Walt Disney World Park Recommendation Tweaks

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Today we are making a few changes to our Park Recommendations algorithm for the Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar. When we choose the “best parks” and “parks to avoid,” we try to balance low wait times with optimal touring conditions — which can be a tricky balance (read more about touring conditions).

What does this mean for my WDW dates?

Few recommendations have changed, but if they have, the new park recommendations should result in lower waits and equally optimal touring conditions. Our park recommendations are now better than ever.

The changes are subtle but they represent a shifting of the balance in favor of low wait times. We won’t be so quick to punish parks hosting Extra Magic Hour mornings and days at the Magic Kingdom with an evening Party. We have the most thorough database of Walt Disney World wait times anywhere, let’s use them! We did some research on the subject before implementing these tweaks, here’s what we learned.

  • For most families, experiencing the lowest wait times possible is the number one priority, even if park hours are shortened.
  • Sacrificing a little in optimal touring conditions can mean big gains in lower wait times. Anyone who has been to the Magic Kingdom on the morning of a Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party can attest to that.
  • By implementing these tweaks, in the long run the average crowd level for each “best park” recommendation is a little lower, and the average crowd level for each “park to avoid” recommendation is a little higher (which keeps the statisticians happy).

Wait! Tell me more!

If you are interested and have a few minutes, you may want to know what specifically is changing:

The OLD Formula:

  1. Avoid a park if it has Extra Magic Hour morning.
  2. Avoid a park if it is hosting a special event.
  3. Avoid the Magic Kingdom on Holidays
  4. If the crowd level is lower than the 7-day average then recommend the park.
  5. Some special cases:
    • On a given day, if there is no recommended park then recommend the park with the lowest crowd level.
    • On a given day, 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 (aka the 7-Day Rule)

The NEW Formula:

  1. A park cannot be a BEST park if it has Extra Magic Hour morning.
  2. A park cannot be a BEST park if it is hosting a special event (Magic Kingdom Parties excluded).
  3. Whichever park has the lowest per-park crowd level on a given day is the BEST park.
  4. Whichever park has the highest per-park crowd level on a given day is the park to AVOID.
  5. 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 (aka the 7-Day Rule).
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Posted on February 13, 2011

12 Responses to “Walt Disney World Park Recommendation Tweaks”

  • Great stuff as always….but I’m not sure I fully understand: “Sacrificing a little in optimal touring conditions can mean big gains in lower wait times. Anyone who has been to the Magic Kingdom on the morning of a Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party can attest to that.”

    Can anyone explain that??

    Thanks!

    • Well Scott, days where the Magic Kingdom closes early for a Special Event can have really low wait times – which is great. The problem is that it closes as early as 7:00pm – which makes it hard to get your money’s worth.

      We have always leaned towards getting your money’s worth, now we’re leaning more towards lower wait times, but just slightly. We still try to get a balance between the two points of view.

      • Thanks Fred! Great answer and I agree with the premise, especially with younger kids who will be leaving the parks long before the possible late night closing hours.

        Are you factoring in the added value of special event ticket holders being allowed admission at 4pm for th 7pm event? Seems to me that might impact crowds, at least later in the afternoon.

  • I don’t know if you’re soliciting feedback, but count my vote AGAINST the new model. It’s made the Crowd Calendar virtually worthless to me. It seems like that previously, you attempted to recommend each park at least once a week. During my upcoming vacation, August 1-11, Hollywood Studios (a one-day park) is recommended 7 times. Animal Kingdom (the other one-day park) is recommended twice. But Magic Kingdom, definitely a 2-day park, is only recommended once in an 11-day period, and that one day, Epcot (the other 2-day park) is also the recommended park. So, relying on the new Crowd Calendar, I’d spend almost every day in the Studios, have a day and a half in Epcot, and a half-day in the most comprehensive park. Now granted, I’m not going to base my whole vacation on the Calendar’s recommendations; I’m still going to spend 2 days in the Magic Kingdom and 1 day in the Studios. But the only data I’m getting from the Crowd Calendar to decide on which day to see each park is that I should definitely plan one of my Magic Kingdom days for 8/7 (the only day it’s recommended) and I can fit Hollywood Studios in almost any time. Under the old model, there were more recommendations of when to go to each park. Instead of “which park is the best to go to today,” it told me “which day is the best to go to this particular park.” If everything (or almost everything) is simply based on the per-park recommendation, then the integrated Crowd Calendar doesn’t serve any purpose. Before, if all I was interested in was which park had the absolute lowest crowds on any day, I could always check the Per Park crowd levels. Anyway, that’s my $.02.

    • Hi Mark, yes we always encourage feedback!

      I agree with a lot of your comments other than your conclusion that the integrated calendar serves no purpose. It makes sense to build the recommendations based on “which day is best for a particular park” rather than “which park is best for this particular day” but that gets us into some statistical discrepancies in the long term. We want to have the recommendations reflect more (but not all) of the per park index. Yes, the Magic Kingdom may only be recommended once in 7 days but that is a direct reflection of higher wait times. If our readers are visiting on a recommended day we want then to experience lower wait times than a neutral day, which should be lower than a day to avoid. These changes ensure that trend in the long term.

      Incidentally, these changes give a stronger meaning to a Neutral day. Neutral used to mean we have no reason to recommend it nor to avoid it. Now it means the wait times will be in the middle. When planning your second day at the Magic Kingdom, pick a day marked as Neutral.

      • Thanks, again, Fred! (I had e-mailed on this particular issue over the weekend and appreciated your timely response.) “Stronger meaning to a Neutral day” explains it much better to me. Previously, I pretty much ignored neutral ratings; now I’ll have to make sure to factor them in.

  • this is a much needed update. thanks very much. we totally agree that low wait times are the absolute priority. we never stay in a park for a full day, anyways.

  • we get our money’s worth with an annual pass. $185 for a weekday pass for florida residents. this year, our cost will work out to about $12 per day. an absolute steal of a deal.

  • This is right on time, Fred! My wife and I celebrated our 1st anniversary Feb 8-12, and I was prepared (or overprepared) for the worst, especially since we were planning to spend full days at the “parks to avoid”, Magic Kingdom on 2/10 (Thurs) and Epcot on 2/11 (Fri). 2/9 (Wed) we did Animal Kingdom.

    It was a dream come true, as wait times were short enough that we were able to follow our own course (i.e. no written plan) and see everything that we wanted to see—which was most everything. We waited no longer than 15-20 minutes at the most for anything, with standby wait times for many key attractions being 10 min or less! To be fair, we got an early start every day, and I think that was our saving grace. Fastpasses for most big Epcot attractions were gone by early afternoon. But to my surprise, when we crossed over into evening EMH at Epcot (9pm-12am), crowds thinned out, instead of ballooning as I feared they would. My guess is that it was just a characteristic of the value season. All in all, we scored the jackpot! It was heavenly.

  • sounds like the most important info from the new formula is: the park to avoid. which is what I’ve always done. i’ve been to parks on neutrals and they are not that bad as long as your tour with some sort of plan

  • I understand that parks with Early Morning Hours get more crowded during the day but If you can take advantage of the early admission into the park if you are an early riser, shouldn’t you?…Joe