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.
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 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.
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.
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.