TouringPlans is all about understanding what’s actually going on with lines for rides. But most guests base their decisions only on what they see in the parks. Part of that might be picking what lines to hop into or avoid based on the posted wait.
Often it seems like Disney’s posted wait times are used to influence guest behavior more than they are meant to reflect reality. If you follow our weekly Disney Data Dump posts, you may have noticed that posted wait times are very skewed, especially in the post-reopening era. Actual vs posted wait times are generally pretty different across parks and individual rides.
So what would life be like if you only paid attention to posted times? Would you be intimidated out of entering actually reasonable lines? Would you be frustrated because you had waited longer for a ride than you expected to? Maybe all of the above, but let’s see what the data say. This post was last updated February 14th, 2023.
Explain the Math!
Before we get to the results, let’s make sure we all understand what the numbers mean. We’re exploring inaccuracies in posted wait time. But in order to compare across different rides and parks, we need to have some sort of relative measure. In this case, our relative measure is going to be Actual Wait Time/Posted Wait Time.
- In a perfect, predictable world, I would see a posted wait of 60 minutes outside of Kilimanjaro Safaris and I would walk onto the ride vehicle exactly 60 minutes after entering the line. Our relative measure, actual/posted would be 60/60, or 100%.
- If I walk up to Space Mountain and the posted wait is 60 minutes and I wait 90 minutes, the posted wait underestimated reality. Our relative measure, actual/posted would be 90/60 or 150%. So any time the posted wait is underestimating reality, it will be over 100%.
- If I’m outside of Frozen Ever After and the posted wait is 60 minutes, but I end up waiting 15 minutes, the posted wait overestimated reality. Our relative measure, actual/posted would be 15/60 or 25%. So any time the posted wait is overestimating reality, it will be under 100%.
Actual vs Posted – Park Averages
Which park overall has the most inaccurate posted wait times? It turns out to be … EPCOT! On average over the last 3 months, actual wait times have only been 60% of posted wait times. That means if you’re walking around EPCOT and see a 60 minute posted wait time, chances are that if you hop into line you’ll only wait about 36 minutes. Not too shabby! It’s frustrating from a planning perspective, but if you don’t know the data it’s probably a delightful surprise.
The other parks actually don’t do remarkably better. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios actual wait times average 64% of posted times. Animal Kingdom has the most accurate posted times of the bunch, with actual wait times coming in at a whole 68% of what is posted.
So no matter which park you visit, overall you can expect to wait less than what the posted wait time tells you. But which rides are driving these trends?
Actual vs Posted – Worst Offenders
All park-wise averages of actual to posted wait times are well below 100%. But back when we first ran this analysis in 2021, the attraction with the most inaccurate posted wait times was Gran Fiesta Tour, and it severely underestimated wait times. And it wasn’t alone – It’s Tough to Be a Bug and Mickey’s PhilharMagic both also underestimated wait times on average.
But my how times have changed! In the past 3 months, zero attractions at Walt Disney World have actual wait times that average anything over the posted wait time. Does it happen occasionally? Sure. But on the whole, posted wait times at every attraction are overestimating how much time you will spend in line.
Which ride at WDW is the worst at this? Look no further than Peter Pan’s Flight, where the average actual wait time is 45% of what is posted. So if the posted wait time is 60 minutes, you’ll probably only end up waiting 27 minutes. Excellent!
The rest of the rides that severely overestimate wait times are:
- Journey Into Imagination with Figment (45%)
- See Mickey in Town Square Theater (50%)
- Na’vi River Journey (51%)
- Gran Fiesta Tour (51%) – my how the underestimators have fallen!
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (52%)
- Rock’n’Roller Coaster (55%)
What Does This Mean For You?
The next time you visit the parks, even if you’re not following a touring plan or checking the Lines app, you at least have a little more information in your back pocket. The vast majority of the time, posted wait times are overestimating the actual wait. Sometimes actual vs posted wait times vary significantly. And when the posted wait times are underestimating, it generally means that some operational “thing” has happened unexpectedly that neither you nor Disney planned on. You got unlucky, but you didn’t do anything wrong. Take those posted times with a grain of salt, or consider your usually shorter wait to be a little bit of Disney pixie dust in your day.
Have you experienced inaccurate posted wait times during your visits? Do you have a strategy about how to handle misleading posted times? Let us know in the comments.