We’re making two small adjustments to our Disney World crowd calendar. First, we’re going to use the last 24 months of wait times to determine what each 1-to-10 number represents on our scale. (We currently use all the wait times we’ve collected since 2010 – keep reading for the challenges this presents.) For example, in a crowd calendar update on April 1, 2018, the crowd levels will be based on data from April 2016 to March 2018. We will make Crowd Calendar updates monthly.
We made a similar change to the Crowd Calendar in early 2017. Readers have told us that they prefer faster, smaller updates to those big once-a-year changes. We agree.
The impact of the adjustment will, on average, affect crowd levels less than 1 point from month to month over a twelve-month span. In the short term, that is, you won’t notice much.
Second, we’re going to provide a separate 18-month view of the calendar for those folks who want to start their planning that far in advance. Of course, a lot of things can change in 18 months. But so many people have asked us for this kind of data to get a general sense of trends that we think it’ll be useful to many more.
Why These Changes are Needed
Our crowd calendar measures crowds by looking at the average posted wait times at popular rides during the busiest time of the day. For example, here’s how we measure Space Mountain’s crowd level using the posted wait time outside the ride.
|Average Posted Wait Time
11 am – 5 pm
|Under 42 minutes||1|
|42 to 50 minutes||2|
|50 to 58 minutes||3|
|58 to 67 minutes||4|
|67 to 75 minutes||5|
|75 to 90 minutes||6|
|90 to 107 minutes||7|
|107 to 124 minutes||8|
|124 to 140 minutes||9|
|140 minutes and over||10|
These ranges are based on wait times we’ve collected at Walt Disney World between March 2016 – February 2018.
One advantage of this method is that it’s objective and easy to check. Even if you’re at home in Minnesota, you can use the My Disney Experience app to see what the wait time is at Space Mountain and check our prediction.
Growing Attendance and Reduced Capacity
There are a couple of disadvantages to using posted wait times, too. One is that as attendance grows, there’ll naturally be fewer days with low crowd levels and more days with higher crowd levels.
Another disadvantage to using wait times is that they’re susceptible to changes in ride capacity. For example, the number of people who can ride Space Mountain in a given hour depends on how many rocket cars are running on Space Mountain’s tracks. On very busy days like New Year’s Eve, Disney runs the ride at full speed – every car that can fit on the track is on the track, and Disney has enough cast members working at Space Mountain to ensure that every car is filled as fast as possible with as many people as can fit.
However, it’s expensive to run Space Mountain at full speed – it costs money to pay the cast members to run the ride, and Disney has to pay for maintenance, wear, and tear on the ride vehicles. Disney could save money by running only one rocket car at a time on Space Mountain, but the lines would be enormous and customers would be unhappy with the wait.
On days with fewer people in the park, however, Disney tries to find a balance between the cost of operating Space Mountain and the satisfaction of guests who have to wait in line. They do this by reducing the ride capacity, using either fewer cast members, fewer cars, or both.
Since late 2015, we’ve seen Disney World’s wait times increase much faster than (we think) attendance has grown. We think this is because Disney is decreasing ride capacity to save money and improve their corporate earnings. That is, Disney’s betting that it can save more money on ride operations that it will lose from dissatisfied customers who waited 35 minutes for Space Mountain instead of 25 minutes. (We’d bet that Disney is using advance FastPass+ data to make these staffing decisions, because your FastPass+ reservation tells Disney which park you’ll be in and which rides you’ll ride, at specific times of day, two months before you get there. That’s plenty of time for Disney to set the weekly work schedules of its cast members.)
A long-term program to reduce capacity means that our crowd estimates will go up even if the number of people visiting Walt Disney World stays the same.
That’s not good, either. We think our 1-to-10 scale is easy to understand. And we want there to be enough days throughout the year with crowd levels of 1, 2, and 3 to balance out the days of 8, 9, and 10.
The TouringPlans statistics team takes its work seriously. We review our accuracy on a daily basis. We even report every day’s performance on the Historic Crowd Calendar pages. These changes will be included in the next Crowd Calendar updates. The Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar will be updated this week. Disneyland and Universal Crowd Calendars will be updated in March. Our 18-month Crowd Calendar will start showing up in March.
OK, we have done our homework to secure the science behind the Crowd Calendar. Now we would like your help with the artistic side. Check out the examples below and select the color scheme(s) you like the best.