# 2023 Disneyland Crowd Calendar Retrospective

We’re almost to the end of January, and that means that we need to wrap up all of our crowd calendar retrospectives so that we can start looking forward to the year ahead! We’ve already reviewed the results from Walt Disney World, and from Universal Orlando. That leaves us with Disneyland. How did the Touring Plans predictions fare compared to actual crowds on the west coast?

## Explain the Math!

If you take a peek at the Disneyland crowd calendar, you’ll notice that each park-day is given a predicted crowd level on a scale from 1 to 10. Crowd level 1 days are the least crowded of the year, and crowd level 10 days are wall-to-wall humans everywhere you look. These are the predicted crowd levels.

Then, after a park day happens, we can measure all of the wait times at every attraction in every park and determine what the actual crowd level was for that day. By subtracting the difference between the actual and the predicted crowd level, we can get an easy measure of how accurate our predictions were.

In this case, I’ll subtract the predicted crowd level from the actual crowd level. For example, if we predict a crowd level 10 at California Adventure, but the day ends up being a crowd level 8, the difference is -2. We overpredicted the crowds by 2. But if we predict a crowd level 4 at Disneyland and the day ends up being a crowd level 7, the difference is 3. We underpredicted the crowds by 3.

In general, you’re not going to feel any difference in your park day if predictions are off by just one crowd level. Within 1 crowd level is the goal. Really anything within 2 crowd levels I’ll call “fine”. Missing by 3 or more crowd levels is a big miss, and that’s the type of thing it’s best to avoid.

## 2023 Performance Compared to Previous Years

In an ideal world, that green bar in the middle of each column would be 100% every year. Touring Plans would have perfect predictions that matched reality, everyone would trust them all of the time, and we’d all be so happy. The problem is … this isn’t an ideal world. Humans are unpredictable. And humans make the operational decisions for Disneyland, and humans are the ones that decide whether to visit Disneyland or not. Plus, Touring Plans tries to not change the predicted crowd levels constantly so that people planning have some stability. So there’s a lot working against perfect predictions. Even still, we all want that green bar in the graph to be as big as possible. And we especially want the red and pink bars (missed by 3 or more crowd levels) to be as small as possible.

What about the other bars? Well, in general, people are pleasantly surprised if the parks are less crowded than they expect (aka, Touring Plans overpredicted). And they’re unpleasantly surprised if the parks are more crowded than they expect (aka, Touring Plans underpredicted). But Touring Plans is full of math nerds, and nerds want distributions to be centered (aka, just as many underpredictions as overpredictions). Still, during a retrospective, I’m going to recognize and acknowledge that all of our lovely customers are going to be less full of rage if the stats folks can keep those underpredictions to a minimum.

2023 has some interesting results. The green bar is smaller this year than in 2021 and 2022, which means overall the predictions were significantly less accurate than 2021 and slightly less accurate than last year. More concerning is a bit of the “pendulum swinging” behavior I’m seeing from 2022 to 2023. In 2021, predictions were accurate and centered. There were essentially just as many overpredictions as there were underpredictions. Then in 2022, the parks were more crowded than expected. We underpredicted 31% of the time and only overpredicted 22% of the time. And then in 2023, the pendulum swung entirely in the other direction with 45% of days being overpredicted and only 9% of days being underpredicted. This usually results in people happy with parks being less crowded than they expected, but overpredicting 5x more than underpredicted is a big, big miss.

## 2023 Performance Compared Across Parks

In order to understand what went right (or wrong) in 2023, we need a little more information. Let’s go down one level and look at how predictions performed at each park rather than the resort as a whole. This is significantly easier at Disneyland, compared to Disney World, since there are only two parks.

We can pretty quickly see that predictions for Disneyland were more “off” than those for California Adventure – which is the opposite of what happened last year. The green bar for Disneyland is smaller (42% within 1 crowd level compared to 51%), but it has significantly fewer underpredictions. California Adventure is much more centered, while Disneyland has the bulk of overpredictions and relatively few underpredictions.

## Calendar Retrospective of Crowd Calendars

What better way to review calendars than with more calendars?! I know I love making and coloring calendars in Excel so that probably means you love the results. We’ll go with that.

I’ll start here with California Adventure, where predictions had the highest accuracy, provide my commentary, and then move to Disneyland. We can discuss park-specific issues, as well as trends that I notice affecting both parks.

We’re seeing a lot more color here than we did in most calendars for WDW or for Universal Orlando. And we see a few trends that will become even more clear as we move on to Disneyland. First, weekends during April, May, and July were pretty uncrowded. And the summer in general was overpredicted by quite a bit. We saw very similar behavior at WDW – so we know it wasn’t only due to all of the heat keeping locals home in Florida.

September gets some really interesting patterns, with Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays all more crowded than predicted. I call this out because we didn’t see this pattern last year, but it makes total sense and mimics crowd behavior that we see at Magic Kingdom during this same time … California Adventure closes 4 hours earlier than normal on Oogie Boogie Bash days, and we’re seeing orange underpredictions on non-Oogie Boogie days when the park is open later. Day guests are avoiding California Adventure on party days and crowding the park on non-party days.

#### Disneyland

Disneyland is the … well, it’s admittedly the worst calendar that we’ve seen. We’ve rarely seen any misses by more than 4 crowd levels. And here we see 10 misses by 5 crowd levels, and 9 misses by 6 crowd levels.

Some of the trends first noted above are magnified at Disneyland. Weekends during April, May and July are still lower (usually much lower) than expected. But at Disneyland, so are the weekends in June … and just about all of July and August (and March … and April … but I digress), both weekdays and weekends. We also see a much bigger surge in crowds in early- to mid-November than we did in California Adventure.

Compared to the rest of the year, things calm back down to something more “normal” in December.

Did you experience any of these major overpredictions or underpredictions at Disneyland or California Adventure? Do you have any hypotheses about the trends in months that were much more or much less crowded than expected?

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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: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

### 7 thoughts on “2023 Disneyland Crowd Calendar Retrospective”

• I’m glad the predictions are getting better though, it sucks that when you travel long distance to Disney and there is a large crowd at rides that you didn’t expect. For some of us it isn’t easy to just go there.

• Thanks for another great analysis! I think some of these crowd level differences caught Disney by surprise, too. We were there in the week before Halloween, when the crowd levels were expected to be moderate, and had a lot of difficulty finding food without long waits. This was even in places where we’ve reliably had no problem, such as Rancho and the former Wharf area. I also think the crowd level issues were exacerbated by the extensive problems Disney had getting major attractions running in the mornings and keeping them running during the day.

• Two questions:
1. Do all busy days look the same? What I mean is, are we seeing a shift in the time of day when rides see longer lines, or does that remain pretty consistent? For park hoppers it would be enormously useful to get a “day so far” rating to get an idea if the park is following projections or not without having to look at individual wait times and do the mental math live.

2. Has there been any change in which lines are getting longer, or is it pretty consistent with what we were seeing last year or even pre-COVID? I wonder if the nature of busy days has changed a little in the past few years. Obviously Rise and Runaway Railway are not seeing the lines they used to.