We’ve headed into October, which has been a month of increasing crowds year-over-year for something like the past decade! Fall breaks are more prevalent, Halloween parties are more popular, and weather is less terrible. At the end of September we saw one really busy weekend that I thought was an indication that we were going to see a busy October. And then … the crowds disappeared. The first day of October is one of the least-crowded days we’ve seen this entire year. The party in Magic Kingdom scared crowds away from that park, and those same humans didn’t show up in any other park either. Let’s take a look and talk about what this might mean for early October.
Observed Crowd Levels September 26 – October 2
Remember how last week we turned the corner from low September crowds into fall? Oh yeah, me too. Except then this week, crowds … un-turned the corner. This is weird and unexpected – I’ll admit it. This even looks more similar to the trend we saw in the summer where crowds decreased throughout the week, into the weekend, and then popped back up on Monday. I won’t pretend to know what this means for the rest of October. We should see increasing crowds each week as schools go into fall break season. But maybe this is the continuation of the lower-than-expected summer.
There are a few interesting things here. First, EPCOT is the most crowded park for the week from a crowd level perspective. The combination of OG Soarin’ and Journey of Water previews is continuing to draw in crowds. Oddly, this is the park you’ll want to plan your park days around. Bizarre. Second, party days at Magic Kingdom are still making a bigger-than-expected impact. The difference between a crowd level 1 and crowd level 7 is HUGE. You’ll spend much more than an additional 4 hours waiting for major attractions (which is the amount of park hours you’ll gain by going on a non-party day). And third … what’s up with Hollywood Studios and sudden low crowds? I don’t know. I’m going to keep an eye on it.
Performance of Crowd Level Predictions
Each week, I’m giving you a very transparent look into how our crowd level predictions performed. Each day at each park is one data point, so this week we have 28 different crowd level predictions to evaluate each week. Any time a prediction is within one or two crowd levels, things won’t really “feel” much different than what we predicted. Being off by 3 or more crowd levels is where we’d like to be more accurate because you might feel that difference in wait times throughout the day.
In the past week, Touring Plans predictions were either spot-on or within 1 crowd level just 50% of the time. This is much lower than anything we’ve seen since the summer crowd calendar update. 75% of the time Touring Plans predictions were within 2 crowd levels, and that means we earn a C for our predictions the past week. Interestingly, while most of the misses last week were underestimates, and this week they’re almost all overestimates. The biggest example of this was on October 1st, when Hollywood Studios was predicted to be a crowd level 7 and ended up being a 1. That light red wedge shows that these overestimates happened a lot in the past week, which means crowds are significantly lower than predicted, even after the big crowd calendar update that adjusted expectations downward.
Attraction Downtime September 26 – October 2
If we average all of the capacity lost due to unexpected downtime over the past week, it comes out to 4% of attractions unexpectedly being down. This is a little bit lower than the past several weeks, but still not great. The park with the biggest issues was Hollywood Studios, with 6.4% of its capacity lost due to unexpected downtime. Which is totally odd given the lower crowd levels at the Studios this week
The worst day for attraction downtime in the past week was on September 27th. On that day, 6% of all capacity at WDW was lost due to unexpected downtime. The worst park-day of the week was at Hollywood Studios on September 26th. On that park day, 11% of the capacity was lost at Hollywood Studios due to unexpected downtime. Hollywood Studios was open for 12 hours on the 26th, so 11% downtime is the equivalent of the whole park being down for almost 80 minutes. Almost an hour and a half out of the 12 hours.
Attraction Downtime Worst Offenders
The worst offender of the past week was Rock’n’Roller Coaster, which was unexpectedly down for 33% of the past week. This is a ride that just had a lengthy refurbishment, and is still regularly experiencing large amounts of downtime. Something is up, and hopefully it gets addressed soon. But if Disney was waiting for off-season before taking a bunch of capacity offline to fix issues … they missed their window of opportunity. The worst day for Rock’n’Roller Coaster was September 26th, when the ride was down for 64% of the day. But it was also down for more than half of the day on 27th and almost half of the day on October 2nd. These are not isolated incidents.
Rope Drop Downtime
Here are this week’s problematic offenders:
- Magic Kingdom: Pirates of the Caribbean (unavailable for 26% of its first hour of the day)
- EPCOT: Test Track (unavailable for 21% of its first hour of the day), Gran Fiesta Tour (unavailable for 14% of its first hour of the day), Journey Into Imagination with Figment (unavailable for 14% of its first hour of the day)
- Hollywood Studios: Rise of the Resistance (unavailable for 23% of its first hour of the day)
- Animal Kingdom: No rope drop downtime issues!
On the one hand, these are much shorter lists than the past several weeks. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom got away with a pretty good week. But Rise of the Resistance being down almost a quarter of rope-drop for the week is not fun for Hollywood Studios planning. And Test Track being down a fifth of rope drops for the week makes rope dropping from the EPCOT main entrance much more difficult. Still, I’ll take this list as a win.
Wait Times September 26 – October 2
Attractions with the Highest Average Posted Wait at each park
- Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash, average posted wait of 65 minutes (84 minutes last week)
- EPCOT: Frozen Ever After, average posted wait time of 62 minutes (71 minutes last week)
- Animal Kingdom: Flight of Passage, average posted wait time of 58 minutes (92 minutes last week)
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, average posted wait time of 58 minutes (66 minutes last week)
Okay, this is totally weird bonkers-land. Flight of Passage is almost always first or second on this list, and now it’s dropped to third and is roughly equivalent to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The good news is, all of these numbers are significant decreases compared to the previous week, but they will probably pop back up over the next two weekends with fall breaks. Either that or Taylor Swift has convinced everyone to spend their money on NFL tickets instead of Disney. I haven’t ruled that out yet.
Parks with the Highest and Lowest Average Wait
These parks likely won’t change week-to-week unless something ridiculous happens, but these data points will give us a high-level view of how wait times are trending from week to week.
- Highest: Hollywood Studios, average park-wide posted wait of 30.5 minutes (39 minutes last week)
- Lowest: Magic Kingdom, average park-wide posted wait of 21 minutes (24 minutes last week)
That 21% drop in average wait time at Hollywood Studios is crazy. That makes a major difference over the course of the day. And the low number at Magic Kingdom isn’t unexpected – but it hides the 22 minute average at Animal Kingdom and 23 minute average at EPCOT, which are also crazy-low.
Most Inflated Posted Wait Times
We all know that Disney inflates their posted wait times on purpose. They have many reasons for doing this. Some are totally understandable, and some are potentially more problematic. We can figure out how much posted wait times are being inflated by comparing submitted actual wait times from the Lines App and the posted wait time when the person timing their wait entered the line.
Over the past week, actual wait times in the Lines App averaged 64% of what was posted. This is very in line with our historical average. If the posted wait time was 60 minutes, you could’ve expected to wait just over 38 minutes instead.
But the worst offender for the past week is Na’vi River Journey. That’s two “wins” in a row for this slow boat ride in Pandora. At this one attraction, submitted actual wait times were 42% of posted wait times in the past week. Even lower than last week (by a smidge). That means that if River Journey had a 60 minute posted wait, you probably would’ve waited just around 25 minutes instead. Much less than half of what was posted. Remember to always check the Lines app for predicted actual waits instead of believing what is posted.
Actual Wait Time Rock Star
The Actual Wait Time Rock Star for the past week was … Digordie95, who submitted 32 actual wait times through the Lines App over the last 7 days! This includes 2 Lightning Lane waits, 28 Standby waits, 1 single rider wait, and 1 virtual queue wait. Thank you for all of that timing, Digordie95! But this doesn’t come close to the all-time record of 78 recorded wait times in a single week, still held by psymonds.
In the upcoming week, timed waits at headliners in the first 2 hours of park opening would be incredibly helpful! Especially if it’s 30-60 minutes after official park opening.
Looking Ahead: October 3 – Oct 9
I want to say that the low week this week points to a lower-than-expected October than general. I want to say it. Because this pattern looked almost exactly like the low summer crowds (other than the party day behavior layered on top). But we’ve got a three-day weekend on the horizon, and a lot of school districts are adding fall breaks to that weekend or the next one. So that remains the big question mark.
Here’s what you can expect. EPCOT is going to remain relatively high. And Magic Kingdom party days are going to continue to be glorious. I thought by now party days would be up at crowd level 2 or 3. The fact that they are still steady at crowd level 1 is amazing. And that difference between crowd level 1 on party days and crowd level 7 on non-party days is giant impact on wait times and what you can accomplish in a day.
Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are the big unknowns. They both bottomed out this week unexpectedly and I’ll be keeping a close eye on whether this continues or returns to a more normal fall pattern.
The good news is that the weather looks warm but (currently) not-rainy, which should help with outdoor attraction uptime!
I’ll have more insight and predictions about the rest of October on next week’s post once we get a little more data.