Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar Update

by on July 26, 2016 54 Comments

Filed under: Crowd Blog, Trip Planning

ToTouringPlans logonight we will be pushing an update to the Walt Disney World for dates starting August 1, 2016. The changes in the crowd level reflect changes in our wait time attraction predictions. The new predictions reflect changes due to park hours, school schedules, and recent trends of observed wait times. One of the more interesting impact of the school schedules will occur during Christmas break: This year Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fall on Saturdays. While some school districts are off the last two weeks of December, others are taking the last week of December and the first week of January. This will extend the holiday crowds over three weeks instead of the usual two weeks.

Holiday Crowd Levels

2016 Crowds

We are still learning the impact of the increased capacity at Soarin and Toy Story Midway Mania, Frozen moving into Norway, and nighttime hours at the Animal Kingdom. One thing we are seeing is a general increase in crowd levels at Hollywood Studios. With many of the minor attractions being closed, the remaining attractions are seeing an increase in wait times which brings up our crowd levels. With the back half of Hollywood Studios being closed, the park also feels more crowded according to our users.

© Sarah GraffamAugust has some small tweaks–any changes being due to changes in park hours and crowd flow. We expect the bulk of summer crowds to taper off by August 28 and September will have its usual low crowds with Labor Day weekend being the busiest weekend.

One of the questions we often get is the impact Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has on crowd levels. Guests without park hopper tickets stay away from the Magic Kingdom on party days, which causes party days to be lower and days without a party to be more crowded at the Magic Kingdom.

Excluding Thanksgiving week, November will have low to moderate crowds. Early December crowd levels have increased with some 8s and 9s showing up at the Magic Kingdom. With Christmas crowds starting to arrive on December 17, there is less time for locals to get their holiday cheer before the holiday invasion.

2017 Crowd Levels

In general, we have seen an increase in wait times even with Disney saying that attendance is down. We could be wrong, but our suspicion is that staff cuts and reduced ride capacity are the explanation of the higher wait times. We have every reason to think that this will continue for the foreseeable future. For 2017, we are adjusting the scale so that the average crowd level falls between 5 and 6. The 2016 average is over 7, and the distribution is skewed. As an example, an average wait time of 65 minutes at Splash Mountain is currently a “10”. In 2017, a 65 minute wait will be a “9”. It will take an average wait of 70 minutes at Splash Mountain to qualify as a “10” in 2017.

 

WDW Distributions

 

Disneyland and Universal Orlando

Updates for Disneyland and Universal will be coming shortly and the 2017 adjustments will be applied to Disneyland and Universal. Fortunately, these resorts data is not as skewed and the changes will be less dramatic.

Posted on July 26, 2016

54 Responses to “Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar Update”

  • Looking forward to an update for Disneyland. Right now, October’s predictions look skewed to me. Predictions for 2s and 3s during the week and 9s on weekends, which, if the new pricing continues to push crowds to weekdays, makes me question the model. I am hoping DLR posts their plans for PTN and fireworks soon, though. Without knowing what to expect for entertainment, it’s almost impossible to plan a fall trip right now.

  • Perfect timing – I make my ADRs on Monday. 🙂

  • Thanks for the update, Steve. How many times in the past have the wait times associated with a specific CL changed? On average, how much have wait times increased over the past 3 years? I’m trying to get an idea of the magnitude of wait time increases that we are all experincing.

    • It was June 2013, when the current wait time crowd levels were set. The magnitude of the change is 5-10 minutes at the headliners; less at other attractions.

  • by Dean Finder on July 26, 2016, at 9:08 pm EDT

    “In general, we have seen an increase in wait times even with Disney saying that attendance is down. We could be wrong, but our suspicion is that staff cuts and reduced ride capacity are the explanation of the higher wait times.”
    Walt Disney World – taking your business for granted

  • Can you comment on what happened in the 2 weeks/10 days right after Thanksgiving? It is frequently talked about as being one of the slower times of the year, and before your update it looked like that, with most resort-wide levels at 1 – 3. However, after the update every day has gone up by at least 2 or 3, with each day now being at least 4 – 6, with some sevens. This time frame went from looking pretty favorable to now seeming average, at best. Do you have specific reasons to think this window is going to be busier than before? Thanks

    • The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks is smaller this year. We expect this will increase the crowd levels to be higher.

      • Based on what though? Especially with lower attendance happening now why would we see a spike during a slower time? Prices are only going to rise.

      • Thanks for the info. Do you have access to any “real” traffic data in advance? Either from Disney or any other travel industry sources that say things are looking more/less busy this year than last? Or are you making educated projections based on past patterns and your experience?

        • Disney does not make daily attendance data public or give us access. We have some hotel occupancy data, but without having a wider sample of Orlando hotels it is not too helpful. Changes in park hours and discounts are the only signal we get from Disney to glean their predicted crowd levels.

          The only thing we have to evaluate our predictions are posted standby times.

  • Steve, I have a question. Generally, the UG says that EMH’s boost crowd levels. And yet, Animal Kingdom crowd levels for beginning of October: Oct 1 EMH: 5, Oct 2 NO EMH: 7, Oct 3 EMH: 4, Oct 4 NO EMH: 5. This seems odd, especially accounting for very little day-to-day change in overall resort crowd levels that week. What’s the thinking? Is it that the Halloween party schedule (Oct 2 & 4) are driving more people to/away from MK at that time, which is a bigger “driver” of crowds than EMH? Would make sense, but just kind of want a confirmation of that, thanks!

    • To follow up, there aren’t accompanying fluctuations at HS or Epcot. In fact, biggest crowd level for HS that week (Oct 3) is on a non-Halloween party day. Just trying to understand the reasoning/data (day of week?) that is driving the numbers.

      Also, all the Epcot numbers seemed to trend downward. I’m guessing the wait times have gone down since the 3rd Soarin’ queue & Frozen opened? Again, thanks a mil. This stuff fascinates me. 😉

    • Morning EMH does not seem to drive crowds to Animal Kingdom. Data from this summer shows guests are arriving later, with the later closing times.

      • Thanks, Steve. I’m guessing that TP thinks that Disney may extend AK hours into Sept/Oct then? Current close is 7:30pm, which is better than the old 5pm days, but not the 11pm it’ll be all summer. It’s interesting how many factors go into this. 🙂

  • Ouch. That hurt. For my trip the week of Columbus day, 85% of the numbers went up. Some parks jumped 4 levels!

    • More and more schools are taking a fall break. Columbus day is peak time for fall break. Crowds are not anything like spring break.

      Have a good plan, and arrive at park opening and you will be good!

    • I made plans for that weekend, too. I made restaurant reservations based on EP4, HS4, AK5, MK8. After the update, it is now EP4, HS9, AK9, MK10. I’m trying to decide if it is worth switching up to AK7, MK5, EP6, HS9. Any thoughts, Steve?

  • Im also curious why the two weeks after Thankgiving jumped from 2-4 to 7-9… I was also told those were the best weeks to go.

    • The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks is smaller this year. We expect this will increase the crowd levels to be higher.

    • I do not understand the logic of its a smaller time frame between Thanksgiving and Christmas when its almost the exact same time from from the previous years (2014 and 2015 had 27 days before Christmas break and Thanksgiving break as well.) I just think its a bit of a dramatic jump from 2-4 to 7-9. I know I booked those weeks because this site recommended that time because it is supposed to be slow. Not saying you are wrong but that just seems to be a huge jump.

  • Steve, Just wondering with the new crowd levels. The touring plans aren’t adjusting when I optimize and evaluate. Has the system not been updated to accommodate the new crowd levels yet? Thank you in advance!

    • I’d like to know this as well. When will evaluating/optimizing our current personalized TPs reflect the crowd level changes? We are around 25 days out from our trip. Thanks!

    • The optimizer had access to the new attraction prediction prior to the crowd levels being updated. If you evaluate a Touring Plan and times have not changed, the optimizer was using the latest attraction predictions. We will update an attraction’s prediction and not update the Crowd Calendar if there are no significant changes to the Crowd Calendar.

      • Great info Steve! Thank you so much! I actually did a couple of TP’s using some dates with a larger crowd level just in case so we are good to go!

  • Why, oh why, did MK jump from a 1 to a 7 on November 17, 2016 when they close at 4:30??

  • Can you tell me if the WDW Crowd Calendar Update takes into consideration the Early Morning Magic days at MK and HS? This ticketed event is not listed on your daily crowd calendar.
    Disney lists these events under the dining reservations because it includes breakfast, but it allows early entry at 7:45 am onto Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan and 7 Dwarfs in MK and Toy Story Mania and Star Tours in HS.

    • I need to know this too!
      I just realized that our Sunday at MK is a MNSSHP night so it is closing early but it also “may” be an EMM day if they extend it into October. Are the wait times on our TP taken into consideration on these rides that are open for EMM?

      • The reports I’ve read here (and elsewhere) are that the impacts of EMM are very small compared to just about any other factor. There just aren’t that many spots available, and not that many people are ponying up for it.

        • Charles is correct. With the limited data, we are not seeing EMM affecting crowd levels or wait times. The EMM guests are eating breakfast and leaving Fantasyland once the park is open.

          August 1, EMM spreads to Hollywood Studios. I would not be surprised if Epcot also gets EMM.

  • Wow, surprised by the jump in numbers for our trip too. Was really hoping for small crowds during Nov 15-20 – originally listing ones & twos, now sevens!!! I hope the MK Nov 17th is a mistake. any idea why the jump on Nov 19 for AK? or in general why the jumps?

  • Thanks Steve. Interesting if not a little depressing for someone booked in for the first 2 weeks in December. What impact do you expect this to have on the Christmas parties and their crowd levels? Do you further anticipate the crowds at Animal Kingdom to increase when the extended hours are released? Thanks.

  • by Matthew ives on July 27, 2016, at 6:11 pm EDT

    Hi Steve notice my dates, 9thh November to 17 have seen a few hikes. Any particular reason for this?

  • Steve, I’m freaking out! Crowd levels for our trip August 23-25 jumped 3 levels! Can you tell me why? Is there anything I should be thinking bout changing? I picked those days for low croud traffic. Any light you can shed on this is appreciated. Thanks Andy

    • The main factor that caused the jump in crowd levels for late August through Labor Day is school schedules. This year, more school are not going back to school until after Labor Day.

      • We are locked into that same week in August and it is frustrating to see such a large jump in crowd levels. We planned our trip to coincide what looked like a relatively quiet time. Perhaps going forward you can look at the start of school issue a little sooner? By the way, I assume you mean Labor Day and not Memorial Day.

      • Im going aug 17-23 and was told fl schools start the 15th this year and see that on alot of fl school calendars. Are you talking about out of state?

        • We track over 100 school districts from across the country. Florida families have the opportunity of going to WDW on long weekends and other off-peak times. Florida school calendars have less of an impact on crowds than other states.

  • Thanks for the update! My 60 day mark is coming up this weekend and I’m wondering when these changes will be reflected in the personalized touring plans. I’ve re-optimized but the wait times are the same.

    • Here is his answer to this question a few Q & A earlier.
      “by Steve Bloom on July 27, 2016, at 2:06 pm EDT
      The optimizer had access to the new attraction prediction prior to the crowd levels being updated. If you evaluate a Touring Plan and times have not changed, the optimizer was using the latest attraction predictions. We will update an attraction’s prediction and not update the Crowd Calendar if there are no significant changes to the Crowd Calendar.”

  • Is there a reason AK went from a 3 to a 9 on Sept 4? Seems too extreme.

    • I think I found my own answer. MK is open until 1 AM on the Saturday. Doesn’t that usually only happen on July 4 weekend and Christmas? I always thought Labour day was the least crowded of the holidays.

      • Labour Day! Last year the Labour Day crowds were higher than we and Disney expected. Disney has extended park hours assume the crowds will return. Our School schedule data shows that more schools will still be on summer break, so we are predicting the crowds will be high.

  • Does anyone have any insight on crowd levels for the last week in October and the first week in November? We are planning on attending that week. I am hoping for lower levels of crowds. Last year we were there late December.

    THANKS!!!

  • Our trip is 11/8 to 11/14 and it looks VERY crowded! Any particular reason for this? I know veteran’s day falls on the 11th but the other days look really crowded. Thoughts? Thanks

    • Election day most schools are off since many states vote in public school buildings and then some districts (like ours) also have at least one other day off that week as well. Easier to pull your kids out if there are 2 days off already.

  • Ugh. We booked a trip for early January, so as to miss the holiday crowds. Jan 3-7 looks pretty miserable now, having jumped about 3-4 levels across the board. Now I’m having 2nd thoughts…

  • Yuck. I’ve already made FP+ reservations thinking AK would be a 3 on 9/4 and now it’s an 8. I guess I’ll just suck it up – not risking losing Frozen Ever After FP+ by

  • *and ADRs by moving days around