3 More Crowd Calendar Questions!

by on July 29, 2012 127 Comments

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Last week we asked y’all to weigh in on some proposed changes for the next edition of the crowd calendar.  A quick update on the results is below, along with 3 new questions.  We’d appreciate it if you could give a couple of minutes to weigh in on them.

New Recommendation Rules

We’re considering new rules for how we recommend when to visit each park.  In the hypothetical crowd calendar snippet below, we’ve coded each park green if we think that’s a good day to visit the park; red means it’s not a good day; and white means it’s somewhere in the middle.

We used 3 rules to make these recommendations:

1) A park is green if its crowd level is 3.0 or less on that day.

2) A park is green if that day has the lowest or second-lowest crowd level as compared to the 3 days before and after it.

3) A park is red if that day has the highest crowd level as compared to the 3 days before and after it.

[Note: The crowd levels aren’t real.  We adjusted them to illustrate scenarios for the questions we’re asking.]

Here’s how the rules play out.  The Magic Kingdom is green on 8/5/2015 because it’s the lowest crowd level as compared to 8/2, 8/3, 8/4, 8/6, 8/7 and 8/8.   The Magic Kingdom is neutral on 8/2 and 8/8, because there are both better and worse days near those days.

Epcot is green every day except for 8/5.  It’s red on 8/5 because 8/5 is the most crowded day as compared to 8/2, 8/3, 8/4, 8/6, 8/7 and 8/8.

Based on that, here are 3 questions to answer regarding the rules:


Is it easy to understand the calendar’s Magic Kingdom’s recommendations?


Is it easy to understand the calendar’s Epcot recommendations?


Is it easy to understand why the Magic Kingdom is green and Epcot is red on 8/5?

Leave responses in the comments section of this post, please.  And thanks again for your help.


Previous Survey Results

Question #1 asked whether the calendar had to have a “worst” park every day.  46% said yes, 46% said no, and 8% didn’t care.

Question #2 asked whether the calendar had to have a “best” park every day.  72% said yes, so that’s a clear winner.

Question #3 was on our “7-Day Rule” and asked whether each park had to be listed as a “best” park at least once every 7 days.  63% of you said no.

Question #4 asked whether switching to a red/green terminology instead of “best/worst” would improve the calendar.  31% said better, 53% said it was the same, and 16% said it was worse.


Posted on July 29, 2012

127 Responses to “3 More Crowd Calendar Questions!”

  • Yes across the board!

  • by Isabelle Boivin on July 29, 2012, at 4:44 pm EST

    Yes to all. I really like that idea

  • Yes to all three questions.

  • Yes to all three, especially if they can be shown in tabular form in the Crowd Tracker. Nice job!

  • Yes to all!

  • Very easy to understand it all.

  • Yes to all

  • Yes, yes, and yes.

  • Yes to all!

  • Yes to all three. In fact it looks exactly like my own designed planner using the same colours! All we need now is the same information for the other parks in Orlando to complete our planning.

  • YES – this is very close to what I do with the crowd calendar on my own!

  • I would answer yes to all of the above but pose my own questions: if in the slower months you’re below 3 for all parks, does that mean all 4 parks will be green?

    If for 7 days, Epcot (for example), is under 3, would the highest day still be listed as red?

  • Yes to #1.

    Yes to #2 however I tend to think I want to know if EP is recommended no matter if it is .1 higher from the previous day.

    Yes to #3.

  • Yes to all 3 questions. The colors help a lot.

  • Yes for all 3! Thanks!

  • Very easy to understand

  • Yes to all.. although in this example I doubt many readers believe much of a difference exists between 3.1 and 3.5 to alter their plans. Maybe the use of green or white still makes sense.

    Perhaps if EPCOT 8/5 were at least 1.0 units or more higher than the pre/proceeding 3 days, then use the red color scheme. That’s just an arbitrary number, but I am sure there is some standard differential that would impact your readers’ park visitation decision making.

  • yes it’s all very easy to see and understand: great combination of numbers and colours to make sense of things.

    As a Brit who visits for two/three weeks at a time, I don’t find the “three days before and after” concept as vital as someone who is only there for four or five days, but with the numbers clearly displayed over the top I can use the colours as rough indications and the numbers to finalise my decision.

    I think this layout clearly gives people plenty of information and I certainly prefer it by far to the existing crowd calendar.

    Thanks for all the hard work you put into these things

    • Thanks Kitty!

      The median trip length for WDW is something like 4 or 5 days. The vast majority are between 1 and 7 days. Until we finish the personalized crowd calendar, we’re trying to strike a compromise that best fits most people.

      • I figured the average visit would be something like that…just us lucky international sods who get to go for so much longer! 🙂
        It totally makes sense what you’ve done, because of the colour/number combo I can choose to ignore the ‘3 day rule’ super easily – and still plainly see the numerical rating for the day. Perfect. Think it’s great guys.

  • I like these ideas. I think it would be most useful to be able to just input the days of my visit at WDW and get a personalized suggestion for which days to visit which parks. Having a park in red or green because of how it compares to the 3 days before and after it might be comparing to days that I won’t even be there. Since those days don’t affect my park selection I wouldn’t include them when making my own trip plans. (I might also suggest adding something like a small “+” in the corner of the green days and “x” in the corner of the red days to help those who have mentioned that they can’t distinguish between the colors.)

  • by Andrew Drummond on July 29, 2012, at 5:34 pm EST

    Ditto on the hard work on these things, but I think your questions need 2 different answers.

    They are all easy for me to understand. However, I think that the average non-obsessed planner will have difficulty understanding 8/5.

    I think the crowd calendar works best when it is judging crowds between each park, and not working on each park as a separate entity.

    Then, if every Magic Kingdom day is red I can plan around that realizing that crowds there are just going to suck.

    • I agree with this post

    • Great point, Andrew, and thanks for bringing it up! I thought about this when coming up with this first set of rules. I think there are sticky situations with every set of rules. Here’s one for intra-day recommendations:

      Suppose we ignore the Magic Kingdom on 8/5 and just looked at EP, DHS and AK. DHS is the lowest-rated park among those three. Should it be green? If so, why would the DHS days around it not also be green?

      As I said, every set of rules has its compromises. Let me know your thoughts on how others might interpret this situation.

      Thanks again.


  • #1-yes
    Color-coding makes all planning better lol

  • It all makes sense to me. I see though that you are not taking extended hours into account. Didn’t you previously mark a day as red if it had EMH?

    • Regarding EMH, we’re approaching it two ways:

      In the short term, we’re going to add EMH hours to the calendar so people know whether to go or avoid them.

      In the longer term, we’re working on a completely customizable crowd calendar that’ll let you enter the EMHs you want to attend, any meals you have scheduled, and any other “must do” things on specific days. We’ll give you back a personalized crowd calendar for your trip.

      So in the short term we can address it through tweaks to the existing calendar. In the long term, everyone’s personal calendar is adjusted for their specific situation.

  • In general, I like the color coding. We usually plan our trips according to our work/school schedules and then use the Crowd Calendar to determine which park on which day.

    However, I agree with the previous comments by Kelly, Rob Miles, Rob, and Tim. You make some very good points, especially for low crowd days.

    Excellent work–thanks Len!

  • yes on all three

  • I like the red/green set up.
    1. Yes

  • Yes to all 3 questions. I wonder, however, if the 8/5 Epcot would be easier to understand if it was maybe in yellow, as opposed to red. Red signifies to me to stay away from that park. Yellow would indicate that it is not the best or worst park, and would caution me to see why it is not green, even though it’s only a 3.5. Love the chart, though!

  • Yes
    But. . .it sure seems silly to recommend a 9.something park over a 3.something park just because the 9.something park is “due for a green day” due to the 3 day before/after rule.

    • Yeah, true Mark. The alternative is not to recommend the Magic Kingdom for eight days. We would get emails like this: “I spent $2000 on this vacation and $30 on your book and website, and now you tell me I shouldn’t take my kids to the Magic Kingdom AT ALL?”

      I really think we have to make a recommendation. The existing 7-day rule is obscure. This, I think, is an improvement.

  • I think you should look at each day, decide which park is best that day and give it a green color. Then decide which is the worst park and give it a red color. The rest can be neutral.


    If they are all 1.0’s then they ALL are green, or if they are All 10.0’s they are ALL red.


    If they are all 1.0’s you still pick a best-green and a worst-red and the rest are neutral. Conversely if they are all 10.0’s you still pick a best one and it gets green and a worst one which gets red.

    I don’t think there is a problem with a park being red or green for three straight weeks if that’s the reality of it. But, let’s say MK is red for three straight weeks. . .you could still put an asterisk by one day a week to basically say “MK is a madhouse for the whole week, but this is the best day to go if you must come”

  • No, no and no. Here’s why: you explained the rules immediately before you asked the questions. How many of your customers do you believe are the sophisticated (or nutty, depending on your point of view)people like us who will delve into the details? How many are relative neophytes? I think the people answering this question on this site are in the former category (btw, I’d go for sophisticated over nutty). To poll the latter, I suggest you e-mail the most recent , say, 100 subscribers. You’ll get a greater number of newbies.

    • I said yes, but I was given the rulebook first. The more I think about it, I should have answered no too.

    • I could put the rules right in front of the calendar, right? They’re short. They’re simple.

      • OK, but how much space will take on a smartphone? A lot of the detail you’ve been adding is great on a computer, but not on a (small-screened) smartphone. For me, even though I’ll do a preliminary plan (on a computer) well before I get to WDW, if I need to change things around (e.g., due to rain, cranky kids, whatever), I’ll be looking on my smartphone for other choices. Just a thought.

  • by Brian Noble on July 29, 2012, at 6:46 pm EST

    1: It is not clear to me that such fine-grained differences in crowd level warrant different recommendations. They are all more or less the same (with the possible exception of 8/5—but even that is “splitting hairs”).

    2: Same—it’s not clear that avoid 8/5 is “important”.

    3: Yes, but with the big caveat of the prior to answers.

    4: (unasked) I suspect best/worst-of-seven is too simplistic. For example, 8/7 looks like it might be better “avoid” at DS, even though 8/9 is worse.

    This might get back to the prior three questions, but it might be better to focus on “clear winners” and “clear losers”, and if that means some particular day doesn’t have a clear winner (or loser) then that’s okay.

    • Thanks Brian! Can you come up with 3 or 4 rules for how to mark each day green, red or white? We’ll test those as well.

      • by Brian Noble on July 30, 2012, at 11:43 am EST

        Let me think about it. Am I allowed to use a Kalman Filter? 🙂

      • by Brian Noble on July 30, 2012, at 12:33 pm EST

        After thinking about it, I’m not sure I can come up with rules that guarantee at least one green every day, but also avoid the hair-splitting problem—particularly on 8/5 of your hypothetical.

  • NO for all 3 :*(

  • by Jordan and Terri Vore on July 29, 2012, at 7:04 pm EST

    Yes, it was easy for us to understand all 3 questions and scenarios.

  • Yes for all three.

    I do feel this is a good improvement and is similar to how we already use the CC forcast to plan our trips.

  • I like the colors. It’s easier to tell which day is the best day for a specific park. But it could be confusing when looking across the parks at one given day, trying to decide which park is best that day. 2 different ways of planning. I would guess most people look the first way, “what’s the best day for MK?” in which case the new format is perfect.

  • Yes to all three, but I dont think any day that rates 9.5 of higher should ever be green. :0

    • Ha! Yeah, we thought of this. It would black out the last week of December. It would be difficult for us not to make recommendations during the busiest week of the year, when people most need it.

  • Personally, I believe the situation with 8/5 indicates that this plan is too wonky. Simpler is better. If the scheme yields a green for a 9.5 park and a red for a 3.5 park on the same day, the plan is simply too complicated. I imagine I would disregard the colors entirely and just look at the numbers.

    I also believe that park recommendations should only try to answer the question, “On a given day, is there a park that clearly stands above the others as the best park to visit, and one that stands below the others as the worst park to visit?” When there’s a clear answer, color-code it. Leave it to users planning their vacation itinerary to decide which day to visit which park; I think in trying to help advise on that decision, the crowd calendar is trying to do too much. Stick with intra-day advice, not inter-day.

    • Thanks Smallworld. Can you suggest alternatives?

      • My suggestion is that when the data yield a compelling reason for the average guest to choose to visit or avoid a park on a given day, color-code that. Keep the recommendations intra-day, not inter-day. When I say that, I mean let that day’s data speak for that day, and don’t try to make recommendations for or against a park on Day X based on what will be happening there +/- 3 days.

        I have been to WDW during periods where HS was the park to avoid the majority of my time there — for instance, last week of August 2011. That didn’t feel very helpful, and it was confusing because the crowd levels weren’t uniformly predicted to be very high. I feel that if you force a recommendation rubric that doesn’t necessarily fit, you end up with a situation like that. Just let the data you have do their work; don’t overthink it; keep it simple. If you don’t have a park to recommend, don’t; if there isn’t really a park that you feel should be avoided, don’t just choose one because your system says you have to.

        • I 100% agree!!

          I was typing a reply at the end and then realized that Smallworld had already answered similarly (and with better wording).

          Let the numbers speak for themselves, and if you feel compelled to add colors please stick to intra-day. The added levels of complexity of basing it on +/- 3 days really just causes confusion. Remember, MY trip may extend for 7 days from that point and thus those colors and recommendations would be moot. It only works if MY trip falls within the +/- 3 day window, which is going to be a pretty small portion of the time.

          • Agree! I would prefer intra-day comparisons as well. I think it would be obvious that if you looked at the, say, 5 days you were going to be there and they were all 9 to 9.8 at the MK, you’d just go there on the lowest day. OR, you’d know that at that point all of the days are bad and so it wouldn’t make a difference which day you chose really anyway… The 8/5 example is the exact reason I feel this way. If I were just coming for 8/5 and was using the crowd levels to inform my park choice, I’d likely have a much happier day at Epcot, even though MK is green…

  • I don’t like the use of the green color for high numbers
    The colors should be used to indicate low crowd levels. If that means that on some days all parks are green, so be it. If it means that one some days all parks are red, so be it. You could still have a separate indicator for the latter situation indicating which park is the best one to visit, given that the crowd levels are high. But when I see ‘green’ at the Magic Kingdom, I am NOT expecting a 9.5 crowd level!

    • I agree with Helen. I think this is basically what I suggested in my post earlier. It makes more sense and I think it is simpler yet effective.

  • I can clearly see the points you’re trying to make, and I can’t disagree with them. But, as others have noted, we who comment on these things are among the more sophisticated subscribers who really take the time to understand the science behing the recommendations. Many subscribers won’t take the time they should to familiarize themselves with what these best/worst park day recommendations really mean. If I, as a new subscriber, were to look at the chart above and see MK in green with a 9.5 and Epcot in red with a 3.5,I would probably think you guys had lost your collective minds. The chart as it is presented reads as if it is trying to show which park should be visited on any given day, which I think is how a new user would interpret it on its face. And it is obvious that Epcot is the park to visit on 8/5. I don’t know that I can give any specific recommendations about how to fix this, except perhaps to somehow separately give some recommendations for the week in general – i.e., during this particular week, MK is extremely busy every day, but if you have to pick a day for MK, then pick 8/5, and Epcot crowds are very low every day, so it really doesn’t matter which day you go there. Despite your best efforts with instructions, most people are going to look at a chart like the one above and try to pick the best park for that day based on crowd levels. And, in that case, those color codings won’t make sense to them.


    Is it easy to understand the calendar’s Magic Kingdom’s recommendations?

    I would say no. I’m afraid someone will see green 9.7 and think there will be no lines that day. You have the rules listed here, but will there be room to list them on the app?


    Is it easy to understand the calendar’s Epcot recommendations?
    No issue here.


    Is it easy to understand why the Magic Kingdom is green and Epcot is red on 8/5?
    nope. If I didn’t the rules, I would think MK will have no lines and Epcot will have a 5 hour line for soarin.

    • Maybe you shouldn’t color anything green with crowds over a certain number.

      • Thanks Brian. Check the survey results at the end of the post. Most people say we have to recommend a park each day. That means that something has to be green each day.

        • yes but why would MK be green at 9.5 and epcot is 3.5 and red. I think it’s better to tell guests there is no good time to go to the MK that week, but if one day is white you know when is the best of the worst.

        • I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. You can recommend a park each day and SEPARATELY use the green coloring for crowd levels.

  • How about a 4th rule, the park with the highest crowd level of the day cannot be green and the lowest cannot be red. I like the idea of using yellow. MK would be yellow on 8/5 and 8/9 meaning that MK is high the whole week, but these are the best days. For the red days with the lowest crowd level they could just be white. Epcot on 8/5 would be white.

    • I LOVE this idea! Yellow shade to call attention to the fact that this specific park (while busy) is the best option for the 7 day period, but not recommended compared to the other parks. I think it could work for the least recommended park as well: This park (while still not busy comparatively) is the least recommended for the 7 day period.

      I think a color is the best way to explain the uniqueness of the 7-Day Rule recommendations.

  • I understand the chart and all three questions relating to it.

    Also good choice in the current shades as I can tell them apart currently, with your explanation of the chart above helped me in doing so. Will these be the final colors/shades? If you do change them please don’t have them match too closely in shading like some of your earlier examples. Some of them were like an Ishihara test.

    A quick note can you say to the user when you do decide which colors to use, which is which for the color-blind people. Like say the brighter color is green and the darker is red. When this is finalized.

  • Yes^3.

  • What would these rules do to the actual crowd calendar? The calendar used in the example looks like it would not actually happen this way, where 1 park is near a 10 for 10 straight days and the other parks are 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s. How often would you get a 7-day period with no “green” designation for a particular park with the real historical data?

  • The new rules don’t tell me anything that I cannot plainly see from the crowd level numbers:
    1) “Look – it’s less than 3.0”
    2) “Look – it’s the lowest/second lowest in a 7 day stretch”
    3) “Look – it’s the highest in a 7 day stretch”

    The current rules incorporate information that is not directly shown in the crowd level numbers that can affect “touring conditions” – morning EMH and special events. This is more useful to me than simply pointing out the lowest/highest numbers.

    The one aspect of the current rules I do not like is the “7-day rule” – I prefer that the recommendations look at each day in isolation. I guess that I do not feel that it is necessary that a park have its turn as “best park”, especially since the rules for doing this may not coincide with my vacation timeframe. It does not bug me if MK is not recommended during my planned vacation time, as the best/worst recommendations are just one thing to consider when making plans.

    As you point out, “Using a Touring Plan is roughly 5 times more important than visiting a Best Park” – perhaps the best change to the crowd calendar would be to put that in big bold letters at the start of each month. 🙂

    • Thanks Bryan.

      You mentioned looking at each day in isolation. What kind of rules would you suggest for marking a particular park green or red on a particular day?

      • Len,

        I guess that I like the current rules for best/avoid, with the exception of the “7-day” rule. So, unless the website is out of date, that would be rules 1-4 on http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/park-recommendations.

        If I were to add any new logic, it would be to somehow level the playing field between parks when assigning best/worst. If I understand things correctly, a “5” at one park does not necessarily correspond to a “5” at the other parks in terms of touring conditions, so if you could translate the per-park crowd levels to a uniform standard you could then better assign best/worst days.

        As a totally fictitious example, let’s set MK as the benchmark park for touring conditions. Today MK and EP are both “5”, but your research shows that touring conditions for EP are better than MK at this crowd level, and an EP 5 is more like an MK 4. Therefore, on the “uniform touring conditions scale” EP would be a 4, and would be the better park of the two.



  • by Nicole Fusco on July 30, 2012, at 8:46 am EST

    Actually, this is what I do for my trips. After looking at the crowd calander I usually put park times into excel and highligh the recommended days in creen and the avoid days in red. It’s easy for me to understand.

  • by Debbie from Chicago on July 30, 2012, at 9:27 am EST

    Yes to all.

  • While I do think it is easy to understand, I am not the average user. My sister is currently planning a trip and this would be confusing to her. I agree with many of th previous comments that say you should look at each day individually and give a recommendation on which park for that day. That is always how I used the crowd calendar, then I will look back and see which day is the lowest for MK if the numbers are high all week. I think the most important time to color code would be the busiest times. I think it is ok to give everything a green/white if the levels are 3 or under. But, if 2 or more parks are 1 and the others are 3 then for that day I would give them a yellow. Not that you can’t go to that park, but there are other parks that are better. It gets trickier when all parks are in the 9’s. Like you said, that is when people need the recommendations the most. Then look at each day and pick the best and worst. You have always noted in the book and crowd calendar if you picked a day based on the 7 day rule. That made sense. Something like that may have to stay in place for those weeks that there are no days to recommend.

  • Yes, yes, and sort of no.
    I think the color coding on 8/5 confuses the issue.

    I like your old system of best/worst, etc.

  • I think this does a great job of conveying a lot of information in an easy to read format. I also think people want an easy answer when sometimes there is not one. As I looked at it, at first I thought it odd that Epcot had the one lone red day at a 3.5, but if you think deeply enough to realize that that seems odd, you can certainly take it to the next step to realize why. On the one hand, since it is the lowest crowd for the day it is a bit hard to look at it as a red,it seems like it would at least be neutral. On the other hand, if you look at a series of days that included those days – which is what most people do – then it makes total sense.

  • I agree with other posts that the green/red should strictly apply to best/worst on a particular day, without regard to +/- 3 days. Using this criteria, the 8/5 example doesn’t make sense.

    It is easy enough on a multi-day trip to compare the numbers for a particular park to decide for myself which day to go. Find the lowest crowd level for the days I will be there, and then decide if there is a significant difference from the other days. Is a 6 at MK better than an 8? Absolutely! 9.5 better than 9.8? Not really. I don’t need a “best of the worst” designation, but I can see where a newbie might. I agree that yellow(Caution!) intuitively indicates this.

    The expertise of Touring Plans comes in when comparing parks: Is a 6 at Epcot better than a 5 at MK? Or how about 7.9 at AK vs. 8.5 at HS? Also, it is my understanding that red/avoid is occasionally indicated for reasons other than crowd level/wait times, i.e. EMH, special events, parade filming, etc.

    IMO, for any day, there should always be a “best” (green) park; there may not be a “worst” (red) park; it is possible for more than one park to be green or red.