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11 Advanced Strategies & Tips to Maximize Disney Genie+ on a Disneyland Trip

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Disney’s replacement for FASTPASS and MaxPass, Disney Genie+, has been going strong at the Disneyland Resort in California for nearly two years. If you are still a beginner on all things Disney Genie+, the new system may still seem pretty complex and confusing. So you should start with my Guide to Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane at Disneyland for all the beginner tips and frequently asked questions. If you’ve mastered the basics and are ready to take your Genie+ usage to the next level at Disneyland, that’s what this advanced guide is for.

When I first tested out Genie+, I successfully and easily maxed it out on my first try, riding all 19 attractions on it at the time in a single day (plus many more). While that isn’t always be possible on busy days or even desirable for many guests, what a lot of Disneyland visitors want to do is to make the most of their Disneyland day. And Genie+ is great for that!

Toy Story Midway Mania Lightning Lane Entrance at Disneyland Resort

I picked up ton of tips and tricks from that challenge about how to get maximum value from Genie+. And I’ve continued to test the limits of the system on many subsequent Disneyland visits as Disney has made changes to Genie+ rules. I was just at Disneyland again with my family in late October 2023 where we rode over 40 attractions in less than two full park days!

Anyone who wants to prioritize riding attractions should keep reading for all these advanced tips, secrets, and hacks that go into making a great overall strategy. I’ll also throw in a few tips for paid Lightning Lane attractions, since there is some overlap between how that system works and how Genie+ operates. And I won’t forget about all the attractions that aren’t on Disney Genie+. There are quite a few of those any Disneyland guest will want to ride too. The key is in knowing when to best fit those into your Genie+ plans.

So let’s dive in to the advanced Genie+ lesson for Disneyland.

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Disney Genie+ Advanced Tips & Tricks for Disneyland

1. Rope drop

Rope Drop Crowds Disney California Adventure
Rope drop crowds at Disney California Adventure.

While Genie+ is a valuable tool, not every ride at Disneyland is available on it (unlike Walt Disney World’s version of Genie+ which includes nearly every attraction of note). To ride some of the beloved classics like Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan, or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland, you’ll still need to utilize standby lines. And I’m guessing you don’t want to stand in long standby lines!

The best option to hit some of these rides with shorter waits is to ride them first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive. And to do this, you need to be at the front of the “rope drop” crowd.

Most of the time, the park gates open exactly 40-45 minutes before official park opening time. So, for an 8:00 official park opening time, cast members start scanning tickets about 7:15am. You want to be queued up in the esplanade for the parks by that time. On busy days, you may want to be 15-30 minutes earlier than that! Be sure to leave plenty of time for bag check and security.

Early Entry Effect

Disneyland Early Entry
Hotel guests head right towards Tomorrowland to take advantage of early entry at Disneyland.

If you have the early entry benefit given to on-property hotel guests, you will be able to walk past the rope drop crew and ride a limited number of open attractions 30 minutes before everyone else daily. So use every minute to its full advantage!

If you aren’t eligible for early entry, never fear. Rope drop is still a smart strategy. So few guests are eligible for early entry that lines aren’t really made long by it (except for the one constant choke point at Peter Pan).

Sample Rope Drop Touring Plan

I employed a rope drop strategy the day I rode 19 Genie+ (and 26 overall) attractions in a single day, beginning my morning with rides that didn’t offer Genie+. From 8-9am in Disneyland park, I hit these attractions in this order:

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Dumbo
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Jungle Cruise

I then also rode Pirates of the Caribbean around 9:40 am after using a Genie+ return time for Indiana Jones nearby.

Other Reasons to Rope Drop

An additional reason you really should rope drop (or at least arrive pretty early to the parks) is because you cannot start booking rides with Genie+ at Disneyland until you have entered a park for the day. Late risers can still find plenty of value in the system. But the later you arrive to the parks, the later you will find popular attractions offering return times. This means more dead time in your overall day waiting for your next reservation time to open up.

There’s one final reason to consider rope dropping even with Genie+. Genie+ limits you to one ride on each attraction per day. If you have a favorite you want to repeat more than once in a day, the early morning hours are a great time to ride via a short standby line. Save your Genie+ booking opportunity for that ride until later in the day when standby lines are longer and ride for a second time in a single day.

2. Make a morning mad dash

Disneyland Genie Plus Sign

After you’ve made the most of short early morning standby lines, the rest of the morning should be all about quickly progressing through several attractions available with Genie+. The system is best and most flexible in the mornings because the return times offered for most rides are often fairly immediate. This means you can often walk from Lightning Lane to Lightning Lane earlier in the day. Later in the day, some rides will have return times pushed out farther in advance.

The strategy? Book, tap, book. And by that, I mean book an attraction with a return time that is hopefully close to immediate. Go to the ride, tap into the Lightning Lane, and immediately book your next attraction. Go to that attraction, tap in, and book again.

I know this may sound exhausting, but mornings are when most guests (especially eager kiddos!) are usually most excited about attractions anyway. You’ll get a lot done with minimal waits and can then take the afternoons and evenings at a more leisurely pace enjoying entertainment, food, and more.

3. Prioritize Genie+ attractions likely to “sell out” earlier

Not all attractions on Genie+ are created equal. Some are not that popular and will almost always offer you a return time that is just minutes later. Some are much more in demand. These will book up as the day goes on, initially offering delayed return times and eventually selling out for the day at some point (sometimes as early as the afternoon).

The key to efficiently maximizing Genie+ is to prioritize the rides in the morning that most often will offer delayed return times later in the day. Booking an attraction that doesn’t have a return time until an hour or two later will mean lots of dead time when you can’t be booking other Genie+ attractions (since you have to wait to book your next ride until you’ve either redeemed your Genie+ booking or two hours have passed, whichever comes earlier). You don’t want to hit this wall until as late in the day as possible.

Genie+ Ride Booking Priorities in Disneyland Park

In Disneyland park, the rides to prioritize booking in the morning before their return times get too late are (in this rough order):

During Halloween Time and the Disneyland Holidays, Haunted Mansion Holiday vaults close to the top of that list. We found on our most recent trip that it’s essentially a toss up between booking it or Indiana Jones first.

Disneyland Genie Plus Screenshots
Haunted Mansion Holiday is popular during the holiday season. Book earlier in the morning for a close-in return time!

“it’s a small world” holiday also behaves different on Genie+ during the Holidays period. It usually won’t move that fast in the morning though. Instead, demand escalates quickly and the ride sells out speedily as soon as the after-dark return times start being offered. Everyone wants to see that ride’s holiday lighting at night!

Genie+ Ride Booking Priorities in Disney California Adventure

In DCA, prioritize the following:

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! has a special ride overlay in the evenings during the Halloween Time season that compresses its Genie+ availability. But the hack is that you may be able to get Genie+ return times for both versions of the attraction if you plan carefully!

Paid Lightning Lane Ride Booking Priorities

Paid Individual Lightning Lane attractions sell out as well, but this has evolved quite a bit in the past year or so. It used to be the case that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was reliably the first ride to sell out most days long before any Genie+ attraction. That is no longer the case, however, especially on mild to moderate crowd days. Check out my guide to riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance without the wait for all the updated strategies there.

The other paid Lightning Lane attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, usually tends to have pretty instantaneous return times except on the very highest crowd days.

Of course, as time goes on, the popularity of attractions will change yet again. The changing of park hours can affect the demand curves as well. The site Thrill-Data is an amazing resource you can use to keep an eye on these trends. It offers a “Lightning Lane Availability Map” where you can see how quickly Genie+ reservations run out for each ride each day. (I keep an eye on this regularly to inform many of the tips in this post when I’m not in the parks!)

4. Take advantage of grace periods.

When you make a reservation to return to an attraction with Genie+, you are given a 1-hour time window to return. But in reality, Disney’s computers give you an automatic grace period on either end of this window – 5 minutes early and 15 minutes late when the scanners will work and recognize your reservation. Use this full 1 hour and 20 minute time window to your advantage when needed!

When might this be most helpful? Some times, the return times you are booking might be a little bit later than the speed at which you are jumping from attraction to attraction (especially as the day goes on). Use the 5 minutes early grace period to your advantage to keep things rolling more speedily. As soon as you tap into the attraction 5 minutes before your window starts, you are eligible to book your next ride, further speeding things up.

The grace period that allows you to be 15 minutes late at the end of your window can be strategically helpful as well. For example, say you sit down to lunch at 12:45pm and book an attraction to park hop to next. Genie+ might give you a return window for 1:00-2:00 pm. As you finish your meal and start walking to the other park, 2:00 rolls around and your Lightning Lane expires. Never fear!

The expiration time makes you eligible to book a next attraction as you are walking – do that. But then continue on to the attraction you had first booked. You have until 2:15 pm using the 15 minute grace period to return to that ride as well. Doing this gives you the advantage of booking that next attraction up 15 minutes earlier than you might otherwise have been able, likely securing an earlier return time so you can keep moving.

5. Plan strategically for lack of cell service.

Once you scan your ticket or phone here, stop and book your next ride before you lose service!

Although things have certainly gotten better the last few years, cell data at Disneyland isn’t available everywhere. Disneyland’s WiFi can be very spotty in places. You may not always be able to get service to book your next Genie+ attraction if you are in an indoor queue. Plan accordingly.

I found that it’s best to “pull over” past the Lightning Lane scanners (not blocking other guests of course) as soon as you scan in to an attraction with a Genie+ booking. That’s where you should book your next ride with Genie+ before you enter a ride building where you may lose coverage.

You really need to plan for this challenge if you are trying to strategically time booking a paid Lightning Lane for a specific time of day. Rise of the Resistance can run out of times quite quickly in the middle of the day. If you are deep in the queue of Soarin’ or Indiana Jones for a key 20-30 minutes where there is zero service, you might well miss the chance to book the time you want.

6. Park hop for maximum value.

Disney California Adventure Entrance
Genie+ has the most value on days when you can park hop.

Disney Genie+ now includes 21 attractions across both parks at the Disneyland Resort. It might sound like a lot, but they are not split equally. Disneyland has 12, while California Adventure has just 9. And unlike MaxPass, guests cannot repeat riding an attraction with Genie+ in a single day. That means ambitious ride-loving guests can actually pretty easily max out every Genie+ attraction in a single day in a single park – particularly in DCA.

This is especially true if you don’t want to ride every attraction offered on the Genie+ system. For example, not everyone loves riding the water rides in the winter. So Grizzly River Run may be off the table. Additionally, some families may have kids tall enough for some thrill rides but not all of them.

All of this means you’ll likely get a lot more value and likely ride a lot more if you have a Disneyland park hopper ticket in combination with Genie+. This opens up 21 attractions to you each day – not just 12 or 9. (Note that Disneyland currently allows park hopping starting at 11:00am. Genie+ only allows guests to book rides in the other park once the return time for a ride offered to all guests is 11:00am or later.)

Of course, park hopper tickets cost more than one park per day tickets – a flat fee of $65-75 extra per ticket depending on length. But if you are choosing between a 2 day vacation with park hopper tickets and Genie+ vs. a 3 day one park per day vacation without Genie+, savvy guests can probably get more rides done in those two days with the park hopper option and Genie+ in my opinion. And the costs are about the same.

7. Stay up late!

If you aren’t an early bird rope dropper, there is a lot you can accomplish in your overall strategy on a late Disneyland night. Disneyland park stays open until midnight many times of year and DCA is often open until 10pm. If you have older kids or are on an adults-only trip, this is a great time to ride as lines get shorter. Now that Magic Keys (annual passes) are more limited with the current Disneyland reservations system, the evenings don’t get as crushed with locals as they did in the past.

While the most popular attractions will be out of Genie+ return times at this late hour, that won’t matter – you will already have prioritized and completed those, right? This is the best time to repeat more popular attractions you already rode with Genie+ using the standby lines. It’s also a smart time to fit in rides on attractions that don’t offer Genie+. Just don’t plan on riding Rise of the Resistance at this hour – it closes early before the park does (currently at 10:00pm but check this time before your trip because it changes).

8. On a Tight Budget or Longer Trip? Buy Genie+ for just one day.

Star Tours Disneyland Lightning Lane

If you are taking a multi-day vacation, you may not want to purchase Genie every single day of it unless you are really all about the rides or repeating the same attractions multiple times. And paying $30+ per person per day is way beyond what the budgets of many Disneyland guests can handle!

Genie+ is such an efficient system that I really think most non-locals should use it at least one day of a vacation. For that reason, if you are on a tight budget, I highly recommend designating just one day of your trip as a Genie+ day. This will be a day you prioritize rides and get a lot of value out of the system.

Make sure you schedule this day for one where you know you will be able to get an early start and be able spend a lot of time in the parks. Leave the character meals, food festivals, entertainment, etc. for other days when you aren’t paying for Genie+! If you have a park hopper ticket, it doesn’t matter if you have a reservation to start in Disneyland or in DCA for the morning. You’ll get a ton of value out of Genie+ starting in either park and then hopping (see #6 above).

If you don’t have a park hopper ticket though, I recommend using Genie+ for a Disneyland park day. With just 9 attractions in DCA on the system (5 of which have height minimums), most guests simply won’t get as much value out of a DCA day with Genie+. Disneyland has a wider variety of attractions that meet all interests on the Genie+ system.

9. Do Genie+ and Paid Lightning Lane on Different Days

Lightning Lane Sign Radiator Springs Racers Cars Land California Adventure
Contemplating paying for Lightning Lane for Radiator Springs Racers? Do it on a non-Genie+ day.

The Disneyland systems have two different types of upcharges that many guests may be considering – Disney Genie+ and paid a la carte Lightning Lane for 2 additional select attractions. If you are trying to get the most for your money, it’s probably smart to spread out all these upsell purchases over different days – assuming you even plan to buy all of them of course!

If you were to buy a couple of paid Lightning Lanes on a single day, you might run out of time to complete all the attractions you want on Genie+. This is particularly true if you have a park hopper ticket where 21 attractions are available to you. In that case, it might be a better use of money to designate one day as your Genie+ day and then wait to pay for paid Lightning Lane attractions on other days of a multi-day trip.

10. Mix & Match

Matterhorn Sign Entrance Lightning Lane Disneyland
Matterhorn is not everyone’s favorite in my family- but with Genie+ the ones who like it can ride it twice!

If you are in a larger traveling party, Genie+ offers some flexibility in its ability to pool and share reservations. If someone in your party isn’t interested in (or tall enough for) a given attraction, another person in your party can use their Genie+ reservation window for that ride.

This potentially allows some members of your group to double up on the same attraction in a single day. In the case of my family of 4, that means my husband and daughter could ride Matterhorn twice (my son and I don’t like it) by riding it the first time with their own Genie+ booking. Then they can ride again with the Genie+ bookings that my son and I can also make for that ride and don’t want. Simply scan the person’s tickets that correspond to the booking (either physical or the barcode in the Disneyland app or borrow their MagicBand+ if you’ve purchased those).

11. Maximize Multiple Experience Passes

When a ride goes down during your Genie+ return window, a multiple experience pass is issued – and it is awesome.

Last but certainly not least is my favorite hack in the Genie+ system: Multiple Experience passes. I saved the best for last for those of you still hanging in and reading until the bitter end!

So how do you get a Multiple Experience pass? When a ride you’ve booked with Genie+ breaks down during your reservation return window, the Disneyland app automatically converts the reservation into a Multiple Experiences pass.

These passes are incredibly flexible. First, the system (usually) lets guests make an additional Genie+ booking immediately upon this pass being issued. The result is that this can speed up and reset the Genie+ clock for you.

Second, these passes give you a lot more options for what you can ride. You could use these passes to ride the attraction you originally booked when it opens again – the most straightforward use. Or you can save the multiple experience passes and redeem them to ride something else you prefer more. You can even use these passes to double up and return to a ride you already experienced with Genie+ that day.

You can further redeem them any time until park closing. And they are valid in both Disneyland and DCA if you have a park hopper ticket.

The only limit? Ride blackouts. If the ride you originally booked is a less popular one (like Monsters, Inc. or Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters), the Multiple Experience pass you get won’t work for every ride. Some of the top level thrill rides will not be included as locations where you can redeem the pass.

But if the ride you had originally booked was a top tier attraction, however, you unlock nearly every choice in both parks. Nothing except for paid Lightning Lane attractions are blacked out. These passes are also even ordinarily valid at most attractions (minus Peter Pan) that aren’t even part of Genie+. So they can be a way to get express entry onto rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or Jungle Cruise that normally have no Lightning Lane option.

The bottom line? Scroll carefully when you see a Multiple Experiences pass in your Disneyland app to check where the pass is valid and where it can save you the most time in line. (Editor’s Note: the list of rides for which these passes are valid can change at any time. There have been some reports of volatility of the ride list in early November 2023.)

While you’ll probably get one or two of these passes on a Disneyland vacation just due to regular breakdowns even if you aren’t trying, there is a way to try to get more of these passes. When a ride has broken down, it’s sometimes still possible to book a return time with Genie+ on it for a near immediate return time. Minutes later if the ride remains down, the pass will convert to a Multiple Experience pass. Lather, rinse, repeat…. if you know what I mean.

Line for Disneyland Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run

Caveats about Ride Breakdowns

Just be aware that when rides break down (especially when more than one), the whole Genie+ system can get a little out of whack.

A breakdown can lead to long Lightning Lane return times for that attraction when it comes back up as all guest with several hours worth of passes rush to use them. If your return time window isn’t ending imminently, don’t stand in these kinds of lines. Come back later if at all possible when things die down.

On very busy park days, watch for the butterfly effect. For example, if Indiana Jones goes down, a lot of guests in that line tend to flood the nearby Pirates line with their passes. This probably isn’t a good time to redeem yours at Pirates either. And it’s a really bad time to be in the Pirates standby line. Move away from the breakdowns! A lot of guests won’t take the extra steps to get physically away from the choke point. You should not make that mistake.

Final Thoughts

Disney Genie+ at Disneyland has turned out to be a pretty solid successor to Fastpass and MaxPass for guests willing to pay (increasingly more) for the privilege. Return times are ample and available and there are easy hacks and tricks to get even more bang for your buck with careful planning.

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Using Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane at Disneyland? Learn how to maximize these systems and ride more attractions with these Disneyland Genie+ advanced tips, tricks, and hacks.

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Greg

Tuesday 21st of March 2023

Let’s say you scan in at 7:30am and immediately make a LL selection for Indiana Jones for an 8:00am return time (park also opens at 8:00am). However, you continue to modify the Indy reservation backwards to 10:15am. Would you be able to book another LL at 9:30am (ie, 2 hours after you originally reserved the LL), or would you have to wait 2-hours (10am) from the actual 8:00am park opening to reserve your next LL pass (similar to how Genie+ works at Walt Disney World)?

I’m thinking a strategy would be to get the LL for Indiana Jones, spend the first 1-2 hours of the day riding Fantasyland-vicinity standby lines, reserve a second priority LL at 9:30am (say, Space Mountain), and then continue with standby rides until wait times start to jump around 10am. At that point, I can probably swing by Space Mountain (make anther LL afterwards) and then hoof over to Adventureland for the Indiana Jones reservation.

Jill

Saturday 19th of February 2022

This post and the basic one about Genie, Genie+, and individual lighting lane were SO helpful!!! Definitely the best I've read and I've been looking a lot to try to get all of my questions answered. Thank you so much for being so thorough!

Laura

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

Great article, Leslie! I heard the “plug” on the podcast and had to come over for the full list. I always appreciate your detailed advice.