Ever since Walt Disney World debuted Genie+ late last year, we’ve received a steady stream of questions about how to best use the paid line-skipping service. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at one of the best-use cases for Genie+, by optimizing an afternoon tour of Disney’s Hollywood Studios using strategic late-day Lightning Lane selections.
For today’s article, we visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS) on Friday, January 28, using the paid $15 Genie+ service but not purchasing any Individual Lightning Lanes (as we’ll discuss below). Would Genie+ allow us to arrive at the park in midafternoon and still experience all of the park’s rides with minimal queueing? The “too long; didn’t read” summary is a resounding YES, albeit with a few caveats. Read on to learn how you can apply our experiences when planning your next day at DHS.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Genie+: Lightning Lane Priorities for Optimal Afternoon Touring
On the day of our visit, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but our plan was to arrive at the park around 3 p.m. with a full lineup of Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations ready to go. The key to this strategy is the Genie+ 2 Hour Loophole, which allows users to book an additional Lightning Lane return time after 120 minutes if their current reservation isn’t valid yet. Using the 2 Hour Loophole, it’s possible to book your first Genie+ Lightning Lane return time when the system activates at 7 a.m. on the morning of your visit; get a second return time two hours after official park opening (11 a.m. for our park visit); and reserve another every two hours after that.
Bear in mind that the 2 Hour Loophole has been tightened since Genie+ originally debuted, when clever users could exploit it by retrieving new Lightning Lane reservations at both the 120-minute mark AND after each redemption. Now you can no longer “double dip” and continue receiving multiple rolling reservations (as you could when we initially offered our top tips for using Genie+), but the 2 Hour Loophole still allows you to “stack” three or four overlapping Lightning Lane return times for late in the day.
With the objective of experiencing all of the moving rides at the park in less then 6 hours in mind, here’s the Unofficial Guide’s recommended priority list for Disney’s Hollywood Studios Genie+ Lightning Lane attractions, along with the optimal eligibility time for securing each reservation:
- Slinky Dog Dash (7 a.m.)
- Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run (11 a.m. for 9 a.m. park opening)
- Rock n Roller Coaster (1 p.m.)
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (3 p.m.)
- Toy Story Mania (5 p.m.)
- Alien Swirling Saucers (7 p.m.)
- Star Tours
In order to activate the 2 Hour Loophole, you’ll need to make sure that your first assigned Lightning Lane return time of the day is after your intended arrival time, and at least 2 hours after park opening. That shouldn’t be a problem with Slinky Dog Dash, which swiftly distributes its limited supply of Lightning Lane reservations within minutes (or even seconds) after 7 a.m.. Even if you have your smartphone all ready to go and smash the screen at exactly 7 a.m., you will still be lucky to snag an evening return time for Slinky Dog.
After Slinky, Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run is the park’s second-highest Genie+ priority, although you should still be able to get a midafternoon return time at 120 minutes past park opening. Keep in mind that Millennium Falcon does offer a single rider queue as an alternative to Lightning Lane, but you will miss the preshow and probably be seated in the rear as an engineer.
Rock n Roller Coaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror are nearly tied for third and fourth priority at DHS. All things being equal, Lightning Lane return times are claimed slightly quicker for the coaster, but Lightning Lane is far more valuable at Twilight Zone in the not-unlikely event that one of the two towers is temporarily out of service. Rock n Roller Coaster also has a single rider option that doesn’t miss out on any preshows.
Toy Story Mania and Alien Swirling Saucers are also roughly similar in terms of Genie+ priority, although the Lightning Lane at Toy Story will usually save users somewhat more time in line. Both are often still available through early evening for redemption near the end of the night.
Last and definitely least, the Lightning Lane at Star Tours doesn’t seem to save much time when the posted standby wait is under 30 minutes, which it usually is late in the day. Only bother using Genie+ for Star Tours if you can get an immediate return time, and make another reservation as soon as you redeem it.
Since our mission was to experience moving rides, we haven’t prioritized any shows, but there is rarely much benefit to using Lightning Lane for those attractions. You’ll get “priority seating,” which means a somewhat better view, but you’ll be asked to arrive at least 15 minutes before showtime, which eats into your schedule (as compared to slipping in the standby entrance just before the curtain). Lightning Lane can also be used at the Olaf character meet and greet in DHS, but we never saw the standby wait for that encounter exceed 20 minutes during our visit.
Finally, we planned on NOT purchasing Individual Lightning Lane for any attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and we don’t recommend you do either. Individual Lightning Lane costs $20 for Star Wars Rise of the Resistance, which many will consider worthwhile, but (as per usual) all reservations for the day were claimed shortly after 7 a.m. by Disney on-site resort guests, long before I was eligible after park opening. And while Individual Lightning Lane access was available virtually the entire day at Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway for only $10, it ultimately proved unnecessary.
Now that we’ve explained our DHS Lightning Lane strategy, what actually happened when we put it into action? Find out in our next installment of Optimal Afternoon Touring at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Genie+ Part 2: The Reality!
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.