Well, it has been more than a year since the launch of the new Crowd Calendar 2.0 and we at TouringPlans.com have found ourselves taking a little refresher course in how it works and how to use it. It reminded us of a few things that we thought we should share.
What is it?
The Crowd Calendar is a list that ranks from 1 to 10, the wait times that we predict will occur on every day of the year. A ’1′ means that the wait times are predicted to be in the bottom 10% of all days, a ’2′ would be the bottom 20% of all days, etc.
What does it show us?
Since the crowd calendar is a relative rank, we can tell how one day compares to another. A ’6′ is more crowded than a ’5′ which is more crowded than a ’4′, etc. The neat thing about setting the calendar up this way is that it allows us to compare any two days throughout the year on an equal playing field. So a ’2′ in September has roughly the same predicted wait times as a ’2′ in May. The calendar can be used to answer the question “Which day has higher wait times?”.
What does it NOT show us?
The numbers in the calendar do not represent the relative magnitude of the crowd. So a ’4′ is not twice as crowded as a ’2′. The average of a ’7′ day and a ’3′ day is not a ’5′. Similarly, an increase or decrease in the crowd level index may not represent a change in size of the crowd but rather a change in the ranking. It also doesn’t work for comparing two parks against each other because a ’6′ at the Animal Kingdom represents a completely different size of crowd than a ’6′ at the Magic Kingdom.
But the rankings are based on wait times, aren’t they?
Yes but there is an important distinction between a day’s rank and its magnitude. Think of it like the Top 40 music charts. The Top 40 songs are a rank based on sales of records but we can’t say that song number 8 on the charts sold twice as many as song number 16. We can say, however, that it sold enough to finish 8 places higher on the rankings.
How should we use the calendar?
The calendar is set up to answer this question: “Between two days, which day is predicted to have the lower wait times?” We have found through the years that predicting the size of the crowd is not as important as predicting the difference between two crowds. We like to think of ourselves as your personal shopper at the grocery store. We want to save you $20 off a coffee maker just as much as we want to save you 10 cents off a jar of peanut butter. Picking a ’9′ day instead of a ’10′ day may mean a much bigger gain in wait times than picking a ’2′ day instead of a ’3′ day, but it is all relative.
This also means that unless you care about the 10 cents, maybe a ’3′ day isn’t that bad.
For those that are interested, the distribution of wait times throughout the year is bunched up between the rankings of ’3′ and ’8′. The difference in wait times in this range is actually fairly small. The wait times take a big jump when you get to levels ’9′ and ’10′ though, as anyone visiting at Christmas or Easter can attest. We made some adjustments to our methodology this year given this distribution and we have seen some significant gains in our accuracy. On average, the crowd figures on our site are within 1 index point 90% of the time.