One of age-old things we work on is this: “How does a specific crowd level feel?”
It may seem like a simple question. After all, we have three really smart statisticians. We have nearly a million wait times from attractions in every park. We can tell you, to a decent level of accuracy, that next Wednesday in the Magic Kingdom will have higher waits than 47% off all the days we’ve ever measured at that park. But it’s really hard to convey “47%” into an idea of what the park will feel like. If you’ve never been to the Magic Kingdom before, the crowds on an average day may seem huge. But if you’ve only visited during holidays, the average Wednesday in May probably feels uncrowded.
Keep in mind that one of the best ways to avoid crowds is to have a Touring Plan. On days with the lowest crowd levels, it is difficult to have a bad time in the parks, even if you don’t follow a plan closely. On days with higher crowd levels, you may have downright miserable waits if you hit the park without a good touring strategy. As an analytical person, I’d like to see what those different crowd levels mean in a chart with pretty colors.
To illustrate this, I’m going to use the Touring Plans software to simulate the experience of going to the Magic Kingdom on days with ten different crowd levels. I’ll use three different touring strategies: visiting all of the attractions by walking clockwise through the park (i.e., starting in Adventureland and finishing in Tomorrowland), walking counterclockwise, and using an Optimized Touring Plan. The first two strategies may be simple, but many guests follow them.
All simulations use attractions from the Magic Kingdom One-Day Touring Plan for Tweens and Their Parents premium Touring Plan. I set the starting time at 10:00am because more guests arrive around that time than at park opening. And to keep the plans simple, I removed breaks and nighttime entertainment. Also, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is not included since it’s currently closed for refurbishment. That leaves 16 attractions.
Not surprisingly, in this test the Optimized Touring Plans have the lowest waits. What is surprising, however, is that there is not immense variation in the total amount of time these Touring Plans take across crowd levels between 5 and 9. One reason you see a dip in the waiting times at crowd level 6 is due to variable capacity rides: Disney can add ride vehicles to an attraction to increase the number of riders at some attractions like “it’s a small world” and Splash Mountain. In addition, Disney adds more character meets and shows as the crowd level goes up. All of these tactics help reduce the number of people standing in line.
Another thing this demonstrates is that in Magic Kingdom a counterclockwise Touring Plan is more efficient than a clockwise plan. This is probably because lines build more quickly at attractions such as Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin than they do at Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise.
Finally, these examples clearly demonstrate why we say that using a Touring Plan is significantly more important than picking the right park or the right day or week to visit.
To minimize your time walking and standing in line, the Optimized Touring Plan software determines the best use of FASTPASS. Sometimes it is less efficient to backtrack and use a FASTPASS than to just wait in the standby line.
With the Personalized Touring Plans at TouringPlans.com, you can run the same simulations for your favorite attractions and dates. The new Evaluate option (see our video tutorial) lets you calculate the details (total time, wait times, walking times, etc.) of your itinerary for an attraction sequence that you define. Even with the best laid plans, anything can happen while you are in the parks; fortunately, we have you covered with the Lines mobile app, which allows you to re-optimize your plan on-the-fly based on current park conditions.
Finally, let us know whether you’d like to see more posts on the topic of “park feel” and crowd levels. Thanks!