Disneyland’s replacement for FASTPASS and MaxPass, Disney Genie+ has been going strong at Disneyland for nearly a year! But if you are new to 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, 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 really make the most of their Disneyland day. And Genie+ is great for that!
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 subsequent Disneyland visits, especially as Disney has made changes to the Genie+ rules. 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 the (now 2) paid Lightning Lane attractions, since there is some overlap between how that system works best and how Genie+ operates. And I won’t forget about all the attractions that aren’t on Disney Genie+. There are probably 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 plans.
So let’s dive in to the advanced Genie+ lesson for Disneyland.
Last updated: November 13, 2022.
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Disney Genie+ Advanced Tips & Tricks for Disneyland
1. Rope drop
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 one 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 30 minutes before official park opening time. So, for an 8:00 official park opening time, cast members start scanning tickets at 7:30am. You want to be queued up in the esplanade for the parks before 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.
If you have early entry (a new benefit for on-property hotel guests as of August 2022), 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.
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
- 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.
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
After you’ve made the most of short 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 return times 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.
In Disneyland park, the rides to prioritize booking in the morning before their return times get too late are (in this rough order):
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Space Mountain
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Big Thunder Mountain
(During Halloween Time and the Disneyland Holidays seasons, Haunted Mansion Holiday goes quite fast in the day as well. “it’s a small world” holiday can go quickly as well during the Holidays period, but often does not in the morning. 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!)
In DCA, prioritize the following:
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure (Editor’s Note: WEB SLINGERS used to be a paid Lightning Lane attraction but is now offered as part of regular Genie+, which has changed the Genie+ order of priority in this park quite a bit)
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
Paid Individual Lightning Lane attractions sell out as well. In fact, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is reliably the first ride to sell out most days long before any Genie+ attraction – sometimes by mid-morning on the busiest 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, often tends to have much more instantaneous return times except on the highest crowd days.
Of course, as time goes on, the popularity of attractions will change. 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’ve been keeping 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.
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 Genie+ now includes 20 attractions across both parks at the Disneyland Resort. It might sound like a lot, but they are not split equally. Disneyland has 12 (note that Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, however is currently closed until 2023, bring Disneyland down to 11), while California Adventure has just 8. 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 or Splash Mountain 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 20 attractions to you each day – not just 12 or 8. (Note that Disneyland currently allows park hopping starting at 1:00pm. As of August 2022, Genie+ no longer adjusts return time windows for park hopping guests to an eligible time at that hour or later. Instead you must wait until the return times offered to everyone are 1:00pm are later and book after that time.)
Of course, park hopper tickets cost more than one park per day tickets – a flat fee of $60 extra per ticket on multi-day day tickets and a whopping $65 on one day tickets. 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 9:00pm but check this time before your trip because it changes).
8. On a Tight Budget or Longer Trip? Buy Genie+ for just one day.
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 $25+ 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 really 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 8 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
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 20 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
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
Last but certainly not least is my favorite hack in the new 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. You can then use these passes to ride the attraction you originally booked when it opens again. Or you can save them and redeem them ride something else you like 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.
Their only limit? Ride blackouts. If the ride you originally booked is a less popular one (like Monsters, Inc. or Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters), the 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, 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.
While you’ll probably get one or two of these 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.
The Current State of Genie+ & Lightning Lane at Disneyland -November 2022
I try to keep this post as evergreen as possible (updating it of course when Disney makes permanent changes to anything). But Genie+ is far from evergreen – there are lots of temporary quirks and hiccups that emerge when seasons change, when crowd levels shift, or even when park operations takes some unusual detours.
I’ve been closely monitoring Genie+ and Lightning Lane at Disneyland since its launch in December 2021 and always keep an eye on the current state of things. If you are headed to Disneyland during the busy holiday season in 2022, here is the most current in Genie+ news and trends. I plan to update this section as everything evolves, so bookmark and check back!
- Disneyland has been in the news this fall for some rides having very physically long Lightning Lane return lines. Lately, it seems perhaps that Disney is giving out more return windows than the rides are able to process, especially when rides have reliability problems. In October 2022, Radiator Springs once saw its line stretch all the way down to the entrance of Cars Land! 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. Alternatively, consider heading to a guest services umbrella to see if they can switch you to another ride or refund a paid LL if the line is really that bad.
- On very busy park days when one or more rides break down and a lot of guests get Multiple Experience passes, 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.
- Toontown is still closed for its reimagining but is set to open January 27, 2023 with a brand new ride – Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. We do not yet know what the line options will be for this ride. If I had to guess, I would bet that Disneyland will run a virtual queue for it (as was the case for WEB SLINGERS and Rise of the Resistance when they opened) and/or make it a paid Lightning Lane attraction. The addition of this ride will surely change some of the advanced strategies so keep this in mind for trips later in 2023. Watch this space for the hacks as they emerge.
So far, Disney Genie+ at Disneyland has turned out to be a pretty solid successor to Fastpass and MaxPass for guests willing to pay 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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