Disney World Crowd Calendar Report – September 13 to 19, 2015

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How Crowded Was Disney World Last Week?
How Crowded Was Disney World Last Week?

Since 2006, we have tracked millions of Disney World wait times and every year September has been the month with the lowest wait times, by far. This year is different. Last week we saw crowd levels consistently two to three points (or more) higher than what history would suggest for this time of year.

We also track all the major contributors to crowd levels like promotions, special events, school schedules and holidays and model our wait times accordingly so we know that these are not the cause of the increase. So the question remains, why is it so busy this year? Is ‘busy’ the new ‘normal’ for Disney World? Perhaps. One thing we noticed is that Epcot crowd levels are in line with what we usually see this time of year. Epcot never reached a crowd level above ‘4’ and was the only park to hit a level ‘1’ last week. Hollywood Studios is likely busier because attraction closures are pushing wait times higher at the remaining attractions. It may be that the closures at The Studios are making Animal Kingdom more attractive as the third park to visit but that doesn’t help explain why Magic Kingdom is so busy.

Last year, crowds were significantly lower during the same week.
Last year, crowds were significantly lower during the same week.

What is more likely is that attendance is up. More people are in the park and attractions are struggling to distribute the crowds as we have seen in previous years. Regardless of the reason, this places a premium on a using a proper touring plan. Disney World is a popular place and ‘busy’ may be the new ‘normal’.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the Touringplans.com Disney World Crowd Calendar Report:

Walt Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, September 13, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
2
6

Epcot was only one level higher than the Disney World Crowd Calendar predicted while the other three parks were much higher. Peter Pan’s Flight averaged 72 minutes (predicted 45) which represents a crowd level ‘9’ for that attraction. That means that Sunday felt more like Thanksgiving than mid-September at that attraction.

Epcot
2
3
Hollywood Studios
2
5
Animal Kingdom
4
6

Monday, September 14, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
2
7

Monday’s crowd level at Magic Kingdom relative to what the Disney World Crowd Calendar predicted was the largest gap we have ever had. On Monday, September 15, 2014 Peter Pan’s Flight averaged 43 minutes. Last Monday it averaged 68 minutes, a remarkable 25 minutes higher. Our crowd level estimates are based on much more than just the previous year’s wait time but the comparison is still interesting.

Epcot
2
3
Hollywood Studios
4
8
Animal Kingdom
3
5

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
1
3

Another trend we have observed in the past is the lack of a significant crowd during the day when Magic Kingdom hosts a Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. To see a crowd level ‘3’ on Tuesday, a Party day in mid-September is almost as surprising as the crowd level ‘7’ we saw on Monday.

Epcot
2
4
Hollywood Studios
2
5
Animal Kingdom
1
4

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
2
5

Wednesday saw the only crowd level ‘1’ all week, and it was at Epcot. Usually, all four parks see multiple days at a crowd level ‘1’ during this time of year. Take a look at our crowd calendar report for the same week last year. Notice all the crowd level ‘1’s. Also notice how Magic Kingdom never saw a crowd level above ‘4’ last year, this year we saw two ‘6’s and two ‘7’s.

Epcot
1
1
Hollywood Studios
1
4
Animal Kingdom
2
5

Thursday, September 17, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
2
6

Thursday’s crowd levels were the lowest of the week although Magic Kingdom crowd levels were still well above normal for this time of year. Soarin’ averaged 43 minutes, Toy Story Midway Mania averaged 65 and Kilimanjaro Safaris averaged 36.

Epcot
2
2
Hollywood Studios
1
3
Animal Kingdom
2
2

Friday, September 18, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
1
3

Friday brought another Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party to Magic Kingdom along with some larger crowds than usual during the day. For example, Jungle Cruise averaged 27 minutes and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad averaged 23. Neither were large enough to make the park feel crowded but still higher than we usually see on Party days.

Epcot
3
4
Hollywood Studios
3
4
Animal Kingdom
1
3

Saturday, September 19, 2015

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
3
7

To see average wait times like 60 minutes at Peter Pan’s Flight, 21 minutes at Living with the Land, 71 at Toy Story Midway Mania and 39 at Kali River Rapids in April and July would be common but to see them in September is unprecedented. That is what we saw last Saturday.

Epcot
3
3
Hollywood Studios
2
5
Animal Kingdom
2
5
What to Expect This Week
September 20 t0 26, 2015

The Disney World Crowd Calendar is predicting low to moderate crowd levels this week but if last week was any indication that may be optimistic. We will have to watch closely to see whether these unprecedented fall wait times will continue or whether moderate waits will return. Either way, the use of a proper touring plan is must, just in case.

To see Walt Disney World Crowd predictions for the days of your vacation, check the Crowd Calendar.

To get details about our predictions of future crowds or details about crowds in the past check out the Crowd Calendar and select “Jump to Date” on the left margin.

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.

32 thoughts on “Disney World Crowd Calendar Report – September 13 to 19, 2015

  • September 22, 2015 at 7:02 am
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    I’ve been recently reading about how Fast Pass+ lines are constantly increasing to crazy wait times, do you think that FP+ politics are messing with queues behaviour?

    Reply
    • September 22, 2015 at 11:41 am
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      That’s an interesting theory, one that is worth looking at more closely but we do have many indicators related to the fastpass system (and when it changed) so that cannot be the whole story.

      Reply
      • September 22, 2015 at 4:36 pm
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        We picked last week for our vacation week, as Touring Plans predicted 13-19 Sept would be the lowest crowd week of the year. That was far from the case!! It was way more crowded than we expected, and we also noticed how FP+ seemed to make lines longer. Heck, in some cases on attractions like Tower of Terror or Haunted Mansion, the lines for FP+ were just as long as stand by. We noticed many guests were foreign, and they seem to have a really hard time figuring out how to use the magic bands, and how/when to scan them for FP+ attractions.

        Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 7:42 am
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    There seem to have been a lot more people in the park earlier this week. Talking to the cast members… they were surprised by the number of people in the parks.

    Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 9:17 am
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    Being down there last week, it was definitely more crowded than usual for the time of year, far more than I would normally consider facing the Florida heat and humidity for. At least in January I’m not sweating while facing the queues.

    Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 10:01 am
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    Great. We’re leaving Thursday for a trip of a bit over a week. When we planned all this, we thought we would be going during a slow time. Now it looks like it will be a slammed time, probably the most crowded time we have ever gone.

    Reply
    • September 22, 2015 at 11:43 am
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      If there is a bright side Lee & Robin it is that you are still visiting during the slow time. I don’t see how wait times could be any lower than they are it is just that the lower crowds we saw in 2012 and 2013 may never return.

      Reply
    • September 23, 2015 at 11:02 am
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      Be an early-riser, stick with your touring plan, and you’ll be fine.

      Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 10:14 am
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    Planned on a light crowd, but yes, it was pretty packed. Even after Rosh Hashanah, the weekend at Magic Kingdom was crowded.

    Reply
    • September 22, 2015 at 11:44 am
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      We track all the Jewish holidays and have never found that they have a huge impact on the crowds. What is more impactful are the school schedules.

      Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 10:14 am
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    We were at WDW Sept 11-14 and the crowds were definitely larger than anticipated as compared to the same time in 2013. Thinking about the differences between the two years, I feel that social media is having a more significant impact on how/when people plan their trips. Every article, facebook post and blog picks September as one of the best times to visit. Virtually every planning website claims this as well. A best kept secret gone viral if you will. Another factor, which is an anomaly, is the lack of any significant tropical storms or hurricanes impacting the East Coast this year. Every Weather website repeated over and over how this year would be mild compared to past years due to certain weather conditions. While the weather is certainly unpredictable in Florida, hope of avoiding a major storm has to have some impact on crowds. Oh and lets not forget free dining, which really isn’t free due to the need to add park hopper. I know there are many factors that could/would contribute to crowd levels, but I feel that low crowd levels are a thing of the past and we are all going to have to depend on our own logic for picking the best time to go. Unfortunately crowd calendars are not a secret anymore and shared with not only you and me, but thousands upon thousands of our closest Disney friends.

    Reply
    • September 22, 2015 at 11:26 am
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      Carol, free dining isn’t free because of the park hopper? LOL. The cost of the hopper is insignificant next to the cost of dining. My dining receipts were over $2,500 on our trip. We paid zero. The cost of the park hopper was $384. So, we came out $2,116 ahead. Now, you’re paying rack rate for the room, etc. That probably adds $400, but it is still a huge savings. Of course, it’s less value than previous free dining deals that didn’t require the hopper, but it’s steal the best offer of the year for parties of 3 or more. The bigger your family, the bigger the value of free dining. If you can cram 5 people in a POR room, you are getting a huge value.

      Sadly, the value of the crowd calendar has diminished over the years. It provides very little value as crowds no longer hold close to the historical record. I’d like to see touring plans use some other factors in calculating. For instance, predicting a low crowd the Sunday before Labor Day was an obvious error that I knew wouldn’t happen.

      Reply
      • September 22, 2015 at 11:51 am
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        Thanks for the comments Steve. Personally, I’d argue that crowd calendars are even more important now seeing that it will become more and more difficult to know when is the best to to visit. Of course, I have a vested interest in that point of view. Planning will always be an important part of a Disney trip but not essential to have fun. Many guests still wing it and have a blast! For those who wish to plan more carefully, we will always try to provide the best tools available.

        Reply
    • September 22, 2015 at 11:46 am
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      Thanks Carol, this is a theory that we hear a lot but usually dismiss since our research shows that less than 5% of Disney guests choose their time to visit based on a crowd calendar. This may have changed. You make a good point about the weather but I suspect that has a greater impact on local visitors. I don’t think families who plan in advance will change plans based on possible weather.

      Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 2:06 pm
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    We were there 9/11 to 9/18 and we did feel it was busier than expected, but still manageable. One thing I noticed is while the rides didn’t necessarily seem to be that much longer than we expected there were more bodies in the park than we expected. In my opinion I do think yes, it’s busier in general but I also think that WDW has reached a point where it does have a larger local crowd than in years past, making weekends busier than expected. In recent years first and second generation fans are making their way to living in the area and social media has made it very easy to be a local ‘celebrity’ on Instagram and Twitter if you will. We still did and saw everything we wanted, and found it to be a great visit. I’m anxious to see how this October fares given the increase in Midwest fall breaks.

    Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 2:45 pm
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    We went to WDW from Labor Day weekend through the following weekend. Tuesday through Friday after Labor Day were manageable, everything else was much more packed than we anticipated. I’m wondering, has there been a time in the past 8 months when crowds were lower than anticipated? Was there a noticeable “dip” in attendance that could account for the increase this month? Perhaps people were putting off their trip until September this year in anticipation of lower crowds. Either way, we’re having to re-think our plans for a return trip. I can handle heat OR crowds, not BOTH!

    Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm
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    We planned our vacation almost a year out based upon Touring Plans predicting that this would be the slowest week of the year. That was far from the case, as we have gone on vacation to WDW this week in the past years – and this year was much larger crowds. I can’t imagine the huge crowds once Avatar is finished, not to mention the Hollywood Studios transformation to Star Wars and Toy Storyland. Heck, I bet next year will be large crowds as well with the addition of the “Frozen” theme attractions in EPCOT Norway + the new Soar’in movie and theater. I think Fred is right, Busy is the new Normal.

    Reply
    • September 28, 2015 at 3:22 pm
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      What to remember though is that more open attractions should actually lower crowd levels as the crowd levels are based on wait times. With more attractions (or queues) in HS, EP and AK and more reason to visit those parks I see two things happening. 1) MK becomes less crowded as more people spend time in the other 3 parks. 2) Crowds are spread across more attractions and queues so wait times actually become shorter as crowds are better disbursed. Interesting to watch. We’re going in November, so we’ll see what happens then!

      Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 5:18 pm
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    Interesting to see all of the comments on the larger than expected crowds because I was at EPCOT all day on Sept. 17 and all I could think about was how empty the park felt. Yes, there were long lines for Test Track (it was down part of the day so that caused a back-up) but there were no lines anywhere else except Soarin’ which at 30 minutes stand-by at around 6:30 PM is the shortest I have ever seen and ever expect to see again. I had dinner at Sunshine Seasons and it felt completely deserted. Maybe I am unfairly comparing it to Spring Break, Thanksgiving week, and the first week after Christmas, but last Thursday just seemed to me like crowd heaven.

    Reply
    • September 22, 2015 at 7:07 pm
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      Epcot was a “2” that day. It’s no wonder you felt it was fairly empty.

      Reply
  • September 22, 2015 at 7:47 pm
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    Did the parks increase operating hours as a result? Or is that a step usually only taken if the increase pushes towards the high crowd levels?

    Another factor to consider is lower cost of airfare due to fuel costs, etc. We’re in Denver, and Frontier is offering incredibly low rates at the last minute. Why not take advantage and go when crowds are “lowest”?

    Reply
    • September 22, 2015 at 8:38 pm
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      No – the park hours were not increased.

      Reply
      • September 23, 2015 at 9:39 am
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        Yes, MK did increase their park hours on 9/13 from 9pm close to 10pm and possibly on the following Saturday from 10pm to 11pm. When they announced the later hours I said to my husband “well, there goes the super low crowd predictions.”

        Reply
        • September 23, 2015 at 9:40 am
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          Not “possibly” – they definitely did increase them for 9/19.

          Reply
      • September 23, 2015 at 9:41 am
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        Not “possibly” – they definitely did increase them for 9/19.

        Reply
    • September 22, 2015 at 8:50 pm
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      Yes, they will extend hours day of as needed. I do remember @WDWToday tweeting a couple times last week about extending hours at a few parks.
      Still waiting on these lower airfare costs I keep hearing about around here. NY to Orlando is still almost double what I used to see. Our flights NY to LA were cheaper last year.

      Reply
    • September 23, 2015 at 2:08 pm
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      We were at AK on 9/14 and they announced it would be open until 6 instead of 5.

      Reply
  • September 23, 2015 at 10:26 am
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    Very interesting to see such an apparent continuing anamoly. I posed a question a couple of weeks ago in another blog entry about whether we were now encountering a “new normal” and it was dismissed. I’m glad to see Fred acknowledging that’s a possibility.

    I remember several months ago (or last year, perhaps?) an interesting pic in the shape of a circular graphic showing the months of the year over the past several years and how crowds have generally been growing for most months over those years. September was lighter than other months, but still growing in crowds. What we’re seeing now might just be the natural progression of that. I’d love to hear more on this as the stat team gathers more info.

    Reply
    • September 23, 2015 at 10:45 am
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      Pinterest is huge with women who usually plan family vacations. There are a lot of sites that you can go to from there that give you the best times to visit and planning tips. I think you need to rethink the 5 or 10% of people who plan their Disney vacation. It has definitely changed. Everyone I talk to has at least read or looked up some information about planning a trip to Disney.

      Reply
      • September 23, 2015 at 11:40 am
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        You are so right Diane3. It seems that everyday (exaggeration, I know) new facebook pages or websites are popping up with their own versions of a touring plan or crowd calendar. I can’t tell you how many posts, comments, questions I see on a daily basis regarding crowds, best time to go, and weather. As I stated above, social media is having more of an impact on planning than ever before.

        Reply
  • September 23, 2015 at 2:03 pm
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    Ok so I’m not crazy!! We were at the parks 9/12 – 9/18, and our Touring Plans turned out nothing like what we had planned. We had to cut out multiple attractions each day because the wait times were so long. The 9/15 Halloween Party was a complete waste of time. They let way too many people in to that, IMO. 30 minute waits for candy, 90 minute waits for characters who are out in the park every day.

    Reply
  • September 24, 2015 at 8:19 am
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    Planning a Disney trip is the “in” thing right now with almost every mom I know. September is very much hyped as the lowest crowds and free dining. October has lost its lowest status on planning sites and blogs, so crowds disbursed over two “low” months may now be funneled into just one. However, the families that I know who recently went have said they will never go back in September because of the heat. I think you’ll see September go back to normal in the next two years.
    It was also mentioned that the number of closed attractions at HS could have inflated the crowd numbers. It makes sense that people would skip HS or only go for a few rides and park hop (since that is a FD requirement) and add additional MK touring.

    Reply

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