Understanding Park Recommendations

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The park recommendations were created in the same spirit as everything else in TouringPlans.com and the Unofficial Guides. It’s meant to be a guideline; a source of information. If Grandpa is only in town on Tuesday and desperately wants to eat at Biergarten, then by all means, go! If you’ve always imagined being in the Magic Kingdom on July 4th, then why not? Jump in line and have fun! Just because a park might have been recommended as a park to avoid that day doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the desires of your touring group. Make decisions about your vacation based on what will be the best use of your time and money. And remember…

A good touring plan is 5 times more beneficial in saving you time as compared to picking the right day to visit a park.

That being said, here are a couple of points to help you interpret the park recommendations:

  • The order sometimes matters. By default we post the parks in chronological order (MK, EP, DS, and AK). If we deviate from this that means the first park listed scored higher than the parks listed after.
  • A park not listed as best park or park to avoid is just that, in the middle. We have no reason to recommend it but we also see no reason to avoid it.
  • If you are interested in taking advantage of EMH morning then by all means, go ahead. If you have park hoppers you might consider hopping to the recommended park after your morning of touring.
  • We are constantly updating our data and re-calculating our model. Check for updates to the calendar regularly.

How We Determine Parks to Recommend and Parks to Avoid

Many people ask us why a theme park is recommended on one day or another. The answer is not as easy for us to determine as you might think. The model we use for determining what park to recommend is a little complicated.

Our method for calculating the best days / parks to avoid has changed recently but still begins with the same basic rules.

  • Try to avoid MK on a major national holiday
  • Try to avoid a park when it has EMH
  • Recommend a park on a day of the week that our data shows tends to be less crowded

We also look at things like park hours, special events, proximity to a holiday as well a whole laundry list of other data that we have spent years collecting. We take all these factors and combine them into a score function with certain factors having more weight than others. Once we have a calculation of what we expect the crowd to be, we can decide at what threshold we recommend a park and at what threshold we recommend avoiding a park.

Then… it gets complicated.

We have certain restrictions that we want to enforce when we recommend parks to avoid and parks to visit. Besides the obvious restrictions like needing at least one park recommended every day, we also want to make sure that every park is recommended at least once in every 7 day period on the calendar. This is the restriction that often causes us to recommend a park that normally we wouldn’t. For example, we might need to recommend Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a day with Extra Magic Hours because in that particular seven day stretch, that’s when we estimate the crowds will be smallest.

So when you see a park recommended on a given day it may be for any of the following reasons:

  • It falls on a day of the week that is normally not as crowded for that park
  • There is no EMH or Special Event scheduled for that day
  • Amongst the 4 parks this one is the least crowded that day
  • This is the best day in a seven day period to visit this park

Happy touring!

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Posted on December 22, 2008

8 Responses to “Understanding Park Recommendations”

  • My mother an I are running the Princess Half Marathon have a question. We are planning on going to Epcot on either Friday, March 5 or Saturday March 6. The crowd level is a 4 on Friday, but the park to avoid is Epcot. On Saturday the crowd level is a 7, but the recommended park is Epcot.

    Is it better to go to Epcot on a recommended day when the crowd is a 7, or on a day the level is 4, but it is the park to avoid?

    If you have time to answer this, I will pass the info on to some of the other running princesses.

    Thank you!

  • by Minnie's best friend on February 28, 2010, at 5:07 pm EDT

    Thanks for posting this question. We’re in the run and are wondering the same thing. With the Epcot Flower & Garden Show opening Wednesday of that week, I have a feeling that Epcot will be very popular either of the days you’ve listed. TouringPlans fits each park into a weekly rotation, so that may be why Epcot is listed for Saturday.

  • We are planning on taking our small children (4 and 2) to Magic Kingdom next week wither 3/29 or 3/31. It says the crowd levels are a 10 being the worst for majoy attractions. What shoudl I expect for the smaller children rides (teacups, small world, etc.)?

  • The hours for October are posted on WDW today and was wondering if the crowd calendar reflected the hours posted or not. I noticed some are listed as best park but are listed as EMH parks for those days???

    • Park hours are not officially posted on Disneys website yet although we expect they will be on Wednesday. We have seen the schedule on the Travel agent’s site but it looks suspiciously incorrect so we’re waiting for more details.

      • Even though you go to disneyparks.com and the dates for october show and emh are there they are not offical yet? How do we know when they are offical?

  • Great Site, using for the first time.. Quick Q.. I see the crowd levels at 5 for AK on thursday, but it says avoid due to EMH ?.. If the crowd level is a 5, should I really think too much about the avoid rating ?

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