Disney Genie & Lightning Lane at Walt Disney World

Lightning Lane! Genie+! Virtual Queues! A trip to Disney World these days involves dealing with multiple potentially-confusing technologies with fanciful names. These technologies have two things in common: they’re all accessed through the My Disney Experience app on your iPhone or Android phone, and they’re all ways of minimizing your time spent waiting in line. This page explains in detail how all of these tools work, so you can use them effectively at Walt Disney World!

There’s so much to cover about Genie+ and Lightning Lane that we split the information onto two pages:

  • This page covers how all these technologies work and the various rules and policies, like a “user manual” for Genie, Genie+, Lightning Lane and Virtual Queues.
  • We also recommend reading our Genie+ & Lightning Lane Tips & Strategy page, a complete guide to maximizing the value of these tools so you can have the best possible Walt Disney World vacation!

Jump to:

Disney Genie

Genie LogoThe Disney Genie service is a FREE planning tool, built into the Walt Disney World My Disney Experience app, available for most smartphones. The service is conceptually pretty simple:

Currently, the app cannot create a plan in advance. You can enter your preferences well in advance and edit them any time, but it will only start showing you plans on the morning of that park visit. That makes it less useful for planning things that require advance reservations, like table-service dining, dessert parties and so forth. On the plus side, once you’ve made dining reservations, the app will know those times and work the rest of its suggestions around them.

The app doesn’t seem very aggressive about getting you on your favorite rides. It seems to often instead suggest you go on nearby rides that have short waits. This is great if your priority is just getting on rides and minimizing walking and waiting, but it does mean that you really can’t force it to prioritize getting on your must-do rides. If certain rides or shows are really important to you, Genie may not be your best approach. 

The app should keep track of some of your activities and adjust automatically, but that doesn’t always work. For example, if you’ve made sit-down dining reservations or pre-ordered food via mobile order around dinner time, the app should note that and stop suggesting other restaurants for dinner. If your reservation is earlier or later than what the app thinks is “dinner” you may find your list has dining recommendations you don’t want. Similarly, if you use Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane for an attraction, the app should automatically remove that attraction from your recommendation list. But sometimes that doesn’t work correctly. As Disney works through the bugs, things like this should slowly get better.

Even in the best case, using the app relies on you doing a certain amount of manual management. If you take the app’s lead and ride the next thing it suggests, it may or may not figure out that you’ve crossed that ride off, so to speak, and may continue to suggest it. If so, you’ll need to go in and delete that recommendation so it will stop trying to shoehorn it into your day’s schedule. If you’re not happy with what Genie suggests, you basically need to ask it to come up with an alternative, or just delete the thing you don’t want to go on. 

Following the app’s plan will almost certainly reduce the amount of time you will wait in line compared to just wandering randomly. The app can know, for example, that the lines for Haunted Mansion go down a little when a big parade is happening, and can tell you to wait until the parade time to visit that attraction. It knows that in the morning, going on Space Mountain before Pirates of the Caribbean will be a lower overall expected wait time than going on Pirates before Space Mountain. These may seem like small things, but we can tell you from experience, it really adds up.

People who are used to planning a Disney trip and like to use carefully constructed park plans will not get much out of the basic Genie functionality. Optimized plans like the ones printed in The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World or available on various web sites are going to get you on more of the rides you care most about.

On the other hand, if you prefer to not have to follow a rigid schedule, using Genie’s recommendations is not a bad idea. If you’re not sure what to do next, having Genie suggest your next move is better than the traditional method that families have used at Disney parks for decades: standing in a small cluster while the adults stare at the map and say things like, “My sister says Haunted Mansion is good,” while the children complain that they’re bored. Frankly, anything is better than that approach.

Lightning Lanes

Lightning Lane LogoLightning Lanes are special entrances available at select attractions that allow you to skip the regular line and get straight to the ride quickly, usually in 10 minutes or less. If you’re familiar with the (now discontinued) FastPass system, it’s roughly the same thing, just no longer included with the ticket price. How do you get access to the Lightning Lane? Read on!

First, you need to make a Lightning Lane reservation, either via Genie+ (which costs money) or via an Individual Lightning Lane reservation (which costs money). There are a few other ways you might get a Lightning Lane reservation. Disney might give some out just to add magic to a guest’s day or potentially to encourage guests to move to a less crowded part of the park. Guest Relations can give people extra Lightning Lane passes to help make up for a problem or mistake like a ride breaking down. But most of the time, they’ll be ones you booked yourself on your phone.

Each guest is limited to getting just one Lightning Lane reservation for any specific ride. You are welcome to ride almost any ride or show as many times as you want by waiting in the regular line for each ride, with the exception of rides using a virtual queue, but you can typically only use the Lightning Lane once. One potiential workaround: If you’re visiting the park with people who don’t want to ride a specific ride, and don’t mind letting you use their Lightning Lane reservations, you can get them a reservation as well, borrow their MagicBand or park ticket and use it to tap in for the ride a second time. As long as you’re using a valid, unexpired, unused reservation, Cast Members don’t seem to care who’s using it.

At any time during a reservation’s return window, you can go to the Lightning Lane entrance of that attraction and “tap in” by touching your ticket or MagicBand at the Mickey symbol.

There is an automatic “grace period” built in, so currently you can show up for your reservation as much as 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late and the computer should just let you in. If you show up more than 15 minutes late, the attendant might let you in, especially if you have a good reason why you are late. Sometimes if you are held up through no fault of your own (a ride or transportation breakdown, for example), attendants have some wiggle room to let you ride, but there are always times when things are just too busy and attendants are told not to let in stragglers. And, of course, Disney can shorten or eliminate the grace period at any time. Bottom line: try not to be late!

If you miss your window, you just lose that reservation, even if you paid for it! Currently, the system won’t even let you book a replacement, though as with other issues, if you have some solid reason why you couldn’t make it, Guest Relations may be able to help you out.

Disney Genie+

Genie+ LogoDisney Genie+ is an upgrade that unlocks Lightning Lane access to over 40 attractions across the 4 major Disney World parks. By purchasing Disney Genie+, you can get faster access to one ride at a time, selected from a set of popular attractions, all day long. 

Purchasing Genie+

Genie+ can be purchased for one day at a time as needed, as early as midnight of the day you want to use it. Disney Genie+ costs $15.98 (tax included) per person, per day at Walt Disney World.

Genie+ Buy ButtonTo buy Genie+ for a single day, launch the My Disney Experience app and log into your Disney account, if you haven’t already. Go to the “My Day” section of the app, and scroll down until you see the purple buy button. Tap that and the Get Disney Genie+ Service button on the next page. You can buy Genie+ for your whole travel party if they’re all linked to your My Disney Experience account. You’ll need to provide payment info if you don’t already have a credit card attached to your Disney account.

You can add Genie+ to a park ticket when you purchase it, or you can add Genie+ to an existing ticket, either in the My Disney Experience app, over the phone, or at any ticket booth or Guest Relations location. You don’t get any price break when you add Genie+ in advance; the cost is $15.98 for each day, and you have to get it for all the days on your ticket. If you only want it for some days, or you have an annual pass, or certain older tickets that can’t be modified, your only option is to buy Genie+ each morning you want it.

To add Genie+ to a park ticket you’ve already purchased, select the “Tickets and Passes” section of the app from the main menu (the three horizontal lines in the lower right). Swipe through the linked tickets until you find the ticket you want to modify. Click the “Change Ticket” button below the ticket. If you don’t see a “Change Ticket” button, the ticket may be ineligible to be changed (it’s too old, a complimentary or special ticket, or some other issue), or perhaps the app is experiencing a glitch of some sort. You can also call Walt Disney World ticketing to see if they can make the change.

Using Genie+

Genie+ LL Button

In the “Tip Board” section of the app, certain attractions have a “Genie+ Lightning Lane” button with a time listed. Tap the button to reserve that time window to visit that attraction. If you haven’t purchased Genie+ yet, it will take you through that process, then take you back to the Tip Board to reserve your Lighting Lane time. 

Be careful! You may get a different time on the next screen! The time listed on the Tip Board is not guaranteed to be the time you get when you actually book. The system doesn’t “hold” the times listed on the Tip Board. Once you get to the actually booking screen, the time is now held (for at least a few minutes), and you can count on the time listed there being the time you’ll actually book. Return times can change very quickly, especially early in the morning. You may think you’re getting a 9:00 – 10:00 am reservation, only to see that it’s now a 10:20 – 11:20 am reservation on the next screen. 

All of your booked reservations, including Genie+, restaurants, events, etc. appear in the “My Day” section of the app. You’ll also see a few upcoming reservations on the top of the app home screen (tap the little house in the lower left to get to the home screen).

You can book your first Genie+ Lightning Lane selection at 7:00 am, no matter what time the park opens. This time applies whether you’re staying in a Disney-owned resort or other off-property hotel. 

If you have a 1 Park Per Day ticket, you can only select rides in a park you have a reservation for. If you have a Park Hopper ticket or Annual Pass, you can make reservations at a park you don’t have a reservation for, though you can only book times after 2:00 pm (because you can’t park hop before 2:00 pm). You may see an earlier starting time on the Tip Board section of the app, but if you actually tap the button to book, the booking shown will be for 2:00 or later. 

Once you’ve made a Genie+ reservation, you can make one for a new ride after certain events happen or a timer runs down, according to the rules below:

Please note: These rules are not all documented, and were worked out via extensive testing. Disney can change them without warning, though we have no reason to think they will. If you notice a discrepancy between what we say about the way Genie+ works and your experience in the parks, please let us know.

Additional Genie+ Notes

You can only get one reservation per ride each day. Once you’ve used (or let expire) a Genie+ reservation for an attraction, you cannot get another Genie+ reservation for that same attraction.

The system will let you make a reservation that conflicts with another reservation such as a dining reservation or another Lightning Lane reservation. It will warn you that another reservation overlaps, but it won’t stop you from making it.

Disney Genie+ also includes some special animated Augmented Reality Lenses so you can use your smartphone to take fun videos and photos of your friends and family with Disney characters. (These aren’t physical “lenses”, it’s just a feature of the My Disney Experience app that lets you take photos and videos with Disney characters magically included.)

There are also special audio experiences that come with Genie+ that let you hear Disney artists and imagineers talking about the attractions and décor at various spots around the parks. If you want to listen to the audio experiences, you almost certainly will want to bring headphones.

Be sure to also check out our page of strategy tips for using Genie+, which provides practical tips for how to maximize the value you get for your $15.98/day!

The attractions available for Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations:

Individual Lightning Lane

A couple of ultra-popular attractions in each park have a separate paid option to get a Lightning Lane reservation. Reservations for these attractions are not available through Genie+ (and do not require buying Genie+ to reserve), and can be purchased individually. You can buy up to two of these each day: you can grab one or both at the start of the day, or wait and see how the crowds and wait times are looking. Don’t wait too long, though – the most popular rides absolutely sell out before the end of the day (especially Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which has been selling out within an hour of park opening).

The prices for getting Lightning Lane reservations for these attractions vary, both based on ride popularity and how busy the parks are. Examples of individual Lightning Lane prices we’ve seen so far range from $7 per person for Expedition Everest to $15 per person for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Disney will adjust those prices up or down on different days depending on how much demand there is for Lightning Lane reservations for each ride. On weekends, for example, the prices are a little higher, and on weekdays they’re a little lower. On holidays we expect they’ll be much higher. The price stays the same all day. You don’t have to worry that the price of a Lightning Lane reservation will change later in the day.

Making an Individual Lightning Lane Reservation

Individual Lightning Lane ButtonIn the “Tip Board” section of the app, certain attractions have a “Individual Lightning Lane” button with a starting time and price listed. Tap the button to book a reservation. The app will offer you all the times available to book for that day, starting at the time shown on the button and continuing throughout the day. Choose one of the times, select your party, and pay. You’ll need to provide payment info if you don’t already have a credit card attached to your Disney account.

All of your booked reservations, including Genie+, Individual Lightning Lane, restaurants, events, etc. appear in the “My Day” section of the app. You’ll also see a few of your upcoming reservations on the top of the app home screen (tap the little house in the lower left to get to the home screen).

If you’re staying at an official Disney-owned resort, the Swan & Dolphin, or Shades of Green, you can start making Individual Lighting Lane reservations at 7:00 am for that day only. If you’re staying at another hotel, you can start making individual paid ride reservations at the official opening time for the park that ride is in (whether you’ve entered the park or not).

You can make both Individual Lightning Lane reservations at the same time; there’s no waiting period, like there is with Genie+. You get a choice of reservation times, but over time slots can sell out, so late in the day you may find that certain slots aren’t available, and at some point there may be no more reservation slots at all for the rest of the day. 

If you have a 1 Park Per Day ticket, you can only select rides in a park you have a reservation for. If you have a Park Hopper ticket or Annual Pass, you can make reservations at a park you don’t have a reservation for, though you can only book times after 2:00 pm (because you can’t park hop before 2:00 pm). You may see an earlier starting time on the Tip Board section of the app, but if you actually tap the button to book, the options shown will all be at or after 2:00 pm. 

Additional Individual Lightning Lane Notes

You can only get one reservation per ride each day. Once you’ve used (or let expire) an Individual Lightning Lane reservation for an attraction, you cannot get another reservation for that same attraction.

Individual Lightning Lane reservations are independent of Genie+ reservations, so making Individual Lightning Lane reservations has no effect on your ability to make Genie+ reservations, if you purchase both. 

The system will let you make a reservation that conflicts with something else such as a dining reservation, a Genie+ reservation or another Individual Lightning Lane reservations. It will warn you that another reservation overlaps, but it won’t stop you from making it.

You cannot cancel or modify paid Individual Lightning Lane reservations. Guest Relations have the technical ability to modify one, but will only do so under special circumstances.

If your ride goes down during your reservation window and before you were able to ride, or after you’ve tapped in but have not yet completed the ride, you should get assigned a special pass that lets you ride that ride once at any time for the rest of the day. If it doesn’t, visit Guest Relations and they should be able to fix it. If the ride stays down for the rest of the day, you should get a refund, though it may require a trip to Guest Relations if it doesn’t happen automatically. If the ride comes back up, but you weren’t able to ride because you had to leave the park or had another conflict, you won’t get an automatic refund, but Guest Relations should still be able to help.

The complete list of rides available for individual Lightning Lane reservation (which Disney can change any time):

Virtual Queues

A “virtual queue” is a way of holding a spot in line for an attraction without having actually having to stand in a physical queue. Disney uses this system sparingly, typically only for one or two rides per park that are brand-new and/or in very high demand. Disney has also used it in the past to manage access to new park “lands” like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Virtual queues are FREE.

When you enter a virtual queue, you get assigned a numbered boarding group, which is just like taking a number at the deli. You can always see what number is currently boarding, and can get a rough idea of how much longer you’ll have to wait for your number to come up. If the ride goes down for some amount of time, boarding will pause and your number will get called later. There’s no guarantee that they’ll get to your number, though if the ride operates normally they generally get to all or almost all groups.

Virtual queues are completely separate from Lightning Lane, and don’t affect your ability to pay for a Individual Lightning Lane selection. In fact, if a ride has both a virtual queue and paid Individual Lightning Lane access, you can use both and ride it twice!

A virtual queue is currently being used for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. A virtual queue has been used in the past for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and potentially could return. Be sure to check if any rides you want to experience are using a virtual queue before you arrive, because the system for using them is unique.

How To Get A Boarding Group

Disney can change the system for virtual queues at any time (and has, several times), but here’s the system currently in use: