Hey everybody, there’s a new itinerary out for arrivals 8/31 through 10/26/2019. You can find it here.

By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

Category — zz. Even Geekier than Usual

Updated 2019 Disney World Crowd Forecasts and Week Rankings

I’ve just revised my 2019 Disney World Crowd Calendar,  and–because crowds are a big part of it–also my 2019 Disney World week rankings.

These revisions were based on two things—the partial opening of Star Wars on August 29, and my new information on actual 2019 fall breaks.

Weeks affected by forecast crowd level changes were those starting 8/24/19 (the week of the partial opening) through 10/26/19. The opening date for the rest of Galaxy’s Edge, once announced, may require me to revise the later among these, and the later weeks of 2019, yet another time.

The basic approach I take to crowd forecasting is Bayesian:

  • I use my knowledge of how crowds have varied over the course of the year to set my priors—I’ve been doing this for a decade now, so have a pretty good set of priors.
  • I then gather new, relevant, future-oriented information, apply judgment and parallel examples to it, and then as needed revise my priors.

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April 22, 2019   No Comments

Analytic Calendar of 2019 Disney World Ticket Prices

I’ve color coded the start dates of the various base ticket lengths in Disney World’s new date-based ticket pricing system to indicate less and more expensive ticket dates in 2019, beginning in April and compared to available prices the rest of 2019.  The prices I show are pre-tax, per ticket day, and rounded to the nearest dollar.

In what follows, basically

  • The more and the darker the green, the better
  • The more and the darker the red, the worse.

Dates with black text on a white background are everything else–you can think of them as “typical” or “average.” The technical details on how I color coded are at the end of the post.



April ticket prices peak for the popular spring break periods before and after Easter, and for the longer ticket lengths are red most of the month.

The first half of May shows much lower prices, and then prices start going up to cover the Memorial Day weekend, then go down to average levels after.



June ticket prices are largely average. July sees some higher prices for shorter tickets keyed to the Fourth of July, then a mix of average and slightly lower prices the rest of the month.



The first week of August has average ticket prices, then lower prices become more dominant.  September is filled with lower prices until late in the month.



Except for the very shortest ticket lengths, which bounce around, October sees almost entirely average ticket prices.



Early November sees some curious higher ticket prices in the shorter tickets. After that, prices are largely average until they go up for Thanksgiving.

The first third of December has largely average prices, and then ticket prices start going up for the holidays, hitting their highest levels of the year in the last third of the month.


  • The lowest of the 9 months April-December for that ticket length have green fill and bolded black text
  • Ticket prices approximately in the bottom 10% have green fill and black text
  • Ticket prices approximately in the next lowest 10% have a lighter green fill and black text
  • The next approximately 10% of higher price level dates has white fill and green text
  • Dates with prices approximately in the 70th to 80th percentile have white fill and red text
  • Prices approximately in the 80th to 90th percentile have a light red fill and black text
  • Prices  in roughly the top 10% for the year have a darker red fill and black text
  • The highest price of the year for that ticket type has darker red fill and bold black text
  • Every other price in between has black text and white fill.

Note that all my work is based on the rounded prices Disney published and are pre-tax. As a result, the “10%” breaks are not exact.


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October 23, 2018   6 Comments

Updated Disney World 2019 Price Seasons

Yesterday I published my updated material on Walt Disney World resort prices in 2019, based on my sampling (and analysis) of more than 3,200 individual hotel/date/price combinations.

The purpose of this site is to help people make better choices in their Disney World vacations, either from direct advice or from providing the facts and letting people make their own decision from them.

Disney resort hotel prices matter because the exact same room can cost 75% more depending on what nights you stay in it.

To help guide people around this without getting into the more than 30,000 individual pieces of data, my 2019 Disney World price seasons material first is a sample of half of Disney World’s hotels, and second analyzes and depicts only the least expensive room types within them.

I then show the results in two ways: charts that smooth out the changing prices by averaging prices over a seven night stay, and “invented” (I’ll return to this in a minute) “price seasons” that give a broad sense of how expensive a room is during different parts of the year. In my “seasons” I always express prices as how much higher they are than the lowest prices for that room that year.

In this post I want to explain a little about why I do it this way—and where the seasons came from. But if you don’t care and just want to see the results, go here; if you want to see every single data point, go to MouseSavers.com here.


Here’s a chart of the actual rates by night in 2019 of a standard view rooms at Disney’s Beach Club resort. Note that I have truncated the lower axis at $450/night to make the patterns more readable.

While you’ll note some consistency over periods (this is where “price seasons” comes in), there’s a lot of wiggles in the line. This comes from all the different prices during the week that Disney now charges, as well as various holiday weekend upcharges.

The net is 38 different prices for the same room over the course of 2019. In this chart, I have a straight line across for each of the 38 prices:

…and in the chart below, I show the distribution of prices for this room. More than half of the nights of the year, you can get this room for $550 or less, but 20% of the nights of the year you will pay prices of $600 or much more (all my prices include tax).

To make these price shifts a little easier to understand, I smooth them out. My smoothing approach is to average prices over seven nights—the check in night, and six more. This is what I display on my 2019 Disney World price seasons page. I pick seven nights to map to the set of prices that vary over the week but are the same the next week characteristic of many Disney World price seasons.

This chart shows the smoothed line (in orange) on top of the actual prices in blue. I believe that this type of smoothing makes it much easier to interpret what prices you will run into for any check in date.


Disney World used to group and label periods of the year into resort “price seasons.” The traditional price season calendar would have a day or two of peak season in early January coming out of the holidays, then shift into value season, then peak again for Presidents Day week, then regular season, then a mix of regular and peak during spring break before Easter, then Easter season, in years with an early Easter some more peak seasons, then regular season, then summer season, etc.

Last year, Disney stopped labeling the parts of the year into price seasons, and added more distinct price points over the course of the year. For 2019 it continued to abandon the “season” labeling concept, and added even more distinct prices. (I’ll publish more on 2018 vs. 2019 resort prices later this summer.)

But you can still see price seasons, if you look closely enough.

See the chart, where I have used colored boxes to group prices into seasons (ignoring holiday weekend upcharges), keeping the same color when the numbers remain the same. I have then labeled these with the traditional names—although my labels don’t always correspond to those used by MouseSavers.com.

The first box in January, in light orange, is the value season. Then we have a sequence of peak (red) and regular (orange), culminating in the Easter season in yellow. A distinct season then opens, which I call regular 2. After that are two distinct summer seasons, then the value season reappears in late August and early September.

Things then get a little confusing, but based on both this and the same charts for other deluxes, I basically see a sequence of regular variants (in blue and green) that I call regular 3, regular 4, and regular 5, alternating with the Fall season (grey) in between, interrupted by the Thanksgiving upcharge in black. Later in December peak season returns, and then we skyrocket off into the holiday seasons.

This then is the set of seasonal labels I use in my text descriptions of the 2019 Disney World resort price seasons.

The values and moderates continue to operate to a different seasonal calendar then the deluxes between July and Thanksgiving but I did the exact same graphical analysis to uncover their seasons. Here’s an example of one of the moderates:

…and of one of the values:

If this is all too confusing, my travel agent partner Kelly can help you book during a lower-cost period.  Contact her by using the form below.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY

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June 25, 2018   No Comments

End of Summer 2018 Crowds at Walt Disney World

This site’s Disney World crowd calendars always show crowds dropping off in later August.

For example, in 2018, crowd rankings go from 8/high-minus at the end of July/beginning of August down to 2/lower in early September.

This page both explain how that comes about and also reviews how the site’s crowd calendars are built.


The highest-crowd periods at Walt Disney World all have one thing in common: they are convenient times for parents to take their kids to Orlando. That is, they are times that kids are out of school and that parents traditionally can take off of work.

What’s not so clear until you do the numbers is that actual school vacation dates are much more varied than you’d think.  And there’s no good source you can go to that explains what all these varied dates are.

So usually every year about this time one of my nieces goes to hundreds of school district websites and captures all the key vacation dates for the upcoming academic year.

(This time of year because you’d be surprised many districts don’t put their calendars up for the upcoming year until June, even late June–looking at you, New Jersey…)

This year we collected data on 274 school districts with 15.33 million kids–about a third of the US school-age population. These include the 100 largest school districts in the U.S., plus 170+ more of the next largest school districts mostly in the more highly-populated states east of the Mississippi–that is, the states from which in particular Walt Disney World draws its visitors.

I then create a database that shows based on district enrollment every kid who is off on every date, and weight each district based on that district’s state’s proportion of total US visits to this website (because Disney won’t tell me actual visitation by state!). See the image above for a screenshot example.

Finally, I calculate percentage of total weighted kids on break by date and use that to inform the crowd calendars.

Above are the results of this for when kids go back to school in 2018.

So you can see that

  • Kids don’t start going back to school in real numbers until Wednesday 8/8
  • More than a third are back in school by 8/15
  • About half  are back in school by Thursday 8/23 and
  • More than 70% are back in school before Labor Day (noted in red)

In 2018, pretty much all kids are back in school by the Thursday after Labor Day.

Moreover, vacation patterns typically don’t have people returning from their vacation the night before school begins, so the effect of these back-to-school dates is offset into earlier August by around a week.

Thus, in the 2018 crowd calendar, the week of 7/28 and 8/4 are rated 8/high-minus crowds, the week of 8/11 7/moderate+ crowds, the week of 8/18 6/moderate crowds, and the week of 8/25 3/low crowds.

As I turn to revising my draft 2019 crowd calendar, I’m also adjusting for some small shifts based on co-author Josh’s work on easyWDW.com. In retrospect, in the summer of 2018, the week beginning  8/11 should be an 8/ high-minus, 8/18 should be a 5 moderate-minus, and 8/25 a 2/lower.

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June 16, 2018   11 Comments

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Forecasts: Crowd Levels, Impact on Other Disney World Parks, Opening Date, etc.

Note: on March 7, Disney announced that Galaxy’s Edge will partially open on August 29, 2019.

There’s four questions to answer:

  1. What will it be like in the new land itself?
  2. What will it be like in the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios?
  3. What impact will the opening have on the rest of the Disney World parks?
  4. When will it actually open?

To some, the answer to the first three questions will be “horrible,” and to the fourth “August 29th, sorta.” But by looking at roughly analogous openings, you can develop a more nuanced set of forecasts.

In September 2017 when I published my first draft 2019 crowd calendar, I noted the following

“There’s no formal opening date for this land — “late 2019” is the rumor. I expect it to unfold much like Harry Potter did at Universal–with crushing crowds in the actual land, but not a huge spillover effect on the other parks–or even the rest of Hollywood Studios. If I’m wrong, expect to see an increase of a point or two in the crowd levels after it opens.”

What’s new since then is a better sense of the astonishing impact of Pandora on Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

So here’s my current forecast for Galaxy’s Edge.


This is the easy one to forecast. Galaxy’s Edge itself will be crushed with those interested in the Star Wars setting and its Millennium Falcon and battle rides for quite some time. I expect longer hours, daily Extra Magic Hours, and the use of FastPass+ or some other mechanism to restrict access to the actual land, not just the rides, but there will still be more demand to visit the land than capacity to serve it.


Here I need to revise my September 2017 forecast a bit. I now expect the other “adult” rides in the park (e.g. Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours) to see longer waits than I had initially thought. Visitors avoiding both the thrill rides and the new Star Wars rides should be OK, but everyone else will see substantially increased waits at the Studios.

Based on what has happened at Pandora, I now expect an annualized growth in attendance at the Studios after Star Wars opens of on the order of at least 4 million more visitors, bringing the park to (after what I expect to be the impacts of Toy Story Land and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, another million visitors*) to an annualized run rate of about 15.5 million visitors, or almost 50% more than it saw in 2017.

Where does my four million come from? Well, here’s the increase in the relevant park’s attendance for the 12 months following** some recent major openings:

  • Pandora (2017): 2.75 million
  • Diagon Alley (2014): 2.4 million
  • Hogsmeade (2000): 2.65 million
  • The Animal Kingdom itself (1998): 8.6 million

So I am forecasting for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge basically an opening near the scale of the Animal Kingdom’s opening, but divided across the two North American parks.

This makes the opening of Star Wars at Hollywood Studios almost a 50% larger opening than Pandora, and 60% larger than the average opening of the Harry Potter parks. Star Wars itself is a much more popular property than Pandora, and it will offer two world-class rides, rather than Pandora’s one world class ride and one also-ran.

On the other hand, Disney World Galaxy’s Edge attendance will be diminished by first the fact than an equivalent land will open earlier in California, drawing off some potential attendance, and second by the horror stories I expect to come out of Disneyland, leading some to defer attendance until later years.

Hollywood Studios park hours can fairly easily be expanded to the 14.5 hours/day we see this summer at Animal Kingdom, or more. Assuming its shows can have the number of times they are offered increased proportionality, this can add depending on the time of year 20-30% to its capacity, absorbing a couple million of the new visitors.

At that level of operating hours, the five new rides that will open at Hollywood Studios between now and then (the two Toy Story rides, the Mickey and Minnie ride, and the two Star Wars rides) will open additional capacity of about 100,000 individual rides a day. On average this equates to either 2+ rides for all 15.5 million visitors or about 7 rides per day for each of the 5 million new visitors. So on the math, the park can take this level of increased attendance.

The problem will be mismatches between supply and demand at individual attractions—especially at the two Star Wars attractions.

I get about enough capacity for every visitor to the park to see just one of the Star Wars rides on an average day. If more than half of park visitors want to see both of them, lines will skyrocket, and some of the Star-Wars aimed folks will balk at waits for those rides and go elsewhere in the park. And since I expect a fair proportion of the dedicated Star Wars visitors to not be interested in equal measure in the new capacity at the Toy Story Land rides or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the result will be heavy lines at the rides most popular for adults—Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.


Everyone seems to think that the opening of a major land (or ride) has immediate spillover effects on the other parks. That simply has not been the case for Florida parks.

  • When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened, attendance at the other three parks remained flat for the next two and a half years. (Reasonable analysis covers only through 2000, as 9/11 makes comparison to 2001 too different. Attendance at the other three parks actually dropped substantially in 1998, but this was an artifact of Disney’s 25th anniversary celebration, which boosted all of 1997 but only bits of 1996 and 1998.)
  • When Hogsmeade opened at Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios remained flat for two and a half years
  • When Diagon Alley opened at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure saw no increase the year it opened, and went up only 8% the next year
  • When Pandora opened, the attendance in the other three Disney World parks remained flat

So my forecast for the impact of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge open on the rest of the parks: Very little, based on the historical record.


Note: on March 7, Disney announced that Galaxy’s Edge will partially open on August 29, 2019. No one yest knows when the land will be completely open. The material below may be helpful in establishing that…

The word from Bob Iger last September was that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would open at Disney World after the end of Fiscal 2019 but before the end of calendar 2019—that is, sometime in October through December. More recently the word is the Disneyland’s version will open in “summer” 2019 and Disney World’s version will open in “late fall.”

This last is more ambiguous than you might think, as there are at least four valid definitions of fall and no real meaning to the word “late.”

And the ambiguity is likely intentional, as it gives Disney some scope to be late in its plans. I would expect the Disney World version to open at least 120 days after the Disney Land version opens—to give Disney World time to learn from operating patterns in California well before it opens up FastPass+, which, given Annual Pass Calendars for Disneyland in June 2019 suggests no earlier than mid-October 2019.

By some of the four possible definitions of fall, that is also more than halfway through fall, so it suits the “late fall” concept. Mid-October is largely past the Columbus Day-focused fall break season at Disney World, and begins a period of two months when only one week—Thanksgiving week—sees really heavy crowds. While Disney has shown willingness to open rides during high crowd periods (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Pandora both opened over Memorial Day weekend, a period more crowded than any between October 15 and December 15 except Thanksgiving week), it is operationally simpler to avoid such periods for opening.

Winter begins, depending on which definition you are using, during the period from early November through December 22, 2019. Given the value of some lower-crowd operating time, I’d think the latest thoughtfully projectable date for opening would be soon after Thanksgiving 2019, so that for now creates an opening period of mid-October to late November, but not likely Thanksgiving week itself.

Note that Kelly can help you book your DIsney World trip-either aiming at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, or aiming to avoid it.  Use the form below to contact her.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY

*I get the increment from Toy Story Land and Mickey and Minnie’s’ Runaway Railway by comparing them to the openings of New Fantasyland and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, each showing an increment of about a million visitors, and then dividing by two for the Studios being a less intrinsically attractive park than Magic Kingdom.

**Annualized rates are calculated by taking first year increases, dividing by the number of open days, and then multiplying by 365. All data is from TEA . The numbers are above, and an excel version of them is here.


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June 10, 2018   24 Comments

Length of Stay Pricing at the Disney World Resorts?

Earlier this year Disney World announced that parking at its hotels would no longer be free for reservations booked after March 20, 2018. Only slightly less controversial than that whole poenitentia vs. metanoia thing among Luther, Erasmus, and the Catholic Church, no explanation for it has been offered other than such a parking charge is common practice.

At the end of my post on the parking matter, I’d noted that “I can think of one way in which–at least in 2019–this money may make its way back into guest pockets. I’ll publish more on this thought, which has to do with length-of-stay pricing, later.”

So this is the post on that thought. What it boils down to is that if Disney institutes length of stay discounts, it would need to make a big one-time increase in room rates to keep its overall revenue whole. The increases from parking revenue could be used to offset some of that price increase.

Note that I’m not predicting that Disney World will institute length of stay pricing—rather, this is largely a thought experiment on the implications for price increases if it chooses to do so. But we do know it is interested in increasing length of stay…

“We’ve got … a number of other plans as it relates to our hotel business. So we think that we’ve got room on pricing there. It’s not just about taking pricing up, it’s just about being more strategic at how we price, particularly how we manage demand and we’ve taken a number of steps there. We think we can expand length of stay …We have some nice pricing leverage with our hotels. We actually are comping nicely in hotel rates, particularly in Orlando as a for instance, but we have an opportunity to expand [length of stay].”

Bob Iger, CEO The Walt Disney Company, in the Q2 17 earnings call (May 9 2017)

Bob Iger noted about a year ago opportunities he saw to expand length of stay at the Walt Disney World hotels. One way to expand length of stay is through pricing mechanisms that reward longer stays.

Such a pricing mechanism can be as simple as giving a discount off of what would otherwise be a hotel’s rates in return for booking a stay of a certain length.

This is in effect what Universal does—it has its set of prices per night, but then takes a certain amount off of what would otherwise be the total if you book certain stay targets.

See the image—for example, on its far right, you’ll note that a seven night stay can be as much as 35% off what would otherwise be the sum of the nightly prices. That’s a big discount, in effect almost two and a half free nights (35% of seven nights= 2.45 nights).

Length of stay pricing can be meant to build a hotel’s occupancy—that is, add room nights—or to shift the current set of room nights to a group that has on average a longer length of stay.

If a hotel has plenty of rooms available and not many “typical” bookings already at the stay lengths at which the discounts kick in, then the goal would be to add room nights. High discounts might be accepted to do so, as little revenue would be lost from the few guests who already would have booked longer than the “typical” stay, and the new revenue from the extra nights would largely drop to the bottom line, since the variable costs of an extra night in a room are pretty low.

Length of stay pricing in already well-occupied hotels—as the Disney hotels are, recently reporting yet another quarter of occupancy in the 90% range—has a very different and more complicated dynamic.

Here you have different goals than increasing occupancy (because you have so little room to do so) and much less flexibility in discounting longer stays (because you are discounting many room nights that you could have sold at their regular rates).

The goal instead might be to convert the same number of room nights from shorter to longer stays, as longer stays are typically more profitable (as they spread the one-time costs of a single booking/check-in/check-out over more nights).

Or, if there is a value difference between shorter and longer stays not already captured in pricing, the goal might also be to use length of stay pricing to price shorter stays higher to extract more of the value they create. For example, Disney might be expecting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, expected to open in the last quarter of 2019, to increase the demand for shorter stays from those guests coming to experience only it.

So if Disney were to institute length of stay pricing (as a typical practice, like Universal–not as a one-time deal), given high occupancies and already longer lengths of stay than Universal, I’d expect a couple of features to their program

  • The deals to kick in after longer stays—for example, after five or six nights, not the three or four that Universal offers
  • A lower discount curve—one that still begins at 10%, perhaps, but that doesn’t get nearly as high as 35%, other than as a temporary promotion that replaces other typical Disney World hotel deals
  • A one-time price increase for the base set of undiscounted prices, so that revenue stays whole over most trip lengths.

This last point is the key one, so let me illustrate it with an example.

Let’s say Disney offers 10% off the total price of a room that would before the one-time price increase average $250 a night (in this example, thus a moderate), beginning with a six night stay.

To keep the same $1,500 revenue over the stay, average pre-discount prices would need to go up in a one-time price increase by 11% (the formula is 1/(1-discount percentage) – 1).* At a new price $278 a night, a 10% discount off the new total of $1,668 would yield the same initial $1,500 revenue.

In other words, when the hotels are essentially full and the goal is simply to lengthen average length of stay, you don’t want to give up revenue to do so—otherwise you simply lose money on the extensions.

Disney World usually announces its new hotel prices for the coming year in the summer, and while it varies across hotels, room types, and times of the year, prices commonly go up 4%+. If it used its summer 2018 pricing announcement to include for 2019 both typical price increases and also a one-time price increase meant to keep it whole after length of stay discounts, then in my example undiscounted prices would go up ~15%.

That’s a pretty big number—a headline grabbing number. How could Disney avoid some of those headlines? Well, one way to do it would be to institute a one-time price increase for something else related to the hotels, and use the revenue from it to offset the needed hotel room price increase. Like parking.

For median priced standard-view rooms, the new parking charge amounts to an average increase across 2018 (you get about the same results if you use just the last 7 or 8 months of 2018) of around 8% at the value resorts, 7% at the moderates, and 4.5% at the deluxes. So if half of guests pay for parking, then Disney World already has in hand price increases of 2.25 to 4%. It can use these already-existing one time increases to offset some of what it would otherwise want to do to 2019 prices, and perhaps (other than at the deluxes) even get the 2019 increase below 10%, which would help the headlines a bit…

Note that there are other ways to incent longer lengths of stay.

For example, since both shorter and longer Disney World stays tend to include weekends, Disney could make the price difference between weekends and weekdays even sharper than it already is.

For some time now, many, but not all, Disney World resorts have had higher prices on Friday and Saturday nights during many, but not all, price seasons.

And for the 2018 pricing year (released not long after Iger’s comments noted above) Disney also made Sunday and/or Thursday prices higher than the rest of its weekday prices at some resorts during some price seasons (gory details here).

Continuing this approach with even sharper differences between higher and lower priced nights would certainly either dis-incent and/or capture more value from shorter trips that include these higher priced nights. I’m not sure, though, that sharper differences would have much effect on lengthening stays, as—at least now—Disney does not inform you of the cost of adding a room night.


*The increase actually needs to be less than this, as those on shorter stays pay its full value. But for me to estimate how much less, I’d need data on the distribution of bookings by length of stay, which I don’t have, so I am ignoring this issue.

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April 9, 2018   4 Comments