Do Individual Lightning Lane Prices Predict Crowds?
No. That’s the short answer, but it deserves a little more data. Some blog readers and forum members recently asked if Individual Lightning Lane prices would make good predictors of crowd levels at each park. And at a high level, that would make sense. Disney knows how the parks will be staffed. They know how many reservations have been made. They have all of the data. So the price that they release at midnight for Individual Lightning Lanes should pretty accurately reflect how crowded they expect the parks to be and how they think wait times will behave. It would be an even more precise predictor than Genie+ price since it can be tuned to each individual park.
But that’s not really how it works out in reality. We’ll pick this question apart into two different goals. First – can we use Individual Lightning Lane prices as a general predictor for crowd level trends (aka, are the two tied together at all). And then, more specifically, if we know that the Individual Lightning Lane will be a specific price, can we make a good guess at the crowd level for that day? In this case, it would mean that savvy readers could be at Walt Disney World, see a high price for Rise of the Resistance (for example), and therefore know that they should switch to a park where an Individual Lightning Lane price points toward lower crowds instead.
Explain the Math
We need only two data points to do this comparison – crowd levels and Individual Lightning Lane prices. We collect wait times all day every day, and use those to come up with observed crowd levels for every day.
We also collect and store all of the Individual Lightning Lane prices each day, so we can do a day-by-day comparison of cost and crowds at each park.
Boom – easy math this week.
Cost and Crowd Trends
I think in general we can say that the orange and blue lines follow decently along with one another at a very high level. If cost goes up, crowds are usually a little higher. If cost goes down, crowds are usually a little lower. I’m using a lot of vague language on purpose. What else can we see?
- We get the most granularity from Rise of the Resistance, because every other attraction only has three different price points in the past 3 months. Rise has seven instead. That granularity doesn’t mean greater accuracy in prediction crowds, though. There is a big stretch from late January through mid February where crowd levels stayed somewhat in the middle, and Disney tinkered around a lot with the cost.
- During that same stretch of late January to mid February, Flight of Passage pretty much stayed at its lowest price, but crowds bounced around, all of the way up to a crowd level 7. Similarly, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Cosmic Rewind stayed at or close to their lowest price, with crowds staying pretty steady at EPCOT, but bouncing between crowd levels 1 and 8 at Magic Kingdom.
- Overall, it’s good to see that the lines aren’t going in opposite directions most of the time, but they also don’t stay in lock-step. It makes me hypothesize that just knowing cost isn’t going to be a good predictor for crowd level.
Can I Predict Crowd Level Based on Cost?
Bubble charts! Bubble charts! They’re weird and fun and bubbly and I don’t think I’ve used them before. So this will be great. Let’s run through a few prediction scenarios and see what we can figure out.
- If you stay up until midnight and the price for Flight of Passage is set at $14 for the next day, the crowd level could be anything from a 2 to a 10. Narrow window there. And if the price is $16, the crowd level could be between a 5 and 10. Slightly more narrow.
- What about Cosmic Rewind? If the price is set at $15, the crowd level could be anything from a 2 to a 9. Once again, the highest price point narrows things down. If the price is set at $17, you can guess a crowd level between a 6 and a 10. Yipee.
- Rise of the Resistance is a little more informative, other than if Disney sets the price at $20. Then the crowd level might be anything from a 3 to a 10. But if it goes up to $25, you can expect a crowd level 9 or 10!
- And then we have our friend Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, where the price tells us almost nothing at all. A cost of $10 could mean a crowd level anywhere between 1 and 8. And then a cost of $11 could mean a crowd level between 1 and 9. And a cost of $12 could mean a crowd level anywhere between 3 and 9. This is fine.
What does This Mean For You?
- Want to use the price of a lightning lane to predict what crowds you might experience? Probably don’t. With only one data point (cost for the day), you could end up with wildly different results.
- On the other hand, overall trends show that usually cost and crowds go upward and downward together, so they’re not just chosen at random. So that’s encouraging.
3 thoughts on “Do Individual Lightning Lane Prices Predict Crowds?”
Really awesome insight. Keep it coming!
I’d hypothesize that Disney knows how many people have bought tickets for the parks and generally use that to staff up (thus bringing wait times down)…which could account for the wider discrepancy in price at those mid-level tiers. It might be a better gauge of feels-like crowds in which case! But since there isn’t really a way to track those….we can only wonder.
I agree, and I think that even without park reservations if they know how many tickets are active on a given day they should have pretty good models for how crowds distribute themselves. (I might be giving them too much credit, but they know a fair amount even about the demographic of their visitors – even if they’re not staying on site, they know that Mom, Dad, and two kids are one family, with tickets active over the same range, who are presumably on a trip together, they know how old those kids are, etc., etc.). Obviously there’s a limit to what they can do with staffing. But they have a rich dataset to make models and predictions with.