Crowded theme parks during the Christmas holiday are as certain as death and taxes. Every year we see crowd levels hit their peak as we head into the final week of the year. As we all know, this year is different. Will we see the same extreme crowd levels?
This year’s Thanksgiving Day crowds were significant but not extreme. The average posted wait time on Thanksgiving Day was 35 minutes. Compare that to 41 in 2019 and 45 in 2018. It seems likely that we will see a similar dip in the average wait time over the Christmas holiday too. We have seen some signs that capacity is increasing however. At Magic Kingdom, Haunted Mansion and Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid are now loading every vehicle. This is a sign that attendance is increasing, but with the new ride capacity per hour the posted time will stay about the same.
If you are planning a visit to the parks sometime between December 23 and January 2 we strongly suggest that you prepare for extreme crowds. Maybe not as extreme as we usually see but significant nonetheless. A touring plan is essential during this time. We have been testing our plans a lot lately with great success so our confidence is high. Use the plans–they work!
Universal Orlando Updates
We are modifying some crowd level predictions for Universal Orlando Resort for dates in December and January. The Florida Resident Buy One and Get Unlimited Returns is about to expire on December 24, so we think a lot of guests are going to head to the parks to get the last bit of value out of those tickets. We are already seeing surprising surges in crowds during the week, but only at Universal Studios. The crowds at Islands of Adventure have been in line with our predictions.
Reviewing the Calendars
In the last 30 days our predictions for the crowd levels have been good. Our predictions at Animal Kingdom have performed the best with an average error of 0.8 points. So, on average we missed by less than one index point. At Hollywood Studios the average was 1.2. Magic Kingdom was a little higher, coming in at 1.5 points, while EPCOT was the worst. There, we missed by 2 points on average. EPCOT was very uncrowded for most days between the reopening in June and Thanksgiving Day. Since then, however, it has seen much higher wait times. Our last update addressed some of this but it takes a while for our post-COVID models to gather enough data so that new trends are reflected. We are also very suspicious that the posted wait times we are seeing at EPCOT are not a good indicator for actual wait. Universal Orlando crowds have been pretty close to normal. Other than some unusually large crowds during the week at Universal Studios park, our predictions have done well. In the last 30 days our predictions for Universal Studios missed by less than 2 index points on average while at Islands of Adventure the average error was 1.3.