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2023 Crowd Calendar Retrospective: TouringPlans vs. Disney

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Welcome to 2024! A totally new year, where we’re going to do many of the same things … like making fun of Disney with data (yes … again). One of our most popular articles from this time last year was a comparison of “crowd predictions” from Disney and Touring Plans. The basic idea is this: Disney gives us a peek into what they expect crowds to be like by adjusting their ticket prices. Higher ticket prices = higher expected crowds, and lower ticket prices = lower expected crowds. So now that 2023 is over, we can go back and compare actual results with what Disney “predicted” and with what Touring Plans predicted.

All of the Asterisks and Fine Print

As a data geek, I’ll willing admit that there is a lot of hand-waving here, behind what appears to be some fancy math. And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t transparent about the hand-waving so that we can have fun with the results – without arguing over their statistical validity, etc.

  • First, Disney changes its ticket prices in order to manipulate crowds. Technically, if ticket prices go way up, and crowds are lower, they have in some ways accomplished their mission. One of their goals is to have steady, even crowds throughout the entire year, so perhaps a more fair fight would be comparing our predictions to all the 5s, 6s, and 7s that Disney “hopes for”.
  • Touring Plans predicts and records actual crowd levels based solely on wait times. Disney could have high ticket prices for, say, opening day of the Food & Wine Festival, because they expect large crowds. Those large crowds could descend upon EPCOT as expected. But if they’re all just eating and drinking and roaming and not getting into attraction lines, the actual crowd level we record won’t be all that high.
  • Disney gets to control operations. This means that, if they need to (or want to), they can increase or decrease capacity, which in turn affects wait times, and therefore crowd levels. So this makes things slightly less “fair” because Touring Plans can’t do the same thing.

Data Preparation

Before I can compare results, I need to do some data wrangling. Comparing Touring Plans predictions to actual crowd levels is easy. They’re both on a scale of 1 to 10. We define how both are calculated. The Disney piece is more difficult. They had 13 different 1-day ticket prices for 2023, and they weren’t distributed quite like the bell curve that Touring Plans aims for.

Thankfully, I can bucket the 13 different price points to mirror the Touring Plans distribution as closely as possible. As you can see above, the results aren’t perfect. And that’s fine. Based on Disney’s ticket pricing, they were expecting more very-low and very-high crowd days than Touring Plans, and fewer high-moderate (6 and 7) crowd days than TouringPlans.

How Accurate Were the Predictions?

Before we get to the big fancy summary, let’s look at some physically bigger, fancier calendar-style heat maps. These calendars show the difference between the actual crowd level and the predicted crowd level. That means overpredictions are negative numbers (and will show up as purple) and underpredictions are positive numbers (and will show up as orange). Days that are off by only one level are considered to be “good enough” and aren’t colored in these charts.

How Disney “predictions” performed compared to actual crowds


How Touring Plans “predictions” performed compared to actual crowds

I like how the visuals can tell us a strong story here. Crowds were higher than ticket prices would suggest in early January, late September, and most weekdays during the summer. And they were significantly lower than ticket prices would suggest during weekends in March and April, as well as post of November and December. In other words, you got a steal on your tickets if you traveled on any of those orange days. But if you attended on a purple day, you could have paid less for your tickets and had similar level crowds during other parts of the year.

The Touring Plans calendar is interesting too. Many, many more non-colored cells. But a few of the color trends stick out. Specifically, Touring Plans predicted more crowds to stick around in late January than what actually happened. Then, in March through August, there wasn’t a single day where Tour Plans underpredicted crowds. The parks were always always less crowded than expected. In fact, between February 25th and September 4th, Touring Plans predictions average being 1.2 crowd levels too high every day. That’s a big skew, and led to a crowd calendar adjustment to account for the differences. That actually helped in August and September, but then crowds went down even further (compared to expectations) in November and December.

How Do the Predictions Compare to Each Other?

These next graphs should look eerily familiar to anyone following along with the Disney Data Dump:

The results here speak for themselves. But I can’t help myself, so I’m going to speak for them too. Disney’s “predictions” were within 1 crowd level just over half of the time, while Touring Plans hit that same mark 71% of the time. That’s lower than last year by a little. Even more importantly, Disney was off by 3 or more crowd levels 23% of the time, and Touring Plans was only off by that much 10% of the time. (but that number was just 4% last year).

The one thing that Disney does better is that their misses aren’t “skewed” by as much. They overpredicted crowds with their pricing 29% of the time and underpredicted 21% of the time. Touring Plans, on the other hand, underpredicted just 2% of the time, but overpredicted 28% of the time.

What are your thoughts about these results? Is ticket price a serviceable corollary for what Disney thinks crowds will be like? Do you want to see more retrospectives on our predictions from 2023? Let us know in the comments!

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: or instagram @raisingminniemes

4 thoughts on “2023 Crowd Calendar Retrospective: TouringPlans vs. Disney

  • A little upset that your crowd calendar was off on Jan. 7th 2024. Epcot was very crowded.

    • You bring up an interesting point – because January 7th was actually a very uncrowded day by the way we measure it. The crowd levels are calculated from wait times. And while we predicted a crowd level 6 at EPCOT on Sunday, it ended up only being a crowd level 3 day. Remarkably uncrowded … from a wait time perspective. But it was a Marathon Sunday. That is always a disaster from a “feels like” crowd angle in the morning when runners are still progressing through the park, despite low wait times.

  • A great insight, thank you!
    My only question is about how this may or may not influence changes to the TP crowd prediction calendar this year?

  • I think Disney is getting different results from their “crowd calendar” because they have a different goal. Their pricing is used to proactively move crowds to less popular dates to balance out staffing. So in a way, those purple days are a success for park ops. They’re theoretically leaving money on the table by charging people less than they might be able to on those days, but may also be picking up people who might not go at all at higher price or would not be able to get in on peak days with flatter pricing.


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