Per Park Crowd Levels And The Crowd Calendar

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Several readers have asked us questions about how to interpret the per park crowd levels that we recently added to our crowd calendar. Although we use the same methods to produce the numbers there are some differences that we want to spell out.

The per park crowd levels are an absolute ranking of the wait times for that park. We only take wait times into consideration for per park levels. The park recommendations are based on touring conditions. A “Best Park” is one which has the best touring conditions for that day, a “Park to Avoid” is one where the touring conditions are more restrictive. For “touring conditions” we take into account wait times, special events, extra magic hours and other factors that affect touring.

It gets confusing when the per park crowd is low but a park is listed as the park to avoid. How can that be?

Actually, this is telling us something interesting about wait times. It means that on some days where touring conditions are not ideal (Extra Magic Hour Mornings, Special Events, etc.) the wait times are not that bad.

OK, now I’m really confused. When the per park crowd level and park recommendations don’t agree, how do I decide what to do?

Well, you have to determine how the touring conditions affect what you want to do. Here are some examples of when to use the per park crowd levels and when the park recommendations are better.

Use the Per Park Levels if …

  • you are taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours
  • you don’t mind that the park closes early
  • you are not concerned about sticking to a touring plan
  • the most important thing is low wait times

Use the Park Recommendations if…

  • you are not taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours
  • you want regular park hours
  • you want to complete a touring plan
  • the most important thing is optimal touring conditions

Keep using the Crowd Calendar as a tool to help you decide what schedule makes the most sense for you. Stay tuned for further features that will allow you to customize the calendar to fit your vacation.

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Posted on August 24, 2010

50 Responses to “Per Park Crowd Levels And The Crowd Calendar”

  • Hi Fred! The statistics of the park recommendations, touring plans, and Linesn app. fascinate me. It is so cool that you are using mathematics and logic-based reasoning when writing advice for approaching WDW. What a concept. I love, Love, LOVE the Per Park Crowd Levels. They have been super useful whilst planning my upcoming trip. I have a customized table in Word for my trip itinerary, and have included the park recommendations, overall crowd levels, and now the per park levels. Each time you update the crowd calendar, I go in and bring my table up to date too. Thanks for striving to continue to present us with the most accurate, fact-based information possible. I really appreciate all of the hard work that goes into it. (And I would still like Len to have you guest on WDW Today to chat about the per park levels in more depth. It would make a great show topic.)

    • Yes, it may be time for a quick message to my outstanding friend Matt Hochberg.

      Thanks for the kind words. We are happy with our models so far but we have a lot more to do. Stay tuned for some cool features coming soon. We’re only getting started :-)

  • by Keith C (TheFugitiveGuy) on August 24, 2010, at 11:48 pm EDT

    Thanks so much for this explanation Fred! I had just been recently contemplating this exact concept, how to determine whether to pay attention more to per-park or park recommendations. Thanks for spelling it out so clearly, this really helps clarify things!

  • Fred,
    Thanks for the article. I was wondering the same thing, while planning for our trip in early September. On Monday September 6th (Labor day), AK is pretty low, but is park to avoid. Probably because Extra Magic Morning hours.

    • Yes Rob, whenever a park hosts Extra Magic Hour Morning, we automatically set it to “Avoid” because we estimate that 75% of people do not take advantage of the extra hour. Entering a park an hour after other guests will always put you at a major disadvantage regardless of how low the wait times are in the middle of the day.

      The wait time data shows that when you do take advantage of Extra Magic Hour Morning, the advantage is not just for the initial hour but may also sometimes be during the day as well. We didn’t expect that. Thanks Lines users!!

  • Thanks for the info. This helps. I have one question. I noticed the per park ratings are different for the dates of my trip than they were a few weeks ago. Why do they change? Isn’t this based on historical data for the same time previous years? Love the site btw!

    • We update our crowd calendar regularly, and because the index is based on a percentile rank, each day’s data can affect the percentile for every other day. Our last update included new park hours for March as well as changes to park schedules for September. These changes can have a big impact on the calendar because it means that Disney is adjusting park hours to meet the demand.

  • You haven’t defined “touring conditions.” How is that different from wait times?

    • Touring conditions are those things that affect one’s ability to complete a full touring plan. For example, optimal touring conditions would be minimal wait times as well as:

      Days with sufficient park hours to complete a touring plan
      Days without Extra Magic Hour Mornings
      Days without special events

  • I didn’t understand yet
    i’m going with small chd, so I wont’t stay soooo long on parks.
    The important thing for me is to stay less time on lines.
    I’m not at disney resorts.
    Is it better to get the per park crowd level?
    Tks a lot

  • I am leaving for a 2 week trip a week from today and I think I understand everything about the new calendar and per park numbers. But I have a question. Why does Thursday September 9 jump to a 6 when it is surrounded by 1s and 3s?

    Besides Labor Day weekend, it is the only 6 in September? Where did it come from? :o) We always go Labor Day Week and after Monday, the parks are always empty. A 6 seems kind of high for that week. Thanks for all of your help!
    Jennifer

    • You are right Jennifer, this is a little high for this time of year. It is because the Studios is open late (10:00) and hosting two showings of Fantasmic. It is also the last day before Night of Joy starts at the Magic Kingdom so if not Thursday, guests will have to wait until Sunday to take in the nighttime entertainment at the Magic Kingdom.

      The good news is that a 6 is only slightly above average. Even a loose touring plan will make it feel like a 3.

      • Thanks for the quick reply! One more quick question and I hope it’s not too dumb. Where do the people come from/go to when it goes from 1-1-6-3-3? Are they locals that all decide to visit on a specific day? Or are they the people vacationing for the week, but more of them decide to go to parks on a specific day?

        It just seems if the crowd is a much larger number than the day before, the people have to go somewhere? I guess I’m basically asking, where were they the day before when the number was a one and where did they go the day after when the number is a 3?

        I hope I explained that right! Thanks again for your help and information!
        Jennifer

        • Hi Jennifer, I follow your logic but I think you have to remember that our estimates are projections of wait times, not people. The difference is subtle I know but we’re not saying that people come and go to make the estimates go up and down, we’re saying that the wait times will go up and down. Wait times can be affected by all sorts of factors including ride capacity and hours of operation. Even if you take two days with the same number of people the wait times can be different because of these factors.

          To answer your question: there are locals who flock to the park on certain days to take advantage of extended park hours or nighttime entertainment. But in most cases, it is the flow of people to certain parks with certain park conditions that affects the estimates.

          Hope that helps.

          • Fred,

            I think the confusion comes from the fact that the index is called “Crowd Level,” a name which strongly implies crowd size, even though the index is derived from data other than crowd size. I agree that the PERCEPTION of crowd size is tied directly to wait times, and is therefore the correct data to use for this index. But maybe it should be called something else like, “Wait Index” or “Magic Number”. Calling the index “Crowd Level” just creates an automatic misperception of what the data actually represents.

          • It’s a great point Philip. We’re using wait times as our definition of crowds but there is a definite distinction between the number of people in the park and the wait times. A good example is the Food and Wine Festival which brings in lots of people to Epcot but only affects wait times a little bit. Even a better example is the Christmas Parade taping at the Magic Kingdom. You can’t even move down Main Street but Space Mountain is a walk-on – explain that on a crowd index!?

          • Ooh ooh! I’ve got it! It should be call “Wait Weight”!

          • I noticed that the per park levels at MK on Saturday Dec 4 are at 8.9!! I am assuming b/c of the taping. If we have no interest on being on Main street, is it still a park to avoid? We are only going to be at WDW Sat-Tues, and I am trying to figure out the optimal MK day…(Its not recommended on any day during that time). We have young kids, and while we can stay at the park relatively late…8 or 9, keeping them out until all hours is just counterproductive, so I am wondering if we should go for Sunday and just suck up the early park closing for the Christmas party. We have park hoppers too, so we can mix and match some. My head is spinning a bit on this. The data is great, but it can be a little overwhelming…

          • Is there anywhere (here, or any other site you may recommend) I can look that will give me predicted, or at least historic, crowd levels in general?

            The reason I ask is because I tend to get quite frustrated at the parks while battling through the numbers generally seen on busy days in crowded midday pathways of any park (but especially, Magic Kingdom). This is a worse situation, to me than waiting 30 or 40 minutes in a (by comparison) controlled queue area.

            I know a midday break would eliminate this. My next question is this: Would following a touring plan keep me out of those throngs of people even during peak times on crowded days? Or do you only claim that wait times in lines will be reduced? Surely huge crowds can affect a touring plan since it can take a huge amount of time navigating huge crowds.? Do the touring plans allow for longer walks among large crowds in order to get to rides with minimal wait times, or do the touring plans keep you behind or ahead of the crowd?

            I like the idea of shorter wait times very much, but I LOVE the idea of avoiding large crowds in the pathways between the rides, as well.

  • Hi Fred,
    Great site, very informative. I have one question; why are all the Wednesday’s in October a 5 when the surrounding days are 1s and 2s? What special about Weds?

    Cheers! Mark

    • Hey Mark, this was an interesting quirk because Tuesdays are EMH morning and Wednesdays are EMH evening at Epcot in the fall. These back-to-back EMH days caused a sort of ‘perfect storm’ in the models and the estimates went pretty high. We felt uneasy about these estimates so we have made some adjustments. Make sure to double check your dates, things might have changed.

  • Thanks for this explanation from the email I sent you. We are going with a family who has a child that has difficulty waiting in line, so the per park wait times are extremely helpful.

  • Thanks Fred for directing me to this site. We are traveling with a family who has a child that can not wait long in lines. So the per park wait times are a great addition.

  • When a park is listed as one to avoid due to a special event, even though the per park crowd levels are extremely low, does this apply to the entire day? I am specifically looking at MK on a day that per park level is .1 and the park closes at 7. I wouldn’t stay past 5 anyway so should I still avoid this park? Thanks.

  • As I scour your website to help me choose just the right days/times to visit each of the parks for my family’s upcoming Oct. 24-30, 2010, trip Disney, I am wondering if we will need to use the touring plans? Looks like, if I choose wisely, no park will be above a 3.0 “per park crowd level” during the week of our vacation……will it be possible to frolic aimlessly and still experience all there is to offer at each park daily? Thanks for your insight!

  • Hello! I just wanted to ask about the reasoning behind the tremendous crowds here at WDW that we have observed especially today (Wednesday, October 13). Epcot was packed which was expected (and an “Avoid”). We also went to the MK which was listed as “Best Park” and I must say it was more like an 8 or 9 then a 3 especially in the evening. I was wondering why that would be the case? We have never been here in the fall and I just can’t get over how busy it seems to be.

  • Going to WDW during the dreaded HOLIDAY TIME!

    Below is info about 12/19… How is this possible?

    Magic Kingdom
    •Crowd Level: 0.3 out of 10
    •This is a Park to Avoid (due to a Special Event)
    •Park Hours: 9:00am – 7:00pm
    •Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
    •Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade at 3:00pm

  • I actually have two questions:

    1. I was looking at the crowd calendar levels and recommended parks a week ago for Thanksgiving week. When I came back on today, the recommended parks and crowd levels had changed. Why is that if the data is based on historical evidence?

    2. I also noticed that Epcot is to be avoided on Monday, November 22, 2010 due to a special event, yet I can’t find any special events on their website. Do you know what that event is? With crowd levels only 2.6 it seems like the park I should go to that day.

    Crowd Level: 2.6 out of 10
    This is a Park to Avoid (due to a Special Event)
    Park Hours: 9:00am – 9:00pm
    IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at 9:00pm

  • Really confused, as Sunday 19th Dec is showing crowd level as 1 MK specifically as 0.3 which seems ideal to me – as well as unbelievable – it also says park to avoid, which must be due to the special event… but how can i go wrong on a day showing such low levels?
    HE:LP

    Rob

  • Great article! Wondering why Epcot is a 6.0/park to avoid on 1.26.11 weds. I don’t see special events or Emh?

  • by Michele Guilford on January 26, 2011, at 9:00 pm EDT

    Wondering why on Feb. 12 HS is very low crowds but you recommend staying away? If I understand correctly the wait lines will be short? I read on another website to stay away from this park because of the cheering competition. Did you take this into consideration? If wait times are my only concern should I stick with this park?

  • I Went to Hollywood on the 01/22/11 and to Magic Kingdom on the 01/24/11.
    They were supposed have the per park level 1.2 / 1.8. What happend???????
    It was really crowded.
    I don’t know why I payed to have your site informations???
    I was guiding all my family and I got embarassed with your informations.
    I had to leave MK and go to anathor park!!!!
    Thank you again for making me loose money!!
    Alan

  • Hi- it sounds as if most Spring Breaks are mid-March through early April. With Easter being so late this year, I wonder if the crowds are expected to be less during the week of April 11th? Any thoughts? Thank you!!

  • I haven’t seen this question asked, even though it may have been elsewhere on your website. Are the touring plans listed on the site that allow you to select the actual calendar day you will visit AND happen to be a park that says “avoid due to EMH” actually optimized to take into account EMH & theoretical resort guest turnout?

    My family and I will likely be going to a park on a non-ideal day due to it being an “avoid due to EMH” park, however the park forecast shows sub 2.0 out of 10.

    ???

  • Ok- probably a dumb question. Coming the week before Easter when all the crowds are listed as 9.4 to 10 for all the parks (18th thru 20th). Does a differnce of a a few tenths make enough to offset the extra magic hours at the start and end of the day? My guess is that with the extra hoursin Epcot on Tuesday for example the 4 hours we gain make up for a slightly larger crowd.

    Love the site- a friend has the subscription and helped me with time and I am most likely signing up just for the line app for my Droid. You can thank my friend and beourguestpodcast.com for my subscription when I sign up!

    • Thanks Russell and thanks BeOurGuestPodcast!

      The crowd levels are only significant to the nearest index point, so a difference of a few tenths will not make a difference. Only if the difference is one index point or higher should you make or change plans accordingly.

      • Well, thanks (I think) so at 9.4 and above you are saying I need to pack some headache medicine and some patience, huh? Although I go every year with the family on Easter Break, and I would guess this will just seem like normal crowds to me then. Thanks again.

  • by BRENDA CREMA on May 22, 2011, at 9:59 pm EDT

    I have been using the Unofficial Guide Book for years faithfully and have now switched totally to using the “Touring Plans” website as my main planning tool along with a few other websites. Always used “Touring Plans” for choosing my days and general touring plan. So, I am currently planning a trip this July 15, 2011 to July 20,2011 and using your crowd level . My sister just got an Iphone and bought the app from Undercovertourist (which is a reputable ticket agency) which on several days of our trip has totally opposite recommendations from yours! I am confused, but reading this blog post has helped a bit. I have a specific question re: July 20- You have Studios as a 2.9 crowd level and Best Park- How is this possible at this time of year? (MY sister’s app has it as a red light =avoid) Are you expecting low crowd levels because of the early close time?

  • I was thinking of going to Disneyland this week, however I am not sure because it the week Of Thanksgiving which is best for me to go this week or the week of the 17th through the 20th of December. I would appreciate if you could make a recommendation. We will only go for a day. Thanks.

  • Hi – I love these explanations! But am stumped, we will be visiting during the days before and day of Thanksgiving. We’re not resort guests so are avoiding the Early Magic Hours but we want to possibly end our trip in MK (the day of Early Magic Hours). If we take two days to tour MK will going on an EMH day keep us from seeing most things and wrecking the two day touring plan we will use?

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