Len Testa

Len Testa is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and has contributed to the Disneyland and Las Vegas Unofficial Guides. Most of his time is spent trying to keep up with the team. Len's email address is len@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @lentesta.

43 thoughts on “In The Parks? Send Us Your Wait Times!

  • April 30, 2009 at 9:37 am

    You haven’t by any chance figured out how to decode the bar codes on the FPs, have you…?

  • April 30, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Hello! I daily following the “crowd level” updates and am so great-ful for the info. I am patiently (!) waiting for the August schedule. I am going to base our whole trip on the advice offered on your crowd levels, but just noticed a discrepancy I hope someone can help me with. Do I make choose each park by the “crowd calendar best parks” or the “Unofficial Guide Crowd Counting Results?” Thanks so much! BTW, I am reading the Unofficial Guide cover to cover and am almost done. This is our first real trip to WDW and I am really excited!

    • April 30, 2009 at 10:28 am

      Sorry for all the typos. I had chocolate for breakfast…

      • April 30, 2009 at 6:58 pm

        too funny!

        • May 1, 2009 at 9:35 am

          I KNOW! I had a much healthy breakfast today and seem a little less prone to grammatical error…

    • April 30, 2009 at 10:05 pm

      Hey Amy, go with the crowd calendar. We have to update the crowd counting results. Thanks!

      • May 1, 2009 at 9:32 am

        Thanks so much for all you and your team do, Len!

      • May 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

        Len – I have a question that sort of fits in here. I see park hours (usually 9:00 a.m — EMH at 8:00) but wonder about the scenario in which parks open early due to big crowds. Is this something that they do spur of the moment, depending on the number of folks outside waiting? We are leaving May 23rd and will be there at a crowded time. We have some early morning character breakfasts – my sneaky strategy to get us in the parks early. But if they open early on a whim, there goes that bright idea! Everyone will be getting in line while we gorge on waffles. What are your thoughts?

        • May 7, 2009 at 1:26 pm

          By “suddenly” it isn’t like they see a big line outside and say “well, sure, let’s open the flood gates”. I know it’s changed during one of our trips, but we were aware of it, so there was at least a few days notice. (By the way, they’re more likely to extend their hours than they are to open early, and it’s most likely to be either MK or HS on the weekends that might get the extra hour).

    • May 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm

      The last time we went, I created a spreadsheet calendar of all of that info with park operating hours. I color-coded it – black for whic park to avoid, another color for what the crowd calendar recommends, etc. When I found that two (or more) sources agreed with a recommendation, I knew that was the park for us for that day. It helped me “paint” a picture and see it all in black and white (and many colors). I hope this made sense! We’re getting ready to do that again and I plan on doing the very same thing. It worked wonderfully for us and we avoided major crowds. The only time we encountered crowds was the day I really wanted to go back to Magic Kingdom and ignored all of the advice. I will not do that again, I will not do that again, I will not do that again….

  • April 30, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Do you see any change in crowd levels during the time of May 11-18 due to the swine flu scare? I will be going down there at that time.

  • April 30, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    My boyfriend and I will be there for the Star Wars weekend the first weekend of June. I am curious as to what impact if any the swine flu and the economy will have on your numbers.

    • May 1, 2009 at 6:20 am

      We’ve been in contact with some folks who would know, and so far we don’t see many cancellations because of the flu. We do see some folks not booking trips, however, but that’s still only a few.

  • April 30, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Just returned from Seaworld and Aquatica. We also visited last Saturday. Big difference. Aquatica seems to have pass holders and a great weekend activity for local families. We visited today(Thursday) and walked on to many of the slides.

  • May 2, 2009 at 1:18 am

    What does an 8 or 9 mean on your crowd calendar? I don’t see a scale anywhere. Thanks

  • May 2, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Hey Valerie,

    The scale is at the bottom of the calendar. An 8 means an 80-minute peak wait at any one of the Magic Kingdom’s three “mountains” (Splash, Big Thunder and Space). A 9 means a 90-minute peak wait, a 7 means a 70-minute and so on.

    The “peak wait” is the highest wait time anyone will see at those rides at any time of the day. If you’re using a touring plan your waits will be much, much lower.

    We use “peak wait” for the following reason:

    1) It’s an objective measure that anyone can verify. That is, it’s simple enough for anyone in the parks to tell whether the prediction was correct.

    2) It seems easier to understand than “average” or other methods of quantifying the wait.

    3) Using well-known, popular attractions provides a consistent gauge of crowds.

    Let me know if this isn’t clear. Thanks for using the site!

  • May 2, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    My husband and I have been planning a trip for months for this September. Do you think the new free dining offer will effect the crowds at all? We specifically picked that time of the year because it is typically slower. Thanks!

  • May 2, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Months ago, the beginning of this May was suppose to be light crowded (5) and now they’re expected to be high (8/9s), why is this?

    (I thought, traditionally, up until Memorial weekend, the parks were in the mid to light crowd range).

    I was wondering if (/hoping that) these crowd levels are more so based off of Magic Kingdom, and since Space Mountain is closed- the other mountains are having to pick up the slack, and hence MK’s crowds look worse. And that maybe, the rest of the parks are about the same as usual for this time of the year?

    Please, anyone that’s there right now/this coming week, give us an update.

    • May 3, 2009 at 10:42 pm

      Was at Animal Kingdom on Apr 30, Magic Kingdom May 1 and Typhoon Lagoon today. Crowds are light, I expected the worst based on the updated crowd calendar. The waits for AK were 10-15 minutes max., Magic Kingdom got crowded at lunch time so we left and came back at 6pm and it was great, lines were really light. The only ride that had we wanted to go on that had consistently long waits was Peter Pan’s Flight, about 40 minutes without FP. Typhoon Lagoon was 5 minute waits. We hit Epcot on Wednesday and hope for the best.

  • May 2, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    I have been checking trip reports on another discussion board and it sounds like crowds have been light for May 1 and 2. Not sure if this will hold up, but I hope so since I will be there May 7-17.

    • May 3, 2009 at 9:48 pm

      I was there this past week 4/25-5/2 and the crowds were very light. We waited no more than 20 min for anything except Dumbo. IF there was a longer wait (usually mid afternoon), we used a fast pass. Usually the return times were within a few hours. Rode Thunder Mtn multiple times in a row as well as Buzz Light Year!

      • May 4, 2009 at 12:13 am

        We were in the parks 4/26-5/1 and I thought the crowds were light to moderate. It seemed to be more crowded than a previous visit a few years back in a “light” period so I would trend more towards moderate than light.

        The only ride that was problematic to ride without a long wait or a longer Fastpass time was Toy Story Mania at DS. Everything else either had relatively short waits or reasonable Fastpass windows available at all times. Soarin was probably the next busiest ride.

        • May 4, 2009 at 8:56 am

          Toy Story Mania needs its own crown calendar. Even on a light day fast passes are usually gone by 11:00 AM.

          • May 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

            ditto to what Tony says about the Toy Mania ride 🙂

      • May 4, 2009 at 11:58 pm

        Thanks for sharing the great news about the lower crowd levels. We are going May 15th with 5 year old quadruplets and an 8 year old and was getting pretty nervous about the crowd levels being 8-9. I hope we have a good experience like you did.

        • May 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

          We have been in WDW since Fri, May 8th. Crowd levels are as ORIGINALLY predicted for May, 6 and 7’s. Hit the parks at opening and go home for a rest and swim by 1:30 and you will miss the crowds and the heat. Our longest waits have been in the 15 to 20 minute range. The exceptions are Kali River Rapids about 35 minutes with no FP option. They said there are not enough people in the park to offer FP for the ride, and Toy Story that you just have to plan on riding first, using FP or both! Hope your trip is as awesome as ours has been!

  • May 5, 2009 at 12:09 am

    We’re here and the crowd level is great! I was so worried it was going to be awful, but it is not. Epcot had short wait times, 10-15 minutes, for most things. Test Track was the longest at 50 min, but we did FP for it and Soarin. Getting that FP for Soarin is a must! It’s fantastic and busy. Anytime we had a fast pass we practically walked on the rides.

    Sunday at Magic Kingdom was not that bad either. We arrived about 3pm and it was busy, but not packed. The guy at the parking toll booth said crowds were light. I guess anything is light compared to what was described in April. Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain had 45 minute waits, but again – FP saved us from waiting although we did have to do quite a bit of backtracking. The popular kiddie rides like Peter Pan and Dumbo were typical 30-45 min wait times, so we are going to hit those early one morning later in the week. During the evening before the night time parade, we were able to walk into Laugh Stage (?) and Buzz Light year.

    So in conclusion, don’t worry if you are worrying! The town is busy with people, but lines in the parks are not so bad.

    As for Swine Flu, I have overheard two random conversations of people talking about all of these “Disney Swine Flu” cases and I think it is just gossip. The Orlando news stations have only reported 1 case of the Swine Flu and the girl is fine now. This was as of Sunday night.

    I hope this makes someone feel better about the crowds. I would rate our crowds at a level 5, not an 8. They are maybe slightly more busy than I thought they would be when I originally planned my trip in February, but they are certainly not anywhere as busy as I was expecting it to be after the crowd level conditions changed.

  • May 5, 2009 at 7:35 am

    What’s the weather like? I’m heading to the Orlando area from the 8th-21st, and just going by reports, it’s slightly warmer than the norm. I’ve been to Orlando in April, which was hot but not overly humid, so it was a comfortable hot. I’ve also been there in July and August which was a little rough.

    Hopefully with the crowds being lighter than anticipated, we can use the touring plans to get a good chunk of the parks done by mid day, and pace ourselves a little better as the temperature rises!

    • May 5, 2009 at 8:06 am

      Hot, hot, hot! We’ve been here almost a week and not a drop of rain and none predicted. Temps around 88-90, 92 coming at us in a couple days. My advice is get to the park for opening and leave at noon. Come back at 6 and stay till 10 (or closing). It’s so much nicer touring in the evening, no sun in your eyes, less heat, less crowds. And it’s not just kids who get cranky in the heat, I’ve witnessed some pretty ugly parent behaviour this past week, not really sure what their expectations are of little kids in the heat and crowds. Bring your patience!

      • May 5, 2009 at 11:02 am

        Sharon – in reading your post, I am wondering about your advice to leave at noon and do evening stuff…. Our kids are used to an 8:30 bedtime. My homemade itinerary involves getting up really early and “doing the park” of the day – having a long, relaxed lunch (on deluxe dining plan) then touring till about 2:00 and calling it quits. Then plan to go to the resort and chill. Play in the pool in the evening and then bed. Do you think this will work as well? Or will that mid-day heat be too ridiculous? I would love anyone’s advice! We leave May 23rd! Thanks!

        • May 7, 2009 at 2:51 pm

          Your plan has it so that you wont see any fireworks, spectromagic, or Fantasmic. 🙁 To me, MK’s fireworks must be seen at least once every trip.

          Each way, the full half day vs the morning/night plan has their definite advantages and disadvantages. Next to any personal stories or insights, the pros and cons are fairly obvious. In the end, you’ll have to play it by ear. Try them both out.

          I have had to delete this like 5 times, I keep trying to plan your trip for you. >.<

        • May 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

          Hi Chris,
          I would agree with Sharon. I understand about bedtimes for the kids, but I throw their schedule out the window when we go to Disney World. The most productive day we had was when we hit Magic Kingdom early before the park opened and then went back to the condo about 11:30. We went to the pool and rested then went back around 5pm to catch a few more rides that we fast passed and to catch the evening fireworks show.

          There are great parades that you will miss if you spend every afternoon in your hotel rather than at the park. I would recommend the parade at Animal Kingdom, but find a seat right along the ropes about 30 minutes prior to it starting.

          You can spend hours planing out different scenarios and I spent days doing this before our trip and then still reviewed and adjusted them each evening. It’s kind of fun 🙂

          I agreee with Samantha – the Wishes fireworks show at Magic Kingdom is just perfect and a must for a child or adult. It takes a while to get out of the park and back to your ride after the parade so it won’t do any good to try and hurry home after the fireworks. My kids have been a little spooked by Fantasmic at Disney Studios and it is crowded to get in and out of it. Lots of people LOVE it though. I haven’t seen the show at Epcot in over 5 years so I can’t give an opinion on that one.

          As for the heat – it seemed like it was 95-98 degrees out there and I think it was actually 90 – 92 degrees. If you can go home and come back in the early evening, it will be a lot more enjoyable.

          Have fun!

          • May 12, 2009 at 9:50 am

            I love all this help! We are 11 days away from blast-off and my son keeps asking me if I’m going to wet my pants yet (from excitement!) Regarding the bedtime thing… the boys are pretty young — I’m not so concerned about keeping a schedule as I am keeping everyone from melting down in the middle of the trip. Even on nights when we are up late at home — without walking for miles in the heat during the day — we have grouchy people the next day. We do have one night with a dinner reservation at Spoodles and plan to watch Illuminations if everyone is up to it. (Watching from the International Gateway per Len’s fabulous advice!!!!) But we are going to play it by ear. On our last night, we made reservations for coffee and dessert at the Kona Cafe, then plan to walk down to the beach for the water parade and Wishes. I just don’t feel comfortable being in the parks for fireworks with my young’uns. (Crazy, I know, but that’s just us.) We are hoping for more Disney vacations in the years to come – so when the boys are older, we can do the late night stuff. We are so excited! Of course, today, my 9 year old says his throat and stomach hurt — nooooooooo — not strep throat!!!!!!! The pollen is high here, though, so I will give it a couple of days. I’m sure our pediatrician thinks I’m a freak. We have some sort of “scare” before every long trip! 🙂 Life with kids! Anyway, keep the advice coming! Love it!!!!!!!

      • May 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm

        Very, very, very hot! I thought we were going to melt watching the Bash/Parade thing at Disney Studios (very disappointing).

        • May 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm

          to clarify…the parade was disappointing to me, not the weather. I expected it to be really hot.

  • May 5, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    We are going next week – I keep visiting the site hoping to see that Fred has recanted his prediction for these massive early May crowds. Any day now . . . 🙂

    • May 5, 2009 at 6:45 pm

      Ha ha, I keep checking 10 times a day for the same thing. I can still remember the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when I clicked on the crowd calendar that day and all of my 5’s & 6’s were replaced with 8’s and 9’s. Oh, the Horror!

      • May 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm

        I’m not sure if Fred will change his numbers, but judging from Beth’s report on May 5 it seems like the 8 & 9s predicted so far have not come true. Have these numbers been verified Fred?

        • May 11, 2009 at 2:34 pm

          I’m back from our week long trip and even though the crowds picked up later in the week (Friday was busy!), the lines were no where near what is described as a level 8 or 9.

          Best tip from me… we rented a stroller at MK and arrived before the park opened as it was suggested. There were already a ton of people there, but they had a special entrance for stroller renters so we were allowed into the park to rent the stroller and then they allowed us to go in all the way through the castle. I couldn’t believe it! I kept telling my 70 year old mother to hurry before they released the mob! When we reached the castle I turned around and there were a sea of people heading up main street. We waited for the ropes to drop and then hit Dumbo (do it first!), and then all of the other rides.

          As for the other parks,
          Animal Kingdom was crowded on Thursday, but wait times were really not bad. Maybe 20 minutes here and there. Kali River Rapids was the longest at 50 minutes so we waited until just after the parade and walked right on. Dinosaur scared the H*** out of my kids, but there was hardly any wait! Everest was still giving out Fast Passes even late in the day, but the ride broke down so I was out of luck.

          Disney Studios – Seemed to be the most crowded on Tuesday. Ride Toy Mania first. GREAT ride! VERY Crowded. Just get in line. It moves pretty fast. I think we waited 25 minutes and we were one of the first ones in the park.

          Epcot on Monday and Friday – Test Track had a 60 minute wait and soarin was more like 70 minutes with the fast passes having us return in the evening. Epcot handles crowds really well. They have a special queue to meet the characters and it stayed busy with a 30-60 minute wait. They show cartoons though so that helped.

          I can go on and on, but hopefully this will help someone. We had a great time and hope everyone else does too!

  • May 15, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Just returned form the world today and waits were minimal. Did not wait for any ride longer than 20 minutes including splash mountain and thunder mountain. Soarin’ was at 60 minutes, but fastpassed it and test track was 45 minutes. It was very hot! For other readers, just have a plan and try to stick to it. If you are worried about bedtimes just try to get to bed a little earlier every other night or sleep in a little every other am. Crowds will probably remain low until Memorial day and you will get to do all you want whatever time of the day you arrive!

  • May 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Just returned from our first trip. In the parks 5/11 – 5/15. The parks (and counter service) were more crowded than the lines. Had to FastPass Splash Mountain and Soarin’ and that’s all. The only long wait time was Dumbo (30 min), Pooh (30 min) and Toy Story Mania (30 min). TS is awesome, and waiting isn’t so bad, great setup! Expedition Everest was down 5/15, once it was running FP’s were gone, they said 70 min. wait time, but we were in line and off the ride in 30 minutes. Wait times, for the most part, seem to be overstated.

  • May 19, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    We visited Hollywood Studios today and didn’t bother with FastPasses as the maximum wait time was 30 minutes for Toy Story Mania and Rock n Roller coaster. There was only a 20 minute wait for Tower of Terror and Star Tours. The torrential rain must have put everyone off going to the parks!

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