Saturday, July 7, 2012

Beefy Muchacho, Disney Navigator

I hold myself out to be a pretty experienced visitor to Walt Disney World. There are plenty of folks who’ve gone more times than I have, but from what I’ve come to believe through talking with them is that almost all people have a “route” they’ve been using for years, and they rarely stray. They may incorporate a new ride when one opens, but for the most part it’s “We start with Tomorrowland and…” or “I always go to Splash Mountain after…”

I’ve never really stuck to a single method. I’ve tried a dozen different routes; a dozen different ride itineraries. I’d like to think, even, that I’m a low-grade “expert”.

In conjunction with that, I’ve been working on creating trip itineraries for family and friends for about five years.

It is a dream of mine to monetize this skill to enough of a degree that it can be my job. I’d love to have a name plate that reads “Beefy Muchacho, Disney Trip Planner”.

It started small. My friend Bridget and her then boyfriend (now husband) Phil decided to go to Disney for 2 days in May of 2007. Bridget knew I loved Disney, and she’d either never been or hadn’t been in years (I don’t remember), so I basically drew a map of a couple of the parks on a napkin and drew arrows for my recommended “general” route. I also recommended which parks to hit when, and which rides to target. That was pretty much it.

A few months after that, a co-worker friend of mine planned to go for a couple of days, and he asked me for some tips, after hearing from Bridget that I’d helped her out. Again, my “plan” basically comprised of a map with arrows. This time, I typed up a 1 page kind of summary thing to accompany…

At this point, though, I was starting to want to do more with it. Take more time. Really spend time thinking about it from an academic perspective, rather than just my own experiences.

Over the next year or so, I did three more plans. These were all for first time visitors, and with different criteria. One was an adult couple with no kids, and without much of a budget per se. One for a young family with a 6 year old girl, and on a tight budget. One was for a mom and 10 year old daughter. All were going for full vacations where they’d have a chance to take on each park for at least one day.

My trip plans were getting more and more in depth. I started writing detailed analysis for each park; breaking down the exact route I recommended for maximum riding and minimum waiting. Keeping in mind things like “The 6-year old will probably care far more about Dumbo and meeting Goofy than the adult couple”. I wrote out reviews of restaurants and shows. I editorialized more and more. I had more fun with it. I even included things like “Fun Disney Facts and Trivia” that corresponded with where the people were on the plan.

I never accepted payment for these plans, even though it was always offered. I usually just ask for a pin or two in exchange. Asking for Captain Hook pins or Expedition Everest pins. Nowadays, I’m kind of on an Orange Bird kick.

I got a lot of kind words about these plans, and some people talked about how effective they were, and that was great. I was happy that I could help people find Disney less stressful and more awesome.

I even made sure to make note of certain things on each of my last few visits. Of course, I spent all that time thinking about it, and suddenly the “planning” well ran dry. Many of my friends are Disney veterans who either don’t need advice, or at least think they don’t. I didn’t see many others going for the first time. I didn’t really do a plan for quite a while, though I admit to thinking often about how better to home in on exactly the plan a group needs, and not just the plan I want to provide.

Then recently, I got a random e-mail from a friend who’d spent an evening sitting next to my Dad and Step-mom at a wedding. They mentioned that they were heading to Disney soon, and after some pimping from The Beefy Padre, they sent me an e-mail asking me for some tips.

They presented my biggest challenge yet, because they’re Disney Vets. She estimated they’d gone over five times, and she made a point of saying that they were very familiar with the basics, but wanted to know some more advanced tips to better enjoy their Disney experience.

I was pretty excited about putting this one together, because I could assume they knew the basics. I also had an opportunity to test out some new things I’d been thinking over. I was really able to challenge myself to come up with tips and tricks that would be interesting to a person who’d experienced “It’s Tough to be a Bug” a dozen times already. I got to be a little more esoteric. I got to take a few extra liberties.

My favorite tip? Visit Jungle Cruise after dark. I don’t know why, but it’s a whole different ride experience.

I got a few texts over the course of their trip, saying that they enjoyed their time, and thanking me. I can’t wait to really break it down with them and find out what worked, what didn’t, and what they’d like in a really good Disney plan.

Meanwhile, I seem to be experiencing a sort of Trip Plan Renaissance, too, as I have just recently written a basic plan (as basic as 5000 words can be) for a first time family who will be arriving at Disney on Saturday, and I have an Uncle/Niece tandem heading down in a month, and I’m working on one for them, too.

It’s shaping up to be an exciting Summer for my development as a Disney World expert.

So anyway… All of this is sort of preface to this thought that there’s gotta be a way to do more with it.

So far, the best website I’ve seen that does plans is . They charge about 15 dollars a year to subscribe to their insider information, and they have a computer program that takes a set amount of criteria (primarily historical crowd data and ride wait times.), combines it with your answers to some targeted questions (what is your walking speed? Would you rather wait less or walk less? What rides do you want to ride?) and it spits out an itinerary.

It’s pretty cool, and certainly on the right track, but I can’t help but feel that they’re just skimming the surface.

One of the great things about Disney and Disney World is that they are primarily concerned with customer experience. Customer experience is what sets Disney apart. That warm, fuzzy feeling that not only do they care about making money (as all companies do, and good for them!), but they care about creating fans for life.

The touring plans website is extremely helpful for FACTS. The compilation of historical data to come up with estimated crowd volumes for certain dates. Their itineraries are very interesting, and certainly sound to some degree, but they’re also fairly general.

My dream is to come up with a formula that is 10 times more detailed. I can think of a million questions that would help refine a perfect Disney trip plan… Aside from the basics (Dates, party demographics) other factors could be:

- Are you ride people, show people, or a mix?
- Do you have park hoppers?
- Are you staying on or off property?
- What is your walking speed?
- Would you rather wait less or walk less?
- On a 1-10 scale, how much interest do you have in: Parades? Shows? Meeting Characters? Taking photos?
- Are you on the Disney Dining Plan?
- Is anyone prone to motion sickness?
- Is anyone afraid of a particular type of ride? If so, what kind?
- Does anyone in the party require extra time getting on or off rides?
- How many times has your MOST EXPERIENCED Disney visitor been to Disney?

These are just off the top of my head!!!!

Can you imagine a Disney plan that takes all of these factors into consideration?

So I guess… All of this blogging today is a long way to ask you 2 questions:

Is there a demand for a real, personalized Disney trip planner?

If I make it a business, could I write off my own trips?


  1. How about writing a book or booklet.? I am writing to you today on Facebook about my g/son & family is going to Disney July 21 and I am also telling him to look up your blog.
    Erma K.

  2. Hi Beefy! I'm a longtime reader of your lovely girlfriend's blog, and followed a link she posted. I love Disney and think there would be great interest in a Disney trip planner! As a matter of fact, I am taking my 2 year old to Disney World this October. It will be the first trip for both her and I, so I would love any suggestions you would be willing to give! I'm also going to pore over your blog for insider tips!

  3. i'm here from k's blog too. and yes i totally think you could have a business with this. i am overwhelmed at the idea of trying to make a 3 or 4 day trip the best possible for our family and would definitely be willing to pay for low grade expert advice. like, first off, how young is too young for my kids to go? right now they are 5 1/2 and 3 1/2...

  4. Hi Misty! I'd be happy to talk to you about your trip with your 2 year old. Feel free to e-mail me any questions you have at (I'll e-mail you also!)

    Hi Jane, thanks for stopping by! You know, that's a pretty common question, and really the answer is... it depends on the kids. If it were me? I'd wait for 2 things:
    1) Will the kid DEFINITELY remember the trip? (If not, you're gonna be spending a lot of money and a lot of time lugging a kid around who would likely be just as happy at the park.
    2) Is the kid able to walk distances on their own, and if not, how badly do you want to push a stroller at a crowded park?

    Whenever I get bummed that I'm still a long way from my next visit, I have to remind myself that most everything will still be there the next time. The same goes with a small child. They're not getting rid of the Princesses or Dumbo any time soon. If they'll appreciate it more in a year, don't feel like you need to rush.