How To Use Historical Crowd Levels To Plan Your Next Trip

by Fred Hazelton, contributing writer

Since 2006, has collected daily wait times from attractions at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Disneyland Resort in California and Universal Orlando Resort. That means that if you have travelled to these parks since 2006 you can access our historical database of Crowd Levels to see how we rated the crowds when you visited. Unto itself that may not be very interesting, but if you are planning your next trip it may help a lot if you know how to use it—and how NOT to use it.

Knowing how crowded it was on your last visit will help you manage expectations of what the next trip might feel like. As much as we emphasize the numbers, crowdedness is a matter of perspective. Ask someone who has only visited during Christmas time and they may tell you that Easter crowds were light. If you know what the crowd levels were on your last trip you will get a better perspective on what the crowds levels on your next trip might feel like.

Another tempting way to use the historic crowd levels when planning your next trip is to see what the crowd levels were during the same time period in past years. However, using a straight comparison based on calendar dates can be tricky. Here are some examples.

Suppose we plan to take the family to Walt Disney World March 1-8, 2016. Here are the crowd levels observed between March 1-8, 2015, the same dates the previous year.

A chart shows the crowd levels for the Walt Disney World theme parks from March 1 to 8, 2015. Chart by TouringPlans.

Notice however that these dates in 2015 represent a Sunday to Sunday span, but our trip in 2016 will be from one Tuesday to the following Tuesday. Day of the week is a signifcant factor in determing what the crowd levels will be, so we need to shift our comparison dates a little. Instead, we need to compare with March 3-10, 2015.

Crowd levels from March 3-10, 2015 are more comparable to the 2016 dates based on days of the week. Chart by TouringPlans.

It gets more confusing if our travel dates involve a holiday. Suppose we are planning a trip for April 1-8, 2016 (Friday to Friday). The nearest comparable week in 2015 would be April 3-10, but those dates coincide with Easter in 2015.

The April dates from 2015 reflect higher crowds around the Easter holiday. Chart by TouringPlans.

A better comparison for our April 1-8, 2016 trip would come from thinking of the dates in relation to Easter. In 2016, Easter Sunday falls on March 27 so let's think of our travel dates as the week beginning the Friday after Easter. So, our comparison dates from 2015 would be April 10-17.

Adjusting comparison dates around holidays provides a better picture of potential crowd levels. Chart by TouringPlans.

Beware that comparing dates in this way can be a little dangerous. There are many factors at play that can affect the crowd levels when we try to compare dates involving holidays; school schedules, park operating schedules, weather, and even overall economic and travel trends will all factor into crowd levels. The Crowd Calendar takes all this into account when it predicts crowd levels in the future so your best bet is to look at the crowd level projections and let us do the work. However, if you have travelled to the parks in the past, using the historical crowd level database can help prepare you for what you will see on your next trip.