often, where I don’t actually modify the plan per-se, but skip attractions on the plan if I’m running behind, or add attractions to my day if I find myself ahead of schedule (Josh and I did the latter on the day of our visit when we found ourselves ahead of the plan).
In other words, there’s no need to explicitly modify a plan when it’s basically working. You just want to deviate slightly as you go along, which is fine.
In our case, it was clear that the plan had us starting in World Showcase, then moving to the area of the Land Pavilion, followed by Spaceship Earth and Test Track as the day came to a close. As long as we stuck to that basic high-level plan, there was room for minor adjustments within those general “themes,” without adjusting the exact details of the plan as shown in RideMax.
Sometimes “perfect” is the enemy of “good,” and playing with the app while you’re trying to enjoy the parks isn’t worth the effort if you’re just adjusting on-the-fly for minor changes such as these. It can be fun while you’re sitting on the couch at home thinking about your vacation ahead.
I hope you’ve found this brief introduction to how I approach planning my day with RideMax helpful.
Stay tuned for details on how all of this turned out on our actual visit to Epcot!