First, I know that no one can predict the future and understand that Touring Plans has no control over the crowd levels at Walt Disney World, therefore I am not in any way upset with them directly but I am disappointed with how drastically different the crowd levels were to what we expected.
Two days before our trip I received an email telling us that the Magic Kingdom would be at a 3 on Tuesday, Feb. 6th. We were shocked when we arrived to discover that the park was packed. I just checked to see what the actual level was and was not surprised that the park was actually at a 7 that day.
The same was true for ever other day of our trip.
Animal Kingdom (Wednesday, Feb. 7th) was predicted to be at a 4 and was actually a 7.
Magic Kingdom (Thursday, Feb. 8th) was predicted to be at a 3 and was actually a 7.
Epcot (Friday, Feb. 9th) was predicted to be a 3 and was actually a 6.
Again, I’m not upset with Tour Plans, just disappointed that the park crowds were so different than what was predicted. Our family chose to visit the parks this specific week because of how low the crowds were predicted to be on Touring Plans, despite the scaled back park hours during this season of the year.
Is this a normal thing to happen? Are the numbers normally this drastic?
Does anyone have an idea why this happened.
As a positive review, the WDW dinning reservation program they designed did enable us to get a reservation at Be Our Guest that we might not have been able to get apart from you guys. For that I am thankful because my daughter loved the experience.
There have been a lot of posts about this recently, and a variety of different reasons has been postulated. It is thought that a big factor is that WDW has been scaling back on staffing and ride capacity, which boosts wait times and consequently CLs. As the TP predictions are based on historical data with better staffing/capacity levels it will probably take a little time to re-calibrate.
In terms of actual numbers of people at the parks, I have heard mixed reports. Some people feel that there are more people than in the past, and others feel it is about the same. One thing to bear in mind is that even on a CL 1 day there still are a lot of people in the parks.
It wasn’t just WDW. We went to Universal Feb. 5 through Feb. 9 and found that the crowds, particularly on Monday and Thursday, were much larger than the crowd calendar had predicted. I’m curious as to why, as well. We don’t regret choosing the week we did, but I was just surprised by this.
In some ways, having crowd calendars available makes the predictability of crowds more difficult because you have more people choosing to go when crowds are predicted to be low, resulting in the crowds being larger than predicted!
So far, our best time (at WDW) was going the week after labor day, since that is when most people with kids have just put their kids back to school. Early October was also great. Most rides were walk-ons in both instances. Feb. this year, however, wasn’t quite so nice. Tuesday and Wednesday were nice, though.
Not really - a similar argument has been proposed about the use of TPs (everyone will be doing the same thing therefore they will just create longer lines for those attractions), but as @len points out in the UG the number of people who use the plans is small compared to the overall attendance. The same would hold for the use of Crowd Calendars to pick when to go - most people go when they can go, not when they would choose to go.
I agree with you about TPs, since relative to the number of people going to the parks, relatively few would even know about TPs.
But almost EVERYONE who chooses to go to WDW, when planning, will ask themselves when the best time to go is. You’re right that it is limited to when they CAN go…but within that question, I think it is common for folks to try to find the best week. So, while people who have kids in school will end up choosing summer months or weeks of spring break, etc, when there are more options available, crowd calendars become a key part of planning. And crowd calendars are available on multiple websites, not just TP. So anyone who visits any site helping them plan a Disney trip will likely utilize them.
I will agree that it doesn’t make a HUGE difference, but it will make a difference to some degree.
Of course, another factor is that the parks themselves are trying to plan events during low attendance periods to draw crowds (for example, the Mardi Gras party at Universal, and the Harry Potter events, etc). Plus, the shift of having ticket pricing change based on day of the week/year will start to balance crowds out a little bit more. This is unfortunate for the hyper-planners out there, but makes sense for the parks.
Thanks for the feedback here, @ryan1. What rides did you observe with lines longer than expected? I’d like to take a deeper look.
I checked our UOR numbers for those days, and we were off by 0, 1, or 2 for each park and day. Only once did IOA reach a ‘5’ for actual crowds (USF never did). So crowds were definitely below average, as far as those numbers go.
It is hard to say in terms of ride lines. I didn’t keep track. Monday we stuck exclusively to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. We hit the rides very early, so lines there weren’t yet long, but it wasn’t long before it was shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the streets. It is hard to imagine it being much worse, even if it had been called an 8 or a 9! But the rest of the parks may have been much better, in terms of crowd levels. We did the rest of the parks on Tuesday and Wednesday, and levels were low. Thursday, however, we kind of hit everything and found lines to be significantly longer than on Tuesday and Wednesday.
I don’t think any other site’s “crowd calendars” predict anything. They’re there so the site can rank in Google searches for “crowd calendar.” The easiest way to verify this is to determine what, specifically, the site is predicting; for example, what does “low crowds” mean and how is it verified?
This is where I feel that the TP predictions excel - there is a lot of documentation explaining exactly what is being predicted, and there is a full history of what was predicted and what actually happened. The rest of them are a lot like your local TV weathermen - they love making predictions, but never tell you how they did yesterday.
I noticed a lot of rides last week where there were a lot of empty ride vehicles even though lines were getting longer. Maybe this is typical, but it started raining one day so a lot of people headed to Spaceship Earth, which I’ve never actually waited for. The wait wasn’t terrible, about 15-20 minutes, but there were at least 5 empty vehicles before our family was loaded. It seemed a waste on a continuously loading ride, but maybe this is normal?
One of the theories we have about crowds is that Disney has cut ride capacity, which causes wait times to increase. To test this, we’re sending staff into the parks to count how many people ride certain attractions during the busiest part of the day.
We collected data in the parks last week. Those data do not rule out capacity cuts as contributing to increased wait times.
Disney may cut ride capacity on certain rides so that they can have fewer employees working during lighter hours/days. If you pay just as many people to work for half as many customers, obviously it cuts into your profits.
And for anyone who has played Roller Coaster Tycoon, you actually shoot to try to get as many people as you can waiting in lines. I think the concept in some ways applies in real life as well. One of the things Disney and Universal have been doing is to make the queue line itself part of the attraction. Brilliant! Make me wait, but give me something to pass the time.