Crowd Blog

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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Finding the Least Crowded Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in 2017

by on June 21, 2017

Here I am once again to review the information from last year and give you an even better projection for the least crowded Micky’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2017. Make sure you check out our dedicated page for a complete list of dates as well as a thorough description of what the Christmas party is.

In short, if you’re looking for the best Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2017, we recommend Tuesday, December 5, 2017. The equivalent date was the party last year with the lowest wait times and has been very low in the past. It’s a Tuesday, early in December, far enough away from the first party for the initial rush to subside and far enough from Christmas to avoid that rush as well.

As I’ll explain below, we’ve made some adjustments to how we calculate the best party to attend, although since I’m sure you’re wondering how we did with our recommendations last year, the answer is…not too bad. Here are the top 5 from last year’s recommendations:

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Find the Least Crowded Halloween Party in 2017

by on May 12, 2017

Welcome back to what has become a yearly tradition: predicting the least crowded Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party. We’ll look back at last year’s recommendations in a bit and give you the full 2017 list, but first make sure you check out our dedicated page for a complete list of dates as well as a thorough description of what the Halloween party is.

In short, if you’re looking for the best 2017 Halloween Party to attend, we recommend Tuesday, August 29, 2017. Each of the past four  years we recommended the same basic party, September 17, 2013, September 16, 2014, September 15, 2015, and September 13, 2016. The reason we’ve broken with that slightly (that September party is #3) is because they parties just start so darn early this year. In the past, very early parties are more lightly attended, so we’re making that assumption again.

The entire list of parties and how we rank them can be found below, but here are some general rules:

  • September is less busy than October. There are exceptions, of course, but you are more likely to see crowds at the October parties. Special addendum for 2017: August will likely be less busy than September.
  • Tuesdays are generally less busy than other days. Sundays and Fridays are busier than other days.

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Long Term Wait Time Trends at Walt Disney World

by on April 26, 2017

Our Walt Disney World wait time analysis shows that waits are up in the last 8 to 12 months compared to what have seen historically during the same time period. Until recently, we didn’t exactly know why. Take a look at this graph – but it takes some explaining to interpret.

When you hold all factors constant, you see the true trend in Walt Disney World Wait times.

In data analysis we attempt to explain the ups and downs of a variable we are interested in by looking at all the other factors that can affect the variable. Sometimes it can be helpful to isolate one of the variables to see how it (and only it) contributes to the ups and downs. But isolating a factor is difficult because the factors all interact with each other. One can not isolate the ups and downs of wait times that are due to the day of the week without also accounting for days with bad weather, for example.

Anyway, our modelling of wait times at Disney parks allows us to do this – it is called a partial dependence plot. We plot the impact of a particular factor while controlling for all the other factors. When we do this using DATE as the isolated factor what we get is a picture of the unexplained noise in the data that relates only to the date that we collected the wait times. In other words, isolating DATE gets us a picture of the long term trend of wait times.

In normal circumstances, we would expect to see something close to a flat line. According to the graph, we see wait times going up in the last few years across all four parks but especially at Magic Kingdom. So, we asked around. Turns out that Magic Kingdom implemented a hiring freeze in September 2016. That could be an explanation for the spike that we see at the end of the Magic Kingdom trend. Less staff means lower attraction capacity and higher wait times. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar hiring freeze took place at the other parks as well.

Remember, this is not a plot of the trend of average wait times, this is a plot of the trend of wait times when you hold all important factors constant. So, the trend we see can’t be due to new attractions, good weather, extended park hours, changes in school schedules or a strong economy. We also know that attendance is relatively flat since 2015 so it can’t be that. When we do the same analysis at Universal Orlando Resort we don’t see the same trend. So, it must be something operational at the Disney parks and understaffing seems like the most plausible explanation.

 

Note: This analysis is for information purposes only, it is not meant to be conclusive, just some observations from the data.

Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar – April Preview

by on April 4, 2017

When looking at April Crowds at Walt Disney World it all starts with Easter. This year Easter Sunday falls on April 16. Historically, Sunday is not the busiest day of the Easter season although you can expect to see very large crowds every day around the holiday. The Christmas peak season that we see every year happens between December 27 and January 1, a few days after the holiday itself. For Easter, the busiest days at the Disney World parks happen before the holiday. Guests of the Disney parks can expect to see peak Easter crowds on the Tuesday through Thursday before Easter (April 11 – April 13).

Easter is very busy but not as extreme as Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Easter is not the only date of interest on the April calendar. In fact, April is chock-full of special events. Here is a breakdown of what’s happening in April and how it might impact crowds in the parks.

Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot

Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival continues throughout all of April. Guests can expect the parks to be extra busy on weekends, especially in the afternoon. The festival includes temporary food kiosks all around the park which bring in curious locals who come for the food but don’t ride the rides. This is why you might see very crowded parks with manageable wait times at the attractions. Avoid weekends unless you have no choice or if you are visiting for a specific concert.

Grad Nights

Grad Nights are back but now they are at Typhoon Lagoon. We don’t think those grads will spill over to the other parks in great numbers but beware if they do. There may be a premium on arriving early at the parks on days around Grad Nights – they tend to sleep in.

Easter

The Disney World Crowd Calendar is predicting very busy parks during the second week of April (April 10 – April 17). Two-thirds of the largest school districts are off at least one day that week and that means large crowds at Disney World. The good news is that park hours are extended to accommodate the influx of guests so the savvy planner can take advantage and arrive as early as possible. Do that and you will be ahead of the game. After the Easter break, 95% of school districts are back in class so we expect to see the parks return to moderate crowd levels fairly quickly after Easter Monday.

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Disneyland Crowd Calendar Adjustments

by on April 4, 2017

Of the last 43 days at Disneyland Park, 28 have been a crowd level ’10’ on the Touringplans.com Disneyland Crowd Calendar. That is remarkable – and not good news for guests of Disneyland Resort.

2017 has been crowded but especially the last three weeks!

The last update to the Disneyland Crowd Calendar was March 16, 2017 and we published a blog article about the changes, which you can read here. We mentioned that there were some signs that Disneyland crowds were beginning to return to normal but after a few weeks of observing crowds, that does not appear to be the case. In fact, it may even be getting worse.

So, we need to adjust the crowd levels to reflect the new reality for crowds at Disneyland Resort. That means we have to shift down the 1 to 10 scale to have more days in the middle and fewer days at the top. What it means for you is that you may see some changes to the crowd levels for your travel dates. What used to be ‘6’s and ‘7’s may now be ‘4’s and ‘5’s. What used to be ‘9’s and ’10’s will now be ‘7’s and ‘8’s. The good news is that your touring plans probably won’t change that much. The scale we use for the crowd calendar is based on what we have observed at Disney parks for the previous 6 months. Usually, we do not see a big change. This year is different.

Why is it different? That is the big question. There are no economic factors that indicate travel is trending up. In fact, there is evidence that international travel has dropped significantly. Disneyland Resort continues to offer a juicy buy-one-get-three ticket promotion which is likely a factor but that doesn’t explain the ridiculous crowds at a time of year that should be moderate to busy. Operational cut-backs are likely a large factor as well. Whenever park operations are understaffed, wait times go up.

We monitor the wait times at every Disneyland Resort attraction daily. Check the blog in a few weeks to see if the trend has continued. As for planning your trip to Disneyland Resort, a touring plan is your best friend! It will work wonders to save you time in line, no matter how crowded it is.

Disneyland Crowd Calendar Updates

by on March 16, 2017

The weather in Southern California is wreaking havoc on crowd patterns at Disneyland Resort. Rain has been so heavy in the first quarter of 2017 that the parks have closed early on some days. The effect on crowds is significant because is reduces the crowds on the poor weather days but creates a big, disproportionate bounce-back effect when the sun comes out. So, it is time to update the Disneyland Crowd Calendar.

Hidden under all the volatility due to weather is an overall increase in wait times. The increase has been evident in recent months, especially at Disneyland Park.

The first 50 days of 2017 are unique in the history of Disneyland Crowds

Here is a look at the first 50 days of 2017 compared to what we usually see at Disneyland Resort. Wait times are significantly up but only on certain days. Overall the volatility (range of average daily wait times) is way up too. There are some recent signs that the crowds are returning to normal so we will be watching closely. In the meantime, these latest trends necessitate an update.

What Leads to Updates in the Disneyland Crowd Calendar?

Our crowd calendar models look at hundreds of factors when considering how busy Disneyland Resort will be on any day. Some factors are based on how the economy is doing – things like the U.S. unemployment rate, the Consumer Price Index, and so on. Other factors track the operating schedule. Of those, here’s a list of the things that change often and tend to influence the crowd calendar numbers:

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Beating the Crowds: How to Handle Animal Kingdom with Avatar

by on February 14, 2017

Pandora: The World of Avatar opens May 27, 2017 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We don’t know all the details yet, but our experience tells us some basic things about how crowds will interact with Animal Kingdom after the new land opens. Since we hear that pictures are better than words, Brian put together a video to explain. If you would like to see more things like this, please give us some suggestions in the comments. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss anything!