Understanding the crowd predictions

We’ll be going to Disney Orlando during the first week of Dec 2016. I am trying to get a relatively accurate estimate of the crowds during the week we will visit. I looked at the predictions for that week in 2016, but the estimates seem unrealistically low given the crowds during the same week (comparing equivalent days of the week) in 2015. Also, as an aside, I noticed that the “historical crowd” table doesn’t reflect the actual crowd level that occurred; instead it provides what was predicted to be the crowd level. I noticed there was a cheer/dance event in December 2015 during that same week. Am I to assume that the cheer/dance event explained the difference between the greater crowds (6-8) in 2015 compared to the lesser projected crowds (1-4) during that same week in 2016? Or has Touringplans not accounted for that cheer/dance event in Dec 2016? Or maybe that event doesn’t occur every year?

5 or 6 years ago, CLs of 1-4 during that week were not uncommon; the past few years they have been in the 6-8 range. The basic fact is a lot more people are coming to WDW than had been back during the recession, and the algorithms used to calculate the predictions, based on 1000s of data points, are still “catching up.” The numbers will probably be adjusted (up) as the time gets closer; I wouldn’t look for “realistic” numbers much before 6 months out, and even after that, as more data comes in, expect the numbers to change a few times before your actual trip. And if 2016 is anything like 2015, the “actual” numbers were typically 1 or 2 higher than the predicted.

I doubt that the dance event had much to do with the CL numbers. Although events of this kind can make some rooms harder to get, the “extra” people are usually tied up in their events and do not have a huge impact on wait times. And even if they DID all hit the parks at the same time, when there are well over 100,000 people a day visiting the parks, a few hundred are a drop in the bucket…


Agree with @bswan26, plus the other effect that TP is still trying to account for is the incorporation of FPP and how that changes wait times, and how certain attractions being down has resulted in major crowd shuffles and changes. There are a number of outstanding blog posts about that here by TP staff. I believe the Pop Warner cheer competition happens every year around that time and is a more relevant consideration when determine which resort to stay at (or avoid!)
Generally, it’s a lovely time of year, make a good plan and be prepared that it might be a little busier than predicted, especially during peak hours.

Thanks bswan26 and mossmaci. That is helpful information. I will take a look at the crowd calendar in June or July when it should be a bit more accurate. And it probably doesn’t make sense to make touring plans until then since any plans I create now would be based on less accurate CL data.

Actually, it makes sense to start making plans now for several reasons:

  • It helps you get used to the software, and you can learn a lot of TP tricks. Too many times people are struggling to make their plans on Day 181 so that they can make ADRs that make sense.
  • Even though the CLs may change, it doesn’t necessarily have that much of an effect on plans. There is a TP Blog post that compares the same plan optimized for each of the CLs, and the jumps in overall time were not really that much until you hit CLs 9 and 10

Ike said it best: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Good points. I’ll make some touring plans, then maybe do some updates when I’m a couple weeks away from Day 180.

You know, I had the same concern. I notice that 2 weeks later, the CL’s for first week in December have been adjusted, and likely now adequately reflects what it will be like that week (many 5’s now - 2 weeks ago there were many 3’s). Thanks for posting this question!

@bswan you mention that the numbers are still being adjusted. You are right, of course, but something was WAY off for this week (until a few days ago). That is not okay… people absolutely DO begin planning within 10-11 months of their trip, and the VERY FIRST thing we look at is the crowd levels, to determine which week we are going. These basic CL’s need to be ready (with some level of accuracy) well before a year out.

Oh, and I just ADORE this website and this service and TP and UG. I don’t want to seem unappreciative! It is just that the incorrect CL’s have really messed with our plans already, and I did not expect that.

I was under the impression that the CL numbers Are only updated twice a year. I have my dates being watched, and I am informed when they change. Over the last three years, I pick dates based on CL and then they change once while I have them being watched, always two clicks higher- and I am forced to update and cut things out of my touringplans- which are then very accurate and priceless. These are the facts based on my experience.

I agree with you entirely and feel your frustration. I started planning my last trip at 14 months using the previous year’s numbers as a general guide. The numbers adjusted at around 12 months, again around 6 months, and again around 2 months. And when I got there, the “actual” numbers for some of my days were higher than predicted on that day. That’s just how it is.

“These basic CL’s need to be ready (with some level of accuracy) well before a year out”.

If you have a way of accomplishing this, I’m sure that @Len would love to know what it is. These are numbers derived from a very elaborate statistical model working from historic data. But no one can really know with certainty what the future holds; there are more variables than you can imagine that are factored into these calculations (and even more that cannot be controlled statistically).

The “common wisdom” of “low crowd times” that many of us have been using for years - decades - has proven to not really apply as much the past few years. Disney is doing a very good job (for them) of targeted marketing and offering more special rates/packages during the traditionally lower attendance times - and it’s working. Plus, there are just more and more people going to WDW as the economy picks up. A year ago could ANYONE have predicted $1.70/gallon gas? The Brazilian economy is currently tanking; will that have an effect on the number of tour groups coming to WDW? Will our stock market crash and send us into another recession by this time next year? Who can tell.

Just some ramblings from someone who has been an active user and participant in TP/Forums/Lines for the past 5 or 6 years who has a broader view of how things work…


This idea that you can have some level of accuracy well over a year out is intriguing to me. I’m interested in how you think that could be done?

I am not trying to argue, just to understand better :smile:

Each of the 3 times we have used touring plans, exactly what IMMommyDearest said happened to her, happened to me. 2 clicks… every time. In that case, why wasn’t the CL already 2 clicks higher, if it happens often. (I am making a big assumption, here - that this happens often - but I may not be wrong).

2 weeks ago, the 1st week in December was mostly 3’s. Then the first poster mentioned something was “off”, and suddenly that week is adjusted to 5-7’s (which I assume is correct - that is what is has been for the past 3 years) . We are only 10 months out, so I would have thought that basic crowd levels should already be fiarly accurate (as they are now, now that they were suddenly adjusted).

Listen, I am NOT complaining, so no smart alecky “if you think you can do it better”. I already mentioned how much I admire and adore TP. I am truly trying to understand, as I have been affected by this “change” already and don’t want it to happen again.

By the way, I am taking 35 people to Disney - the stress of this is HUGE. I must get it right you know? :slight_smile:

For quite some time the long range CL predictions were pretty good - there were adjustments as you got closer to the actual date as WDW would adjust operating hours, but they were quite minor and could go up or down.

Recently the trend had been for an overall increase in the number of people going to WDW, for the reasons that other posters have mentioned. Most of these reasons are things that could not have been reasonably forecasted over a year ago. Perhaps what is happening now is the “new normal”, but only time will tell.

I for one don’t mind the fact that TP adjusts their predictions to reflect the best possible information rather than sticking with their original predictions. I would rather know that the CL is going to be a 7 than going in thinking that it is going to be a 4. I treat the long range predictions like the 10 day weather forecast - nice to know, but I don’t get all bent out of shape if it turns out to be wrong. :slight_smile:

No, I definitely understand (and appreciate) the “fine tuning”.

That is not my point. I am probably not explaining it well… sigh.

I remember a thread a little while ago talking about this very issue with the September 2015 crowd predictions and how they were off. The consensus if I remember correctly was that no one was exactly sure about why the predicted and the actual CL’s for that month were off. Outside of simply more people just coming to WDW. I’m wondering, as you have suggested if this is really the new normal.

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You need to remember the word PREDICTION. We went last week (as we have the past two times) because crowds are always low this time of year. Much to our surprise, last Sunday Animal Kingdom was a 9! It was packed, Everest was down, the monkeys and apes were put away because it was too cold for them, but we still had a great time.