Universal Orlando Touring Plans app review

We just got back from a four-day park-to-park trip to Universal Studios Orlando. During this trip, we utilized the Universal Studios App on both Android and iPhone, as well as the Touring Plans app on Android. Here is the review of my experience.

First off, we did utilize the crowd calendar from the Touring Plans website to help pick the week (Feb. 5 through Feb. 9), as well as the menu information to plan where we could eat. Both were extremely helpful. However, I will say that the crowd calendar predictions for 2018 seemed to be off. I’m not sure if it is because of differing events in the parks this year (such as Mardi Gras) or not, but the information was useful nonetheless. We did find Tuesday and Wednesday to be the lightest days. Monday was quite crowded, despite being ranked a 3, and Thursday was extremely crowded.

Now, I did try to use the Touring Plan feature itself ahead of time, but frankly, I found the entire app to be confusing. It is not well designed for those using park-to-park. It forces you to switch between plans if you switch parks, which means there is no way to optimize a trip across two parks correctly, which I would expect…especially since I would expect park-to-park tickets to become the norm now that there is the train between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. So, ultimately I abandoned using the Touring Plan itself. It was, frankly, easier to just play it by ear. This might not be the case had we attended the parks during a much busier time period.

Once we arrived, my wife used the Universal Studios app on her iPhone to look at ride times. I started out using the Touring Plans app, and supplemented with the Universal App on my Android phone. What I discovered was that the Touring Plans app was almost never accurate. The listed posted wait time in the app was never even close to the actual posted wait time in the park. Comparing this to the Universal App, the Universal App was usually quite accurate with perhaps a few minutes delay. (That is, if the sign in front of the ride was updated to 40 minutes, the app might not reflect this change for a few minutes.) I did find that the posted wait times at Universal are not nearly as accurate as at Disney, but that’s another matter.

Now, when I would look at the times in the Touring Plans app, as I said, the Posted wait time was almost NEVER correct…often off by 30+ minutes. Furthermore, the expected actual wait time listed in the app was only occasionally accurate. Most of the time, it was well below the actual wait time, although occasionally the actual wait time was well above the wait time. As the week went on, I paid more and more attention to our actual wait time versus the Touring Plans wait times, and found the Touring Plans app was pretty much worthless.

I did, however, experience issues with the Universal App on the Android device. From time to time, it would simply stop obtaining updates, even though it would act like it refreshed the time. At first I thought it was just a Universal App thing, but my wife’s iPhone version had no problem keeping up with the actual posted wait times. In the Android app, I would have to force quit the app and then re-start it to get it to start working again. (This is the Universal App, NOT the Touring Plans app.)

In the end, I found little benefit to the Touring Plans app itself, although the website contains a lot of useful information. Unfortunately, the Universal App itself is imperfect (at least on Android) and Universal Studios in general just doesn’t have a firm grasp on estimating wait times for itself. Disney seems to have this down to a science, since they have the little lanyards they hand off to people frequently to keep the wait time estimates accurate. This means that there is probably no way Universal wait times will be reflective of actual wait times, whether in the apps or on the posted signs. It was just disappointing that the wait time information (both actual and posted) in the Touring Plans app was so completely off most of the time.

I would be curious if others have experienced similar disparities during busier times (that is, perhaps it is only an issue when park attendance is relatively low). I’m not sure out TP obtains the posted wait time information, however…and it doesn’t seem that the actual park attendance should affect accuracy of this information. Actual wait time calculation I would see being harder to get right.

Flagging @len for this - perhaps he can shed some light as to why you were seeing differences in the posted wait times on the TP app.

I did not pay attention because when you have Express pass wait times do not seem to matter but I will pay attention next trip!


Len will clearly be the true voice of wisdom here, but I’ll take a stab. I believe that the app uses historical data to estimate what the wait time for an attraction will be given the expected park level. For example, on a CL 6 day, Minions tends to have a posted wait time of X at Y:00 time of day.

With that, there is potential for error based on certain outside factors. For example, when I was there in January, Rip Ride Rockit was down for most of the day. Thus, wait times at other attractions were also higher than expected. In another case, if you have lousy weather the day before, a nice day might draw more people in than one would expect.

My guess is that the app counts on people in the park posting posted/actual wait times to self-correct on a given day. If there aren’t many people doing that, it’s going to default back to historic averages.

I’ve used TP at Disney and UOR and found it to be pretty accurate in both places, but I know others’ mileage will vary. I was at UOR a month ago and found it to be pretty spot on. Then again, I was adding posted times like it was my job, so perhaps that helped. I’ve also found Disney’s posted times to be insanely inaccurate, but again, that’s only using a subjective n of about 10.

Sorry that your experience wasn’t so great. I’m a TP true believer, but I do know that things have been in flux due to continually rising crowds.

Take it away Len!


What you’re saying makes sense for the actual wait times, but not for the posted wait times. Why would the app’s listing for the posted wait times be completely off? If it is just using historical data, then it isn’t posted wait time information at all, and the actual wait time listed would match the posted wait time.

Regarding Disney’s wait times…I almost never see more than a 5 minute disparity from posted wait times to actual wait times (up to the minimum time they list for a ride). But Disney actually has a dynamic system that is constantly calculating ACTUAL wait times, unlike Universal. Every few minutes or so they hand of a lanyard to a guest who carries it through the line and then hands it to the cast member just before boarding the ride. The lanyard is scanned and provides an actual up-to-the-minute calculation of wait times. The times it would be off is if there is a sudden influx of a huge number of people in a short amount of time.

Posted time is what Disney/UOR says you’re going to wait; actual time is what you are likely to wait, which is often different from what they say you’re going to wait. Disney for sure (and probably UOR) artificially inflate (or deflate, I suppose) the posted times to encourage/discourage people from joining the queue.

So, the app is not taking in real-time data from the UOR app, but estimating what it thinks the posted wait time will likely be based on prior data unless it gets data from users in the park. Again, this is all conjecture on my part… Len will be able to give us the true scoop at some point.

If you’re correct, this would explain why the numbers we saw i the Touring Plans app were almost never right, and usually quite wrong. Which is unfortunate. But, since crowds were light enough on those days (aside from Thursday), it didn’t matter so much.

Disney doesn’t exactly artificially inflate times. They round up, based on the resolution of the ride times they use for each ride. So, if a wait time calculation has a resolution of 10 minutes (say), then if the calculated time based on the lanyards is 11 minutes, they will round up to 20. This generally means that your actual wait time will be LESS than the posted wait time…which is generally been the case for us. There are exceptions, of course, since there is no perfect method. This is particularly true if they have a sudden influx of people or there are ride issues, or a higher-than-usual number of folks who need assistance boarding.

Actually, I can envision at some point their ability to monitor the actual number of people entering the queue versus the number of people exiting the queue (boarding the ride) and make a highly accurate calculation since they could have a fairly accurate calculation of the number of people actually in line. The only problem is that this number would start to deviate from reality as the day progresses since you’d have people who decide to exit the line, etc. It is an interesting problem to solve.

“Disney doesn’t exactly artificially inflate times”

Now, I had read before that occasionally, to help disperse crowds better, they will over-inflate wait times at certain rides to get people to avoid them and move to other sections of the park. I assume that the opposite would also be true. This is certainly wouldn’t account for incorrect wait times all over the place, but I do believe from time to time it could throw a monkey wrench into things.