Why such a difference in Crowd predictions

My friends and I are planning a trip to Magic Kingdom the first week of November and are thinking of booking November 4. Touring plans has the MK crowd level at 2 but some other sites have the level in the red. What should I do? Why would there be such a difference.

The first thing I’d check, Linda, is what each site’s numbers mean in terms of wait times. It’s possible that our “2” means “6” elsewhere. (For example, if we think a “2” is a 50-minute wait at Space Mountain at noon, another site might call that a “6”.)

Let me know what you find, please, and we’ll go from there. Thanks!

I have it figured out. The overall resort crowd is at a 5 but the busiest park will be MK so it is in red. Thank you. Just needed some additional research on my part.

Hi @len. Just went thru the entire month of October looking at predicted versus actual crowd levels, as we are going in December so wanted to see what was happening as a trend. In most cases- not all, but most- TP predictions were underestimating crowds by quite a bit. TP predictions were under a handful of times- and right on several times as well- but overall the actual crowd levels were much higher than predicted.

Just have a question around this observation. How does the software make adjustments going forward? In other words. for our December trip, will adjustments have been made based upon what you are seeing as current trends, or does everything remain status quo based upon historical information until after a given day has passed- thus providing additional statistics to be added into whatever equations you may be using? Thanks.

We take the differences into account, and the software should automatically adjust for future months.

Before we do that, though, we’re trying to pin down the cause of the higher wait times. I’m 100% sure it’s not because there are more people in the parks. (Attendance is up maybe 2 to 4%, or 1 to 2 thousand people, on an average day of around 52,000. You’d never detect it unless something else changed.)

We think it’s operational, and it’s only Disney (not Universal). We’re doing some investigative work in the parks, and should have a report out by the end of the month.


where can we follow to find your report?

Hi again @len. Will be very interested to see what you come up with. There is some speculation on other boards that the advance ability to make FPP+ for FL residents is somehow increasing wait times since they can make them from home and then just show up- which was different than the legacy FP system was- as you had to be onsite. There are other theories floating around as well- so if you guys can pin it down that would be great.

We are rope droppers, so on our ‘major’ touring days it won’t affect us too much- but we are also doing a couple of ‘sleep in’ days this trip and plan to hit some attractions on those days as well- so we will be slightly affected on those days since there was no FPP+ availability for the ‘left over’ attractions that we can’t fit into our itinerary on rope drop days. Please let the liner community know how we can follow your blog/report once it is posted- as I am sure many of us are curious. Thanks.

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Here’s what I’ve posted so far to the blog’s comment sections. This is probably a better forum for discussion though.

Before we change the crowd calendar, we need to finish up an analysis of where it’s gone wrong. Fred, Steve, Seth, and I are working on that now. Once it’s done, we’ll post something here and decide where to go.
Here’s what we know so far:

  1. Wait times are up at WDW and DL, but not Universal. Universal’s wait times seem to be down slightly, on average, even though attendance is up slightly. Uni told us they’ve made some improvements in how they dispatch rides, and this is why wait times are down.

  2. The number of people visiting the park in 2015 vs 2014, doesn’t even come close to explaining the increase in wait times.

Attendance at WDW is up around 2-4% year over year, depending on the park. To put that in perspective, it’s about 1,000 or 2,000 people more in the Magic Kingdom on an average day. Distributed over the all the shows and rides in the park, you’d never notice that small an increase.

  1. If you look at the MK wait times, though, they’re acting like it’s an additional 8-10,000 people visiting the park.

That’s a 20% increase over an average day, without opening any new lands or rides. That is extremely unlikely. I don’t know if a 20% year-over-year increase has ever happened at the MK. And in the middle of September, when school is in session? I would really doubt it.

The three theories we’re looking at now are:

  1. Disney has reduced capacity at the rides. This saves labor cost and maintenance cost, but increases wait times. That can lead to more dissatisfied guests, so the question is whether the cost savings are worth it. (It’s also useful if you want to justify a move to “surge” pricing. Just sayin’.) We’re counting the number of people riding the rides now versus last year, to see if this is happening. It takes a while to collect these numbers.

  2. There have been changes to Fastpass+ allocation or use. It’s possible that Disney (or guests) have increased use of FP+, which would drive up standby times. We’re checking the advance and day-of availability to see whether the supply has increased or decreased. It’s also possible to check the standby wait time and # of people in line, to see if the Fastpass-to-Standby guest allocation has changed, and we’re looking at that too.

  3. The posted waits are artificially inflated to make the park look more crowded. We have tens of thousands of posted and actual wait times, dating back years, and this is what we’re using for the comparison. That should be done in a few days.

I think it’s safe to say at this point, that the cause of the increased wait times is a change Disney made to its park operations. We just need to finish up the math to make the case.

Once that’s done, and we know what Disney’s model is going forward, we’ll adjust the calendar.


Also this:

We had Seth in the MK yesterday to count people in line and gather FP info.

It looks like Disney hasn’t significantly changed the ratio of FP guests to standby. A few years ago, ride CMs were instructed to give 80% of the ride’s capacity to FP guests as a starting point, and increase it to 90% if the line got really long.

We checked with CMs yesterday at Pooh, Princess Fairtytale Hall, Jungle Cruise, Buzz, and Peter Pan, and they said they were running 80%.

CMs at Space Mountain and Small World said “we can’t tell you,” but we counted the number of people in line to figure it out. Small World was running 90% and Space Mountain 85%.

At least in the Magic Kingdom, then, it doesn’t look like Disney has started giving more preference to FP+ users versus a few years ago.


I really appreciate the time that you guys put in. Not just to the research for the guide, but also in taking a few minutes to explain the process to all of us.


Could one explanation be that Disney is forcing longer wait times to drive more guests to FP - which would result in more guest tracking/analysis?

Although wait times have increased I think what is frustrating us is the overall crowds. It is one thing to get to an attraction and have to wait in a 40 minute line when you used to have a 10 minute wait, it is another thing when you cannot walk anywhere in a park since there are so many people you can barely inch forward! I think this issue has been building for quite some time.

Thanks for the update @len. You guys are great. I have been using the UG since the early days- back when it was like a couple hundred pages and could fit in the back pocket of your jeans. I was on the Disboards back when you used to post there somewhat often- so am an ‘oldtimer’. Am feeling confident you will figure out what is going on with stats to back it up- and am excited to see what it is. Willing to bet it comes down to attraction capacity- and that Disney is trying to tweak this to make an extra buck while ‘testing’ guest tolerance for longer lines.

Many of the other boards have had threads going on about the issue- threads have come and gone several times- and now they are back. The Dis has latched on to your blog and people are throwing out all kinds of guesses- so it will be nice to see what the data says. I am kind of spoiled- since we are rope droppers, do split mornings at most parks, use touring plans, and go at slow times of year- I have never stood in a line longer than several minutes in 27 trips to WDW- ever (one time we stood in a 20-25 minute line because the boys wanted to drive the cars a second time in a row at Tomorrowland). I hope my streak holds for number 28 in early December.

EDIT: Just saw your post there, so you are aware of the thread. The post of your discussion with Jim Hill (#76) might have some merit. Guest satisfaction OVERALL could be up because many more people take advantage of FP+, so Disney may be thinking they can reduce attraction capacities elsewhere since many more people are getting on at least 3 attractions a day fairly quickly. There is probably a ‘magic number’ of attractions in a given day- so if a family finishes like 7 of them- as an example- that they feel they got their ‘money’s worth’. I know Disney has done quite a few surveys over the years- maybe they have pinpointed this ‘magic number’- and when you add in three FP+s per day an average family can achieve the magic number with additional waits in standby lines.

Thanks @Happy_2_B! I appreciate the support, and I know the team does too.

I’m following along with the Disboards thread. It’s interesting to read the theories. It’s entertaining to read the crazy stuff.

I appreciate you guys as well- @len. A bit off topic, but just yesterday a newbie was trying to figure out whether to use easywdw or touringplans. As part of my post as an argument for you guys- I told her my story about picking up the 2016 UG when it came out- and that I read your paragraph in the book about the rumors floating around regarding a second price increase this year. We immediately purchased our APs for this trip- then a month later the prices went up. You guys have saved me so much time and money over the years that it is truly amazing. Just that one paragraph regarding price increases saved me hundreds of dollars. Keep up the great work- I think your team is just awesome!

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I too LOVE TP!!! and thank you and all your staff for all of the work you put into helping us have an amazing Disney vacation! We have a trip coming up in 27 days and I understand that the TP team is looking over the crowd levels and there could be some changes in the CL. Not trying to rush you @len, but is there any time frame that you can give that we should expect November updates to the crowd calendars? We are hoping to be able to pre-plan any changes, if needed. Thank you again!

We have been to WDW for 5 years straight in October and have watched the changes happen. We couldn’t have enjoyed our days at the park without TP and I am thankful for you every day we are there. Our thanksgiving is always while we are there and we toast you and your crew @len. I work with data and love listening reading about all that you are analyzing. Geeks me out.
Look forward to the findings!!


Thanks @spoerlx3. Fred is saying before the end of October. So late next week.


Thanks . Trip in 27 days looking forward to more info

thank you @len. That should give me plenty of time to use that “optimize” button :+1:
oh how I pray :pray: that our dates crowd level & wait times don’t change too much. But we all know that a great Touring Plan is the key to a wonderful day at the park! :blush:
@burfe1501 looks like we will be there at the same time! 26 days from today for us today! Have a great trip! Thank you and your team, again, for all you do to help us all have a magical trip!