How Posted Wait Times Compare To Your Actual Wait In Lineby Fred Hazelton, contributing writer
Most Walt Disney World attractions have a sign posted near the entrance to give the guest an idea of how long to expect to wait in line. But if you are like me and my other collegues at TouringPlans.com, you wonder:
"Does that sign really represent how long I can expect to wait? Maybe it will be less than that—or could it be longer?"
Disney park veterans will tell you that the posted time is likely to be an overestimate of how long you will actually wait—and we agree. However, you may be surprised to learn how much of an overestimate that posted wait time can be.
Since 2009, we have collected about 2 million pairs of wait times, with each pair representing a posted time and the actual time it took to get to the front of the line. It turns out that on average, the time you are likely to wait will be a little less than two-thirds (65 percent) of the time posted outside the attraction. So if the posted wait time is 15 minutes, chances are, your actual wait will about 10.
The ratio between posted wait time and actual wait time can change depending on the value of the posted time itself. That is, the higher the posted time, the more likely you will wait much less than two-thirds. So if the posted wait time says "180 minutes," chances are you will only wait about 100, which works out to 55 percent. In fact, we have seen on certain occasions when the posted time reached 260 minutes but it actually only took 50 minutes!
It makes sense that the posted wait time would be an overestimate. We can think of several reasons to do this:
- The posted time includes a buffer in case the ride is delayed for maintenance or safety
- Guests are less likely to be dissatisfied if the wait is shorter than they expected
- Longer wait times encourage guests to experience other attractions and return later or to use Fastpass+
- Near the end of the day, a high posted time may discourage guests from entering, thus helping with a quicker shut down at park closing
Knowing that the posted wait time may be inflated will help when planning out your day or choosing what to experience when walking the parks.
Also, know that the difference between the actual time you will wait and what is posted on the sign may depend on the attraction. "Cycle rides" like Mad Tea Party, Dumbo, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and Triceratop Spin tend to have posted wait times higher than you can expect to actually wait. So do attractions with high average wait times like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Meet Tinker Bell. Meanwhile, continuous show-type attractions like Country Bear Jamboree, Ellen's Energy Adventure, and Muppetvision 3D have very predictable wait times so the sign out front is more likely to be accurate. You can see estimates of how long you can expect to wait any time of day over the next year on Touringplans.com wait time pages.
Did you notice how the two versions of Mission: Space appear at the extreme ends of our comparison? Mission: Space Orange (the more intense version) tends to post a large overestimate of the wait time, while Mission: Space Green actually has a longer wait than its posted time, on average. I think this is to discourage guests from choosing the more intense option just because the wait is shorter. Or as one guest put it:
I'd rather lose a bit of time out of my day than to lose my lunch—so to speak.