Updates for May and June 2009 – Again

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Predicting the Unpredictable

Predicting the crowds at Walt Disney World has always been a challenge, but lately its become downright fickle business. Crowds from the last two weeks have been much larger than even Disney was expecting. Park hours were extended, parade performances were added to the daily schedules and fireworks shows were repeated on some nights. All of these factors are important parts of our model that predicts crowds. When Disney gets it wrong, its hard for us to get it right.

Still, if we backcast our model for the previous two weeks including changes to the schedules we get crowd estimates of 9 and 10, exactly what was observed.

The latest numbers on occupancy and attendance also point to increased crowds throughout Spring and Summer 2009. We can only assume that Disney will also adjust hours for April, May and June. In fact, they have already made some changes.

Our latest updates to the crowd calendar show increased crowd estimates for May and June because of the latest data. As always, the estimates are subject to change as the information changes. Perhaps this is a good time for us to recite the TouringPlans.com credo:

Remember, a good touring plan is 5 times more important than choosing the correct day to visit a theme park. A good touring plan is the best way to deal with any crowd.

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Posted on March 27, 2009

13 Responses to “Updates for May and June 2009 – Again”

  • I have to say I am very frustrated with your site. May hours have not been changed at all during the week I will be there (5/9-5/15), and yet your predictions have changed dramatically. Days that were 5′s a couple of weeks ago have become 8′s! I understand that you aren’t mind readers, but your predictions weren’t even close on most of the days that week. I don’t know why you bother to publish this calendar a year in advance. Anyone who used it to plan a trip for the beginning of May is sorely disappointed.

    • Hi Marilyn,

      Thanks for the feedback. I’m sure our statistician Fred will have more detail on the specific drivers for the changing numbers. However, the state of the U.S. economy over the last several months is unlike anything we’ve seen, and that makes it difficult to predict future crowds based on past observations. We’re handling that by having people in the parks almost daily now, so the crowd calendar reflects our most up-to-date thinking based on what’s actually happening on the ground. I don’t know of a better alternative than that, but I’m open to suggestions.

      Thanks again!

      • Hi Marilyn, thanks for your comments and we can certainly understand your frustration. With Disney making last minute changes to park hours and schedules, popular promotions and higher than expected attendance our predicting model from last year had to be drastically changed. We also make sure that when we alter the calendar, we do it based on real data to reflect what we have observed, not hunches or guesses. These latest changes are a result of real changes happening to the recent flow of crowds.

        Your point about predicting crowds a year in advance is well taken. We may need to re-examine how far out we post our predicitons. Especially now that Disney only publishes their park hours 3 months in advance, our predictions are becoming more volitile.

        Fred

  • Having visited Disney World during mid-March, I was surprised to see higher-than-expected crowds – the fact that your estimates in hindsight were 9′s and 10′s instead of the originally-posted 6′s or 7′s confirmed my suspicions.

    When planning our holiday I noticed that Disney changed their park hours more than once in the time leading up to our stay, and then they even adjusted the hours & parades/fireworks for the MK merely a few days in advance. Clearly even Disney was not expecting as many guests.

    So I agree that continual adjustments based on all available known factors is the best approach. Perhaps it would be good to have the ability to show changes to the calendar if/when they are made. Had I known that the parks would be more crowded, I would have prepared slightly differently. And yet, despite higher crowds, we never waited longer than 20 minutes for anything, by following good touring plan principles.

    Just because the park is going to be more crowded than you might have first thought doesn’t mean you can’t beat those crowds.

  • Any updates for the end of May and beginning of June? I’m starting the Disney adventure on May 27th – ending June 4th. Thank you guys! Your guide has ALWAYS saved our butt on these trips…

  • Okay, I’m really upset as well! I decided to pull my kids out of school so we could visit during a week of crowd predictions of 5 on most of the days of our stay! Now I see these predictions are 8′s and 9′s. This absolutely impacts our trip. I’m very disappointed.

  • By the way, we are attending the same time as Marilyn, the week of May 9. What exactly has happened that has changed this week to one of 5 ratings to 8′s and 9′s??? Any thoughts?

  • I am also in the traveling crowd of 5/9 to 5/16.
    I must say that I am really upset and surprised at this change to the crowd calendar to go from 5s-7s to solid 8s and 9s for that week.

    I’m a bit skeptical of these predictions, especially since the middle of may is still the last couple weeks of school for most systems that let out early for summer. Also, all School Spring breaks are finished, so one could assume that most children and families are focused on finishing off the school year’s final weeks, rather than traveling.

    When I visit, I will be keeping note of the attractions top wait times and congestion levels, as well as any changes to the park operating hours, which I thought were a bit short to begin with. Granted I cannot be in all four parks at the same time, but we’ll see what happens.

    Also, I have to say that your 2nd week of January levels were a bit off, as it seemed they did not account for the massive numbers of Brazilian tour groups, as well as college cheer competitions that were going on. On a positive note, I thank you for the heads up with regards to the Disney Marathon weekend, but, crowd levels aside, it was a bit of a mess trying to navigate around the parks in the mornings while the marathon was going on.

    • Thanks for your comments everyone.

      Parts of our model rely heavily on Disney’s anouncements of park schedules and hours of operation. When Disney changes its schedules on the fly as they have done this spring it means that we have to anticipate that as well. In simple terms, a ten-hour day at the Magic Kingdom doesn’t mean the same as it did in years past because Disney is ignoring their own crowd predicitons in favor of cutting back.

      Our crowd calendar represents a range for the maximum wait time observed in the Magic Kingdom. On average, the actual maximum posted wait times are within the range more than 80% of the time and are within 5 minutes of the range 90% of the time. Any statistical model will be wrong a certain percentage of the time, our goal is to minimize the errors and in that respect we do better than most.

      Allen, please do let us know the wait times you observe in the Magic Kingdom (and other parks) during your trip. Of particular interest to our statistical team is your use of Fastpass. If you use Fastpass at any time, take note of the time you obtained the pass and the time of the Fastpass return window. This tells us a lot about the size of the crowd.

      Thanks and happy touring!

  • My wife and i just returned home from a visit to WDW. We used the predictions sheets from April 21 thru 27th and found them pretty useful as far as best parks/parks to avoid were concerned. I wasnt too concerned with the numerical crowd level info because most of the time there are lots of people around so whether they are 5s, 8s, 9s, or 10s doesnt really change anything. You still gotta get to the fastpass lines quick!!!

  • No disrepct to anyone but predicting crowds at Disney is like predicting stock market and I do beleive if you a good plan with a great outllook no matter if its a 5 or 9 the feeling and result is the same and I thank this web site for the plan part ,This time it will be the first time my 4 year old will see the castle in June and that will be a 10 no matter what the crowd level will be .

  • Thank you for the website, and all your hard work, I was there june 7th through the 14th, with two boys, 6 and 11, it was hot, we used the plans every day til noon or a bit later, went back to the hotel, swam, nap, beer. never waited in any line longer than 20 min! I had good luck with the crowd calender, even with star wars weekend and gay days! (evenings were kids choice )

  • I’m curious if you track actual crowds after the fact. If so, what did the crowd level end up being the week of May 10th? I would be interested in understanding whether we were there during a relatively slow week or busy week. Please provide actual crowd data for that week, if possible. Thanks!

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