Posted vs Actual Wait Times – Worst Offenders!

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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 daily wait times 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.

It says 15 minutes, but what should I actually expect?

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 30 days, 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 views might be disappointing, and the wait times are inaccurate. At least there’s a lot of walking? (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The other parks actually don’t do remarkably better. Magic Kingdom actual wait times average 65% of posted times. Animal Kingdom actual wait times average 70% of posted times. Hollywood Studios has the most accurate posted times of the bunch, with actual wait times coming in at 76% 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 the ride with the overall most inaccurate posted wait times underestimates wait times significantly. The average ratio of actual to posted wait times at Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros has been 195% over the past 30 days. Yikes! Overall wait times are low in Mexico, but even if the posted wait time is 15 minutes, you can expect to wait 29 minutes. Boo.

(photo by @blog_mickey)
To help you remember: at Gran Fiesta, less animatronics = more wait (photo by Blog Mickey)

Other attractions across WDW that regularly underestimate wait times are It’s Tough to Be a Bug! (124%) and Mickey’s PhilharMagic (120%).

On the other hand, there are many many more rides that overestimate their actual waits. Which ride at WDW is the worst at this? Look no further than Big Thunder Mountain, where the average actual wait time is 27% of what is posted. So if the posted wait time is 60 minutes, you’ll probably only end up waiting 16 minutes. Excellent! Not surprisingly, our last 30 days of data lines up almost perfectly with the decision to load every row on Big Thunder Mountain. As a result, actual wait times have decreased, but posted wait times haven’t followed suit.

Another remembering trick: Big Thunder Mountain = big posted wait times

The rest of the rides that severely overestimate wait times are:

  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends (29%)
  • Living with the Land (30%)
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment (36%)
  • The Haunted Mansion (47%)
  • Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid (49%)

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’s usually on rides that don’t have very long waits anyway, so there shouldn’t be much impact to your day. Take those posted times with a grain of salt, or consider your shorter wait to be a little bit of Disney pixie dust in your day.

And if you enjoy learning about attraction data, tune in this Saturday to read about how attraction satisfaction scores have changed post-reopening compared to pre-pandemic.

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.

 

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/

15 thoughts on “Posted vs Actual Wait Times – Worst Offenders!

  • April 13, 2021 at 12:13 pm
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    I’m curious how the park averages, like 60% for EPCOT were calculated. Was it
    1. Average the percentages (50% on ride 1 + 70% on ride 2 = 60% average)
    2. Sum of minutes [(20 minutes ride 1 actual + 40 minutes ride 2 actual) / (40 minutes ride 1 posted + 60 minutes ride 2 posted) = 60%

    Reply
    • April 13, 2021 at 12:21 pm
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      Good question, Matt! In this case, I went with the second option you listed. Sum of all actuals over sum of all posted. I wanted to accurately reflect what guests could expect “in general”. Since rides that attract more guests tend to also have more submitted wait times, this seemed like a better park-wide generalization compared to just giving each ride equal weight, like the first option you listed does.

      Reply
      • April 13, 2021 at 3:21 pm
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        Thanks! That’s how I would have done it, too.

        I’d enjoy seeing a range for each park, something like “66% of estimates are between 45% and 75% of actual”. Maybe a box and whisker graph?

        One drawback of a single average is that if half the rides are 1% of actual and half are 200% of actual, the average will make it look like the park is 100% accurate.

  • April 13, 2021 at 12:51 pm
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    Is this math dependent on Liners reporting wait times on your TP app?

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    • April 13, 2021 at 12:55 pm
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      It sure is, Kiia. That’s how we get the actual wait times to be able to compare against what’s posted.

      Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 12:55 pm
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    I’m curious, does the ratio of actual to posted wait times tend to vary by time of day?

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    • April 13, 2021 at 2:07 pm
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      It does tend to vary, Felicia! It also varies with the magnitude of the posted wait. So in general the bigger the posted wait, the higher chance that it’s overestimating the actual wait by a bigger percentage. These are great ideas to dig deeper into in a future blog post.

      Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 1:25 pm
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    A big issue with Disney posted inflated wait times is that it doesn’t give guests the right information to make decisions about what rides to go on. For example, there are plenty of people who’d get in line for Big Thunder if they knew the wait was 16 minutes, but who balk at getting in line when they see a posted wait of 60.

    Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 2:39 pm
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    This is the sort of nerdy content that I live for… keep it coming, and many thanks!

    Reply
  • April 13, 2021 at 8:24 pm
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    I’m curious what the trending is for universal parks.

    Reply
    • April 14, 2021 at 7:49 am
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      I’m curious too, Angela 🙂 Unfortunately, we currently don’t receive a steady enough supply of wait times from the Universal parks to be able to pull the same kind of data reliably.

      Reply
      • April 14, 2021 at 10:25 am
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        As a fellow data and analytics nerd, I really enjoyed this article! I’ll be using the lines app more on my upcoming trip rather than falling back to the MDE app for wait times.

  • April 13, 2021 at 10:32 pm
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    I wonder if part of the underestimate for Three Caballeros is that liners are timing the wait to get into the pavilion as well. We were there at the end of March and waited about 25 minutes to get into the actual pyramid. My kids and I rode the attraction three times with minimal waits while mom shopped.

    Reply
    • April 14, 2021 at 7:50 am
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      Interesting theory, Daniel! I haven’t experienced a wait to get inside the pavilion on my recent visits, so I didn’t consider that angle.

      Reply
      • April 14, 2021 at 12:41 pm
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        I did. It took nearly 30 minutes to get into the Pavilion. The wait for the ride was about 10-15 min (can’t remember) after getting into the Pavilion. I started timing from outside bcuz I thought that was the line for the ride. I assume most not familiar with EP would do the same. BTW love the data nerds post too! ☺️

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