We’re more than halfway through April, so let’s take a glance at the Walt Disney World crowds since our last mid-month update.
|Park||Predicted Crowd Level||Observed Crowd Level|
|Magic Kingdom||7.9||6.6 (-1.3)|
|Hollywood Studios||6.7||6.3 (-0.4)|
|Animal Kingdom||8.1||6.6 (-1.5)|
Before we get excited about the possibility of low crowds for our upcoming trips, let’s break down these numbers. The crowd calendar did poorly over the last 30 days. We saw higher crowd levels than expected at the end of March and very low crowd levels in the first 15 days of April. On April 8, 9 and 10 at Animal Kingdom we observed a crowd level ‘2’. In the past four years we have only seen two days in April hit a crowd level that low, and both of those were affected by rainy weather. Orlando has seen some hot and humid days in early April, but not so hot that it would keep crowd levels that low on our scale. Instead, we think the low crowds were caused by a gap in the school schedule between spring break and Easter. The last time Easter occurred this late was in 2014, but our wait time models don’t give a lot of weight to data that old in our database.
We have already seen crowd levels increase this week as we head into the Easter holiday. As I write this, Test Track shows a posted time of 150 minutes, a sure indication that peak crowds have arrived. Today, the crowd calendar predicted a ’10’ for Epcot.
Crowd Calendar Updates in May
There is a small chance that the lighter crowds we have observed in early April are an indication that travelers are postponing trips until all the new attractions arrive in late summer. There is some anecdotal evidence that people are adjusting trip plans. However, we still feel that the lower crowds in early April were driven primarily by this gap in school schedules. Either way, we have to be careful when we publish our next Crowd Calendar update in May to make sure that we predict wait times using the most accurate models possible.
We do that by going back in time to see if we can better predict what we saw in March and early April. It is a difficult exercise because there aren’t great indicators for the highs and lows we saw (if there were, the predictions would have been better). Disney, itself, assigned “peak” 1-day ticket pricing to those ‘2’ days at Animal Kingdom on April 8, 9, and 10.
Here’s a partial list of things we’ve modeled so far this month to see if they would’ve helped predict the slowdown we observed in the first half of April:
- Separated the largest 125 school systems into individual tracts, to see if any of them show up as significant predictors of crowds. (Inconclusive so far, but there’s a lot to try.)
- Re-ran older models to see if any of them would’ve done better. (They didn’t.)
- Training models by month instead of by year. (Inconclusive so far.)
- Changing weights to allow those old posted times from 2014 more influence when Easter fell later in the month.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Train
Our current models assume that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Train will be open and operating at full capacity by the time Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens on August 29, 2019. What if it isn’t open? Until we hear different, we are going to flip our assumption and place the opening of Runaway Train after the opening of Galaxy’s Edge. This means that Hollywood Studios predicted wait times will go up on the May update. Once we hear an official opening date, we can make appropriate adjustments.
2020 and Beyond
We have new estimates for the Crowd Calendar dates in 2020 and beyond that will be published in our May update. They are already in the queue, waiting for a final review by our stats team before we publish them on the site. Remember that the likelihood of these predictions changing between now and then is very high. We have a lot to observe this summer and in the fall that could impact the forecasts for dates in 2020 and beyond. What we see at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge coupled with what we saw at Pandora will help get even more reliable estimates for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Guardians of the Galaxy when they open at Epcot.
Got any questions for the number gurus? Theories about what will happen at the Studios in the fall? Let us know in the comments.