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WDW Crowd Talk

Bill in Atlanta

Well-Known Member
We were just in WDW last week, and even though the Touringplans.com crowd estimates were 2's, 3's, and 4's, the actual crowds were 5's, 6's, and 7's. That unexpected bump, coupled with parks closing at 8pm, made things a little tougher than we anticipated.

Is September a more reliably less crowded time to go?

Is there another time of year that the parks stay open late, but it's still not overly crowded?
 

JIMINYCR

Well-Known Member
September has gotten buzier than it used to be, but you may find crowds somewhat less. The weather can also be less favorable for you in Sept.
There really is no overly crowded month anymore due to Disney festivals, marathons, events, dining promotions, and new attractions drawing guests in.
 
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Bill in Atlanta

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Yeah, good points. I almost wonder if it's better to go when crowds are "moderate" but the parks stay open late, instead of going when crowds are "light" but parks close early.
 
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LeighM

Well-Known Member
The crowds have been heavy the end of September and early October, the time we've been going the last couple of years. Probably due to the Halloween party and the Food and Wine Festival. Also, in 2016, our trip was impacted by Hurricane Matthew, which was an interesting experience. Our least crowded trip was actually the first week of March. It was after President's Day weekend but before spring break. The Flower and Garden was just getting started so that wasn't bringing in huge crowds yet. The weather was sometimes on the chilly side and the parks closed earlier but we found with less humidity and fewer crowds, we were able to get more done. It was, by far, our favorite trip.
 
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jimbojones

Well-Known Member
From these forums and elsewhere my impression is that crowds are far less predictable but that there still are some days where the crowds are small, they are just not following "low" season patterns anymore
 
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Weather_Lady

Well-Known Member
Part of the issue is that Disney now changes staffing and hours to respond to changes in anticipated crowds -- meaning that even if you visit during a time with fewer people, that's not going to translate into an easier experience or one with shorter wait times, because WDW will reduce park hours, staffing, transportation options and ride capacity accordingly. You'll still find random days when Disney didn't anticipate the crowds correctly, but it's more a matter of luck rather than traveling at just the right time. (Although obviously you still want to avoid major holidays, etc.)

Also, if you're relying on touringplans' determinations of in-park crowds, keep in mind that those numbers are not based on the actual number of people in the park, but on the observed wait times for certain key attractions. (For more information: https://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/crowd-calendar/faq) Because Disney's recent staffing cuts have resulted in higher wait times in general and touringplans generally takes a "wait and see" approach to such changes before modifying its calculations, its estimates are probably going to be a little on the low side for awhile. Still, nothing a good touring plan can't overcome.
 
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MickeyMomV

Well-Known Member
This confuses me a bit. First of all higher traffic is not unexpected. There are probably hundreds of threads on here where people have been saying the crowds have been increasing on a steady rate for the past couple of years and that the days of 2's, 3's, and 4's are pretty much done. You may stumble on a rare lighter day but it probably won't be on a crowd calendar, it will just happen. The 8pm closings are nothing new. In fact they have been this way at this time of year for the past couple of years. Everything comes down to planning your trip out. Forget the crowd calendars, just pick a time that is good for your calendar. Then plan out your trip, do your fast passes, make your dining reservations, and most importantly be flexible. If you prepare for things to be busy you will be pleasantly surprised if you score a day where traffic is light.
 
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Rumrunner

Well-Known Member
We were just in WDW last week, and even though the Touringplans.com crowd estimates were 2's, 3's, and 4's, the actual crowds were 5's, 6's, and 7's. That unexpected bump, coupled with parks closing at 8pm, made things a little tougher than we anticipated.

Is September a more reliably less crowded time to go?

Is there another time of year that the parks stay open late, but it's still not overly crowded?
8:00 closing by Disney is a rip off. They should be ashamed to treat the patrons that poorly.
 
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OneofThree

Well-Known Member
This confuses me a bit. First of all higher traffic is not unexpected. There are probably hundreds of threads on here where people have been saying the crowds have been increasing on a steady rate for the past couple of years and that the days of 2's, 3's, and 4's are pretty much done.

Truth. As a resident, I can assure you that the crowd calendars are terribly inaccurate these days. You could probably just apply a factor of 2, across the board.
 
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Jae99

Well-Known Member
The parks are making tons of money for Disney and closing them down at 8:00 is a rip off. Maybe not so much for people that can frequently go to Disney but for many of us it a 2500 mile round trip. Our chances to go are limited. Closing that early is clearly disgusting.
If you want longer park hours, then go at a time of year when the parks are open longer. Unfortunately for us Disney is in the business of making money. You could always choose to spend your money somewhere else in Orlando, but even Universal closes early this time of year.
 
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John park hopper

Well-Known Member
I tend to look at things on how much it costs per hour, so lets say MK tickets cost $125 and the park opens at 8am and closes at 6pm that $12.50/hr. Now, if I have to stand in line anywhere from 1-3 hours for e-ticket attractions because of crowds that's time I am not seeing the rest of the park --wasted time to me. That wait time adds to the cost per hr to me. The longer I have to wait the more it costs me to ride 5 min attractions. The earlier they close the parks it costs me more per hr (while they raise the price of park tickets annually). Is it a rip off? From my perspective it is but it is a business and they can do what they want. It's my choice to participate or not
 
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TXDisney

Well-Known Member
I still enerLly go in what was “down” times at WDW. But these down times are quite a bit more crowded than they were 5+yrs ago. Not sure if it’s bc people research when is down season or if it’s just that WDW is quite a bit more popular now. Could be both. Either way it’s still if you go in these down times still less crowded than busy times. My answer has been to go more often therefor I don’t mind not doing everything each trip. For instance I’m going in mid April but only doing Epcot for 3 days.
 
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DarthVader

Sith Lord
I've come to the opinion that if you expect to see high crowds, regardless of when you go, you'll not be disappointed. As the saying goes, there is no slow period any more.

I'm preparing my kids and myself for a crowded park for our next trip. I spaced out the fast passes a little further then I have in the past, just because I think it will be slow going
 
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dreamfinder

Well-Known Member
Did you read this post on TouringPlans blog? -> https://blog.touringplans.com/2018/02/12/crowd-calendar-4-1/ Explains how they have made their most recent adjustments, and one of their theories behind why they lines are still so long. TouringPlans and @lentesta are pretty transparent about when things change, and how they get their numbers. As you can see from other posts like this -> https://blog.touringplans.com/2017/01/23/wdw-2017cc-changes/ they try to keep the crowd levels on a bell curve-ish distribution. So every 1 has a corresponding 10, etc. So their estimates will shift, but you won't end up with a calendar that is all 10s.

Slower is all relative now. Through various festivals and other events, WDW is doing a good job of helping to attract visitors in what had been a slower time. (Or simply offsetting slower crowds by staffing less) TouringPlans constantly updates as needed, but if WDW suddenly decides to staff at lower levels, they can't predict that in advance and have to adjust after the fact to help anticipate the future.
 
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lentesta

Well-Known Member
Did you read this post on TouringPlans blog? -> https://blog.touringplans.com/2018/02/12/crowd-calendar-4-1/ Explains how they have made their most recent adjustments, and one of their theories behind why they lines are still so long. TouringPlans and @lentesta are pretty transparent about when things change, and how they get their numbers. As you can see from other posts like this -> https://blog.touringplans.com/2017/01/23/wdw-2017cc-changes/ they try to keep the crowd levels on a bell curve-ish distribution. So every 1 has a corresponding 10, etc. So their estimates will shift, but you won't end up with a calendar that is all 10s.

Slower is all relative now. Through various festivals and other events, WDW is doing a good job of helping to attract visitors in what had been a slower time. (Or simply offsetting slower crowds by staffing less) TouringPlans constantly updates as needed, but if WDW suddenly decides to staff at lower levels, they can't predict that in advance and have to adjust after the fact to help anticipate the future.

Thanks for this.

For reference, here are some numbers around our 1-to-10 crowd calendar for all 365 days in 2017 for Orlando parks. I'll use them below to talk about what we're seeing in 2018:
  • Our predictions were within 1.19 for the Magic Kingdom
  • 1.12 for Epcot
  • 1.09 for DHS
  • 1.35 for AK
  • 0.95 for Universal Studios Orlando
  • 1.10 for IOA
Those numbers include days affected by hurricanes and other weather. each 1-point increment on our crowd level scale translates to a range of about 10 or 15 minutes in wait times at Space Mountain, 5 or 10 minutes at Pirates, and so on. So +/-1 at Space would be within +/-25 minutes worst case, +/-20 at Pirates.

Because Disney's posted wait times aren't perfectly accurate, I don't think it's possible yet to make predictions more accurate than about +/- 1.0 on our scale.

Still, based on those numbers for all of 2017, it seems like it's definitely possible to predict crowds to a level of accuracy that lots of people find useful, over a long period of time.

I don't think we forgot how to make predictions on January 1, 2018 - I think something changed.

If we look at our 2018 results so far, we see this:
  • Magic Kingdom: +/- 1.27 Friday to Sunday and +/- 2.38 Mon-Thu
  • Epcot: +/-1.22 Fri-Sun, +/- 1.92 Mon-Thu
  • DHS: +/- 0.54 Fri-Sun, +/- 1.58 Mon-Thu
  • AK: +/-1.9 Fri-Sun, +/- 3.0 Mon-Thu
So 2018 weekend predictions are just slightly worse than 2017 at MK, EP, and DHS (AK is Pandora).

Weekday predictions are doing much worse. Why?

Keep in mind that 95% of public schools are in session in January. But January's crowd levels were slightly higher than any 30-day period over summer 2017, when 95% of public schools were not in session.

One theory is that parents are taking their kids out of school to visit WDW. But how likely is it that tends of thousands of parents decided - independently - that school was important all the way through 2017, but not as important starting January 1?

Maybe it's childless adults. There would have to be a whole lot more of them deciding a WDW vacation (in January) was for them, and I don't see a marketing campaign or any external reason for them to do that.

We don't think it's foreign tourists - tourism to the U.S. was down substantially through 3Q2017.

It could be residual vacations from September's hurricane. I think most large employers would not have carried over vacation days from 2017, but it's possible for smaller companies.

It could be the economy. As I said earlier, we haven't seen one this strong since we started collecting data. It's possible the models haven't picked up on that importance. But why January 2018 versus 4Q2017?

My personal theory is that Disney's cutting weekday ride capacity. Instead of staffing the rides so you could see a 10-minute wait at Space Mountain in January, they're running it so you see 30. I could be wrong. We're going to count riders for a month or so to see what we find.

If I put on my tinfoil hat, I note that if you want to raise prices by switching to seasonal pricing for multi-day tickets AND you control what the wait times are like at the rides, you can achieve any outcome you want. But I'm going to assume we're wrong first, then we'll look at that.
 
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