Crowd Predictions And Touring Plans

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It is no secret that our motto for successful touring is “Follow a Touring Plan” – heck , we built our name around it! Following an optimized touring plan is the single best way to beat the crowds at a Theme Park.

Still, it is helpful to know what the crowds will be like during one’s trip – for which we use the Crowd Calendar. Our crowd calendar is the best source for crowd statistics, anywhere. Is it perfect? By no means. But, on average it does a great job predicting what the wait times will be on any given day of the year.

We recommend that you use the crowd calendar to get a sense of what the crowds will be like during your trip and choose a touring plan that will ensure you wait in line as little as possible. We stress the use of a touring plan because predicting crowds is somewhat like predicting the weather, or predicting anything in the future for that matter. Predictions are always subject to a certain amount of error but when it comes to experiencing a theme park effectively, touring plans are the best insurance.

Here are a few of our recent letters about crowd predictions and using touring plans.

From Tony, a subscriber who visited the Magic Kingdom on June 5, 2012.

Just thought I’d let you know, volume was heavy at MK today.  My family of 4 was able to utilize a customized plan and hit all the attractions we wanted; went back today for a couple of do-overs and man-o-man, it was a packed park.  We got to the park at 10:30 and wait times for Big Thunder was already 60 minutes. Later, wait times for Big Thunder and Buzz Lightyear were 70 mins. Went to Epcot 6/2 and 6/4 and it did seem to be lighter traffic-wise, which according to your plans, it was forecast as 1.1, so that’s good.
MK however, was slammed.  I’d rate today as a 9 or even 10.
Thanks!
 - Tony

Here is what the Snyder family experienced after taking our advice and visiting the Magic Kingdom on Memorial Day.

Just wanted to tell you that Magic Kingdom on Memorial Day was as you predicted – a best park!  Lines at the Mountains were 30-40 minutes but we only spent 10 minutes or less on all the other rides and Fast Passes were easily obtained.  Thanks for suggesting MK as a best park.  Everyone thought we were crazy for attempting it.  We talked to others who went to Animal Kingdom and they said it was really crowded.
- Snyder Family, El Dorado Hills, CA

Rating crowds at Disney Theme Parks is a difficult proposition because there really is no such thing as a slow day. On June 5, as Tony mentioned, we did underestimate wait times at the Magic Kingdom but it is important to note that even on an average day, wait times at Big Thunder Mountain can hit 50 or 60 minutes during the mid-day peak. We are always looking to improve the crowd estimates and when a day occurs that doesn’t match our predictions we work hard to determine why. We are proud of our crowd calendar and its accuracy but there are always exceptions that prove the rule. We use the crowd calendar on all of our trips to manage expectations but always come armed, at park opening, with a touring plan in hand…just in case.

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Posted on June 6, 2012

18 Responses to “Crowd Predictions And Touring Plans”

  • by Christy Lamb on June 6, 2012, at 4:20 pm EDT

    Makes sense. Yesterday was also one of the only days we didn’t use a touring plan as we had a weird ressie time… So that was probably another reason it felt so packed as we were off-plan… BTW recommended your site like 30 times over course of trip and showed people LINES!

  • Crowd predictions influenced the way I toured Disney on a recent trip during Memorial Day weekend (my first visit yay). Lots of people told me not to attempt Disney during a holiday weekend – especially for an inexperienced WDW tourist.

    Well guess what? We had a fantastic time and hardly waited in line. I used the crowd calendar to choose the best park for the day and used the Lines app to figure out which rides we should get fastpasses for.

    While we didn’t use a traditional touring plan (I did glance at them before the trip and had a good sense of what to do) we DID make use of the cheat sheets for the best times to see an attraction – most times that meant riding early and eating meals at off-peak times. I am so pleased with the information on this site. I can’t thank you enough. Thank you for helping this first timer have a great visit.

  • Once again great information! I am sure you appreciate feedback in all forms, But I think it is important to remember that Walt Disney World is a huge vacation destination from around the world. It is busy. It is always busy. During “slow times” Disney amps up events to build up crowds. I think what I noticed most about the first post was “We got to the park at 10:30″ which violates the Cardinal Rule of TP! Keep up the good work. Until Disney no longer lets in humans, crowd calendars will never be 100%. People will always have free will. Great post and keep up the research! Love it!

  • I’ve been during the busiest and slowest times of the year and with a plan in hands and the crowd calendar we did fine and did everything we wanted, even with a baby. I’ve heard from people though that they go in certain times of the year and see no lines for most rides… still need to see that day! only time that happens to us is when it rains and fantasy lands is empty!

  • Hi Fred – Love the Crowd Calendar. Question I’ve always had – when looking ahead for the next 365 days, the 1 thru 10 ratings are not in 10% increments (i.e. – there’s not 36 or 37 1′s, 2′s, etc). There are currently far more 10 days (48) than 1 days (16). Since the ratings cover the entire time period since y’all have collected the data, does that mean:
    1) With more 10′s in the future, crowds are expected to be increasing, and
    2) The entire database (not just the upcoming 365 days) is recalculated daily? And if the distribution looking forward moves higher overall, then a date or dates in the past move lower? Would the data distribution looking back from yesterday to the beginning of the data collection have a total of 32 more 1 days than 10 days (to adjust for the 32 more 10 days over the next 365 days?

    Sorry for the math nerd questions – just an itch somewhere in the deep recesses of the mind needing scratched. Thanks for everything y’all do!

  • How do you know when to schedule lunch and dinner if using a touring plan? I find this hard to do when you don’t know how long the first part of the day is going to take. What is the safest time to schedule these two meals?

    • by Andrew Drummond on June 6, 2012, at 11:12 pm EDT

      The customized plans on the site really can help with that. If you plan your meal times (say 12 and 5:30) it will build you a plan around those meals.

  • Going again in three days. The first thing I packed were the modified touring plans. The in-laws still talk about the last trip where we utilized the plans and passed what seemed to be thousands of people in line. I only deviated once from the plan by going to a park listed as “avoid” and didn’t go early. Big, big mistake. That experience will not be repeated this year as we will follow our plans, and your park advice, to the letter.

  • by Leslie Whitten on June 6, 2012, at 9:30 pm EDT

    Like Kevin, we made a mistake and attended Epcot the week before Christmas the day it was the park to avoid. He got cocky because we’d used the touring plans religiously before and always had great success AND the crowd level was only listed as 4. Well, it was the park to avoid because of early magic hours. We arrived before the official opening, but since we weren’t staying on site, every ride already had long waits and the whole day we were just behind the eight ball. Even the Gran Fiesta Tour had lines out the door when we got there. Suffice it to say, we will never stray again!

  • Why are the Epcot numbers for June 3 through 10 so horribly out of whack and wrong. There are many days with 1 ratings but so far that is grossly inaccurate. Epcot has been slammed on those “1″ days and has felt more like an 8 or 9.

    When Nemo has an hour wait, it ain’t a 1 or anything close to it.

  • We have visited during Memorial Day weekend the last three trips. During this I have found that MK is definitely to be avoided the Sunday BEOFRE Memorial Day. That day is always slammed but Memorial Day itself is usually quite light with waits not climbing until around lunch time. The Sunday before we still visit MK but head back to the room for a nap around 11AM then hop to a different park at night. We then finish MK on Memorial Day.

  • I like to spreadsheet out the crowd calendar:
    I add up the values for 6 contiguous day periods.

    For example, a vacation starting on Sunday Jan 29, 2012 the 6 day crowd level was 3+2+1+2+1+1 = 9. The lowest “possible” crowd level when adding up 6 days is obviously 6, but in reality no 6 day contiguous period was lower than 9.

    The next best starting dates for a 6 day vacation period is in Sept. Starting sept xx (look it up in the crowd calendar with your subscription), 3+3+1+1+1+1

    But a 4 day vacation starting Sept xx is THE minimum number possible ( 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 4 )!!.

    Anyway, that helps to see that the lowest crowd levels over 6 day time periods are in September, a random date range in January, and then you start to get to early December.

    The book does a good job generalizing that Sept is a great crowd level time to visit and early December late Jan. But spreadsheeting the crowd calendar gives completely optimized date ranges.

    Just for giggles: the WORST 6 day contiguous score is 60 (i.e. a 10 for 6 days in a row). These happen during you guessed it: Cristmas to New Years!!! But surprisingly (or not that really) there are stretches in April that are quantified as just as bad (near Easter and spring break).

    Here’s the way the contiguous periods break out:
    min 6 day = 9
    25% percentile = 23
    median / 50% percentile = 38

    So, if you find any stretch of days that adds up to below 23, then you’ve chosen one of the best 25% of available choices of 6 day stretches of time.

    If you move the threshhold to 38, then anywhere below that is better than half of the choices and worse than half of the choices.

    (Not so surprising, the dates that are in the better half, are during times that school is typically in session.)

    I love the crowd calendar data!! It’s so good at allowing picking good low crowd days.

    But we have sworn off September: It has been miserable for us then with too much rain and illness and it’s still a bit too hot then. We shift to a few weeks later in October instead. That seems to work out better even though the crowd calendar indicates larger crowds.

    In reality, when using a touring plan (or utilizing a baby swap cheat) the crowd level 3 and 5 feel about the same. And the waits in the middle of the day are still too long anyway.

    • Too funny! I had to immediately go and add up my days for late August. At 19, I think we’ll be OK! Just another way of looking at the data, but I like it!

  • The new optimized plans are stressing me out! I don’t know when to make my ADRs for, and I don’t like the new order it gives me when I put in what *I* think would be a good time.

    If I were just to follow a Touring Plan, without optimizing, are they updated? Like with the new FP enforced return time?! I noticed on the base MK for older and younger children, it does not seem to be…. HELP!

    • I keep hearing about the new FP enforcement. In the past I have “collected” FP and used them all later in the day. Are they really keeping people to the defined times? Please advise…Thanks.

  • 4 emails and counting, Did I just donate $$ to Touringplans for nothing!!??

    1 I just purchased the plan and am having many problems with the programming. When I copied the BB plan to customize there is nothing there to customize no attractions are showing and the add attractions options shows no attractions to add. I copied the MK ultimate plan and it did (kinda) work properly (most) attractions were added for me to customize; however I ran into a problem there as well. I added the TST FP for Mickey and Princesses but there is no attraction TST Mickey or Princess there for me to add to correspond to the FP? There is a notification that LSRB is closed for refurb but nothing stating that TST Mickey or Princess will not be available is this the issue? I’m sure there is a Mickey meet and greet option. These are the only two plans I have attempted thus far but BOTH have problems.

    2 Please Help! New and becoming discouraged and dissatisfied already!
    UGGGG OMG! Now after removing the TST FP Mickey/Princess (that I really want in my plan) I tried to evaluate and the system had and error, I tried to optimize and it again get an error message. Does this system really work or did I just donate money for nothing? Please help I really want to trust Touringplans and hope this is just a crazy glitch I am experiencing. I am a travel blogger and really was expecting great service out of this system and was really excited about it but now I am totally upset.

    3 Ok, yes it’s 2:27AM; I have been sitting here for HOURS trying to make ONE plan. I have yet to make one good complete plan since I emailed on the 9th. I have been trying repeatedly everyday. I now according to Touringplans.com am getting to the MK at 3:30AM with a 270 min wait for Space Mountain….what!!!????

    4 For a program that is to save me hours in the park, I have literally spent DAYS attempting to make one plan with NO SUCCESS!! Either it gives something ludicrous as I just said or it just times out over and over and over and over again. My husband is the lead developer for a Federal Government department, so I know there will always be “bugs” in any program but this is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable.

    haven’t gotten any reply so sending again…Ok, yes it’s 2:27AM; I have been sitting here for HOURS trying to make ONE plan. I have yet to make one good complete plan since I emailed on the 9th. I have been trying repeatedly everyday. I now according to Touringplans.com am getting to the MK at 3:30AM with a 270 min wait for Space Mountain….what!!!????

    • Hi Ms. Foster, we suspect that your issue may be with trying to “Evaluate” rather than “Optimize” the plan. We have tried to respond to you via email but apparently you are not receiving our messages. Can you please provide an alternate contact email or phone – send it to fred@touringplans.com. Thanks.

    • by Sarah Kelleth on June 12, 2012, at 5:00 pm EDT

      Hi,

      I’m sorry you’re still having issues – I thought you received my last email as it looked like you replied to it in my system, but apparently not, so let me start by pasting the relevant information here to avoid any further email issues:

      - TST for Mickey and Princesses now can be added and optimized – you’ll find it under the “Shows, Parades and Diversions” section. We had a few attractions that were not yet enabled for the plans – they should all be available now.

      - Right now, we are not able to optimize water park plans. The official plans have not yet been converted to the new system as well, so while it will allow you to start with a blank plan, the premium plan steps don’t copy yet. I’ve changed the wording on the premium plans to let people know. I expect to be done converting the plans by the end of next week, which will allow the steps to be copied (though we still are not able to optimize water park plans – we don’t have statistical models for them at this time).

      I found 15 plans on your account, 12 for the main parks. I’ve gone through all of them, and they all seem to be working well except http://touringplans.com/plans/187153 – which has the Space Mountain time you mentioned, and http://touringplans.com/plans/185102 .

      With 187153, the issue is that you have a meal set for 3:30am (step 25). You also have several other fixed times before that, and then you used the Evaluate function. The Evaluate function only estimates how long your steps would take in the order that they are currently in – since you have 24 steps before something that is supposed to happen at 3:30am, and several other issues of that nature, the optimizer is giving you impossible numbers for what it considers an impossible plan. If you change the 3:30am time and choose the Optimize option instead, the engine will be able to move steps around as needed, and give you a much better idea of what to expect.

      The second plan is a copy of the Ultimate plan, which crams as many attractions as possible in the list. When you chose the Evaluate option, the optimizer put very long wait times for the last few steps – the reason is that it did not think there would be time for those steps if the plan was followed in that order for that particular day. (note that the first step with a crazy wait has an arrival time of after park close) I optimized the plan, which allowed it to order the steps however it felt was best, and now if you look you’ll see that the times are all reasonable and the plan ends before the park closes.

      I believe, as Fred said, that you may be choosing Evaluate when you really want to use the Optimize button. I did not see any further issues with the plans myself, but if I missed something or you discover another problem, please respond either by email or here with the plan URL in question and I’ll be happy to check it out. I’m sure we can resolve any issues. Thanks!

      Sarah