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The Impact of Crowd Levels on Touring

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One of the cornerstone products of is our Crowd Calendar. We invest a lot of time and money to keep the Crowd Calendar as accurate as possible. The Crowd Calendar is based on wait time predictions for a core set of attractions between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. This includes the attractions with the highest ranges in wait times and includes the portion of the day when wait times are typically at their peaks.

An optimized Personalized Touring Plan is going to help you avoid the longest wait times that are driving the crowd levels. However, a mother of two from Maryland noticed an interesting quirk when optimizing the same plan on different days.

I am confused by the results of my optimized touring plans. I ran the same attractions through your software on different days with different crowd levels, and I can’t see a big difference in the total time. In fact, I noticed one plan that says it will take longer even though the crowd level is lower. This must be a mistake?

As it turns out, it may not be a mistake. There are a lot of variables that determine how long it takes to complete a touring plan. Steve, our data scientist, takes a deep dive into the relationship between crowd level and touring plans.

Crowd Level vs. Optimized Touring Plans

To illustrate the impact of Crowd Level on touring, I optimized the Magic Kingdom One-Day Touring Plan for Tweens and Their Parents Touring Plan for each day between August 1 and December 31, 2019. Each plan starts at park opening and does not include morning or evening Extra Magic Hours. The plan includes 19 attractions, has breaks for lunch and dinner, and uses the same FastPass+ reservation times. The plan preferences are set at “Average” walking speed and a waiting vs. walking setting of “Balance.”

1 A Pirate’s Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas
2 Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
3 Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
4 Mad Tea Party
5 Meet Cinderella & Elena at Princess Fairytale Hall
6 Meet Daring Disney Pals as Circus Stars at Pete’s Silly Side Show
7 Meet Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse at Town Square Theater
8 Meet Rapunzel and Tiana at Princess Fairytale Hall
9 Mickey’s PhilharMagic
10 Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
11 Parade
12 Peter Pan’s Flight
13 Pirates of the Caribbean
14 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (11 am FastPass+)
15 Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
16 Space Mountain (12 pm FastPass+)
17 Splash Mountain (3 pm FastPass+)
18 The Haunted Mansion
19 Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid

An average guest only experiences 10 attractions in a day, so 19 attractions is an ambitious Touring Plan for the Magic Kingdom. For the five months analyzed, there are 7 days where our software predicts this set of attractions cannot be completed. Each of these days has short park hours due to a Christmas Party or other event.

date Crowd Level Opening Time Closing Time Event
11/8/2019 4 9:00 AM 6:00 PM Christmas Party
11/11/2019 5 9:00 AM 6:00 PM Christmas Party
11/15/2019 3 9:00 AM 6:00 PM Christmas Party
11/24/2019 8 9:00 AM 6:00 PM Christmas Party
12/2/2019 3 9:00 AM 4:30 PM Private Event
12/20/2019 5 9:00 AM 6:00 PM Christmas Party
12/22/2019 4 9:00 AM 6:00 PM Christmas Party

For the 146 days where completing the plan is possible, the chart below shows the total time waiting in line and walking. The symbol shows the crowd level.

Even when each day’s plan has the same attractions, the optimized plan may be different. On the busiest days, an optimized plan is going to have higher walking times. To minimize the time in line, the plan will require guests to criss-cross the park.

The box plot chart below shows the distribution in walking and waiting time by crowd level.

For each change in crowd level, the average increase in walking and waiting time goes up 6%.

Magic Kingdom
Crowd Level
Days Average Min Max
1 22 311 259 401
2 9 327 291 363
3 35 356 294 411
4 27 384 297 438
5 22 401 338 445
6 8 422 367 467
7 4 447 418 468
8 2 460 449 471
9 1 474 474 474
10 16 508 400 579
Overall 146 384 259 579

The variation within crowd level is high enough that a Touring Plan on a “1” day can take longer than a “6” day.

How is it possible to have a more efficient touring plan on a busier day?

  1. Typically the park hours are longer on days with a higher crowd level. With a longer day, the Touring Plan Optimizer has more options when to schedule the attractions. On very long days, the Optimizer will add a break at the busiest time of the day.
  2. Even on the busiest days, the first few hours and the last hours of the day will have low wait times.  The Optimizer will schedule attractions with the longest wait times early or late. (Remember that the crowd level is based only on wait times between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.)
  3. Some attractions are less popular and/or have high capacities. These attractions’ wait times do not vary much based on crowd level or time of day.
  4. When you use FastPass+ (and you can do this 3 or more times each day), the impact of the crowd level is negated.

Compare your own plans

You can do the same thing with your plans. If you are trying to decide what day to do what park, optimize your plan for different days of your vacation. Comparing the same touring plan on different days will give you a meaningful value to compare days.

Have questions? Want to talk numbers with our data scientist? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Steve Bloom

By helping continue to reach the most accurate crowd level predictions, Steve finally found a way to meld his training in statistical analysis with a lifelong passion for Disney. He first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1972, just a few months after it opened. Now he enjoys frequent trips with his two kids. At age four his son insisted on wearing cowboy boots to reach the height requirement for Test Track, and his daughter believes that a smoked turkey leg and Dole Whip make a perfectly balanced meal. Even though she doesn't quite get it, Steve's wife is supportive of his Disney activities.

9 thoughts on “The Impact of Crowd Levels on Touring

  • These are the posts that I find the most interesting. Thanks so much for taking the time to not only analyze all the data, but to also tease out the nuances for us. Such useful information!

  • I confess that being somewhat of a math geek, my favorite posts are these kinds that analyze wait times, crowd levels, traffic patterns, and optimization.

    Thanks for putting this together. Some of it is counterintuitive, and your explanations shed some light.

    I’m surmising from the data given that under the hood, not all crowd levels;are alike, i.e. some 2’s are 1.9 and others are 2.4? Or are the differences more related to park hours and/or which attractions may be down for maintenance?

    Fascinating stuff, thanks again.

    • Yes. Crowd Level is on a continuous scale. The crowd levels “1” and “10” have the most variation. A New Year’s Eve 10 is going to be different than a spring break 10. Specific attractions will have a different wait time profile even if they have the same crowd level. For example, Splash Mountain is going to have higher wait times in the summer than the winter.

  • Thank you for this. It helps me understand why a CL 1 day at MK can feel so much “busier.” An inefficient CL 1 day is almost as much time walking/ waiting time as an efficient CL 10 day.

  • Very interesting. Having now experienced Disneyland with MaxPass, the personalized touring plan seems less critical. Rather, a touring “strategy” seems to work well. We find we infinitely prefer the MaxPass system at Disneyland to the FastPass+ at WDW, as we are able to pretty much eliminate waiting for the big rides. Will you please comment on how using MaxPass affects these data?

    • Assuming you can get MaxPass for the attractions you want it will have similar results. Having a good touring “strategy” is more important than just picking a low crowd day.

  • How on earth does Disney justify charging well over $100 for a park that is only open from 9am-4:30pm???

    • Most people will agree with you and will go to a different park on that day. If you have a park hopper ticket December 2, 2019, will be an excellent day to visit the Magic Kingdom.

  • I appreciate your takeaway comment of comparing my touring plans on different days to determine which day for which park. I was simply trying to minimize the crowd levels (i.e., visit each park on the lowest crowd level). I see now that doesn’t necessarily mean my wait times will be minimized.


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