September 2015 Crowds

I’ve been watching with lively interest this year’s September crowds. We are planning our 5th trip next September and we were planning it early in the month to take advantage of the low crowds.

Please understand that I am completely fine using TP to manage the higher crowds, so I’m not particularly worried; but I am curious about this year’s crowds and whether people think it’s an anomaly or the new reality.

I know consumer confidence has been measured as higher by some groups, but it has dipped recently and it’s not that much higher than previous years - is it enough to get people to spend a bit more for their vacation? The theory that busy is the new norm is quite possible, but it’s statistically surprising that it has jumped to the new norm rather than growing to it. Maybe it’s just a perfect storm of a few issues?

So, is it the new norm?


We are here on our 5th day. Magic Kingdom on second day was predicted to be a crowd level of 3, it was an actual 7. The 3rd day we went to Epcot - Predicted 4, actual 5. Yesterday we went to DHS - predicted 4, actual 9. But even with the higher crowds, our TP worked out fairly well. Did not make a few of the planned ones (which were lower priority) but actually squezzed in a few unplanned ones. The Tp does work so don’t worry too much about that.

And always remember, Your worst day at Disney is still better than your best day anywhere else!

Also, plan extra time for bag checks. It took us 20 minutes at Epcot.

I like this guy’s explanation starting about 6 paragraphs in. September is still less busy than other times of the year. The “1-10” model will have to be adjusted, but the 1s are still in Sept and the 10s are still in July and December. Expectations have to be adjusted; this isn’t 2009/2010 any more. Utilize a good touring plan and take mid day breaks.

Yes, good stuff. I do think expectations have to be different…shoot, I remember the glorious Sep of 2005, when we had free DDP and wide open walkways all week. Septembers aren’t like that anymore, but they are still among lowest crowds of the year and should be treated as 1’s.

But this early September run is still pretty remarkable. If it’s not an anomaly, then I suppose what is happening is that the deviation between a 10 and a 1 is shrinking…which is exactly what WDW would want to have happen.

Regardless, going on a 7 day with a good TP is better than going on a 1 without a TP!


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@perryisherewithme I always try to not bring a bag into the park. I know those with little kids can’t manage that but as a family of all adults, we save so much time bypassing security.

We just came back on the 20th from a 9 day trip. The whole time I kept thinking “no way are these 1 and 2 crowds” and sure enough, they were 6 and 7’s. We rope dropped every morning and were fine for about the first hour and a half, then it was mayhem. I had a hard time following my TP to be totally honest, not sure how others managed it without running around like crazy people. At one point at MK we were in a big enough crowd that we couldn’t move any direction. But as it’s already been said, a bad day at Disney is still better than a great day at home! At least most of the lines have something interesting to look at now!

Makes me nervous about my November trip where the CL are supposed to be 3-5s but does that now mean 8-9s? Good thing I got all the FPPs that I wanted!

I’m hoping this week was just an anomoly and that your trip will be closer to the predictions. We did fine with our FPP, and even on a level 6 day were able to use our first three, then get 4 more before 4pm at MK. We probably could have easily gotten 10 if we stayed all day. We used the MDE app to check wait times and just rode whatever had the shortest waits - we tried using the Lines app for this purpose, but I found the “actual” wait times were often way off, not sure why? We tried for splash one day that had an “actual” listed as 16 minutes when posted was 45, and we waited close to an hour. But even with the longer lines we still had a blast! Waiting longer than we thought meant we ate more food though :slight_smile:

There is a TP blog post somewhere that analyzed the effect of CLs on an Optimized TP. Unfortunately I cannot find it at the moment, but as I recall the time differences are not as dramatic as you would think, with reasonable increases until you reach the dreaded CL 10, where it really jumps up. The take-away here is that if you go to a park with predicted CL of 3 and it actually ends up being 6 your plan won’t be too adversely affected, especially if you re-optimize when your plan starts to go off-track.

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The stats guys have been talking with the rest of the team for over a week on this. It’s an interesting question. Fred’s looking at a number of theories. The good news is that we’re still not sure. And I say that’s good news because it means we didn’t miss something obvious. So whatever is causing these crowd levels, there’s a decent chance it’s something (or some things) we haven’t seen.

Here’s what we think we know so far:

Like I said, we’re looking at it. More soon.


2 kids 4 & 7, gotta have bags, lol

I was at WDW from the 10th-15th and found that crowds were much higher than I had anticipated. There was a special ticketed event at Magic Kingdom on the 11th & 12th “Night of Joy” and from what I heard, it was sold out. I’m wondering if that event might have contributed to the increased crowd levels we saw?

We were there Sept 11-15 and were really surprized at crowd levels too. I do custom TPs that take anticipated crowd levels into account and we had to drop quite a few rides after noon. If it helps, on day 2, after making a friendly comment to someone next to me at Fantasmic, she pointed it was nice to hear English! After that I spent the rest of the trip trying to be more observant and indeed she seemed right, lots of foreign nationals. Only anecdotal, but at least one theory. BTW, by dropping rides, it meant going on headliners only twice instead of the planned 4-5 times! Rough life.

FOR THE STATS FOLK: Thanks much for putting up actual crowd levels the day after. It is nice that you are open about this and more importantly to me, confirms I am not crazy or have a bad memory. Yea, it wasn’t my imagination, that wasn’t a crowd level 2 day, it was level 7! :slight_smile: That became a morning ritual.

We’re going back December 1-15 for a mega-trip, hoping September was an anomaly.

That is one of the many things I like about the TP crew - they are very open about how their predictions did. There are many others who make predictions but never own up to how good or bad they were.

This probably means nothin’ from nothin’, but we went to Gatlinburg, TN over the Labor Day weekend and it was significantly more crowded than the couple of previous Labor Day weekends we’d been there. Slide that into your statistical analysis and it will probably cause everything to fall into place…puzzle solved.

On a more serious note, two questions. When you’ve done the analysis, will it likely be shared in a blog post?

Secondly, if your analysis indicates that this might be a trend rather than an anomaly, at what point would TP information be updated? I don’t mean whether you change the 1 or 2 rating, but when would the wait times themselves be adjusted? Or is that an ongoing tweak?

Thanks - I echo others about the appreciation for your work and reporting actuals against predictions. It makes planning even more fun!

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This was my 4th year in a row going to WDW over Labor Day weekend. By far the most crowded Labor Day weekend I have experienced. I was at AK on Saturday, which was supposed to be a “1” but was an “8”. I spoke with CM’s at AK and they were not expecting the crowds. One told me they were having to call in other CM’s as the park, as a whole, was understaffed. MK at night, around parade/Wishes time, felt like Mid July. Same at Epcot during Illuminations.

I’m no number cruncher nor crowd predictor, I did not stay at a Holiday Inn last night but in my own mind, I see 3 causes for the extreme difference over Labor Day. First, the late holiday allowed parents one last trip and/or parents felt okay with taking their kids out of school early in the year. Secondly, word has spread like a wild fire about the TA deals over Labor Day weekend. I suspect more and more people are traveling now due to these deals. Lastly, anyone with a keyboard is telling everyone to go in September as the crowds are low. Mix it all up, put it in a blender and poof…more people. Is it the new Norm? I hope not but afraid it is.


Update: We’ve got 2014 and 2015 hotel occupancy numbers from WDW and from local hotels. That’ll help us figure out how much of what we’re seeing is attributable to crowds, to holidays, etc.


We were there for the exact same period. Its certainly fascinating to know what could have been the cause for such an increase in crowd level. I thought I was cherry picking the best week by going the week after Labor day and a full week before the start of the Wine and Food Fest. It was still a wonderful vacation and everyone had some of their best days ever. But, as I’m already planning out next nine days, I am curious. And our TP still helped us get through the crowds, so we are commited to the subscription for every future trip!

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I noticed a TON of foreign languages, I thought that was just the norm for Disney but I guess not if others were noticing it as well!