Visiting Walt Disney World has evolved greatly over the past few years, but one of the biggest changes Disney made was the sunsetting of the old Fastpass+ system. In its place we now have Disney Genie and Disney Genie+. Disney Genie essentially serves as a new update to My Disney Experience and is available to all guests. Disney Genie+ functions as Disney’s Fastpass replacement to cut ride lines and is a paid service. When Disney first announced Genie+ we had a lot of questions, most notably will guests be paying more for an inferior product?
Disney Genie+ has now has been live at Walt Disney World for about six weeks, launching not long after the kickoff of Disney World’s 50th anniversary. While it has certainly had some real challenges (especially during the busy Thanksgiving week), we’re happy to report that you can usually get some serious value out of your investment in Genie+ if you know how to maximize the system. How do you maximize the system? By reading this article, of course!
***BREAKING December 17, 2021: Walt Disney World has announced several temporary changes to Genie+ and individual Lightning Lane for the peak holiday season only (December 19, 2021-January 3, 2022). See updates to the relevant sections below.****
Last updated: December 17, 2021.
We’ll discuss all the tips and tricks you need to know to squeeze every cent of value out of your Genie+ investment (should you choose to buy it). So let’s get right to business and get started with the basics.
Editor’s Note: Disney Genie is also coming very soon to Disneyland as well. But the systems have different rules, and your strategies will likely need to be quite a bit different between the two resorts. See our guide to Disney Genie+ & Lightning Lane at Disneyland for all the details and tips for the California parks as they are released.
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Basics of Disney Genie+ at Disney World
Genie+ at Walt Disney World costs $15 per person per day. It works very similarly to the now retired MaxPass from Disneyland. You can either add Genie+ to the length of your ticket (like adding a Park Hopper or any other ticket option) or you can buy Genie+ a la carte by purchasing starting at midnight on any given day you plan to be in the parks. While it’s obviously more convenient to add Genie+ to the entire length of your ticket, you can save money by only buying Genie+ for the days you really need it.
Booking Attraction Return Times with Genie+
Once you’ve purchased Genie+, that unlocks the ability for you to make Lightning Lane selections. Lightning Lanes have replaced the old Fastpass lanes. Think of Lightning Lanes as the physical line you will enter and Genie+ as the key that gives you access to the line (H/T Brooke McDonald as our guest on Disney Deciphered for this helpful explanation).
It’s important to note that Genie+ allows you to book the next available return time for an attraction. You cannot otherwise select a time of your choosing. The system gives you a return window of 1 hour to visit an attraction via the Lightning Lane.
Genie+ allows you Lightning Lane access to over 40 attractions (both rides and shows) at Walt Disney World – but not all of them. Some attractions, like the People Mover at the Magic Kingdom, do not have Lightning Lane access at all.
Genie+ vs. Individual Attraction Selection
The most popular attractions, like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Avatar: Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, only offer Lightning Lane access via Individual Attraction Selections (IAS). Purchasing Genie+ won’t get you on them.
IAS Lightning Lanes are essentially paid Fastpass – you pay for access to the Lightning Lane for a single ride. IAS Lightning Lanes are separate from Genie+ Lightning Lanes. They can be used in conjunction with Genie+ or completely independently. Guests are limited to purchasing access to just two IAS attractions per day, although there are a total of 8 of them across the 4 parks. Those attractions and their cost are:
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ($10-12), Space Mountain ($7-9)
- Epcot: Frozen Ever After ($9-11), Remy’s Ratatoille Adventure ($8-11)
- Hollywood Studios: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ($15), Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway ($8-10)
- Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage ($11-14), Expedition Everest ($7)
While this article will focus mostly on Genie+ strategies, we will also touch upon some Individual Attraction Selection strategies when they affect your Genie+ strategy.
BREAKING December 17, 2021: For the peak holiday periods of December 19, 2021-January 3, 2022, one paid Lightning Lane ride in each park will temporarily move to be part of the Genie+ system and will not be available for individual purchase. Those rides are: Space Mountain (MK), Expedition Everest (AK), Frozen Ever After (Epcot), and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (HS). Hopefully this will add some more capacity to Genie+ and prevent some of the frustrating “sell outs” that happened Thanksgiving week. Expect these 4 rides to be in demand attractions that go fast while on Genie+. Prioritize them in your Genie+ selection strategy!
How Genie+ Works
The basics of how Genie+ works: at 7:00 AM you can pick your first Lightning Lane of the day from any of the attractions available. From that point on you can keep adding Lightning Lanes throughout the day in order to minimize your wait time in line, but you can only book the Lightning Lane for each attraction once per day.
From our experience, entering the Lightning Lane generally means a mere 5-10 minute wait, which saves a lot of time compared to standby wait times of 45 minutes or more. Also note that the ratio of people who are seated on attractions is heavily weighted towards guests using the Lightning Lane, just as it was for the old Fastpass system. Just like with Fastpass, you simply scan your MagicBand or RFID card to redeem a reservation at the Lightning Lane entrance.
As you can no doubt tell, the Genie+ system (along with the Individual Attraction Selection system) can get pretty complicated pretty quickly. But for the remainder of this particular post, let’s take a look at the tips you need to keep in mind to craft a simple strategy that will get you on as many rides as possible.
Beginner’s Genie+ Strategy: 5 Basic Tips for Disney World
Let’s start with some basic strategies for Genie+ users. If you internalize these tips, you’ll be better prepared to maximize Genie+ than the majority of Disney World guests before you even step into the park.
1. Charge your phone! And bring a portable charger
Rule #1 about using Disney Genie+: keep your phone charged! In general you’ll need a portable phone charger to make it through the day at Disney World, but with Genie+ you’ll be draining even more battery. It’s imperative that you keep a good charge throughout the day.
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Without your phone fully charged (and preferably some additional charged phones amongst your fellow party members) you won’t be able to take advantage of booking Lightning Lanes with Genie+ in practice. Technically you can use the guest experience team but that’s super inefficient – keep your phone juiced.
2. Understand what allows you to book your next Lightning Lane (the qualifying event)
Aside from the surprisingly difficult task of keeping your phone charged, the next most important thing you need to understand to maximize Genie+ is what allows you to book your next Lightning Lane. You become eligible to book a new Lightning Lane after one of several things happens: we call these situations that make you eligible “qualifying events”.
The following is a list of qualifying events that could make you eligible to book a new Lightning Lane reservation using Disney’s Genie+:
- When tap into a Lightning Lane to redeem a reservation
- If you cancel a Lightning Lane reservation you’re holding
- If your Lightning Lane one hour reservation window expires (you miss your Lightning Lane time)
- If the ride you’re holding a Lightning Lane reservation for breaks down
- If two hours have passed since you last made a Lightning Lane reservation and you haven’t had any other qualifying events during those two hours (in the morning, the clock counting the two hours starts at official park opening time and not at 7:00 AM when you make a first reservation)
If you take a look at the list of qualifying events, they all generally make sense. They each represent times you’d expect Disney Genie+ to allow you to make a new Lightning Lane reservation. The only tricky thing to remember is that two hours of idle time without any qualifying events generates the ability to make a new Lightning Lane reservation. But this is only true after the theme park you have a reservation for opens.
So for example, if you book a Lightning Lane at 7:00 AM and you have a reservation for Magic Kingdom on a day that the theme park opens at 8:00 AM, you will be able to book a new Lightning Lane at 10:00 AM if you’re idle and have no qualifying events during that time (not 9:00 AM).
While all of these qualifying events follow common sense logic, it can be easy to forget what makes you eligible to book a new Lightning Lane. Make sure you lock all of these qualifying events into your brain.
If you’re having trouble keeping track of your qualifying events, just try to book a new Lightning Lane every time you think a qualifying event has occurred: the app will tell you if you’re ineligible to book a new Lightning Lane. Sometimes it might even tell you why! (The app is bad, what can we say?).
3. Learn to prioritize Lightning Lane reservations for the high demand attractions
When using Disney Genie+, it’s important to prioritize Lighting Lane reservation for the high demand attractions. Even on low crowd days, several attractions generally run out of Lightning Lane reservations by the afternoon. On medium to high crowd days, these same attractions may run out of Lightning Lane spots by lunchtime. A couple can even run out before you are eligible to book a second Lightning Lane for the day at all!
So you definitely want to make your first Lightning Lane reservation for a high demand attraction. These are the attractions that run out of Lightning Lanes with Genie+ the quickest in each park:
- Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Epcot: Test Track
- Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash*, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run
- Magic Kingdom: Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan’s Flight
(*Slinky Dog Dash regularly runs out in minutes every day.)
Day to day there may be exceptions, but in general we’ve been seeing the above attractions run out the quickest. At Magic Kingdom both Splash and Big Thunder Mountain often run out of Lightning Lanes on the sooner side too. In Hollywood Studios pickings get slim for all attractions by the early afternoon on busy days (more on that later).
But as a general rule, start with one of the above attractions for your first Genie+ Lightning Lane selection of the day. Some advanced strategies we discuss below will break that rule, but for most families just focus on these headliners to start.
BREAKING December 17, 2021: For the peak holiday periods of December 19, 2021-January 3, 2022 when Space Mountain (MK), Expedition Everest (AK), Frozen Ever After (Epcot), and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (HS) are also temporarily available on Genie+, expect them to be very popular as well.
4. Choose attractions to prioritize ahead of time and select them in Disney Genie
One underrated facet of Disney Genie+ is the importance of time and speed at 7:00 AM, especially for the high demand attractions discussed above. Five seconds (!) could be the difference between a 9:00 AM and 11:30 AM Lightning Lane reservation at an attraction like Slinky Dog Dash. So you not only need to prioritize the attractions you want to ride as a family, but you also need to make sure that Disney Genie+ prioritizes those rides for you as well.
To do this, you’ll actually use the vanilla Disney Genie. In the My Disney Experience app, click on “My Day” and then “Get Started Now” with Disney Genie. You’ll then be able to choose the park you’ll be starting at for the day (Disney Genie will check to confirm you have a park reservation for that day as well). From there you can select up to eight attractions you are interested in riding.
Here’s the important part: only select the one or two attractions that you want to prioritize at 7:00 AM. When you actually go to book Lightning Lane reservations, you will need to use the “Tip Board” section of the My Disney Experience app. Why? We may never know, but that’s how it works. By selecting the one or two attractions you are prioritizing you will make sure those show up at the top of your Tip Board, saving you precious seconds when trying to book them in the morning. Instead of scrolling all the way to the bottom for Slinky Dog Dash (the Tip Board organizes in alphabetical order if not given guidance) you’ll see it at the top of your board.
Don’t worry, after you get that first Lightning Lane or at any point during the day you can always re-select attractions you are interested in by going back to the My Day section. But getting those high demand attractions at the top of your Tip Board for your 7:00 AM reservation will do wonders for your day.
Tip: Use time.gov to help you time exactly when to get a Lightning Lane at 7:00 AM. Pull down to refresh your Tip Board a split second before the clock hits seven!
5. Stack multiple Lightning Lane attractions in a shorter time window to maximize your time
Our final tip for our basic strategy section is the concept of stacking multiple Lightning Lanes. Put simply, unlike its predecessor Fastpass+, Disney Genie+ doesn’t care whether your Lightning Lane reservations overlap one another. That means you could have a Lightning Lane reservation for a 3:30-4:30 PM window and a second Lightning Lane for 3:40-4:40 PM: this causes no conflict or error inside Disney Genie+ or your My Disney Experience app except for a warning.
This may not seem like a huge deal but trust us. It’s a huge deal! For starters, it allows you to be more efficient with your time. Under the old Fastpass system you often were waiting an hour between attractions (or hitting a standby line in between Fastpass attractions). Since you can stack a bunch of rides all around the same time frame in Disney Genie+ it allows you to be more efficient in the parks. Taking a simple example, you could take a long lunch and then hit 3-4 stacked Lightning Lane reservations in an hour and a half.
This may sound complicated, but in practice you’ll likely end up stacking Lightning Lane reservations without even trying to. Remember: just book new Lightning Lanes every qualifying event or at the very least every time you tap into a new attraction or 120 minutes has passed. That will really help you to maximize your day with minimal effort. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can move on to more advanced strategies.
Advanced Genie+ Strategy: 5 Additional Tricks to Maximize Stacking at Walt Disney World
Two concepts from our beginner’s tips form the base of strategies that can be used to further unlock the power of Genie+. Once you understand what qualifying events unlock new Lightning Lane reservations and internalize the idea that you can stack multiple Lightning Lane reservations on top of each other you’ll be able to truly maximize Genie+.
- Some loopholes have been closed: When I visited the parks earlier this month, there were several tricks that allowed guests to make a new booking each and every time a qualifying event occurred. This permitted guests to double and triple their bookings by strategically using expirations, tapping into attractions, and the 120 minute rule all together. Several of these loopholes have now sadly been closed. That doesn’t mean stacking isn’t possible though! Keep reading for what still works.
- Genie+ doesn’t always hold up well on very busy days: Thanksgiving week was a stress test of Genie+ capacity, and it didn’t really hold up. Guests using it intelligently could fare well in the Magic Kingdom. But with fewer attractions in Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom on the Genie+ system, return times for desirable rides ran out very quickly. You likely will not get to ride nearly as much with Genie+ if you are in one of those parks exclusively at a very high crowd time. Use other strategies like early theme park entry or park hopping to maximize your day. (BREAKING December 17, 2021: Early theme park entry has been temporarily extended from 30 to 60 minutes before official park opening during the peak holiday period of December 19, 2021 to January 3, 2022. Take advantage!)
So with these limits in mind, let’s dive into advanced strategies which are where the real fun with Genie+ begins!
1. Stack morning Lightning Lanes from outside the parks for late arrival days
This isn’t the most powerful strategy, but it’s very useful if you’re taking it easy in the morning or even on a travel day when you’ll be arriving in Orlando in the afternoon. We’ve personally used this strategy to ride five attractions at Hollywood Studios in two hours on an arrival day!
For morning Lightning Lane stacking, you’re mostly using the two hour idle time qualifying event. The strategy goes something like this for a 9:00 AM park opening:
- 7:00 AM – Book Lightning Lane 1
- 11:00 AM – Book Lightning Lane 2 (two hours after park open and being idle)
- 1:00 PM – Book Lightning Lane 3, continue booking Lightning Lanes every two hours
This strategy works very well at Hollywood Studios most days, because Hollywood Studios attractions book into the afternoon very early in the day. On busy days this strategy doesn’t work as perfectly because many attractions you want to ride might be completely sold out by 1:00 PM! It’s essential to prioritize the attractions that run out for your 7:00 AM and 11:00 AM selections and leave less popular rides for the 1:00 PM slot.
2. Book then switch your Park Pass reservation
It can be tricky to get Lightning Lane times in the afternoon that fit your schedule, but there’s one trick that guests who have purchased Park Hopper tickets can use to their advantage.
If you have a Park Hopper, Disney Genie+ will force your Lightning Lane return times into the afternoon regardless of availability (since you can’t technically park hop until 2:00 PM). So what you can do is make your theme park reservation for a different park than the park you plan to visit in the afternoon. Then as you stack Lightning Lanes for the afternoon you’re guaranteed return times at 2:00 PM or later.
When you’re ready to enter the park or have gotten the windows booked that you want, simply change your park reservation to the park you’re actually visiting. You should be able to do this on most days, though of course if Disney World park pass reservations fill up you may not be able to switch starting parks. Check reservation availability and plan accordingly.
Worst case scenario, tap into the park you have a reservation for and then walk right back out to the park you plan to visit if you can’t switch your reservation. Epcot and Hollywood Studios are especially good for hedging on this strategy because of their proximity and transportation connections.
We love this strategy for when our families want to take a morning at the pool, sleep in, or if we’re just spending an easy half day in the parks. It’s not foolproof, but in general you can reliably show up at the park in the afternoon with some attractions booked to save you a bunch of time.
And of course, if you really are going to a different park in the morning, you can still use this strategy to book an attraction for the park you plan to hop to later in the day – no park reservation changes needed!
3. Stack on your lunch break
One of our favorite stacking methods is what we call lunch break stacking. This again takes advantage of the two hour idle time qualifying event. The premise is simple: when you’re eating lunch at a table service restaurant, you’re not riding rides. For most families lunch can take at least an hour, but sometimes with travel time you might end up taking two hours or more for lunch.
Use that time to your advantage! Set up your day so the last thing you do before lunch is ride an attraction via a Lightning Lane you booked through Disney Genie+ (this isn’t necessary of course but let’s use this as an example). After you tap into that attraction, book a new Lightning Lane. At this point, the two hour clock has started ticking on a potential qualifying event. Set a timer for two hours and as you’re enjoying a leisurely meal, or a break at the hotel, or time at the pool – make another Lightning Lane selection when that two hour timer goes off!
Lunch break stacking is probably one of the simplest stacking methods: it just requires that you be organized enough to remember to grab a new Lightning Lane after two hours. We call it lunch break stacking but you can really utilize this during any break in the day. This tip is just a reminder to book Lightning Lanes whenever you’re idle. Like all the strategies, this will be trickier on a busy park day as Lightning Lanes begin to sell out, but it’s still better to book something while you’re idle than nothing, so don’t forget!
4. Make a Morning (Magic Kingdom) Mad Dash
While stacking in the afternoon works for some parks and strategies, one strategy Magic Kingdom guests may want to attempt is the precise opposite. Instead of banking attractions every two hours to ride later, this strategy involves using tapping into a Lightning Lane as a qualifying event to move through a number of attractions quickly early in the day.
This is much more like how MaxPass worked at Disneyland. This strategy works best at Magic Kingdom because there are many more Genie+ attractions in play and return windows for many of them don’t get pushed to later in the day right away.
The key is to book an attraction with an early return window (soon after park opening), and then book your next attraction with Genie+ immediately after tapping into the first. Each time, you’ll be looking to book an attraction with a return time that is relatively soon after that time. This means you won’t necessarily book a headliner every time, as the return windows for some of those rides start getting too late. But this can be a powerful method to work your way through a lot of D-Ticket attractions quickly in the morning.
So how do you fit in the headliners? Ideally, you act fast enough at 7:00am so you can get one of them as your first Genie+ booking of the day. You should ride another one or two of the most popular rides with early theme park entry or at rope drop when lines are shortest. Do this right before you redeem your first Lightning Lane. Finally, you should aim to book another E-Ticket headliner with Genie+ before every ride’s return times run out for the day. This should be after you’ve made your mad dash through several D-Ticket attractions.
5. Take Advantage of Multiple Experiences Passes
What happens when an attraction isn’t operating during your Lightning Lane window? When that occurs, you get one of our favorite things at Walt Disney World: the “Multiple Experiences Pass”. Put simply, My Disney Experience will give you a pass to ride a variety of attractions (not just the one you had a Lightning Lane for) at any time throughout the rest of the day! Of course, most people will use this to ride the attraction that they missed, but you’re not limited to only that attraction.
Generally, your Multiple Experiences Pass will be valid for all attractions at the same popularity as the attraction that wasn’t operating and below. So if you have a Lightning Lane for Test Track and it’s raining, you pretty much will get a Multiple Experiences Pass valid for anything in Epcot except for Frozen or Remy’s. If you don’t really want to ride Test Track, you could always use that to re-ride an attraction that you or your family loves.
Another tip to bear in mind is that while the Multiple Experiences Pass My Disney Experience automatically adds to your account will be for the same park, if you’re park hopping you can visit the Guest Experiences Team (look for blue umbrellas) and they should be able to make that pass valid for another park as well. That’s something you can definitely use to your advantage.
Finally, if a ride breaks down late at night, you’re often given a Multiple Experiences Pass good for the entire next day. Depending on what experiences are eligible, that can make a huge difference in planning for your next day. So make sure you pay close attention whenever an attraction you have a Lightning Lane for breaks down. It may end up working to your advantage.
If you’ve made it this far, you probably have enough tips to truly take advantage of Disney Genie+. You should be able to maximize your day, especially if the parks aren’t at level 9 or 10 crowds. Still, there are a few more miscellaneous tips and things you should know that might be able to help you out, so we’ll list some here.
- If Disney Genie+ gives you a Lightning Lane return time that you don’t like or doesn’t fit your strategy, go back before confirming the reservation and try to get a new time.
- Keep editing your “My Day” selections to keep the attractions you want to get Lightning Lanes for at the top of your Tip Board, especially if they are marquee attractions. Scrolling wastes valuable time!
- Individual Lightning Lanes (the a la carte purchases) can overlap with Disney Genie+ Lightning Lanes, so plan accordingly.
- You not only have a grace period of entering a Lightning Lane 15 minutes late, you can also enter up to 5 minutes early.
- Be prepared to have to re-login to the My Disney Experience app multiple times throughout the day (and often deal with one time codes being sent to your e-mail).
- Remember you can only use Lightning Lane once per attraction per day. Your Lightning Lane expiring counts as using it regardless of whether you tap in during the grace period or not, so make sure to cancel if you’re going to miss a Lightning Lane window for a ride you really want.
- Consider a two (or three) phone strategy for 7:00 AM on busy days. If you are trying to make both a Genie+ booking and individual attraction selection Lightning Lane purchases to start the day, you may need more than one person doing these tasks simultaneously to get the times you want (especially if Slinky Dog Dash and Rise of the Resistance are both on your list).
- If you want to get the most value out of a Genie+ day, combining these strategies with park hopping is best. You’ll run out of desirable attractions to ride with Genie+ in parks like Animal Kingdom or Epcot, so doing two or more parks lets you ride more headliners in total for the day.
If you take nothing else away from this guide, remember this: grab your next Lightning Lane as soon as you’re eligible, whether that’s from tapping into an attraction, 120 minutes passing, or even cancelling a reservation.
It cannot be overstated how important this will be on medium to busy days when Lightning Lanes start selling out by mid-afternoon. You’ll want to make sure you’ve made enough reservations to feel like your purchase was worth it before then. Pay attention to your qualifying events and make new Lightning Lane reservations whenever you can to truly maximize your Disney Genie+ purchase.
We hope you have as much fun using Disney Genie+ as we did figuring out how it all works. Enjoy!
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About the author: Contributing writer Joe Cheung loves traveling with his wife and three children. He has been writing about using miles and points to reduce the cost of family travel since his wife was pregnant with their first child. He loves traveling all around the world with a special place in his heart for travel to Asia and all things Disney. When he’s not writing, you can find Joe chatting about Disney World on the Disney planning podcast Disney Deciphered that he and Leslie co-host or working as a travel agent specializing in Disney destinations. You can contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.