This 1-day Animal Kingdom itinerary using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. This step-by-step Walt Disney World touring plan covers priorities, best ride reservations, and explains how paid FastPass will work at DAK with the new line-skipping options.
While there are still unknowns with how Genie+ will change the touring equation at Animal Kingdom, there’s uncertainty with literally any itinerary. Crowd levels and wait times vary, attractions experience downtime, and there are unique wrinkles to any day in DAK.
This is intended to supplement our Lightning Lane and Genie+ at Walt Disney World FAQ. A lot of you have had questions, and we’ve tried to answer most of the common ones there. However, many are about specific scenarios and that FAQ would be as long as a Tolstoy novel if we addressed each one there.
Instead, we’re going to explain by showing via a hypothetical day at Animal Kingdom, which will hopefully address a lot of concerns/questions/etc. If you’re a type A vacation planner, hopefully this will give you some peace of mind about how Genie+ and Lightning Lanes will work on your Walt Disney World vacation coming up between now and December 2021.
The good news is that Walt Disney World recently provided us with an update about the Genie system and a tech demo about how it’ll work. From this we learned quite a lot, have far more certainty, and official details. (Basically, all of that just confirmed what we already strongly suspected, but there was reader doubt about those assumptions, so it’s nonetheless nice to have clarity.)
In general, our advice for first-timers is to purchase Genie+ on days of aggressive touring and in parks where it’ll be most advantageous. Meaning it’ll be wise to buy for one day at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios each. Individual attraction selections (Magic Carpet Access) are a different story, as are Epcot and Animal Kingdom.
However, our recommendation is that most visitors do not purchase Genie+ at Animal Kingdom. There are a couple of reasons for this, along with a couple of potential exceptions. The biggest reason for skipping Genie+ at Animal Kingdom is that it’s not likely to save much time as compared to an efficient itinerary. Animal Kingdom will only have 8 Genie+ attractions, and half of those will offer negligible time savings on most days.
In addition to that, Animal Kingdom does not have consistent wait times throughout the day. Due to entertainment cuts, it’s once again a half-day park, and most guests who arrive early are gone by mid-afternoon. Accordingly, a lot can be accomplished in the last few operating hours–literally every ride in the park–on a normal day.
Simply saving Dinosaur, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Na’vi River Journey for later in the afternoon is going to be as good of a strategy as buying Genie+ and using that in the morning and midday.
In all likelihood, the best use of spending extra money on line-skipping at Animal Kingdom will be for Magic Carpet Access to Avatar Flight of Passage. That’s the one attraction that typically maintains a longer wait time throughout the day, but even that can be “beaten” by rope dropping Flight of Passage or doing it in the last half-hour of the day.
Conversely, paying for Magic Carpet Access at Expedition Everest will be almost entirely pointless. It’s a good roller coaster with sometimes high wait times, but it also doesn’t see crowds until mid-morning and actual wait times drop about as sharply as the ride’s descent into the yeti’s discothèque (I assume that’s the term for a yeti’s home). Oh, and Expedition Everest has Single Rider (for now?).
With all of that said, none of this is one size fits all advice. During the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, or any other time when crowds are heavier, everything at Animal Kingdom can have long wait times. This problem is exacerbated at Animal Kingdom since the park has so few rides, which is why its wait times on peak season days are higher (on average) than the other parks at Walt Disney World.
On days like those, saving time at the non-headliner attractions will add up to the point that it might just be worth the $15 per person. Time is money at Walt Disney World, and if each waking hour of your day on vacation costs $30 or so, saving a few hours for $15 should be a no-brainer.
Park Hopping presents another scenario where Genie+ might be useful even on non-peak days. As we’ve previously discussed, splitting a day between Animal Kingdom and Epcot might be a great option for Genie+. This is especially true given the earlier opening of Animal Kingdom and later closing of Epcot, which would allow you to extend your day by several hours. (Again, vacation time is money!)
A combined DAK and Epcot Genie+ itinerary is something we’ll field test in the near future and share in the coming weeks. With that extensive commentary out of the way, here’s our 1-Day Animal Kingdom touring plan with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes…
7:00:01 am – Book Na’vi River Journey via Genie+ with a Lightning Lane return window of 8 am to 9 am.
7:30 am – Rope drop Avatar Flight of Passage via standby.
8:10 am – Finish Flight of Passage and head towards Na’vi River Journey.
8:12 am – Do Na’vi River Journey via Lightning Lane (Genie+ ride reservation).
8:13 am – Book Dinosaur via Genie+ with a Lightning Lane return window of 9:30 am to 10:30 am.
8:40 am – Do Expedition Everest via the standby line.
9:30 am – Do Dinosaur via Lightning Lane (Genie+ ride reservation).
9:31 am – Book Kilimanjaro Safaris via Genie+ with a Lightning Lane return window of 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm.
9:50 am – Do It’s Tough to Be a Bug via standby.
10:20 am – Head to the Otter Grotto to watch some hilarious hijinks.
10:50 am – Pit stop at Dino-Bite Snacks for a house-made ice cream cookie sandwich, which some say is the (fossil) fuel that powers an efficient day at DAK.
11:15 am – Watch kites crash, the exhilaration from which is what some might say is another fuel that powers an efficient day at DAK.
11:31 am – Book Kali River Rapids via Genie+ with a Lightning Lane return window of 2 pm to 3 pm.
Note: 11:31 am is chosen because it’s 120 minutes after 9:01 am, which is consistent with the 120 minute rule. Walt Disney World has confirmed that this rule will be in use, with the clock ticking starting at park opening.
11:40 am – Enjoy the distinctly patriotic and carnivorous flavors of Flame Tree BBQ. Delicious smoked meats and a wonderful view makes this an almost transcendent Walt Disney World experience.
(Pro tip: combine the last few itinerary items–KiteTails with a waterfront table at Flame Tree BBQ–to see the backside of kite crashes while eating!)
12:30 pm – Do Celebration of Festival of the Lion King via standby.
1:15 pm – Do Kilimanjaro Safaris via Lightning Lane (Genie+ ride reservation).
1:31 pm – Book another Genie+ reservation for…I dunno…Feathered Friends in Flight?
This is where the wheels start to fall off. If you’ve been in Animal Kingdom since Early Entry and have used Genie+ coupled with standby lines in an efficient manner, you should be done (or close to it) with everything but the trails and animal exhibits. Those don’t really require strategy, so I’m not going to enumerate them one by one here.
At this point, you’ll either need to make a decision about whether you want to kill time and stick around Animal Kingdom until the evening (in which case a table service meal is almost essential–in fact, you probably should’ve done a table service lunch, too) or park hop elsewhere. We love Animal Kingdom, but it’s not the most balanced park at Walt Disney World, and being fixated on efficiency early in the day creates problems later with an imbalance of trails and other outdoor options, which can give rise to animal fatigue.
If you do opt to Park Hop, check out our other Genie+ Plans for Walt Disney World:
Keep in mind that those are tailored towards early arrivals, but the prioritization and general ideas should provide some value.
As always, your day at Animal Kingdom will vary based upon crowd levels, capacity allocation, Genie+ reservation times, and other choices you make. It should go without saying, but this is not what you’ll experience, step for step. At the very least, it should illustrate how a day could look using Genie+ at Animal Kingdom for those who never used paper FastPass.
The point here is to illustrate how Genie+ could prove advantageous–or not–for days you opt to purchase the add-on. This day in Animal Kingdom is a check in the “or not” column for us. Frankly, there’s a lot about this day that I didn’t like–it’s imbalanced, featured Kilimanjaro Safaris earlier than I would’ve liked, and didn’t allow enough time for exploration and spontaneity. Beyond Animal Kingdom having fewer rides than the other parks, it’s also a place that lends itself to discovery and exploration rather than a rigid itinerary.
Was this 1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary w/ Genie+ helpful to illustrate how paid FastPass might work? Think we could accomplish all of this in a single day at Animal Kingdom (or half day, rather) without purchasing individual attraction access to Avatar Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest? Would you like to see a combined Epcot/Animal Kingdom day? Have any questions we didn’t answer with the above? Still confused by how Genie+ or Lightning Lanes will work? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!