Crowd Blog

Disneyland Wait Times Lower Than Expected Since New Fantasmic!

by on August 18, 2017

Recently we updated projected crowd levels for Disneyland Park in response to the re-opening of Fantasmic! on July 17. Although the new show is drawing plenty of visitors we have not seen an increase in wait times around the park. So, today we are posting a new update for now until Labor Day based on the latest wait times collected.

Annual Passholders who own a pass with blockout dates will have their first opportunity to see the new Fantasmic! on August 21. We expect the park to busy (especially Frontierland in the afternoon) between August 21 and 25 but we don’t expect a large increase in wait times at the attractions.

Very hot weather is contributing to lower than expected crowds as well. We have seen most days at two or three points lower than expected since mid-July. So, from now until September 4 you will see a drop in crowd level for many days.


School Schedules and Crowd Levels

by on August 14, 2017

Ed. Note: We frequently get questions to TouringPlans asking how we make crowd predictions. This article provides insight into one of the metrics used when formulating predictions about park attendance.

It comes as no surprise that many families with school-age children take Disney vacations, and most prefer to take their children on vacations when school isn’t in session. To account for these attendance patterns, we track over 100 public school districts. This includes the 100 largest school districts in the country, the largest school districts in each state, and school districts that are close to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This covers 12 million students. That is more than 20% of all students enrolled in public education. TouringPlans spends a lot of time collecting the school schedules each fall and summer. We put in the effort because school schedules are one of the best indicators for predicting crowd levels. Collecting more school schedules has diminishing returns, however. We would have to collect 100 more school districts’ calendars to cover 5% more of the public school students.

National Center for Education Statistics
CCD public school district data 2014-2015, 2015-2016 school years

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How to Pick the Best Park for Each Day of Your Walt Disney World Trip

by on August 7, 2017

Families often ask us to help pick the best park to visit for each day of their Walt Disney World vacation. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why we created our Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar.

When we answer those questions, the first thing we try to figure out is what “best” means for this family, on this trip. To do that, we ask questions about when the family is going, how long they’re staying, how many times they want to visit each park, and so on.  Once we know that, we can narrow down the list of choices and start talking about the pros and cons of each possibility.

Below is the process we use to pick the best theme park to visit on any day of a trip to Walt Disney World. It’s easy to extend this process to include days off, visits to water parks, or other theme parks. Let us know in the comments below if your family considers other things when visiting a park, or if you’d like to see another example with water parks and more.

When Are You Going?

The first step is to look at the Crowd Calendar for the entirety of your trip. For an example, let’s assume I have an upcoming trip for October 1-7, 2017.

October 1-7, 2017, Crowd Calendar

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Disneyland Preview — Week of August 5

by on August 4, 2017

Happy Friday!  Yet another good-looking summer week at Disneyland is upon us!  Read on for more details in this week’s Disneyland preview!

Special Events and Notes

Disneyland Monorail

Photo: Disney

As the summer winds down, Disney is ratcheting back its special events, so there’s not that much to report for the upcoming week.  With that said, for those of you that are staying at Disney hotels, Disney is running a special promotion where Disney’s California Adventure will stay open one hour later to give you more time to ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout.  Think of it as an attraction-specific evening Extra Magic Hour, which happens on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Is this going to save you a ton of time? Not really, primarily because there will be plenty of people in line by the time of regular park closing hours to ensure a healthy wait for this very popular attraction. With that said, particularly if you’re showing up to experience the attraction towards the end of the extra time, you can expect to have fewer people to compete against, and therefore a relatively shorter wait.

Also, the Summer of Heroes continues at Disney’s California Adventure. As always, you should read Derek Burgan’s write-up on the event if you’ve not been before to get the most out of it.

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Disneyland Preview — Week of July 22

by on July 21, 2017

Hey folks, it’s once again time for this week’s Disneyland Preview, so you’ll know what you’re in store for when you head to the parks! Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

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Disneyland Crowd Calendar Updates For August 2017 and Beyond

by on July 19, 2017

Fantasmic! is back at Disneyland Park after a year-long hiatus. Early reaction to the new features of this popular show are positive so we expect crowds to increase at Disneyland for the rest of the summer. In particular, when summer blockout dates end in August we expect a large influx of annual passholders wishing to check out the new show. So, a new update to the Disneyland Crowd Calendar is in order.

Southern California (and Southern California Select) passholders will have their first chance to see the new Fantasmic! show on August 21. The Disneyland Crowd Calendar expects crowds to be elevated at Disneyland Park between August 21 and Labor Day on September 4. Most passholders who want to see the new show will have done so by then. Crowd levels have increased for those days by as much as 6 index points. Disney California Adventure crowd levels remain unchanged.

If you have a trip planned for late August, don’t panic. Although this update represents a large increase in crowd levels on some days we believe the crowds will be mostly afternoon visitors coming in specifically to see the new show. So, if you arrive early and follow a touring plan you should be fine. It is also likely that the increased crowds will be mostly focused in Frontierland, where the show takes place.

There are very few updates to the Disneyland Crowd Calendar beyond August and almost no major changes. You will see some days change by a point or two but nothing more than that. Most days remain unchanged.


Universal Orlando Resort Preview – Week of July 15th

by on July 13, 2017

The Universal Orlando Preview is brought to you by Storybook Destinations. Storybook Destinations specializes in Disney and Universal travel, is consistently highly rated by our readers, and is owned by our own blogger extraordinaire, Tammy Whiting. Storybook also offers free subscriptions to TouringPlans to clients with qualified bookings.

So you want to go to Universal Orlando, you say?

This week, you say?

Well you’re in the right place!! Each week, I’ll have the most important things you need to know, all in one place, to help you make the most of your time and have the most epic day ever!

Weekly Crowd Level

Overall, crowds will be pretty consistently summer-dense throughout the week. Do I hear a Sunday Funday calling??

Weekly Weather Report

It’s summertime in central Florida! You know the routine….scattered thunderstorms, they come and they go! *Disclaimer: though my name rhymes with weather, I am not in fact a meteorologist. So arm your smartphone with your favorite weather app (Dark Sky is my personal favorite) and check the forecast before you go!

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Walt Disney World Resort Preview – Week of July 15th

by on July 13, 2017

I’m starting a new column ya’ll!

Every week, I’ll be giving you the 411 on all the happenings going on at Walt Disney World!

Park hours? Check. Crowd Levels? Check. Special events? Check!

All you need to do is meet me here every Thursday for your weekly preview. Now let’s get started!

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Pandora’s Effect on Walt Disney World

by on July 5, 2017


Pandora – The World of Avatar has been open for a month, and we now have enough data to see the initial impact  the new land is having on attendance at Animal Kingdom and at Walt Disney World, in general.

Before I get into the analysis, I want to cover what we do know and what we don’t. We don’t know Disney’s attendance numbers. Disney does not release daily attendance numbers. We do know posted wait times, actual wait times, ride capacity, and ride duration. Since we don’t have continuous user input for actual wait times, we use our actual wait times and estimate actual wait times based on posted wait times. With this information we can estimate the number of people on each ride, as well as how many people are in the ride queues. We make the assumption that a park’s attendance is proportional to the number of people at its attractions. The proportion is not important for this analysis, but for those who are curious, we believe it is 1-to-3. So for each guest at an attraction, there are two guests shopping, eating, walking, waiting, watching a show, or doing anything else in the park. To fine-tune our estimates we assume the average attendance for the first four months of 2017 is the same as it was for the first four months of 2016.

When I use the term “attendance” below, I mean the hourly average number of guests at attractions. I am NOT referring to the total number of people at the parks.

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Crowd Calendar Updates For Summer 2017 And Beyond

by on June 29, 2017

Summer 2017 is in full swing, and it is time to refresh the the Disney World Crowd Calendar. We now know a little about the popularity of Pandora at Animal Kingdom and how the crowds at that park are affected by the new land. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is affected, too, as Animal Kingdom draws more than its usual share of guests visiting a third park after Magic Kingdom and Epcot. We have completed a full review of 2017-2018 school schedules, as well, so we have more accurate forecasts for Fall 2017 and Winter 2018. But first, let’s take a look at how the calendar has been doing lately.

Error Rates for Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar so far in 2017

After some atypical crowds in 2016, the Disney World Crowd Calendar appears to be performing better thanks to some reworking of our models. In June the average error at Magic Kingdom is one index point, and for 11 of the last 14 days the calendar has been bang-on. Predictions at the other three parks also did well, with average errors less than 1.5 index points since June 1. Animal Kingdom remains as the most volatile park, as expected. Not only does it have the newest attractions on property, but the park has the fewest attractions of the four parks, so swings in the wait times there have a greater effect on the crowd calendar than at the other parks. In 2017 about 90% of the time the crowd calendar figures are correct within two index points, and about two-thirds of the time they are within one. That is an improvement of 4-5 percentage points over what we saw last year. As a guest using a touring plan, a difference of one index point is virtually unnoticeable, and a difference of two index points represents just 2-3 minutes of wait time per attraction. The error rates are nicely balanced, as well, with as many days overestimated as underestimated. So, if the calendar is off by two points, it is just as likely that you will wait 2-3 minutes less per attraction than 2-3 minutes more.

There are still odd days when we see crowds drastically different than what was predicted, but they are less frequent in 2017 compared to 2016. If you arrive in a park that appears to be much more crowded than predicted, don’t panic – stick to the plan and make sure to refresh it so that it can re-optimize using the latest wait times observed during the day.

So, now on to the update. This batch of changes is mostly minor, with movement of a point or two on some days. Most days will not change. When a day does change as a result of this update, it is most likely due to updated information about the summer schedule, the schedule for Halloween and Christmas parties in the fall, or new school schedule data. Let’s take a look by month.

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