Understanding AP Blockouts and Impact on Crowds

Discussion in 'Disneyland (California)' started by HydroGuy, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. HydroGuy

    HydroGuy DIS Veteran

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    Recent years have seen a huge growth in Annual Pass (AP) holders at DLR now approaching one million. There have also been many discussions on this forum about the impact on crowds of all these AP holders. I decided to consolidate this information into a single thread to provide an explanation to those unfamiliar with the issues. In addition I will give some practical advice on working around crowded times.

    Before I start I want to be clear that I am making no ethical statements about AP holders. My intent is to focus on the practical results of the AP program and how it affects crowds. AP holders should visit DLR whenever they want and as many times as they want using their APs. :)


    Abbreviations

    AP - Annual Pass
    DAP - Deluxe Annual Pass
    PAP - Premium Annual Pass
    SoCal AP - Two types of APs are available only to SoCal residents at a large discount


    The DLR AP Program

    Historically DLR has been primarily a locals resort. Roughly 70% of visitors are made up of the 20 million Southern California residents. This is a good thing in that it provides a good base for year long stable operation of DLR.

    DLR has reached out to these SoCal residents with two special and inexpensive AP options - the SoCal AP and SoCal Select AP, only available to those with a SoCal zip code. Two APs available to anyone are the highest level, Premium AP (PAP), and the second level Deluxe AP (DAP). Thus there are four AP categories at DLR.

    For those interested in AP comparisons check Disney's website.


    AP Blockout Days

    PAPs can visit DLR any day of the year. DAPs have certain days blocked out - typically Saturdays and holidays. Sometimes blockout days are called blackout days. They mean the same thing.

    It is my understanding that 90%+ of the DLR AP holders are of the two SoCal kinds. That means nearly a million people today and growing rapidly. These are cheaper but have many more blockout days.

    You can see the blockout schedules on the DLR website here:

    SoCal Select AP Blockout Dates

    SoCal AP Blockout Dates

    Deluxe AP Blockout Dates


    And also MousePlanet keeps a calendar:
    MousePlanet's Integrated Blockout Calendar

    Note that the SoCal AP is less restrictive than the SoCal Select AP. All SoCal Select blockout days are also blocked for the SoCal AP. For planning purposes you just need to pay attention to the SoCal AP as that covers both.


    Why Are Blockouts Important?

    Well, if you are an AP holder blockouts are important because they dictate when you cannot use your AP. If you are not an AP holder, or maybe are a PAP or DAP holder, you should understand the crowd impact of the SoCal APs because they have caused some crowd surges the last few years not seen previously.

    Some AP holders who live in SoCal and near DLR are very dedicated fans and have a whole different set of priorities than the average visitor. Since they can drive to DLR relatively easily, they can stop in for new rides and shows and spend many hours waiting just for that ride or show. They do not care what else they might be missing because they can easily come back on other days to experience those other things. This is discussed further here: "The Psychology of the DLR Annual Pass Holder" http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2244322.

    So the number of SoCal AP holders and their dedication level can lead to huge crowds when they are not blocked out. The experience in 2009 was documented in a series of news updates by the respected Al Lutz on MiceAge. Here are some links (note that in post #2 of this thread I have taken excerpts from the below articles so you do not have to read all of them to get the idea):

    1/5/2010
    (E)Ticket to Ride
    New E-Tickets, World of Color/DCA Update, Mickey on Main, EO, More...

    12/1/2009
    Thanks a Million (APs)
    AP numbers climb - parking doesn't, EO update, DCA update, More...

    10/13/2009
    Hello George & Starbucks
    Good-bye Ed & Easy Parking, World of Crowds, More...

    7/28/2009
    Michael, Murphy & Marty
    Captain EO May Rise From the Dead, Fantasmic Dragon Update, 800,000 Passholders, More...

    7/7/2009
    Murphy, Abe & Ed
    Dragon Drama, Presidents Prepped & Snobby Suits; Plus a Disneyland Timeline

    6/16/2009
    Dumbo & Dumber
    Fantasmic + Fireworks + WWW + APs = Nightmares; Electrical Parade returns to Main Street, More...

    1/6/2009
    Auld Lang Dollar Sign
    Disneyland's next New Year: $50, Annual Pass sales up, DCA, More...


    Planning Advice

    First, if there is something new or majorly refurbed at DL or DCA, expect the SoCal AP holders to visit in droves during their non-blockout times. So one thing to understand for planning is what new things are on the horizon. This is discussed below.

    Further, understand that long blockouts like those during the summer for two months means that many SoCal AP holders try to squeeze in one last visit before the blockouts go into effect. And when the blockout lifts a surge in crowds again occurs because of the AP holders who have not been able to visit for an extended time.

    When the above dynamics are coupled with something new happening right before the blockout, you have a formula for insanely long lines at DLR - especially for the new show or attraction. That is why when FNSV opened in June 2007 and POTC re-opened in June 2006 the lines were four hours long. And why when the refurbed Fantasmic and new summer Magical fireworks opened in mid-June 2009 there were huge crowds to see them during the non-blockout days. And why you see people camping out overnight in the Esplanade to be first in line for something new. Yes, campers.

    If one pays attention to this forum one will see a lot of comments by DLR vets trying to fit their trip into SoCal AP blockout periods.

    The biggest new thing in 2010 will be the night time spectacular World of Color show at DCA. This will bring unprecedented crowds into DCA after it opens in late April. There will then be crowd spill over into DL as a result. Therefore, I would recommend avoiding the non-blockout days in May and June or waiting until the summer blockout starts in late June. Also, avoid going in late August after the blockouts lift.

    Also new in 2010 was the return of Captain EO in February to DL. The final showing of the excellent Aladdin show at DCA will reportedly happen in August.

    In 2011 new things on the horizon are the new LMAA ride at DCA (and lots more) and the refurbed Star Tours 2 at DL.

    In 2012 there will be the new CarsLand area at DCA and the completion of the $1 Billion park refurb.

    Information on this can be found on MiceChat here:

    Disney's California Adventure Project Tracker IX

    Disneyland Project Tracker II


    Other Resources for Choosing Dates to Visit


    o Weather is an issue for some people. Heat, cold and rain. Here is some data to work with: "Detailed Weather History for DLR" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=23004158


    o Park hours and refurbs - DLR is very late in posting park hours and refurb schedules. Sometimes only four weeks in advance. Here is some information to help figure out what to expect before DLR posts its calendar:

    "Historical DLR Park Hours, Entertainment and Refurbs" - www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2291124

    For longer range refurbs go to the refurb section of the most recent MousePlanet park update here: MousePlanet Weekly Park Update


    o Holidays - if you live outside the US you should know when the holidays happen - "List of American Holidays" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=1937849


    o Off-Season Visits - There are some downsides about DLR off-season that some visitors do not find out about until after they have locked in dates. See "What You Should Know About Off-Season at DLR" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=18462889


    o Magic Mornings - choosing days of the week to visit should also account for Magic Mornings at DL. See "Magic Morning (Early Entry) Super Thread" by DLR29 www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=1675403


    o General advice on hotels, dining, etc. can be found in MaryJo's super-sticky thread at the top of the forum:

    **ºoº DLR FAQ-MAPS, HOTELS, DISER HOTEL REVIEWS, HYDROGUY'S TIPS, DINING REVIEWS, ETC
     
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  3. HydroGuy

    HydroGuy DIS Veteran

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    Excerpts from AL Lutz articles (bolded text is mine - added for emphasis):

    1/5/2010
    (E)Ticket to Ride
    New E-Tickets, World of Color/DCA Update, Mickey on Main, EO, More...



    12/1/2009
    Thanks a Million (APs)
    AP numbers climb - parking doesn't, EO update, DCA update, More...



    10/13/2009
    Hello George & Starbucks
    Good-bye Ed & Easy Parking, World of Crowds, More...


    7/28/2009
    Michael, Murphy & Marty
    Captain EO May Rise From the Dead, Fantasmic Dragon Update, 800,000 Passholders, More...


    7/7/2009
    Murphy, Abe & Ed
    Dragon Drama, Presidents Prepped & Snobby Suits; Plus a Disneyland Timeline


    6/16/2009
    Dumbo & Dumber
    Fantasmic + Fireworks + WWW + APs = Nightmares; Electrical Parade returns to Main Street, More...
    1/6/2009
    Auld Lang Dollar Sign
    Disneyland's next New Year: $50, Annual Pass sales up, DCA, More...
     
  4. blackjackdelta

    blackjackdelta <font color=darkorchid>Uncle had an "in" with Walt

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    Excellent analysis!!!

    Jack
     
  5. LavenderPeach

    LavenderPeach <font color=darkorchid>Didn't understand how you c

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    I just had to say that I love the disclaimer, especially the last line. :thumbsup2 Wouldn't want to start another debate about that. :)
     
  6. PHXscuba

    PHXscuba <font color=darkorchid>Mouseketeer since birth!<br

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    This information might help me squeeze in a day trip next summer, if I can tell DH that the week of the 4th of July will likely be LESS busy than when we were there over Columbus Day in October. Who knew?

    I had been leery of going then because my last experience with being at Disneyland on a 4th of July weekend was in the '80s when I got on maybe 4 rides and you couldn't hardly move in the park. Might have to give it a try.

    Now it's off to find that magic volunteer opportunity in our area that will take my 7-year-old as well as her older siblings. I can't believe the only person I would be paying for is the 4-year-old. Weird ...

    PHXscuba
     
  7. monicatb

    monicatb Mouseketeer

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    Great infomation. So if my park dates are 04/01, 04/02, & 04/03, I don't really have to worry too much (with a good touring plan, of course) except for 04/01 which is the last day blocked for deluxe APs? I was planning to do MM that day.
     
  8. HydroGuy

    HydroGuy DIS Veteran

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    I think DAP's are too small in number to have much of an impact. It appears to be the SoCal APs which cause the impact and they are blocked out.

    Spring Break is a busy time at DLR. But it will not be busy because of AP holders. Just regular visitors.
     
  9. goofycathy

    goofycathy DIS Veteran

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    Wow great information, I guess I never really thought about what an impact AP's (of all types) really have on DL! Thanks for putting this all together!
     
  10. wirki

    wirki If only I lived closer<br><font color="red">Looks

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    Thank you for making all this info available for all of us. It has been wonderful. I do have a question for you if that is ok. We are going May 8-15 2010. It seems that the blackout dates are only on Saturdays in May. So does that mean that Sunday's will be nuts??
     
  11. MVBowers111

    MVBowers111 Mouseketeer

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    I totally agree with everything that Hydroguy has said! My sister and I took our kids to DL last summer. I was nervous about going in July because I was afraid that the crowds would be ridiculous. But, we went anyway and were AMAZED that the crowd level was so low. We were there Monday thru Saturday and never had a problem with crowds until friday late afternoon. But, it still was nothing like we had anticipated. Now I tell everyone to check the blackout days for the southern california annual passes so that they don't get caught in those crazy busy days right before the passes blackout. I'd totally go in July again since it was such a great experience last year!
     
  12. HydroGuy

    HydroGuy DIS Veteran

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    Yes, Sundays and Friday nights especially. Because of the WoC show.

    If I was going those dates (I went mid-May 15 last year) I would:

    1. Go to DL on Friday night and Sunday and stay away from DCA because of the AP holders and WoC

    2. Assuming entertainment is only on weekends that week - probably true but WoC may be different - I would see WoC on Saturday when APs are blocked. Saturday last mid-May was amazingly light on crowds. I was shocked.

    3. Get in lots of rides on the weekdays and whatever entertainment is available. If you want to see Aladdin - and you should if you never have - see it on Thursday.
     
  13. wirki

    wirki If only I lived closer<br><font color="red">Looks

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    That is what I was thinking. This is our first trip so I am trying to figure this out. Been to the World tons (even worked there as a CP) But Disneyland is foreign to me :lmao:

    What is Aladdin? I thought is was a show but people are asking for tickets for it??:confused3
     
  14. HydroGuy

    HydroGuy DIS Veteran

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    Aladdin is a 40+ minute Broadway-quality stage show at DCA. Be prepared to laugh until you cry! The Genies are hilarious. The schedule over the last year has it showing on Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun.

    In my opinion (and most everyone else's) it is better than any of the WDW stage shows. And sadly it is closing in August after a long (9 year?) run. A new Toy Story musical will take over in 2011. See http://disneyland.disney.go.com/dis...tainment/detail?name=AladdinEntertainmentPage

    No tickets are required. Some folks get priority seating ticket perks.
     
  15. Koda

    Koda Mouseketeer

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    Thank you SO MUCH for this information! We were planning on going to DLR 6/30-7/3, however surprisingly, the only one of those days that is blacked out is 7/3. I am going to re-arrange our itinerary, and be at DLR 6/24-27 instead. That way all of the days except 6/27 will be blacked out. I am so glad that I read this thread while I still have time to plan and re-arrange our schedule.:)
     
  16. 3TinksAndAnEeyore

    3TinksAndAnEeyore DIS Veteran

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    Another excellent thread! Concise, eloquent, and chock-full-o' information!!! :thumbsup2
     
  17. Silly Little Pixie

    Silly Little Pixie <font color=blue>My name is Inigo Montoya. You kil

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    I've held either a Deluxe or Premium AP since 1994 - 16 years tomorrow! As a local I have watched these changes with interest over the last several years. Disney has gotten itself almost into a mess with the So Cal APs. They have agressively marketed them, and for a few years, the APs kept DLR afloat after 9-11. At one point, the So Cal APs still were relatively few, compared to today. Among friends and aquaintances, they were considered far inferior to the DAP or PAP because of the blackout days. Nearly the entire summer was blocked out, and what good is that if you have school age kids?

    However, over the last 2 years many Southern Cal school districts have changed their school schedule. In my area all the districts have now an "early start" calendar, where they begin around August 7-10ish and end around June 1... leaving June wide open for lots of Disneyland visits. I know many, many people who have since purchased SoCal Select APs at a ridiculously cheap price, because NOW the APs fit their children's school schedule. Many districts are still with a post-Labor Day start, but the early start is spreading.

    In addition. DLR is now offering "montly payments" to purchase APs, rather than requiring the entire price upfront. Again, I know many people who either had let APs expire several years ago due to cost, or who always wanted an AP but could never afford one, now buying APs with this program. It's $8.09/mo for a SoCalSelect and $12.25/mo for a SoCal AP. I expect the APs to really rise with this. Knowing the traffic patterns was never really an issue for me before- but now, I pay attention to the days we go. Or don't!

    Good thread, Trey!:thumbsup2
     
  18. dnamertz

    dnamertz DIS Veteran

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    I understand that SoCal Pass non-blackout days can be busy right before the black-out periods begin (such as right before summer), but does this thread mean it's usually better for non-passholders to plan trips during blackout days than during non-blackout?

    I thought those dates were blacked out because they are already busy days. Is this thread saying its less crowded on a mid-summer weekday (during the SoCal blackout) than on a weekday in March (during SoCal non-blackout days)?
     
  19. HydroGuy

    HydroGuy DIS Veteran

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    Good question. My take is that if one subtracts all the AP holders there is a base level of crowds that occur. Spring Break, Summer and Holidays would typically have the highest base crowd. Disney then offers the AP program and SoCal APs in particular as discussed in this thread and blocks out days with hugher base crowds. Because the AP numbers have grown so much the lower base crowd plus the APs has often exceeded the higher base crowd without them.

    So in answer to your question, it is definitely the case in today's current situation to plan for blockout days during high season. July with blockouts is better than June without blockouts especially after something new comes out. During low season (such as right now) that is less true.
     
  20. Liltx

    Liltx DIS Veteran

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    So since you mentioned the peak time issue, we are planning a one day visit either Friday, March 12 or Saturday, March 13. Saturday is a blackout day but also a Magic Morning. Ride Max still says to do most of FL first on MM's which is important to us as our kids are 4 and 6.

    What would you suggest in this case since it is Spring Break?

    TIA

    Monica
     
  21. geekypeach

    geekypeach Mouseketeer

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    So, my head hurts a little. I generally "get" the info, however, is it just me or is the Captain EO thing still a little vague? We don't have an official open, do we? We are going to DLR 2/26-3/1, and while I myself am super excited about seeing EO, I really don't want to deal with its crowds since we rarely get to visit (or vcacation for that matter). I wonder, will there be a flood of people? Will they just be flooded in to see the show and leave the rest of the parks out if the madness?
     

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