Welcome back to our semi-regular feature answering reader questions! Here’s a link to last week’s article if you’re feeling sentimental.
It must be something in the air, because there were many questions about crowds this week. Maybe it’s because we’re coming into the very busiest week of the year at the parks. Or maybe you’re looking forward to Spring Break…. I don’t know, but let’s jump in:
“K.” writes about changes to the crowd calendar for her chosen dates (edited for length):
We’re planning a trip to DW …. But a week or so ago, the crowd calendars went up from 4’s and 5’s during our stay to 7’s and 8’s – which is almost as hefty as spring break!
I’m starting to panic about whether or not we need to study harder on the touring plans. We used them very successfully when we went in 2009 during spring break – and we certainly can use them again. …. I know a 7 isn’t a 9, but having never been there in January, I can only imagine that it’s not nearly as wonderful as the 2’s and 3’s I’m seeing for early February.
Do you have any tips for late January traveling that would reassure me that we have, indeed, chosen the right time of year to go? Or are the crowd levels just going to keep rising as we get closer to the dates of travel?
There’s a lot to take in here! One thing to remember is that our crowd levels are based on a distribution model as opposed to absolute values. An “8” isn’t twice a crowded as a “4” on our scale. Our Master Statistician, Fred, tackled this subject and others in a blog post in October. It’s a lot to read, but incredibly valuable for understanding our rankings.
Reader, you’re on the right track – arrive early, follow a touring plan. The truth is, there are no more super slow times. Ask the folks who were at Reunion last week who had attended Mousefest in the past how early December crowds have increased in the last few years. Disney wants to fill rooms and they will use special events, promos (free dining, anyone?) and anything else they can think of to do it. It’s just good business for them and it works.
How about the rest of you guys? Any words of assurance for “K?”
“S” and “J” are remarkably simpatico this week:
How are crowd levels changing year-to-year? Is Disney packing in more guests over time? Can you really “see” what’s happening in the economy at large when you look at crowds? Or are overall crowd levels mostly flat over time? Disneyland is my park, but I’m interested in the World as well.
Why do crowd levels change more at WDW than at DL? Is it because DL attracts more locals and isn’t prone to wild fluctuations due to holidays, “free” dining, etc?
Crowd levels are going up. No question. Disney doesn’t report its attendance but we have wait times that show this. We believe the increases have been in the single digits of percentage in recent years. As for Disney and the economy, the Mouse has been more resistant to hard times than many other types of entertainment, but despite everything Bob Iger has said in the past, the discounts are still coming regularly. One interesting thing to note is that families are planning their vacation far less in advance than they used to. Like 4-6 weeks out. This makes it very hard for Disney to predict its staffing needs and nail down park hours (which makes predicting crowds none too easy either). Also, as a result of the economy, families are spending less money in the parks while they are here. Just looking at the median cost of a souvenir over the past few years shows how the merchandise department is reacting to this. There are far fewer expensive (yeah, we know that’s relative) souvenirs in the shops and more cheaper items that you can buy with less guilt.
The answer to the second question is easier: Yes.
Planners, how has the economy affected your Disney vacationing style?
And, finally, a question that isn’t about the Crowd Calendar:
How should I tweak my Easter week touring plan for Hollywood Studios to accommodate a Jedi Trainee? We have enough adults in our party so one group can get Toy Story Mania FPs while another group signs up our two rebel spies to participate in the Jedi Training Academy show. But then what? Do you have any tips (other than repeated texting) for making sure that the assigned show time and FP time don’t conflict? Also, since we will probably want to start out the day on the left side of the park because of the show, and all the touring plans start on the right, which left-side attractions are most important to squeeze in during the morning?
Padawan, resist the force of the FASTPASS. If it conflicts with your assigned Jedi time, go to TSM later than the window. The cast member won’t make you choose between Jedi Training and 3D virtual gaming like a showdown between the Light and Dark sides of the Force. (Yes, I do know the “light” side of the Force is simply “the Force.” Put down your light sabers, kids.)
Any parents out there have advice for our family on Jedi Training now that it is by sign-up and not randomly picked from the crowd?
That’s it for this week. Keep your questions coming to email@example.com. The question that entertains me the most between now and the next column gets a free 3 month subscription or extension to Walt Disney World AND Disneyland.