Crowd Calendar 2.0: Smarter, More Accurate And Not Scary At All

by on May 17, 2010 137 Comments

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Exciting things are happening at headquarters. Recently we launched a redesigned version of the site. Today, we are eager to give you a sneak peek at the new version of our Crowd Calendar.

The Crowd Calendar is designed to help you answer the following questions:

  1. What is a good season to go?
  2. What week should I go?
  3. What parks should I visit on each day?

So what are we changing?

The “Mountains” scale was great, but we can do better

Our previous approach was to use the peak wait times at the Magic Kingdom Mountains (Space, Splash and Big Thunder) to predict crowd levels.  This was popular and well understood, which helped us explain how the old calendar worked. The main disadvantage with the Mountains is that Disney can add and subtract ride vehicles at any time, varying the capacity of the ride and thus the amount of time people have to wait. Comparing the wait times of rides with variable capacity isn’t the best we can do.

We’re now using all attractions to measure crowds

Walt Disney World has over 100 attractions and now we’re using every one of them to produce a single, all-in-one crowd level estimate.

We have a LOT more data

Thanks to our fabulous Lines users and our crack team of researchers, we collect wait times from every Disney World park, every hour of every day.  These data – tens of thousands of individual wait times – are analyzed by a professional statistician, who looks for trends and patterns in the data to see how WDW crowds are behaving.

Our new crowd calendar recommendations are made to match those patterns and trends we see happening in the parks.  For example, we’ve observed that Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday had the lowest wait times in the Magic Kingdom over the past year, so our crowd calendar recommends those days more than others.

“So what do we do with this NEW Crowd Calendar?”

The Crowd Calendar will look the same, but there are some important distinctions. The biggest one is this: Crowd Calendar 2.0 is based on a percentile rank.

Imagine you have a box of 100 marbles of different sizes. If you sort the marbles from smallest to largest you can divide them into ten groups of ten, according to size. The largest ten marbles get put into Group Ten. The next ten largest get put into Group Nine, etc.

In our case, we are sorting all the possible crowd sizes at Walt Disney World into ten groups. The highest ten percent get a rank of ten; the next highest ten percent get a rank of nine, etc.

Old Calendar vs. New Calendar
Crowd Level Old Calendar New Calendar
10 Peak wait at the Magic Kingdom Mountains is about 100 minutes or more These are the most crowded days of the year. Wait times for all attractions are at their highest.
9 Peak wait at the Magic Kingdom Mountains is about 90 minutes If 10 is the highest, wait times for this day rank a 9 out of 10
8 … about 80 minutes … an 8 out of 10
7 … about 70 minutes … a 7 out of 10
6 … about 60 minutes … a 6 out of 10
5 … about 50 minutes … a 5 out of 10, an average day
4 … about 40 minutes … a 4 out of 10
3 … about 30 minutes … a 3 out of 10
2 … about 20 minutes … a 2 out of 10
1 … about 10 minutes or less These are the least crowded days of the year. Wait times for all attractions are at their lowest.

“O.K. Mr. Smarty Pants, then what does a ‘7’ out of 10 actually mean to me?”

The new index combines the wait times for all attractions but we can give some examples of how the crowd level translates into wait times:

What Does The Crowd Level Mean?
Crowd Level Peter Pan’s Flight Soarin’ Toy Story Mania Kilimanjaro Safaris
10 75 minutes 125 minutes 130 minutes 55 minutes
9 75 110 120 50
8 70 105 110 45
7 65 95 105 45
6 65 85 105 45
5 65 85 100 40
4 65 85 100 40
3 60 80 95 40
2 55 80 95 35
1 55 75 90 35

On average, a ‘7’ translates into a 65 minute peak wait time at Peter Pan’s Flight, 95 minutes at Soarin’, 105 minutes at Toy Story Mania, and a 45 minute peak wait time at Kilimanjaro Safaris. These peak wait times combined with the peak wait times for every other attraction contribute to the crowd level ‘7’.

“What does it mean if the crowd level changes for my trip?”

Don’t panic. Our estimates for crowds still remain the same; we’re just expressing the results in a different way. Suppose one of your trip days was a ‘7’ and becomes a ‘4’. The ‘7’ indicated that the Magic Kingdom Mountains will peak at 70 minutes, the ‘4’ indicates that the combined wait times at all attractions rank a 4 out of 10.

“What about the best days recommendations, are they going to change as well?”

The new calendar is more accurate for recommending parks too so we felt that it was important to make some changes. Here is how we will recommend parks.

  1. Avoid a park if it has Extra Magic Hour morning. Unless you are a resort guest with park hoppers, it is usually not worth it.
  2. Avoid a park if it is hosting a Special Event. For example: Grad Nights, Gay Days, or Star Wars Weekends
  3. Avoid the Magic Kingdom on Holidays. Other parks are almost always a better option.
  4. If the crowd level is lower than the 7-day average then recommend the park.
  5. Some special cases:
  • If there is no recommended park then recommend the park with the lowest crowd level.
  • If there is no park to avoid then avoid the park with the highest crowd level.
  • If there is a 7-day stretch where a park is not recommended then recommend it on the day with the lowest crowd level during that 7-day stretch.

“How do these new rules affect the recommendations in the old calendar?”

There are 1500 park recommendations on the calendar.  Less than ten percent of these are changing from a “park to avoid” to a “best park” or vice versa.  Here is a summary of the changes.

  • There are 7 cases (i.e., less than one percent of all recommendations) where a park will change from “recommended” to “avoid” during the first six months of the calendar. In the second six months of the calendar there are another 27 cases, but those may change once Disney announces the park schedules.
  • Nine percent (9%) will change from “avoid” to “recommended”.
  • About 40% will change to or from neutral (13% best to neutral, 13% neutral to best, 11% avoid to neutral and 3% neutral to avoid).
  • Fifty percent (50%) of the recommendations will remain the same.

“I was planning a visiting a park because you recommended it. Now it is listed as a park to avoid!”

We strongly believe in giving you the most accurate and up-to-date information possible, even if that means going against previous recommendations. If one of your days went from “best park” to “avoid”, bring along Lines, our Cheat Sheets, and a good Touring Plan. All will help you minimize your time in line. And please contact us with any specific questions.

Coming Soon

We are super-excited about this new calendar because it will give you a broader picture of the crowds at Walt Disney World. Crowd Calendar 2.0 will appear on sometime this week. Let us know what you think.


The new Crowd Calendar has arrived. Go check it out!

Happy planning!

Posted on May 17, 2010

137 Responses to “Crowd Calendar 2.0: Smarter, More Accurate And Not Scary At All”

  • I can’t make sense of this. Consider Monday, August 23. Hollywood Studios is listed as an “Avoid” on the calendar. But the estimated crowd level is 0.8, which suggests it will be a ghost town. What am I missing?

  • I’m in the same boat as Burt. I am palnning a trip OCT 2-9 and the overall crowd calendar seems to conflict with the individual park calendar on a couple of days. I’ve tried to sort through the older posts to make sure I didn’t miss an answer already provided, but can’t find anything.

    Can you explain the discrepancy?

  • I am with the last couple of posters…there are a few days during our vacation where one park is the lowest crowd- example MK on Thursday, November 11th is 0.6 (the lowest of all the parks!), yet it is listed as a park to avoid. Not sure if I should follow the general calendar or the individual. Clarification would be appreciated! Thanks!!

    • I think I have figured it out now. Turns out, there was a lot of discussion about this very item when the new per park crowd calendar was first introduced. See this post:

      As I understand it, the per park crowd level reflects the line wait time for rides. The overall park rating considers the crowd level in the park as a whole. For example, EPCOT may be very crowded with people attending the food and wine festival with people who are mostly interested in eating, so this might be indicated as a park not recommended. At the same time, there mat be very few people in line for the rides (test track, Soarin, etc.) so the per park indicator may be a low number.

      For our family, its all about the rides and so we are using the per park crowd level as our main indicator.

      I hope this is correct, and I hope this helps.

      • Hey Lionel, glad it is starting to make sense – it only took us about 3 years to figure it out 🙂

        Just to clarify, all the indexes use wait times as their basis for estimating crowds but our recommendations also take into account touring conditions (things like park hours and park schedules). For an explanation of all that, check out this article.

  • Is the December 17, 2010 Epcot hours correct? TP is showing evening EMH but the Disney website is not. Hope TP is right and love how each park is broken down in the new crowd calendar. Thanks for all the great info!

  • Love the new calendar. Been relying on it for years. With that said, what about Universal? If not a formal calendar, are there best days? Or is there any way to guage best days at the 2 Universal parks based on trends between particular Disney parks (e.g, bad days at MK = bad days at IOA).

    • The are no obvious trends between crowds at the Disney Parks and crowds at Universal. With the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal’s Islands of Adventure is pretty much packed every day. We have seen evidence however, that Mondays are better than Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the weekends tend to be more crowded in general.

  • Is there a way to determine best times to visit water parks and Disney Quest based on the per park and overall crowd calendars?

  • i miss being a kid 🙁

  • Generally I do not learn post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very nice post.

  • I just looked at the WDW crowd calendar for the next 12 months (March 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013) and counted 49 days ranked 10. Shouldn’t there be only 36 or 37 days (10% of a year) ranked 10?