Crowd Calendar Update

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With the recent changes to Park Hours, Extra Magic Hours, Parades Schedules and Fantasmic performances we took the opportunity to update a lot of the background data that goes into the Crowd Calendar. We collect thousands of pieces of data on hotel occupancy, weather, special events and of course, wait times at all the Walt Disney World attractions. Thanks to all of our readers who wrote, texted, Twittered and Facebooked the wait times while in the park. You can help us too – Click here.

Keep ‘em coming!

Some information about the latest updates:

  • Ninety percent of the changes to the crowd level index were an increase or decrease by one index point.
  • Sixty percent of the changes to the crowd level index were a decrease. This tells us that in general, there has been a slight decrease in the wait times that we’re seeing in the park compared to historical figures.
  • Most of the changes to the recommended parks and parks to avoid were due to the schedule for Fantasmic showings. As we know, the lack of daily Fantasmic shows means that when the show is performed, crowds tend to flock to the Studios all day. If you don’t have any plans to see Fantasmic, avoid the Studios. If  you want to see it, go on a day were the Studios are recommended by the calendar or when the Studios are not listed as a park to avoid.
  • Reminder: It is our humble opinion that it is easier to deal with a park on a slightly busy day than it is to try and re-book Advance Dining Reservations. If the crowd index is less than 8, its probably perfectly manageable with a good touring plan. If it is 8 or greater then it may be worth it to switch reservations around.

Of course, the Crowd Calendar is always subject to change. We can count on the park hours and schedules changing again as we approach the Spring season.

Happy Touring!

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Posted on November 10, 2009

50 Responses to “Crowd Calendar Update”

  • Thanks for the update, Fred.

    I see our week (Thanksgiving) is now 8s, from 7s. Given how WDW expanded park hours and added Fantasmic showings for that week, my only surprise is that the levels only went up 1 notch.

  • Hi everyone. Thanks so much for all of the information. We’re going down from Dec. 2-8th, and I was just wondering where The Sum of All Thrills fits into an Epcot touring plan. It’s something that we’re dying to see, but not necessarily at the cost of the chance to ride Soarin’ twice in one morning (with the rush, Fastpass, ride, then use Fastpass later.) Is it something that would probably be manageable after high tailing it from Soarin’ to Test Track?

    Thanks for the info!
    -Matt

  • by Oliver Jewell on November 10, 2009, at 3:11 pm EDT

    Whoah! What happened on Weds 16th Dec? I had it down as a 5, admittedily I haven’t checked for a month or so as I was waiting to get closer but that has gone up to an 8, whereas everything else over my two weeks hasn’t changed

    Thanks

  • Ugh! Going for the weekend before Thanksgiving and it’s all 8s now. I can’t believe it will be MORE crowded than the week before Christmas (7s). We go to enjoy the decorations and lower crowds. Guess we’ll cancel the trip. Bummer.

  • I am going December 5-12 and noticed only one of my days has gone from a 5 to a 4. I can’t believe it since I have heard it is going to be more crowded that week than normal. I sure hope they add more Fantasmic! shows as well as Wishes fireworks. Thanks for the update to the Crowd Calendar!

  • Yes, I was surprised at some of the changes too. Our wait times are showing a slight decrease over previous years which is having an effect.

    Our crowd level index is heavily tied to the park hours. In general, if the park hours go up, so will the index.

  • It’s not just the Fantasmic showings – because December is summer for many parts of South America, the turismos (what I call the Brazilian tour groups) will be in full force as well as the Pop Warner part6icipants!

  • Please, what is driving the change on the Dec 16th crowd level?
    I am wondering if I should try to change my adrs because of it …

  • What in the world is happening on the 16th to make it an 8 in the middle of 4′s and 5′s?

  • Upon first glance I can’t see any reason why December 16th is showing up as an 8 at the Magic Kingdom. I’ll investigate and get back to you. There is a chance that this could be an error.

    • Ok, for all those interested in December 16, here’s the deal. As one of our readers noticed, this seems to occur a lot on Wednesdays.

      December 16th (as well as some other Wednesdays) is sandwiched between several days where the Magic Kingdom is hosting a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Relative to the days around it, this means that December 16th has much longer operating hours for day guests. Longer hours tends to bring bigger crowds and that is why we think December 16th will be more crowded than normal.

      Hope this helps.

      • So does this mean that it’s MK that’s going to be crowded on Dec 16 — not the other parks? It says AK is the park to avoid.
        (Because our plans have us going to AK on the 15th and Epcot on the 16th, which is our favorite park. But we would hate to be in long lines at Epcot. So our plan B is to go to Epcot on Dec 15 even though it’s AM EMH but only a crowd level 4, and go to AK on Dec 16, the park to avoid ton a crowd level 8. What to do? We don’t want to buy hoppers! Just skip AK altogether?)

        • The crowd level index is an indicator of the expected crowds at the Magic Kingdom only. It says nothing about the crowds at the other parks. For information about crowds at the other parks consider the best days / parks to avoid recommendations.

          • Hi, so as an example is it better to go to Epcot on a level 4 day even if Epcot is shown as the park to avoid that day or to go to Epcot on a level 6 with Epcot as the recommended park for that day.

  • Thank you! I am pleased to see the changes.
    ((((hugs for the whole team!))))

  • Is Dec 5th an 8 because they extended the hours so late in the Magic Kingdom? Do you think they did that because they are taping the parade that day?

    Thanks!!

    • It could be. Usually the parade taping does not affect wait times although it does cause a lot of congestion along main street. It is also strange to see later hours just for the parade taping, that is likely a coincidence.

  • As I suspected I would be, I’m in a little bit of a pickle. My plans and ADRs revolved around the “best park” recommendations, primarily the DS one on Fri, 12/11. Now DS is on the “avoid” list for that day. We had a late-arrival touring plan that looked good given a crowd level of 4 and best park recommendation. To switch our days around based on the new crowd calendar, we’d need to lose an AK ADR the kids really want, but I’m worried that DS will be a zoo on the 11th and I’d like to avoid that. Any thoughts? suggestions?

  • My family of 5 visited WDW for the first time during “Jersey Week”. We arrived 10/31 and departed 11/7. Crowd level indices varied from 4 – 7, with most days being a 5 or 6. Except for Epcot which we visited on parts of 3 days, we arrived at the parks b/4 opening. Early in the day, waits for attractions were non-existent or minimal except for Toy Story Mania at DHS. Everyone wanted to ride that and ran there first thing to line up for a Fast Pass and the Standby line. We did the same, although I didn’t run. Later in the morning and into the afternoon, things picked up at the all the parks, but for the most part, the crowds died down as evening approached.

    The key for me was following the “parks to avoid” advice, which seems like basic common sense. For example, unless you plan on seeing Fantasmic, avoid DHS on that day. Unless you plan on taking advantage of the Extra Magic Hour in the morning, avoid that park in the morning.

    I put together my own touring guides for each park based on advice from the book and family preferences, with a goal of trying to minimize back-tracking. However, with minimal waits at attractions, we liberally followed the plans.

    I am a big fan of the book and the web-site and now Disney World. We had a great trip and can’t wait to go back!

    • Our problem is that Disney added Fantasmic days. We were scheduled to go on a non-F! day (and that’s why it was the “best park”), but then Disney added Fantasmic showings. Now every night we’re there is a F! night and our orginal DH day switched over to the “avoid” column. Unfortunately, all of our ADRs were already made and changing park days is a bit problematic as far as ADRs are concerned. Actually, though, I was able to make everything workable except that darned Donald’s Safari Breakfast which one of my sons REALLY wants to do.

      That’s how I put our touring plans together too – making a list of family preferences and using the UG touring plans as a general guide, also with a goal of minimal back-tracking.

      Unless Len comes back and tells me not to worry about giong to DH on that particular “avoid” day, I’ll likely end up switching our days and just keep checking for restaurant cancellations. Weird thing is that DH is the “avoid” park for several days in a row.

      • Woops – I meant Fred, not Len! When I was typing, I was thinking of someone I work with. :-)

        • Its a tough call Theresa. ADRs are hard to comeby and a pain to have to re-book and re-organize. It is ultimately up to you if the time it takes will be worth it. There will be a benefit to avoiding the Stuios on a day with Fantasmic for sure but this time of year it is not as essential. What about hopping parks for your ADR?

          • Thanks Fred. Unfortunately, F! is showing every night we are there. Hoppers are out of the question; with six of us in the family, we couldn’t justify the extra cost. I’m leaning heavily towards just switching our days to correspond with the “best parks”. I was able to get the ADRs we wanted for our possible new schedule except for Donald’s Safari Breakfast. Especially since we have a Crystal Palace breakfast, I’m trying to take a step back and put things in perspective – in the whole scheme of things, how much does that one ADR at Donald’s Safari really mean? Probably not much. And boy, am I ever getting tired of constantly checking the system for an opening! I’m going to try to just move on. :-)

  • Surprised to see that 11/21 thru 11/25 are now @ 8′s. I thought this was going to be the best chance to take my kids to Disney without the crowds.

    I knew Thanksgiving Day thru the weekend would be busy, I was not expecting the days before Thanksgiving to be so busy.

    I know it would kill my kids, but I am wondering if I should cancel the trip. They have only ever been to Disney during the off season, when the crowd calendar was 4 or 5′s tops. Not sure how they would handle and accept the crowds. They do not like to wait in lines.

    I guess I could try and explain it to them and see what they say.

    • Just a little freak out. We are still going, not going to cancel the trip. It must of been the flu talking.

      I have been to Disney 30+ times at all times of the year and on almost every holiday. Just being there is better than not being there.

      Also, rather have the crowds in November and the cooler temps than having them in the summer with the heat.

      We are staying on-site, and I am going to upgrade to the hopper when we get there. So I don’t think we will have to many problems.

      I have never used the touring plans before. How come for Epcot you don’t add Test Track for plans with kids?

  • I am not holding myself up as an expert but I have been to WDW 15+ times and am a big planner and Crowd Calendar follower. Having said that, last year in May, the crowd calendar changed for our week, a month prior to our trip, from 5s and 6s to 8s. We were freaked out! BUT…in reality we had minimal waits and were pleasantly surprised. Remember, the numbers apply to headliner attractions at peak wait times. Get your FP, stick to your touring plan and don’t let some predictions ruin your magic. By the way…I chose, because of scheduling one time, to wait in the line for Soarin’ since the FP window would have been after I left the park. Best line I ever waited in. I had so much fun in line!!!! Only illness or death would make me cancel a trip to WDW. If HS is showing Fantasmic so many times, everyone who wants to see the show will not be flocking to the park on the same day.

    • Well said Debra! Think of the calendar as a guide. Its a general sense of what’s happening so that or readers can be prepared. Having a solid touring plan is by far, the best was to beat the crowds.

  • Two questions, Fred. You mentioned that December 16 may be more crowded that day because park hours are “much longer” that day than other days around it. By the WDW calendar, MK is only open til 8 on Dec. 16, just one hour more than on MVMCP nights. Do you think that one hour is enough to draw crowds that size, or would the Spectromagic Parade that night affect crowd levels to that extent? I’m not trying in any way to quibble with your crowd predictions, but it still seems very odd to see an 8 on a Wednesday in the middle of all those 4s and 5s. I’m very happy about the 4s and 5s, by the way, since that’s our vacation week at WDW.

    Also, the week of December 13, Fantasmic! has been added to every night of the week. Wouldn’t that tend to spread out the crowds at DHS, so that it may not be necessary to think about avoiding DHS on a Fantasmic! night? Otherwise, one would have to avoid DHS for the entire week!

    And just wanted to add my thanks and appreciation for your work. I’ve used your crowd predictions as a guide for years and have never felt as if I’ve been steered wrong.

    • I’m not Fred, but I think that one hour probably does make a big difference in that on party nights, you really do have to be out by 7 PM (if you don’t have party tickets), but on the Wednesday that’s not a party night and the park closes at 8 PM, you really have another hour or so after that until you really have to leave. Also, as you suggest, I think having Spectro (and Wishes) on that night will make a huge difference too.

    • Also on that note, would it be better to go MK on the 14th with EMH and the crowd level only a 5 compared to the 16th with the crowd level at 8? Does that make sense?

      • I’m struggling with that exact same question (we’ll be there the 12th through the 19th, and I keep going back and forth. Would love to read a response from Fred, if he has an opinion…

      • As a follow up: I’m puzzled as to how MK crowd levels can be projected at an 8 on 12/16, while the MK remains on the list of recommended parks for that day — especially since the current reasoning behind the “8″ is that the rare non-MVMCP night at MK will draw a disproportionate crowd. Something doesn’t seem quite right, but I’m not sure what…

        • It’s a good point, but remember: recommending a park takes into account more than just the crowds, it is about maximizing your experience. One of our rules is that a park should be avoided if it is hosting a special event (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party). The shortened hours reduce value and cramp the touring plans.

          • Thanks for the response, Fred.

            “One of our rules is that a park should be avoided if it is hosting a special event (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party).”

            Interestingly, Tuesday, December 15th is a MVMCP evening at the Magic Kingdom… and the Magic Kingdom is recommended that day.

            Perhaps the rules are flexible in that any one rule can be superceded by a preponderance of other, conflicting rules, depending on the specific scenario. In any event, I’m still dithering over whether to take my family to MK on an evening EMH day on which the crowd level is forecast to be a 5, or on a non-EMH day on which the crowd level is forecast to be an 8. Let’s make things simple — you tell me what to do. :-)

            Cheers!

    • According to the Disney calendars, during the week of December 13th – 18th, Spectro parade and Wishes are only able to be seen on Monday the 14th and Wednesday the 16th. The 14th is EMH evening hours at MK. The only other night is the 16th, so, I agree, this probably affects the crowd level.

      • So Monday 12/14 and Wednesday 12/16 are both spectro/wishes nights between MVMCP. Monday has EMH and is a 5. Thursday does not have EMH and is an 8. Seems like Monday should be the 8, doesn’t it?

        BTW, LOVE the site! You do great work!

        • Blake uses the exact same reasoning I do and has the exact same question. I still haven’t seen an answer that truly addresses it. If you compare Monday 12/14 and Wednesday 12/16, BOTH are sandwiched between MVMCP nights and BOTH have Spectro and Wishes. The differences are that Monday 12/14 has an EMH and is open until 11:00 p.m., while Wednesday, 12/16 has no EMH and is only open until 8:00 p.m.

          By all rights, it seems that Monday 12/14 would be the MORE crowded day/night. Yet it is rated a 5 and Wednesday 12/16 is rated an 8. I just don’t get it. ???????

          The only explanation I hear is that 12/16 is the last non-holiday showing of Wishes (before it converts to Christmas Wishes) and that locals will come out to see it. Why wouldn’t they come on Monday 12/14 instead so they could stay until 11:00 rather than have to leave at 8:00?

          What are we failing to see here? Changing my plans will be a pain, but I’ll do it to avoid an 8. Thanks for any insight!

          • Hmmm, these are good points as well. It is difficult to explain sometimes why a statistical model predicts something one way and not another. It may be the case that the model will be proved wrong in this case.

            However, there are a couple more reasons I can think of that may explain the low crowd estimate on the Monday.

            - Monday’s park hours are shorter (we don’t include EMH when calculating park hours because the park isn’t open for day guests)
            - Historically, Wednesdays are one of the busier days at the Magic Kingdom and Mondays are one of the slowest. It has to do (we think) with travel patterns. The majority of travellers depart on Saturday and choose to visit the Magic Kingdom on their first day, Sunday. This usually means they choose a different park on Monday.

            Hope this helps. When you return, let us know how the crowds were, maybe there is something we are missing.

          • I know I’m late to the party here, but we were at WDW the week of December 13 and spent the day on Wednesday the 16th at Magic Kingdom, despite its being an 8 in a week of otherwise 4s and 5s. We had breakfast ADRs at CP and wanted to see Wishes and Spectro, so we decided to just take our chances. As it turns out, we didn’t really notice any difference in that day compared to any other day of the week, and we spent at least parts of three other days at MK. We had little to no waits for any attractions and used fastpasses for those that always seem to have a wait (at least more of a standby wait than my impatient self wants to tolerate), like Test Track and Space Mountain. We watched Spectro from Frontierland, and there were spaces available right on the rope line for the entire parade. I’m not sure why that day was rated an 8, but from our experience the crowds never seemed to materialize.

  • We are going the week of April 24th which I really thought would be a good week to go. Easter is on April 4th and most Spring breaks are over by the 24th (I did heavy research on Spring breaks in different areas). My crowd level for that week went from mostly 5′s to mostly 7′s and an 8! What happened?? I know the cheer competition is the weekend we arrive, and that Grad nights are on book-ends of our trip, but wondered why “during the week” it went up by 2 notches? Any insight??

  • My family is headed to Walt Disney World for the first time for a little over a week starting on November 28. I’ve checked the crowd calendar and am pleased to see alot of 4s and 5s. We planned the trip for this time of year because I heard that the crowds are generally low this time of year.

    That being said, Disney now has all kinds of promotions this year for that week and I’ve noticed lots of showings of Fantasmic added for that week. I’m a bit concerned that “the secret is out” and this year, the crowds will be bad that week.

    One of the apparent predictors on the crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this year has been whether Fantasmic is showing. From what I understand, that park is generally less crowded on non-Fantasmic days. That being said, why does the crowd calendar indicate the park to “avoid” on December 5 is Disney’s Hollywood Studios when that is one of the only days that Fantasmic WONT be shown that week?

    • If they have listed that the parks are 4′s and 5′s, you can pretty much do whatever you want, whenever you want (except, during midday, there will be a [b]listed[/b] (<- they usually over estimate) 30-60 min waits for the top attractions: like the mountains). And, that's ONLY during the prime hours. Non-peak hours, we go running all the way up to the point where they load people. You flash fingers for how many people are in your group, and you're put into the mini-que for which row of seating you'll be in. You're on the loading dock and you're watching the carts slide up, just waiting for your's: That's the longest line you'll have. (If you avoid peak hours for level 4 or 5 days).

      Even if you're right, and you're looking at something a bit worse than that, it's still nothing.

      As for December 5th: HS has morning magic hours. People flock to that park out of the desperate hope to be able to ride the Toy Story ride without an hour wait. (Foolish mortals).

      If you're worried about crowds: get the park hopper. And, plan out things to do if the parks get crowded, like: go shop/eat(/enjoy how pretty it is) around the World Showcase at Epcot (<- part of why they always suggest Epcot for deadly days, Epcot also has an aquarium you could easily spend an hour in), go see all of the animal exhibits at AK (treat it like a zoo).

      We've gone for early December for both 2007 and 2008. 2008 seemed significantly busier than 2007 (so, yes, maybe "the secret is getting out), but still… we rode every single ride as much as we wanted to.

      • Hi Samantha,
        Just saw your mention that you guys have been early December 2007 and 2008. We’re planning a Dec 3-9, 2010 trip… and noticed Dec 4 is a crowd level of 10. (!) What’s that all about? Have you noticed unusually large crowds that first Saturday in December in the past?

        • We go Dec 8-18ish, but still Saturdays are the most busy day. I can’t even imagine what a full 10 is doing there though! It is the weekend after Thanksgiving, so it could be locals that are avoiding holidays but still want to go for the holiday festivities. Oh! Or maybe the Christmas Day parade taping! I bet that’s what it is.

          • I agree with the Christmas parade taping theory. The taping is just about always done the first weekend in December, and it creates enormous crowds on that Saturday in the Magic Kingdom , which is the basis for the crowd calendar calculations.

  • Just re-subscribed for a somewhat last-minute planned trip for Feb. that’s finally seeming to come together. Essentially, schedules restriced us to dates falling within Feb 5 to 14. Prior crowd level research had me thinking that this is still a good low crowd time – President’s Week only starting on (at the earliest I would guess) Friday Feb. 12th.

    So, I found it somewhat surprising that the only days below a 6 in that entire span is Friday Feb. 5th and Tuesday Feb. 9th. Wednesday Feb. 10th is a 6 – everything else is 7 and 8. Is there something that is increasing the crowds the week BEFORE President’s Day? May 21-28 – which is Regular Season and has the first Star Wars Weekend of the year comes out with better numbers than Feb 5-14, which is still supposed to be Value Season.

    What have I overlooked?!?

  • We are planning a December 2010 trip and noticed the crowd calendar has a crowd rating of “10″ on Saturday, Dec 4, our first park day. All other dates around it are rated 4-6. The only other 10 ratings are the holiday dates of Dec 25-31… so I’m a bit curious. Is there something local planned for that Dec 4, or some other reason why it’s expected to have holiday-sized crowds?

  • We were in the Magic Kingdom this past Dec 5 which was rated an 8. This was supposed to be the day they taped the Christmas parade. There was heavy rain and wind in the morning but when it cleared up around noon, we immediately left our hotel and headed over. At first the park was very uncrowded, we walked right on the Jungle Cruise, Pirates and Splash Mountain. After we got of Splash, we immediately walked over to the Haunted Mansion only to find a 40 min wait. Peter Pan was over an hour wait at that point, It’s a Small World 30 min and growing. We made our way out of the park against a MASSIVE sea of people coming in and headed over to the Studios instead. The MK was open that night till 1am so we decided to come back around 10pm and see how the lines looked. Even at 12:30, Big Thunder Mountain had a 30 min line and Peter Pan was still at 40 min. Although not as crowded as when we left in the afternoon, it was still busy considering it was late at night and pretty chilly. It was the most crowded day we saw since arriving on Nov 30.

  • I love finding out all the diverse styles of Decmber 21 12 theory, I think one smashing thing that has come of all of this, even if nothing takes place is that it has opened our minds to the possibility that we may not be here forever and that we need to hold dear the life we have.