Walt Disney World Crowd Level Changes May 2015 to May 2016

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Today the Disney World Crowd Calendar received an update. The last time we updated the Disney World Crowd Calendar was December 2014, and a lot has changed since then.

Park Hours, Park Schedules and the Way They Get Updated

See Brian’s article about how often park hours change. We track park hours obsessively, so it is important to refresh our crowd levels every few months to take advantage of the latest trends.

Confirmed dates for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Magic Kingdom crowds vary greatly depending on the party schedule. Now that we have confirmed dates for the parties, the crowd levels can be updated to reflect the schedule.

School Schedules for the 2015/2016 School Season

Orlando is the world’s most popular family vacation destination, so it makes sense that the crowds are highly driven by school schedules. Fewer schools in session mean more families on vacation. We publish our Crowd Calendar one year in advance, so there are times of the year when we must project the school schedules into the future before the schedules are officially published. Now that we have confirmed schedules for the 2015/2016 school year, it is time to update the calendar.

Attraction Model Enhancements

We have added indicators that we found have a small but significant influence on what happens at the attractions. Things like the “newness” of an attraction and the effect of refurbishments and closures on neighboring attractions are now part of our predictions.

Recalibration of the Crowd Index Levels

One important part of any calendar update is a recalibration of the thresholds that define the ‘1’ to ’10’ crowd levels. We convert the wait times we predict into ten categories to make it easier to judge the crowdedness. The long term trend is that wait times are increasing in off-season. Although the trend is only a slight increase, it does demand that we redistribute the wait times throughout the year into our ‘1’ to ’10’ levels. This is a significant reason for some of the changes that occurred during this update. To see the wait times for each crowd level see our Crowd Levels page.

Crowd trends are dynamic at Disney World as they are in travel generally, so these new projections may (and likely will) change. Use the calendar numbers as a guideline to plan your trip, and if you have a travel date in mind, click Track This Day to get notified of changes.

Below is a list of the major changes by month.

 

Crowd Calendar Updates By Month
Dates Here’s What’s New
June A few changes, mostly increases of one or two levels, and mostly at Epcot. Crowd levels for the end of the school year have increased due to fewer than expected school districts extending the school year to make up for lost days in winter.
July Sundays after holidays have been busier than usual for some reason, so our models have bumped up crowd levels on July 5, especially at Epcot. In general, July crowd levels are higher based on our new wait time categories.
August Similar to July, the new wait time categories have pushed August crowd levels higher by one or two levels most days.
September No major increases except for the weekend before Labor Day. Some decreases in mid and late September.
October Our school statistics are showing that as many as 12% of school districts have small breaks scheduled in October, which has pushed some days up slightly. Other days have decreased, however, and overall October is still a good month for low crowds. Magic Kingdom’s Halloween party schedule has an impact, as well.
November Mostly small changes. Thanksgiving has not reached the extreme ’10’s on our scale in the past few years, and it looks like our models are adjusting to that trend. Don’t be fooled, however: it will still be extremely busy.
December Mostly minor changes in reaction to the schedule for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. December 14 does not have a party on the schedule, so we saw some crowd levels increase significantly that day.
January – May 2016 Changes between January and May 2016 are related to the observations we’ve made during the same period in 2015.

 

If you are planning to visit a park whose crowd level has changed, we encourage you to review your touring plan if you have not already done so. Also, make sure to re-optimize your plan every so often to ensure it uses the latest estimates of wait times.

For more information of what to do if the crowd level changes for your travel dates click here.

Fred Hazelton

Fred Hazelton maintains the crowd calendar, theme park wait time models and does hotel rate analysis for the Unofficial Guides. He's also done the models for the new mobile wait times product Lines. Fred Hazelton is a professional statistician living in Ontario, Canada. His email address is fred@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @DisneyStatsWhiz.

30 thoughts on “Walt Disney World Crowd Level Changes May 2015 to May 2016

  • May 19, 2015 at 6:11 pm
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    Thanks for the explanations Fred.

  • May 19, 2015 at 9:20 pm
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    August 11-21 has gone up so much, I was shocked. It is now eights and nines, even a 10. Too bad this time is no longer the low season it was. Is attendance rising over all?

    • May 20, 2015 at 12:52 pm
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      Yes, attendance is rising in general but the percentage of schools in session during late August has dropped a little so that is increasing the crowds as well.

  • May 20, 2015 at 7:13 am
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    “No major changes in September?” Some DECREASES in late September? That doesn’t appear to explain what was done *at all*! 21st: DHS went from 1 to 4. That pattern holds true through almost our entire trip. What was mostly 2s and 3s went up to 4s and 5s with a 6 thrown in for good measure. I’m not questioning your methodology. I’m just curious what caused the late September attendance surge since you say you didn’t change much and actually dropped crowd levels?

    • May 20, 2015 at 8:49 am
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      I agree. We are there the last week of Sept. and the levels went up a lot! And yet TP says levels went down?? Huh.

      • May 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm
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        Yes Peggy, on second read I over-generalized. Let’s call it “Some decreases in mid-September and some increases in late September”. Late September is still one of the best times of year for crowds though. You won’t see many ‘1’s and ‘2’s on the calendar anywhere else.

    • May 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm
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      It is true JLLK, I may have over-generalized the changes in September, especially late September. The Studios dropped by 3 points on Sept 20, and WDW dropped overall on 5 days in mid-September. A better summary would have been, “Some decreases in mid-September and some increases in late September”.

      Honestly, if you are travelling in late September you should feel very comfortable. Even with the increases I see some ‘2’s, ‘3’s and ‘4’s and those are great crowd levels, about as good as it gets. Even a loose touring plan will make the crowds much less noticeable.

  • May 20, 2015 at 8:05 am
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    Two days of my trip at the end of October went up sharply also….from a 2 to a 5 and from a 2 to a 6! Disappointing. Could updates in crowd levels be done more often, especially when the dates are coming up to the 180th days out?

    • May 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm
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      Disappointing indeed, JoAnn. The 180 mark is key and you make a good point. The problem for us it that every day we hit somebody’s 180 day mark and we don’t want a calendar update to happen more than a few times a year. More often than that and we get models that go up and down with the trends and that makes it almost impossible to plan.

      • May 20, 2015 at 7:38 pm
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        Is there a schedule when updates occur so we can know ahead of time when an update is likely?

  • May 20, 2015 at 9:10 am
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    Speaking for DHS, I would think crowd levels would be increasing simply because of the closure of the back lot tour. Fewer attractions (especially that particular one since it was so large and took so long to experience) will compact the crowds into a much smaller area.

    • May 20, 2015 at 1:04 pm
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      That’s a good point TwoBits. The Studios wait times are driven by the only three rides with significant waits; Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. If any one of those goes down it has a big impact (think Tower of Terror with one less shaft operational).

  • May 20, 2015 at 9:27 am
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    OOH MAN! This is crazy! We had banked the end of August being good and slowing down…but the levels have jumped dramatically!! Is this because of the free dining plan and non-US kids still being out of school? I’m tempted to change our vacation times as this is near capacity from August 20-24 in most the parks! That makes late August an almost unvisitable time to go anymore…as I can’t stand super crowds and long wait times (at least not that long). Even with a touring plan, level 8 is crazy crowded and makes it almost not worth it (even with free dining)… :*(

    • May 20, 2015 at 12:06 pm
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      “non-US kids still being out of school”? I would think the largest population of “non-US kids” visiting Disney World at any given time would be Canadians. And school here starts on the Tuesday following Labor Day. It always has, and it still does. The first week of September may be busier with Labor day falling as late as it is possible to fall this year, but it’s only a 3-4 day difference from the average.

      • May 20, 2015 at 12:15 pm
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        Yes I’m from Canada and we had the advantage of US kids returning to school mid August whereas our kids don’t go back till Sept 8th this year (day after labor day). But during that time the crowd Calendar is way up the second last week and slightly up the last week of August. I actually did end up adjusting my reservation to go a few days later. It works out long term, but I’d love to see the attendance numbers for DW this year…I think 2015 sounds like another record!

    • May 20, 2015 at 1:10 pm
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      I was surprised as well Spacedave2000, I like late August for crowds (but not for the heat). We saw fewer US schools in session which pushed estimates higher. I agree that a level ‘7’ or ‘8’ is not much fun but to be clear, those are not close to capacity days. The parks reach capacity on only the busiest of crowd level ’10’ days. The increase puts a little more pressure on your touring plan to do its work but trust it, it will work no matter the crowd level. In fact, we have experimented with touring plans on all crowd level days and the time it takes to complete is almost the same, except for the extremely busy days.

      • May 20, 2015 at 1:28 pm
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        Thanks Fred. I’m just a tiny bit stressed by large crowds and long lines. WELL maybe a lot stressed! LOL I appreciate all the hard work you do on this calendar and you guys on the touring plans. Our last trip in 2013 was so stress free using it…and again I expect a fantastic vacation even with a few higher number! Free dining plan was just icing on the cake! 🙂

  • May 20, 2015 at 10:54 am
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    While that’s a good point, TwoBits, it doesn’t cover the huge attendance changes at most parks for the dates we’re there (Sept 21 to Oct 2nd). The most common change during those 12 days is that the crowd go up 2 levels, (with crowd levels rarely going down, and sometimes going up 3 levels) which doesn’t gel with the September description in this article.

  • May 20, 2015 at 11:31 am
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    There was a huge change for my vacation, which is just 11 days away. Almost every park, every day, jumped up 2 spots! The numbers had remained mostly constant for the last several months. Did anything just happen that would cause such a sweeping change?

    • May 20, 2015 at 12:19 pm
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      Are the big jumps in the next couple weeks mainly due to the schools not having make-up days? If so, I’d suggest going with the assumption that schools get out on time, rather than assuming make-up days. I think it’s better to be pleasantly surprised by low attendance, as opposed to watching estimates jump from 6 to 8 a couple weeks before your vacation.

      I don’t mean to attack you guys. I think you’re moving in the right direction, as our last couple trips had situations where actual crowds were 1-3 levels higher than your estimates. At least this time, I do have some warning!

      Thanks,
      Doug

      • May 20, 2015 at 12:49 pm
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        Thanks Doug, the problem with a positive bias (allowing crowd levels to be inflated) is that it works the other way too. People choose the lowest crowd levels for their trips based on the numbers. “If we had known it was going to be only a 3 or 4, we would have chose that week” – for example. But I see your point, for sure.

    • May 20, 2015 at 1:12 pm
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      Haunted Doug, there are no events or sudden changes to be aware of, just be cautious that “busy” is the new normal and if you have experienced Disney World before you may find that the crowds are busier than your last visit.

  • May 20, 2015 at 12:13 pm
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    Some not-so-small jumps for my planned September trip. I guess it’s kind of a reminder to not lean too much on the crowd calendar, although I’m sure crowds will be just fine in my case.

    • May 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm
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      Thanks for playing the voice of reason, Matt. Not to say that the disappointment by some isn’t reasonable, it certainly is. However, September is still the best month of the year for low crowds, by far. It may sound strange for me, the creator of the calendar to say but I don’t mind your sentiment that we should not lean too much on the calendar numbers. It is a guide for choosing the best times within a 1-year period to visit the parks. Use it in conjunction with other tools and information like touring plans, weather forecasts and hotel prices to research your trip. Unfortunately as a statistical tool it cannot offer a guarantee of the crowds you will experience.

  • May 20, 2015 at 2:20 pm
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    Thanks for the updates. I am still tweaking plans for the last week in September and have better information now. Do you happen to know what is typically the least crowded day for water parks in late September? I am thinking of visiting on a Monday.

  • May 20, 2015 at 4:08 pm
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    Thanks for the update Fred. Was disappointed to see my trip in November the week after the Wine and Dine Half Marathon went up quite a bit especially at MK. I know F&W is going a week longer this year; is that the reason for the increase? I would expect EPCOT to have more of a jump, then as well. Any insight as for the large increase in crowds compared to the same week after the half marathon the past few years? Thanks for all you do!

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  • May 21, 2015 at 4:45 pm
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    I was looking at predicted crowd levels for January 2016 (specifically the weeks of January 10th and January 24th), as well as the historical crowd data from last January. How do you use the data to predict the crowd levels?—because I noticed that this year, the earlier week had higher crowd levels, but for next year, you are predicting that the latter week will have higher crowd levels.

  • May 24, 2015 at 11:14 am
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    I do not see follow up discussion regarding the definitions of each crowd level, which looks to explain the big jumps in crowd levels better than attendance reasons. Maybe I’m reading into it, because it wasn’t discussed in any detail. Trends are increasing crowds in traditionally lower crowd months. It seems the definition of a crowd level day based on wait times has now become narrower windows. As such, when I updated my touring plans, the wait times and park times did not adjust as much as I expected a CL 4 to CL 9 would have jumped.

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