Recent Questions About the TouringPlans Crowd Calendar

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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.

  1. Why did you miss by 4 points?
  2. What do I do if I am in a park that is much more crowded than predicted?
  3. How often does the calendar miss by that much?
  4. How accurate is the crowd calendar in general?
  5. 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. 

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Fred Hazelton

Fred Hazelton maintains the crowd calendar, theme park wait time models and does hotel rate analysis for the Unofficial Guides. He's also done the models for the new mobile wait times product Lines. Fred Hazelton is a professional statistician living in Ontario, Canada. His email address is fred@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @DisneyStatsWhiz.

13 thoughts on “Recent Questions About the TouringPlans Crowd Calendar

  • October 13, 2021 at 4:36 pm
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    Is 2% of 2000 days, 40 and not 35? Asking for a friend.

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  • October 13, 2021 at 4:42 pm
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    Yes Ryan, the 2% is rounded up, gold star for you 🙂 In fact, there were less than 40 days for all four parks but I kept the 2% figure.

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    • October 13, 2021 at 4:47 pm
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      The article should read, ‘LESS THAN 2%.’ Y’all deserve the credit!

      As a subscriber of Touring, we have zero complaints regarding the service. Keep up the great work!

      Reply
      • October 13, 2021 at 4:51 pm
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        Thanks Ryan (I edited the post to satisfy the mathies like us).

      • October 13, 2021 at 8:10 pm
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        The price point is low enough that I can’t complain too much, but the past 2 weeks really puts in question your model. I will definitely take your #s with a grain of salt, but the planning tool is helpful for prioritization. Fortunately, at such a low price point one can’t complain too much for a big dropping of the ball.

  • October 13, 2021 at 11:44 pm
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    I wonder how much the COVID numbers dropping played in the bigger crowds. Like people were canceling trips or not making impromptu local trips cause the FL numbers were so high in September. But the past week or so the numbers have been in a downward trend. That might lead to an increase in crowds (along with the normal better weather!)

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  • October 14, 2021 at 5:18 am
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    Everyone skipped Oct 1 but are at Disney now for fall break?

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  • October 14, 2021 at 6:27 am
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    Overseas visitors will be allowed to go to WDW from “early November” – we don’t have an exact date yet. I predict we will be coming over in droves. I know of several people who have booked to go to WDW in November – overseas folk will want their “Disney fix”. I think a lot of Disney fans from everywhere will want their “Disney fix”.
    This is going to affect the crowd number massively in my opinion. I have booked to come over from the U.K. in November! There will be people who are apprehensive and/or waiting until things get back to normal before they go – but I still think you will notice the difference when folks from abroad are allowed to come over!

    Reply
  • October 14, 2021 at 9:25 am
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    Is the crowd calendar for the rest of the month being updated? thanks for the explanation!

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    • October 14, 2021 at 10:06 am
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      What sucks is that predictions were probably more accurate before the nos. were adjusted downward a week or 2 ago. Here’s hoping the crowd calendar recalibrates for more accurate predictions prior to our trip next week.

      Reply
  • October 14, 2021 at 1:52 pm
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    Great info, thanks Fred. Around 2 percent is a pretty awesome number overall. I do wonder what the pandemic number is, mostly because I’d think that with the uncertainty that it’s been more volatile and really that should be expected no matter how amazing the team is.

    Reply
  • October 14, 2021 at 3:56 pm
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    But even using the optimization in the app this week didn’t help. I’m going to guess the actual crowds today at MK were a 6 or 7 today and you predicated a 1. Not very encouraging. Even after running the optimization in the app while at the park, actual wait times were 4-5x greater than what you were predicting. We finally threw in the towel and went with our gut. My experience this week has left me with a sour taste for the service you offer. You’ve lost my trust.

    Reply
  • October 16, 2021 at 8:39 am
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    I’m wondering if the recent announcement of the start of Genie+ and Lightning Lane on October 19 is just the type of event that would get people to unexpectedly come out the parks. For a family of four, between the two, it could cost an additional $140 a day. That might encourage a lot of local Annual Passholders to go to the parks for one last “free” day.

    Reply

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