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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.