January 1, 2017 Disney World Wait Times Review and a Brief Introduction to Crowd Calendar 2.1

This post covers Disney World wait times from January 1st and briefly discusses some of the changes to the crowd calendars for 2017.

Sunday January 1

Predicted 4-Park Crowd Level: 8.

Predicted 4-Park Average Wait Time: 150 minutes.

Actual 4 Park Crowd Level: 8.

Actual 4-Park Average Wait Time: 147 minutes.

Weather: High of 80 and low of 55. No precipitation. A nice day.

I think we’ll pick back up with the daily reviews of posted Walt Disney World wait times. Since I create the charts to see how things are progressing anyway, it should only take a few minutes to post the charts and offer some commentary on what actually happened. You’re in business if you’re wondering what crowds are looking like leading up to your trip or just wondering what the wait time was for Toy Story Mania at 9:45am on the day prior. As always, you can follow along with wait times in real time at www.easywdw.com/waits.

One of the key features of the new version of the crowd calendar is an estimated overall average wait time for each Park on each day.

Here is part of the entry for January 1st, for example:

So instead of just offering up that a Park is going to be a “6” or an “8,” we can get a better idea about how much wait times differ from day to day and potentially whether it makes sense to avoid a Park when it’s “Not Explicitly Recommended,” but the crowd level is also low. In some cases, Magic Kingdom’s wait time may be significantly higher on a non-recommended day even if the crowd level is “just” a “2” or “3.” Other times, the expected wait times may be similar.

Another change is that I offer advice to both on-site and off-site guests when a Park is hosting Extra Magic Hours. The fact is that the Extra Magic Hours schedule is no longer a substantial driver of crowds in the FastPass+ era. And if you are eligible for Extra Magic Hours, there are circumstances where you may want to take advantage of them if you are able. And there are other times where you probably do want to avoid them. The advice and the expected wait times should offer some clarity.

Otherwise, the crowd calendar image should look similar to past entries:

As usual, the Parks are listed from “Most Recommended” on the left to “Least Recommended” on the right. Read the top of the January 2017 crowd calendar here if you’re unfamiliar with what the various numbers and letters mean.

The recommendations are based on a balance between expected wait times and expected attendance. One of the reasons for the pause in crowd calendars was that lower attendance doesn’t necessarily translate to lower wait times anymore. As Disney decreases staffing, the number of operating ride vehicles, entertainment offerings, the number of shows per day, etc. on days that it expects to be less crowded, you can reasonably expect to wait longer in line even when there are fewer people in front of you on certain days. The crowd calendar attempts to take this into consideration, which is why you will occasionally see Parks recommended on days that it historically would not.

Magic Kingdom’s recommendation on Saturday January 28th is a good example:

With the long operating hours, waits from 8am-11am will be shorter than 9am-12pm on surrounding days and the waits after 10pm should end up being among the shortest of the week. If you can take advantage of either of those time frames, you’ll be better off than trying to take on what would historically be deemed “a better day.”

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/january_2016_disney_world_wait_times.jpg

Quite a bit of “data” goes into these predictions. Above is one of the more important spreadsheets I use. For each Park on each day throughout January 2016, we have the “MA” which is “Overall Average Wait.” That’s an average of the wait times at a specific set of attractions over the course of the day. That number is followed by the “OH,” which is the number of hours the Park operated that day. That is then followed by “EMH” where applicable, which identifies it as offering morning or evening Extra Magic Hours on that particular day. There’s also a column to list reasons why the wait times might be skewed on a particular day, which usually goes to key attraction downtime.

This chart otherwise offers a good look at what wait times looked like last year, in addition to uncovering some patterns in crowd flow from day to day, week to week, and month to month. So the numbers you see for “predicted wait times” aren’t exactly pulled out of a hat. They’re based on past years and forward looking expectations.

Moving on to January 1st, we were expecting:

Heavy holiday crowds continue into the New Year though with most schools resuming January 3rd, this should be most guests’ last or second to last day. With many out late the night before, any Park works today provided you arrive prior to Park opening and tour efficiently. Now that Holidays Around the World are over, Epcot makes the most sense with Hollywood Studios also seeing low morning crowds. Things will pick up with above average wait times after 11am. Those just arriving will only find lower crowds later in the week with a dramatic drop at Magic Kingdom beginning Tuesday.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/animal_kingdom_wait_times_010117.jpg

High wait times from 2pm onward here are surprising and push the overall wait time up considerably, perhaps due to reduced staffing. You might be familiar with the fact that waits at Animal Kingdom ordinarily drop after 5pm, but we certainly don’t see that here. Still, the morning is a great time to tour with Kilimanjaro Safaris posting a 10-minute wait through noon and Everest still posted at 15 minutes at 10am. But the 90-minute wait at Primeval Whirl at 6:30pm and the 90+ minute waits at DINOSAUR and Safaris near close are virtually unprecedented, as is the 120-minute wait at Everest at 3:30pm.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/epcot_wait_times_010117.jpg

Epcot did end up making the most sense with what are largely average wait times. Soarin’ posts a 10-minute wait through 10am and Test Track doesn’t reach anything above its default of 30 minutes until the same time.  A very good day overall. As an aside, I don’t think I’ll be including Frozen in the wait time analysis because it’s so prone to go down and that downtime can cause serious increases in posted waits. In other words, wait times at Epcot’s newest ride are not really indicative of crowds or how many people are in line.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/epcot_wait_times_010117.jpg

The Studios’ 47-minute wait time is more in line with the 50 minutes that we were expecting. As with the other Parks, things start out auspiciously enough, but waits pick up considerably around 2pm. The high wait times at Tower of Terror are likely due to capacity being unexpectedly cut and high wait times posted to scare off standby visitors so Disney can move as many FP+ users as possible through just one set of elevators. You can really get a good idea about how much the third track at Toy Story Mania has helped as well as see how far wait times drop there during Fantasmic and the Star Wars fireworks. If you love the ride, plan to be in Pixar Place during the last hour of operation.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/epcot_wait_times_010117.jpg

Magic Kingdom came with a tentative recommendion, which might have been surprising. But the day saw significantly shorter waits than either of the two days preceding it and the actual overall wait came in five minutes lower than expected. The 35-minute average should be around a “7” compared to the rest of 2017.

With better accountability and what I think is now a superior method of conveying crowd levels and wait times, we’ll see how things progress over the coming months. Accuracy should only be improved…at least until everything changes again.

Comments

  1. Robyn B says

    oh good! I am excited to have a chance to complain when the wait times are wrong. ;-). Just kidding, thank you for providing these again.

  2. Ava says

    Yay, crowd calendars are back! Excited to be able to use it to help plan my August trip. I really appreciate the addition of predicted average wait times; that’s a much more tangible gauge than the 1-10 crowd level ranking, imo. Thank you for all the work you do to make our trips better, Josh!

  3. mlm says

    Awesome info as always. Interested to see what your data review days about Studios today (2 Jan). It was pretty busy… I’d give it an 8, but curious to see what your data says. Thanks!!!

  4. Mel says

    You’ve got it down to a science! Thanks for elucidating!

    I hope to come across you in the parks during my January visit, where I will happily treat you to a well deserved drink! To collect, be on the lookout for a red head with a 7 yr-old in tow and a shorter, dark-haired spouse.

    Not saying this in a creepy-stalker kind of way, lol!

  5. Carrie says

    Wow, just wow! Once again, thanks so much for all of the work you put into the crowd calendars. We rely on them heavily when planning. We actually have a trip 1 week from today and I was happy to see that your new calendar matches up with our plans. All of your previous advice must have finally sunk in!! Really, I just can’t say enough how awesome these calendars and this site is. Bravo!!!

  6. DisneyJohn says

    I am so glad you have decided to bring the calendars back. They are a great aid to planning our trips to WDW. Thank you for all that you do and your great site. I hope that you will be blessed throughout the year.

    I recently purchased two copies of the book you co-wrote and I would highly recommend it to anyone who plans on going to Walt Disney World.
    Along with your blog it is a great and wonderful tool for planning.

  7. Chris says

    This is such good stuff Josh!!! As far as I’m concerned your ability to do this type of work and relay it to us is at the very core of what easywdw is all about.

  8. Leanne Benfield says

    You’re like an angel from above! I missed these so much and appreciate your hard work and accurate information:) Cheers to 2017

  9. Wendy says

    Thank God!! My heart sank when I thought they were gone for good! We use your calendars religiously!!!! Thank you for all of your hard work!!! Our trips would not be half as enjoyable if we didn’t have these to help us plan!

  10. Cindy says

    I’m very excited to see the calendar back. We are working on making adjustments to our February 2017 trip. I’m trying not to be anxious, but do you know when February will be posted? thank you so much!

  11. Lance says

    Ditto.

    We winged it (using info from your book, just without the calendars) for our trip in a couple of weeks. We were overjoyed to see that we picked exactly the right parks for four of our days, acceptable for two, and not recommended parks on just two days. We knew our last day shouldn’t be a Magic Kingdom day, but we always end with MK and accept the consequences. With Fastpasses scheduled over two weeks ago we don’t dare change things now, but we can live with our choices at this point.

    Thanks so much, Josh!

  12. Ashley R. says

    So happy to see the crowd calendars come back! I just started planning my June trip about a month ago and was so saddened to see them gone when I went looking on the site. I look forward to using them so much. You always have the best recommendations! How far in advance to plan on posting the calendars? I know you used to do them months in advance but I’m assuming that’s not so easy with all the changes. Can’t wait until June rolls around. Thanks again!

  13. Dan Murphy says

    Thanks for the crowd calendars return, JOsh, and all you do here. And Happy New Year.
    For clarification, am I understanding correctly that the Expected Average Wait is the composite average wait time for a group of the more popular (and wait time intensive) attractions?

  14. Happy Daddy says

    Josh, I know how much work it is to get this daily data posted. Telling a compelling story with data is not easy. But I can’t tell you how much I sincerely appreciate it. You distinguish yourself from other writers by doing this, and it only helps your personal brand.

  15. Dawn says

    I admit I started to read through this post when you first put it up, I got to the average wait time difference between 25 and 35 minutes and read that the 35 minute park was Most Recommended, decided that I really needed to READ this and put it aside. Finally got a chance to really dig in and I am impressed (of course) with both your research and your reasoning…your data compilation is astounding (as usual). I am very very grateful for the crowd calendars that put it all into layman’s terms!! Thank you so very much.

  16. Melissa says

    Awesome! How far in advance do you think you’ll post them for other months? In time for booking dining?

    I so appreciate the guidance!

  17. Ann says

    Amazing, glad they are back. We are going the last week of March and first week of April. How far out do you thing they will be posted now?

  18. Krista says

    New calendar and estimates look wonderful! Thank you so much. Do you know when you think you will have new ones posted? I always use your calendar to book dinning. We go in Oct/Nov

  19. Kristyn says

    We went to MK on new years day very last minute and I was expecting it to be bad. All of our trips have been in september so I warned him this will be high level crowds. He was in shock but I was like ohh it’s better than I thought. There was one point in the day ASTRO orbiter was 100 min. BUT thanks to everything I have learned from you we got to MK as soon as we could. Was trying for rope drop but alas NYE late night made it tough to wake up especially with a 2 year old. Got there at 9:30 and followed your plan. We managed to do almost everything we wanted. This was our first trip with the little so I devalued how much extra time is taken up doing child swap. I think we could have done everything if we would have made rope drop or stayed till close.

    Thank you so much for all you do!

  20. Demian says

    Hi Josh!
    Glad as everyone tne calendars are back!!
    Travelling in April, need the calendar soon as to make FP+ selections!!!
    Thank you so much, you were tremendously helpfull to aur previous travels. Grretings from Argentina!

  21. revral says

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And did I say THANK YOU? So glad, ecstatic, relieved, happy, thrilled, tickled etc. that you’re back to doing crowd calendars.

  22. Cathy says

    Just got back from what we thought was a very crowded week at DW. We followed the calendar and Josh’s daily touring plans and we got to do everything we wanted and then some. We only go every few years so we feel like we have to do everything at each park and we did, even though we were completely worn out. We were at each park by 8am and stayed until close. We got to ride all the headliners at rope drop without FP plus. Our dates were January 3-6 in the parks and I will say that MK on Jan 5 “felt” the most crowded. Again many thanks to Josh for our successful trip.

  23. Sharon Lewis says

    Thank you for doing these crowd calendars. Travelling from the uk our expensive trips are about every 2 -3 years and it makes a whole lot of difference if we don’t spend half our holiday (vacation) stuck in a queue (line!). Even though us English are famed for liking to wait in a queue, at approx $10,000 a trip it’s a lot of money to stand around doing nothing.

  24. Jan says

    So happy the calendars are back! We have always used them to plan our trips! Here’s hoping you are able to post them several months out…I love having them in advance to use when making my dinning reservation .

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