Saturday January 21, 2017
Predicted 4-Park Crowd Level: 6.
Predicted Combined 4-Park Average Wait Time: 115 minutes.
Actual 4-Park Crowd Level: 8.
Actual Combined 4-Park Average Wait Time: 148 minutes.
Weather: High of 82 and low of 63. No precipitation. A nice day with strong winds and rain predicted for the next day.
The crowd calendar predicted above average crowds over the weekend, but wait times were significantly higher than expected on Saturday. The main culprit is likely the tornado warning and promise of heavy wind and rain on Sunday pushing more people to visit on Saturday. Obviously, if you’re living in the area and your options are a sunny day or a day that you potentially risk death, the majority of people are going to go with the nice weather. But even though wait times were considerably higher, attendance was only about 8% higher than predicted. We can probably blame the higher waits on staffing levels that were too low to deal with the influx of people. Luckily, while the wait times at the non-recommended Parks were considerably higher than predicted, the 43-minute average wait at Hollywood Studios, the most-recommended Park, was only three minutes longer than predicted.
I’ve also seen a few questions about what the “Predicted 4-Park Average Wait Time” number means. If you look at the January 2017 crowd calendar and scroll down to any date, you’ll notice that each Park is assigned an average overall wait time for that day. That number is what I’m predicting the overall average wait time will be for a certain set of attractions over the course of the day. Combining the predicted averages for all four Parks nets us the combined average. Likewise, the Actual Combined 4-Park Average Wait Time does the same for the actual posted waits from that day. Those averages are the number in the lower right corner of each chart below. For example, the overall average for Animal Kingdom on 1/21/17 was 31 minutes.
Animal Kingdom wait times have been consistently longest on Saturdays for a couple of reasons – namely the higher overall crowd level that we typically see on weekends and the morning Extra Magic Hour attracting a lot of Disney resort guests that arrived in the middle of the week rather than the weekend. We were expecting a 22-minute average and ended up with 31 minutes, in part due to inadequate staffing and in part due to a lot more people than expected visiting. It’s not like there was actually 75 minutes worth of people in line at Kilimanjaro Safaris at 5:45pm if both loading areas are operating and all vehicles are on the road. But the Park was not recommended and the high wait times show why.
The website predicted 25 minutes at Epcot and got 31 minutes, in part due to about two hours of downtime at Test Track right off the bat pushing up wait times to 70+ minutes for most of the day. As I’ve mentioned before, attraction downtime increases standby waits as a similar number of FastPass+ users with priority are then returning into a shorter number of operating hours. That in turn pushes even more capacity to FastPass+, and few standby riders are admitted. Spaceship Earth also looks to be down for about four hours in the evening and while that doesn’t directly push wait times higher, the low evening waits at Spaceship Earth also don’t help reduce evening wait times. But this is otherwise about what we would expect given an above average crowd level.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the Hollywood Studios predicted average wait times have to account for considerable attraction downtime because it’s so common. And because there aren’t enough other attractions to help “even it out,” that downtime has a considerable impact on standby waits. The crowd calendar predicted 40 minutes and we ended up with 43 minutes, in large part due to downtime and capacity problems at Tower of Terror pushing up the wait there over 100 minutes for a few hours in the morning. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster also briefly sees downtime and capacity problems around 1pm, which pushes up wait times to 80+ minutes for much of the day. But Star Tours and The Great Movie Ride seeing reasonable waits is a good indication of average crowds and Toy Story Mania’s 44 minutes is just two minutes above average. It’s a doable day, though obviously the capacity problems cause some issues on the ground.
Magic Kingdom is actually going to be recommended on more Saturdays than you might expect moving forward, including most during spring break. This was not one of those Saturdays, but the 43-minute average is still considerably higher than the 28 minutes expected. This can be attributed directly to the expected storms on Sunday as few people want rain and wind in their Cinderella Castle family photos. Things are pretty rough as these wait times rival what are historically much busier holidays.
As always, weather is something to keep in mind. The worse it’s expected to be, the more you want to consider going to Magic Kingdom. And the more prepared you need to be for heavier crowds on the surrounding days with nice weather. We’ll see if Sunday, with the afternoon tornado warnings, proves to be much less crowded. I’m thinking it will.