Genie+ & Lightning Lane Tips & Strategy
Disney’s new Lightning Lanes and Genie+ have the potential to save you significant time in line, but are they worth the money? And how can you maximize their potential, so you get every last bit of value for your dollar? Our comprehensive Lightning Lane strategy guide will help you get more rides with less waiting!
There’s so much to cover about Genie+ and Lightning Lane that we split the information onto two pages:
- This page has tips and strategy to help you maximize the value you get from purchasing Genie+ and/or Individual Lightning Lanes.
- If you haven’t already, we suggest you also read our main Disney Genie & Lightning Lane page, which covers the basic rules and procedures for all these technologies.
- Are Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes Worth the Money?
- Basic Strategy Tips
- Advanced Strategy Tips
- Top Picks For Genie+ & Individual Lightning Lanes
Are Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes Worth the Money?
This is a highly subjective question, and it greatly depends on how busy the parks are, how much you value your time, and your personal vacation style.
How Busy Are The Parks?
If you’re visiting on a very low-crowd day, like a weekday in mid-September, you may want to hold off on buying any kind of line-skipping upgrade until you see what the lines look like. Even on a slow day, there will be some lines, but you may feel like they’re totally reasonable, even for the big draws like Rise of the Resistance.
On a mid-crowd day, the lines will be starting to get more daunting, but with careful planning and getting to the park early, you can avoid many of them. That said, Genie+ will still save you time, and that’s time you could be spending trying on every kind of limited-edition Mickey ears.
On a high-crowd day, like spring break or Christmas, the lines get long early and stay long. Paying for Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane reservations for your must-do rides should add significant value. Keep in mind that on a high-crowd day, you may only be able to get 2 or 3 Genie+ reservations before the most popular reservations are sold out. However, 2 or 3 well-chosen Lightning Lane reservations can absolutely save you multiple hours of waiting.
What’s Your Time Worth?
Here’s one way to think about it: if you look at what you’re spending to go to Walt Disney World, including transportation, tickets, food, etc., and then how many total minutes you’re spending in the park, most families are spending at least $1/minute (per family, not per person). That’s not true for everyone – locals with annual passes typically spend much less per minute, for example, while people who go VIP all the way might be spending $2 or more per minute. But it’s a nice round figure that’s not too far off, and makes it easy to make a ballpark estimate of what a particular amount of time saved is “worth”.
If you go with the $1/minute figure, then paying to skip rides is often going to be worth it. We’re a family of four, so buying Genie+ costs us $64-$92/day. It’s not hard to save 64 minutes of waiting by using Genie+, even on slower days, so that seems to pencil out. And while in busy seasons the price goes up, the amount of time you can save goes up as well.
With the Individual Lightning Lanes, you can do similar math. Four Lightning Lane reservations for Space Mountain cost around $30 (more or less depending on demand). Can you save 30 minutes with those reservations? Yes, on a busy day, but not so much on a low-crowd day. It’s not hard to save 60 minutes or more with a Rise of the Resistance Lightning Lane reservation, even during less busy days, so that’s going to pay off more often.
There are also, of course, intangible factors. If you just hate paying for add-ons in general, then the annoyance of spending additional money after you’ve already spent so much might loom really large. Or skipping line waits may feel great to you – so great that you’d pay even more to get that feeling of living like a VIP. If $1/minute feels wrong to you, substitute your own value, but make it a nice round number so you can calculate it in your head and answer questions like, “How much should I be willing to pay to skip a 1 hour wait?”
What Kind of Vacation Do You Want?
If you prefer to mostly wander and soak in the atmosphere, riding a favorite ride here and there or taking in a show or two, then buying Lightning Lane access might not offer you as much value. If you want to ride as many headliner rides as possible, paying for shorter lines should let you get more rides in with less stress.
Another factor is how much you value being able to sleep in longer. Everyone knows that getting to the parks early will save you a lot of waiting, but less than 25% of the guests actually arrive at opening. Clearly, lots of people feel like “sleeping in” is a key part of vacationing, and if you’re one of those people, you should embrace it and vacation the way you want. If you want to be able to roll into the parks at 11:00 am and still get a lot done, then Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes are going to help quite a bit! For a few of the very popular rides, you will probably want to wake up at 7:00 am to get them booked, but then you can go back to sleep.
The Bottom Line
We don’t really recommend buying Genie+ for every theme park day, unless you’re going at a peak time of year. Most of the time, it’s worth picking a few days and just paying for it on those days. It’s easy to just buy Genie+ on a morning where you know you’re going to try to hit a lot of popular rides. You can also wait until you get to the park and see how long the waits are and how much time you can save. Don’t wait too long — every hour that goes by reduces the value you can get from Genie+, but the price stays the same. The one situation where you really need to buy in advance is if you really want to get a Lightning Lane reservation for a super-popular Genie+ ride or a ride that just opened within the last year.
Whether to buy a single Individual Lightning Lane reservation is probably a simpler decision. For most of the rides, you can wait and see in the app how many minutes of waiting you can skip and how much it costs and do your own time/money tradeoff analysis. However, the Individual Lightning Lanes for the 1-2 hottest, newest rides sell out pretty quickly, so you need to figure out whether those rides are worth it to you in advance, preferably at least a day before.
In the end, it’s a personal decision. If you like to splurge on your Disney trip and go first-class all the way, then definitely get Genie+ and all the Individual Lightning Lane reservations for rides you want to experience. You only live once! On the other hand, if you like to “beat the system,” you can definitely get on all of these rides with fairly reasonable waits by going early or late in the day, going to the parks at low season, or both. It’s your call.
Basic Strategy Tips
These are all simple techniques that will help optimize your usage of Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes, with minimal extra work. You do not need a degree in Advanced Genie-ology to use these.
Please note: These strategies 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.
Before Your Trip
- Make sure to read and understand the Genie+ booking rules. The key ones to remember are: 1) if two hours pass since you made your previous reservation, you can book again, or 2) if you tap into or cancel your previous reservation before two hours pass, you can book again. But there are some edge cases and subtleties, and if you understand the rules clearly you’ll have an easier time.
- Take some time to go over the list of Genie+ attractions and Individual Lightning Lane attractions and figure out which are your must-do’s. If no one in your family wants to go on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you don’t have to waste any time on it. And if everyone wants to ride Flight of Passage or Rise of the Resistance, you’ve got some planning to do.
- Designate one member of your party to be the “Lightning Lane Master” and let them handle My Disney Experience and deal with all your reservations. This is a great job for someone tech-savvy, as long as they are conscientious and good at keeping times straight. This person is going to be using their phone a lot, so you may want to invest in a portable charger for them.
- If you’re traveling in a large group of more than 10 people, break your group up into sub-groups of 10 or fewer. Technically speaking, Genie+ reservations can be made for up to 12 people at a time, but we continue to have reports that Genie+ intermittently doesn’t work unless you have 10 or fewer people in your group, and booking Individual Lightning Lanes apparently never works for more than 10. You can all move around the park together and even ride together in most cases. But each group will need a “Lightning Lane Master” to book Lightning Lanes. At times (mostly at the beginning of the day) it may be hard to get the same Lightning Lane times, so it may be advantageous to have the two groups operate independently for the first hour or two, then hook back up (if desired) to finish out the day together.
- Whoever is managing Lightning Lanes should get the My Disney Experience app, get logged in, make sure everyone in the group is linked, everyone’s tickets are linked, etc. Also spend some time with the app. Figure out how to get to the Tip Board and the My Day sections, because you’ll be in those screens all the time. Go through the booking process as far as you can. You can’t really see all the booking screens until you have tickets and a park reservation, but you can get a feel for where everything is.
During Your Trip
- Every morning before 7 am (or when you plan to start booking), run through the free Genie setup and choose your top priorities for your first rides, so they will be pinned to the top of the tip board. If you will have one or more members of your party that won’t be joining you first thing, now is a good time to remove them from your party list, so you won’t have to do it every time you make a reservation. You can add them back when they arrive at the park and join everyone else.
- The #1 Genie+ tip: make reservations as soon as possible. There are a limited number of Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations available, so make sure you get your fair share!
- If you plan to arrive at the park at opening, be sure to book your first Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation at exactly 7:00 am. If you are trying for a big, popular ride reservation, getting a time as soon as possible after park opening is really valuable. You can make your next one as soon as you tap into the first, which means your next reservation will be earlier, and the next and the next. Getting that first ride even 20-30 minutes earlier can really make a big difference by the end of the day.
- If you are staying in an hotel that gives you 7:00 am booking of Individual Lightning Lanes, book them right at 7:00. Even for less-popular rides, booking at 7:00 will give you the widest range of times to pick from. And for popular rides, booking early may make the difference between getting a reservation and not getting one. At very busy times of year, all the Individual Lightning Lanes for a new or popular ride like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance may be sold out well before the park’s official opening time. If you’re not eligible for 7:00 booking, book as soon as the park opens.
- If you need to book both a Genie+ reservation and an Individual Lightning Lane reservation right at 7:00 am, try to split the task with someone else. One of you can book the Genie+ reservation and the other can book the Individual Lightning Lane. The two people don’t need to be logged into the same account (though they can be if that’s easiest), but both accounts must be linked to all members of the traveling party. If there’s no one else to help you, usually the right choice is to book the Genie+ reservation first, then immediately make the Individual Lightning Lane. The process of booking a Genie+ reservation is shorter, so you can often finish in 15-20 seconds, then move on to the Individual Lightning Lane(s).
- If possible, turn off wi-fi on your phone and use your phone’s data plan, just until you’ve secured your first reservations. In the morning, when everyone is trying to book at the same time, Disney’s hotel wi-fi will be highly congested, and you have a greater chance of your requests being delayed. Later in the day, the park wi-fi should work OK, but be prepared to fall back on your data plan if the wi-fi seems flaky.
- Any time you regain eligibility to book, make sure to immediately make another reservation. Get used to checking when you can book again, and if necessary, set an alarm so you’ll remember to book. The app will not notify you that your ability to book has come back.
- Remember that if you use your most recently booked Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation before the eligibility time runs out, you regain the ability to book. Also, if you cancel your most recent reservation, you gain the ability to book. So any time you tap into a ride, get used to getting out your phone and trying to make a new reservation. Note that at some rides, you’ll need to tap at the second tap point, further down the queue, before you can book again. Just to be safe, check whether you can book any time you tap a Lightning Lane tap point.
- If one of your Genie+ reserved rides goes down during or just before your return window, you’ll automatically be given a multi-attraction Lightning Lane pass. If the ride was your most-recently booked ride, you’re immediately eligible to book a new reservation. You will be notified by the app that your Genie+ reservation has been modified, and you’ll see a multi-attraction pass appear on your home screen and “my day” list. As soon as you get one of these, first try to make a new Lightning Lane reservation, then check out your brand-spanking new multi-attraction pass.
- If you’re confused about the 2 hour eligibility rule, don’t try to calculate it out, check the the app and find out when you will be eligible. Every time you book, just immediately try to book another reservation. It will say you’re not eligible to book, and what time you’ll be eligible, assuming you don’t use or cancel your most recent reservation before that time.
- For a ride with a virtual queue, you may want to try to get a FREE virtual queue boarding group first, before spending money on Individual Lightning Lane reservations. If you succeed and get an early group, it’s extremely likely you’ll be able to ride with relatively short wait. If you don’t get a boarding group, or your group number is very high, it may be worth your while to pay for the Individual Lightning Lane, if riding that ride is important. Alternatively, you can divide and conquer – have one person in your party get a boarding group for everyone, and someone else get an Individual Lightning Lane for everyone. You’ll definitely be able to ride with the Lightning Lane, and if you succeed in getting a boarding group, you can ride twice.
- Whenever you have 30 minutes or more before your next Lightning Lane reservation, see if you can fill the gap by riding something with a short wait. If you pop open the Tip Board in My Disney Experience, you should be able to find something nearby with a minimal wait, even at noon on New Year’s Eve. If the nearby attraction is a show, be sure to ask when the next show will let out before getting in line. You don’t want to miss the beginning of your next Lightning Lane reservation if you can help it.
- If you have less than 30 minutes until your next Lightning Lane reservation, you may want to take a moment to relax. Check out the amazing theming. Have a churro. Stroll. Buy that t-shirt you’ve been eyeing. Having an enjoyable Disney trip doesn’t have to be all about ride, ride, ride.
Advanced Strategy Tips
These are strategies aimed at the hard-core optimizer who wants to get on as many headline rides as possible with the smallest wait times. If these strategies make your eyes glaze over, don’t worry about them. You don’t need them to have a great day in the parks. Keep in mind that not everyone in your group has to understand them, just the person managing your Lightning Lanes.
Refreshing To Get Earlier Times
Sometimes you can get an earlier reservation than usual if your luck holds up. People can now cancel their Genie+ reservations, which they couldn’t with FastPass. Those cancelled reservations get put back into the booking pool, and can be booked by you! This section is about maximizing your ability to get those earlier reservations.
- We want to note right off the bat that this technique is hit-or-miss, and using it all the time seems like overkill. We make occasional use of it when it could make a significant difference, but never for more than a couple minutes or so, generally when we need a break for some other reason (bathroom, water, Mickey bar…). Most of the time just taking the next available return time works out fine. That said, clearly some people really enjoy this; it’s sort of like playing the slot machines, which could be good or bad depending on how much you like slot machines.
- First off, make a reservation immmediately, even if it’s not the time you want. You want to start that two hour countdown clock as quickly as possible. You’ll then use the Modify feature to try to get an earlier time for that ride or one of your other favorites.
- Once you have a reservation made, tap that reservation and select “Modify” on the details screen, or tap the three dots on the attraction tile in the Tip Board screen and select “Modify”.
- Now keep pulling down on the screen to force a refresh of the available times. If a better time comes up, tap it immediately, then check to make sure you got the time you wanted. If you didn’t tap the “back arrow” in the corner and continue refreshing.
- If you have two or three rides that you have a roughly equal desire to get a Genie+ reservation for, go through the regular Genie setup process and select those two or three as your “favorites.” Don’t select any others. Those favorite rides will come to the top of the list when you modify an existing Genie+ reservation, so if an early time comes up for any one of them, you’ll be able to see it easily and can switch your reservation.
- Even after a ride seems to be sold out of Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations, enough refreshing can sometimes get you a reservation that someone cancelled. Again, quick fingers and patience are necessary to make this pay off.
- Remember: when refreshing for earlier times, look at the return time window before you confirm and verify that it’s the time you expected. If you didn’t get the time you wanted, cancel out and go back to refreshing, or give up and drown your sorrows with a Mickey bar.
- We believe, based on watching the return times change, that Disney batches up a bunch of cancelled return times and dumps them all into the system at once. If you watch the return times, sometimes it will be showing a later time, like 5:00 pm, and then suddenly it switches to 11:00 am, then 11:10 am, 11:30 am, 11:35 am, 12:00 pm, etc. in a very short time. This batch dump seems to happen about every 5-10 minutes in the morning, but is harder to predict later in the day.
Stacking Multiple Reservations
This whole section is about strategies that make use of building “stacks” of Lightning Lane reservations by using the 120-minute rule.
- If you’re not planning to get to the parks until after opening, you can still make reservations before you get there. You don’t need to be in the parks to book Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes. Let’s say you won’t be arriving until 3:00 pm and the park opens at 9:00 am. You can make three reservations before you arrive: one before the park opens (as early as 7:00 am), one at 11:00 am (two hours after opening), and one at 1:00 pm. You’ll also be able to make one at 3:00 pm, right about when you arrive, so by the time your day gets going you can be holding 4 stacked reservations. In order for this to work, there need to be rides you want to go on that have return times after your arrival time.
- The basic rules of thumb for booking Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations for later in the day:
- Have a list of 4-5 rides you would like to get reservations for. Order them using your best estimate of most to least popular.
- Try for the most popular first – it will generally have later return times right away.
- Book one ride before the park opens, another 2 hours after opening, and another every 2 hours after that, as long as the return times are later than your arrival.
- If none of the rides you want have an arrival time later than your park arrival time, book your first choice anyway to start the two-hour countdown, but check on that ride again in 15-30 minutes and modify it once the time is acceptable.
- If one of your rides does have a time later than your park arrival time, just book it and leave it alone. That ride is locked in now, and you can focus your attention on other rides at the next 2-hour mark.
- An example is given below. The times below are all from an actual Sunday in mid-season:
- Your park reservation is for Magic Kingdom, which opens at 9:00 am. You plan on arriving at 3:00 pm.
- Initial booking – pre-opening (7-9 am)
- You book Jungle Cruise right at 7:00 for 9:15 am, which is too early. You watch the return times, and Jungle Cruise is booking super quickly, so at 8:10 am, you modify it to get a final return time of 4:30 pm-5:30 pm.
- First stack
- At 11:00 am Peter Pan is showing 1:50-2:50 pm. You book it anyway (starting the two-hour clock), and set a reminder to check for a better time in 20 minutes.
- At 11:20 am, you modify Peter Pan to 2:30-3:30. As long as you actually arrive at 3, that should be enough time to get on the ride before your window closes.
- Second stack
- At 1:00 pm, you book Haunted Mansion for 3:10-4:10 pm.
- Final stack
- At 3:00 you arrive, book Splash Mountain for 4:45-5:45 pm and use your Peter Pan reservation at 3:10.
- At 3:20 pm, just after getting off Peter Pan, you head to Haunted Mansion to use that reservation, and since that’s your most recent reservation, you’re immediately eligible to book another, and you still have your Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain reservations to use!
- Congratulations! You’re beginning your day at 3:00 pm at Magic Kingdom with 4 Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations for headliner rides stacked up!
- The basic rules of thumb for booking Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations for later in the day:
Using Grace Periods
As mentioned in our overall guide to the rules of Genie+, there is some flexibility in when you arrive to your Lightning Lane reservation. Our tests indicate that you can tap in up to 5 minutes before the beginning of your arrival window or 15 minutes after the end of your arrival window. For example, if your window is 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm you could tap in as early as 1:55 or as late as 3:15. The strategies that took advantage of the late grace period have all been removed by Disney (as we expected), but there are still some points worth noting:
- Take advantage of the 5 minute early grace period as often as you can. For popular rides, the available arrival windows move forward in time quite quickly, especially during peak season. If you tap into your first ride 5 minutes earlier, you might get an arrival time for your second reservation that’s 15 minutes earlier than you would have. That means you can tap into the second reservation 20 minutes earlier (the 15 minutes just mentioned plus 5 more from the grace period). Each of these savings adds up over the course of the day, and by the afternoon you could be an hour or more ahead, compared to a day where you didn’t tap in 5 minutes earlier every time.
- If you miss your window, show up to the ride anyway and explain what happened. Cast members tend to be very forgiving about the paid Individual Lightning Lane reservations, and you will very likely be allowed to use it later than your window. With Genie+ reservations, it’s hit and miss, but usually if you have a good reason for missing your window they’ll let you on. We would not recommend planning around showing up late to a reservation – people have been turned away! But if something happens beyond your control, definitely try to use the reservation and see what happens.
Top Picks For Genie+ & Individual Lightning Lanes
Listed below are our suggestions for attractions that will give you the biggest bang for the buck, so to speak, from Genie+ and/or Individual Lightning Lanes. They’re in priority order, mostly based on the maximum line waits we typically see and how quickly they tend to hit their maximum wait.
- ILL = Individual Lightning Lane
- VQ = Virtual Queue (not currently in use)
- SR = Single Rider
- MP = Morning Priority (i.e. book as early as possible)
Our Top Selections
- Magic Kingdom
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (ILL, MP)
- Jungle Cruise (MP)
- Peter Pan
- Space Mountain
- Haunted Mansion
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Winnie the Pooh
- Hollywood Studios
- Rise of the Resistance (ILL, MP)
- Slinky Dog Dash (MP)
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Tower of Terror
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (SR)
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (SR)
- Toy Story Mania
- Guardians of the Galaxy (VQ, ILL, MP)
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (MP)
- Test Track (SR, MP)
- Frozen Ever After (MP)
- Soarin’ Around The World
- Animal Kingdom
- Flight of Passage (ILL, MP)
- Na’vi River Journey
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Expedition Everest (SR)
- Kali River Rapids (if the weather is hot)
Genie+ rides marked MP are ones where Lightning Lane times are likely to get claimed very quickly. The next available return time could be hours in the future fairly early, possibly even before the park opens. A few of them could be completely sold out, maybe even before park opening on a busy day. If it’s super important to you to get a Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation for one of them early in the day, it’s a good idea to be up and ready by 6:45 am so you can buy Genie+ and be ready to snag a reservation right when they become available at 7:00 am.
Similarly, if an Individual Lightning Lane reservation has MP next to it, get it as early as you can. If you qualify for 7:00 am Individual Lightning Lane reservations, be ready by 6:58 am. If you don’t qualify for 7:00 am Individual Lightning Lane reservations, be ready a few minutes before the official opening time of the park the ride is in.
For Hollywood Studios in particular, both Rise of the Resistance and Slinky Dog Dash can sell out very quickly on a busy day. It may be worth designating two people to be ready at 7:00 am – one of them can book Slinky Dog Dash and the other can book Rise of the Resistance. If you don’t have two people willing to wake up that early, get Slinky Dog Dash first, then Rise of the Resistance.
If you’re not interested in the rides we’ve marked as morning priorities, it’s not a terrible idea to book one of the other rides bright and early, but unless it’s Christmas or Spring Break, you almost certainly will be able to wait until opening and see how things look before committing.
All the rides in the list generate longer lines fairly quickly, and are good choices to save you a bunch of waiting time. Once you’re in the park and ready for a new Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation, choosing the next ride on the list is a good rule of thumb. We’ve organized these into priority order based on how long their lines get and how quickly they get long, so start at the top and work your way down. If you don’t want to ride one, skip it and get the next one.
If a ride has a Single Rider queue, that’s a good alternative to Lightning Lane if you want to save your Genie+ reservations for other rides. Everyone in your party will be called individually to fill in a single space, so you won’t be riding together, but you’ll be on and off the ride at almost the same time. On busy days, the single rider line can still have a significant wait, but almost always much less so than the main standby line.
All the other rides that aren’t on our list could be perfectly fine choices for Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes, but depending on how busy the parks are, you can probably ride many of them standby while you’re waiting for your next Lightning Lane reservation to come up. If you knock off all your high-priority reservations early in the day, well, the rest of the day is gravy! At that point just grab any Lightning Lane reservation that looks like it would save you some time.