In the last few days, Disney World Crowd Levels have spiked. The last time EPCOT hit a crowd level higher than a ‘4’ was seventy-five days ago (on July 29th, EPCOT was a ‘7’). Monday it was a ‘5’. We predicted a ‘1’, that’s not good. Yesterday, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios also spiked to a crowd level ‘5’ when we predicted a ‘1’. People noticed and let us know.
@TouringPlans We are now 0-2 for two days at two different parks. Not a great track record! You are way off this week. – @sandersx2 on Twitter
We can sympathize with this tweet and he is right to point out that we missed by a lot. When the Crowd Calendar predicts a ‘1’ and you see throngs of people walking around World Showcase at 10:00 a.m. it is hard not to feel duped. There are several questions that come to mind.
- Why did you miss by 4 points?
- What do I do if I am in a park that is much more crowded than predicted?
- How often does the calendar miss by that much?
- How accurate is the crowd calendar in general?
- If the predictions can be off by that much, is it really useful?
Q: Why Did You Miss By Four Points?
A: We Trusted the Latest Trends Would Continue through October
Since we started analyzing Disney World crowds in 2006 several seasonal trends took shape. Those trends came to an end with the arrival of COVID-19. Now, predicting Disney World crowds is more of a short-term game. The latest trend shows a steady stream of very low crowds at most parks every day. We expected these low crowds to continue until mid-November, right before the Thanksgiving rush. It appears that the rush might be happening now. On October 1, Disney World celebrated its 50th anniversary so one might expect crowds to spike at that time but the wait times stayed very low. From October 1 to 7, Magic Kingdom was the only park to hit a crowd level above a ‘2’ and it did so only once. For some reason (that we don’t yet know) the spike in wait times is happening now, two weeks after the celebration.
To be fair, these spikes still do not reach the same level as a busy time of year like Spring Break or July 4th. These crowd levels we are seeing are ‘4’s, ‘5’s and ‘6’s, about an average day historically speaking. However, given that we predicted ‘1’s and ‘2’s these days deserve our attention and we need to understand what’s happening. Are guests feeling more comfortable about travelling during the pandemic? Are the new rides and restaurants attracting Disney fans that have been away for a while? Did people wait until the fanfare of the October 1 celebration was over before checking out the parks? It isn’t clear. Our job is to work on updating our calendar based on these new numbers to get a better picture of the rest of 2021 crowds.
Q: What Do I Do If It’s More Crowded Than Predicted?
A: Don’t Panic, Re-optimize Your Plan
To defeat the crowds at Disney World you need to have a couple tools in your tool kit. First, the Crowd Calendar but second (and more important, in our opinion) is an optimized touring plan. Use it and it won’t matter how crowded the park is. For the rare occasion when the crowds are significantly larger than predicted, an optimized touring plan is your best friend. Our Lines app adjusts its wait time predictions every five minutes. So if you find yourself in a crowded park just click the reoptimize button on your touring plan and you will get the best tool for beating crowds that day.
Also, it is important to remember that the crowd calendar represents our prediction for the wait times at the key attractions, not necessarily the crowd density of the walking areas. Usually those two things go together but not always. Those throngs of people walking around EPCOT at 10:00 a.m. yesterday? A lot of them are there for activities other than riding rides. In fact, yesterday at EPCOT was a ‘2’ on our scale based on key attraction wait times.
Q: How Often Does The Crowd Calendar Miss By That Much?
A: Two to Four Percent Depending On The Park
Yes, it can happen, but it is rare. It is the nature of any predictive tool that it will sometimes miss the mark. There is a small chance (but not an insignificant one) that you will experience a crowd level much higher than predicted so having a back-up plan (read: Touring Plan) is a very good idea. Here are the frequencies since 2015. So 2% means that this happened 35 days out of the last 2,000 since 2015.
Q: How Accurate Is The Crowd Calendar In General?
A: Two-thirds Of Days Are Within One Point, 83% Within Two
Every day we track wait times in the parks and calculate the observed crowd level. When we compare with what we predicted, here’s what we get. It is important to note that we talking about absolute error (in either direction) and it is more likely that we will significantly overpredict a crowd level than under predict. So if you find yourself in a park that is much less crowded than predicted, count yourself lucky and enjoy the extra breathing room (although there’s a good chance the weather isn’t that great). Also, it is often the case that an observed crowd level is higher than predicted because an attraction has a significantly larger wait time for a reason other than a large crowd. It could experience breakdowns, weather delays, or increased popularity for a specific event, even though the rest of the park is less affected.
If our prediction is off by one you won’t even notice. If it is off by two you still probably won’t notice much of a difference, especially if you are sticking to the plan. On either of those days your touring plan will most likely not be affected. If the crowd level is off by three or more points, that’s when the Lines app re-optimization feature really kicks in. You will need it.
Q: If The Predictions Can Be Off That Much, Is The Crowd Calendar Useful?
A: Yes, We Think So
The Crowd Calendar isn’t perfect but it offers the most accurate prediction of Disney World crowds available anywhere. If you choose to subscribe to TouringPlans.com you will get access to the calendar plus the ability to make personal touring plans that can be optimized for any day. We think this duo makes a pretty powerful toolkit for tackling the crowds. Not to mention all the other great benefits of a TouringPlans.com subscription like the Reservation Finder, Room Requester, Ticket Calculator, and so much more.
Do you have any questions for the stats team? Let us know in the comments. And thank you always for your support.