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 works at DAK with line-skipping access. (Updated November 1, 2022.)
This is a theoretical day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK) due to how much can vary on a day to day basis. Wait times have highs and lows, attractions experience downtime, and there are unique wrinkles to any day in DAK. Just like a normal touring plan, there’s a lot here that we can pull from past precedent, historical wait time data, and extensive experience with similar systems.
In particular, crowd levels have a big impact on what you can accomplish in a day at DAK. This is especially the case when using standby, as the ride roster is limited at Animal Kingdom, and crowds can easily overwhelm the park. As a result, Animal Kingdom has the lowest lows and highest highs, meaning the range in standby wait times is greater than any other park at Walt Disney World depending upon crowd levels.
However, this is less true with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. So long as you don’t visit on a peak season day, using Lightning Lanes is straightforward and stress-free. On the busiest days of the year, the number of ride reservations you can make via Genie+ does drop, as there are more people in the park competing for line-skipping access to the most popular attractions. Still, Animal Kingdom is a night-and-day difference from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, for example.
As such, this itinerary works well the vast majority of the time, but not so much during the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. During those peak season, 10/10 crowd level dates, you probably will not be able to accomplish everything here. Or at least, not as efficiently.
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 as of Late 2022, 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 2023.
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 if it’s not a busy day. 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 has 11 Genie+ attractions, but over 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.
If anything, the best use of spending extra money on line-skipping at Animal Kingdom is for Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) access to Avatar Flight of Passage. That’s the one attraction that typically maintains a longer wait time throughout the day, and it’s excluded from the Genie+ service, instead selling a la carte Lightning Lane access.
With that said, even Flight of Passage’s long lines can be “beaten” by taking advantage of Early Entry, the lunch lull, or doing it in the last half-hour of the day. As with Animal Kingdom as a whole, this is mostly manageable except on the busiest days of the year.
Again, 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 $16 to $30 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 that cost 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 is a better 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 am – Arrive at Animal Kingdom for Early Entry, available to on-site guests. (See our Early Theme Park Entry at Disney World Info & Strategy Guide for tips & recommendations.)
7:00:01 am – Book Na’vi River Journey via Genie+ with a Lightning Lane return window of 8 am to 9 am.
OPTIONAL – 7:30 am – Do 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 Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost via Genie+ with a Lightning Lane return window of 9:30 am to 10:30 am.
Note: Your next Lightning Lane selection can be made immediately upon tapping into Na’vi River Journey, which is why these steps occur only one minute apart.
8:35 am – Do Expedition Everest via the standby line.
8:50 am – Do Dinosaur via standby line.
9:25 am – Meet Minnie & Mickey Mouse in their explorer outfits at Adventurers Outpost via the Lightning Lane (Genie+ ride reservation). Arrive 5 minutes early, taking advantage of grace period (see FAQ).
9:26 am – Book Kilimanjaro Safaris via Genie+ with a Lightning Lane return window of 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm.
9:40 am – Do It’s Tough to Be a Bug via standby.
10:30 am – Catch the first performance of Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond! (Formerly Finding Nemo: The Musical) via standby.
11:15 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.
11:26 am – Book Kali River Rapids via Genie+ with a Lightning Lane return window of 2 pm to 3 pm.
Note: 11:26 am is chosen because it’s 120 minutes after 9:26 am, which is consistent with How the Genie+ 120 Minute Rule Works at Walt Disney World. This rule governs when you can make your next Genie+ ride reservation, and is incredibly important to understand.
OPTIONAL – 11:30 am – If you weren’t eligible for Early Entry, do Flight of Passage now. Even if the posted wait time is still high, this is typically the “lunch lull,” and will be your best bet unless you wait until late afternoon. (In this scenario, push back your lunch at Flame Tree BBQ by however long this takes.
11:30 am – Alternatively, kill some time before lunch by heading to the Otter Grotto to watch some hilarious hijinks.
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.
12:30 pm – Do 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 looks when using Genie+ at Animal Kingdom for those who have yet to buy the paid FastPass service.
The point here is to illustrate how Genie+ could be advantageous–or not–on 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.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Was this 1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary w/ Genie+ helpful to understand how paid FastPass works and what’s highest priority in late 2022 or early 2023? Think you 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? 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!