If you’ve been wondering how to make Walt Disney World’s new line-skipping system work for you during an evening at the world’s most popular theme park, worry not, because the Unofficial Guide has your field-tested plan for optimal late-day touring at the Magic Kingdom with Genie+.
Following in the footsteps of our recent two-part series on Optimal Afternoon touring at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we recently paid a visit to the Magic Kingdom during the peak of Presidents Week attendance to see how Genie+ can help guests Lightning Lane their way through an E-Ticket evening in the park. To start, we consulted the latest statistical data from our friends at TouringPlans.com to see which Genie+ attractions sell out soonest each day, and which Lightning Lanes offer the biggest time savings over waiting Standby.
Using that information, we compiled the following priority list for reserving Genie+ Lightning Lane attractions in the Magic Kingdom, along with the ideal time to make each booking (based on a 9 a.m. park opening):
- Jungle Cruise (7 a.m.)
- Peter Pan’s Flight (11 a.m.)
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (1 p.m.)
- Splash Mountain (3 p.m.)
- Pirates of the Caribbean (5 p.m.)
- Haunted Mansion (7 p.m.)
Although there are over a dozen attractions in the Magic Kingdom with Genie+ Lightning Lane access, these six rides offer by far the most bang for the buck when purchasing the service. Not coincidentally, they are also the attractions which sell out the swiftest, making it nearly impossible to use Genie+ on all of them during a single busy day.
As a case in point, our well-laid plan quickly went awry right at 7 a.m. when we repeatedly received the dreaded “something went wrong” error when trying to reserve the Jungle Cruise. After a minute of frantically refreshing the app, we grabbed Peter Pan’s Flight instead, which was already distributing times for the final hour before park closing.
At 11 a.m., we were able to get back on track with our next pick, a lucky evening return time for Jungle Cruise. Our 1 p.m. selection of Big Thunder Mountain also went according to plan, but Splash Mountain was sold out by 3 p.m. (and was temporarily closed for much of the day) and the Haunted Mansion wasn’t far behind. We were able to secure Pirates of the Caribbean, but after that we were forced to resort to retrieving second- and third-tier attractions to fill out our night’s agenda, as everything popular was already picked over.
Here is the full list of actual Lightning Lane return times we were able to reserve during one day at the Magic Kingdom with Genie+:
- Jungle Cruise (7:05 p.m.-8:05 p.m.)
- Pirates of the Caribbean (7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m.)
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (8:10 p.m.-9:10 p.m.)
- Peter Pan’s Flight (8:45 p.m.-9:45 p.m.)
- Under The Sea (8:45 p.m.-9:45 p.m.)
- Mad Tea Party (9:10 p.m.-10 p.m.)
On the one hand, that’s a pretty packed lineup for three hours hours in the Magic Kingdom, and in our experience Genie+ Lightning Lane did live up to its promise of getting us on the rides with a minimal wait of fifteen minutes or (usually much) less.
On the other hand, our first return time of the day wasn’t until over twelve hours after we made our initial selection in Disney’s smartphone app at 7 a.m., making this itinerary useless for anyone unable to stay in the park past dinnertime. And keep in mind that, although we were visiting on a very crowded day during a holiday period, these return times are representative of what you’re likely to see for popular Genie+ attractions.
Of course, having such a schedule leaves you free to experience other attractions with shorter waits while waiting for your Genie+ reservations. After arriving at the Magic Kingdom around 3:30 p.m., we were able to experience the Country Bear Jamboree, the Carousel of Progress, and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor; watch the new Disney Adventure Friends character cavalcade; and enjoy an early dinner at Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen — all with minimal queuing — before our first Lightning Lane return time.
When it did come time to begin using those Genie+ reservations, it quickly became clear that two Magic Kingdom attractions’ Lightning Lanes stand out above all others. Between the Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight, Genie+ saved us over 2 hours versus the posted standby wait. However, time savings at Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad were more modest, and were virtually nonexistent at the remaining rides.
Here’s a breakdown of how much time we actually saved at the Magic Kingdom with Genie+:
- Jungle Cruise: Posted 85 minutes, waited 12; approx. 70 minutes saved.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Posted 25 minutes, waited 6; approx. 15 minutes saved.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Posted 30 minutes, waited 5; approx. 20 minutes saved.
- Peter Pan’s Flight: Posted 65 minutes, waited 5; approx. 60 minutes saved.
- Under The Sea: Posted 20 minutes, waited 5; approx. 5 minutes saved.
- Mad Tea Party: Posted 5 minutes, waited 2; 0 minutes saved.
TOTAL: Approx. 170 minutes saved using Genie+ Lightning Lane.
Since Genie+ at Walt Disney World costs $15.98 (including sales tax) per person, when calculated on a dollar-per-minute basis, we paid approximately 9.4 cents per minute saved in a queue, or about $5.64 per hour saved. On a dollar-per-attraction basis, we paid about $2.66 for each of the 6 attractions for which we utilized Lightning Lane; exclude the two attractions where it was mostly useless, and it comes out to just under $4 per ride. That’s a slightly better bargain than what we found when using Genie+ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
However, one factor that may impact that value proposition is the overestimation of Disney’s posted standby wait times. In between our Lightning Lane reservations, we were able to squeeze in standby rides on Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain, two of the Magic Kingdom’s top attractions which had both sold out of Lightning Lane reservations for that day. In both cases we found the actual standby queue was less than half of Disney’s 40+ minute posted wait time.
Finally, all this might leave you wondering what someone using Genie+ is supposed to do all day at the Magic Kingdom while waiting for their first Lightning Lane reservation to arrive. Rope drop is still a great time to ride attractions that don’t offer Lightning Lane through Genie+ (like Seven Dwarf Mine Train), and tick off E-Tickets that you might want to experience more than once. Better still, guests with parkhopper tickets should spend the morning at EPCOT or Disney’s Animal Kingdom, whose limited lineups of major rides can usually be completed in half a day without using Lightning Lane. Then head over to Magic Kingdom after 2 p.m. to start redeeming your Genie+ reservations.
The bottom line is that visiting the Magic Kingdom with Genie+ is a good idea if you a) are planning on staying until park closing, and b) can secure reservations for both Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight. Those two rides alone almost make buying Genie+ worth the $15.98. And if you can also get Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, or Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ll definitely come out ahead. But unless you can book a return time that is significantly sooner than the posted standby wait, don’t bother using Genie+ for the minor kids’ rides and shows, because you may lose your opportunity to use Lightning Lane to skip a major line.
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.