Walt Disney World’s Genie+ line-skipping service has a lot of unique wrinkles. One about which we hear many questions is the 120 minute rule, which can determine eligibility for your next Lightning Lane ride reservation. This post explains that policy, when it applies & doesn’t, and how it impacts the selections you should make. (Updated February 22, 2024.)
We’ve addressed the 120 minute rule in several info posts and itineraries, including our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ. However, this continues to be a huge source of confusion, so we’re going to explain the 120 minute rule specifically here with added details, examples and screenshots. That should (hopefully) answer a few questions while giving rise to about a dozen more. That seems to be how things are going with Genie+ (it’s not your fault–there’s a lot to know and this is overwhelming!).
Since Walt Disney World first announced the paid FastPass option, we’ve been referencing the 120 minute rule in our info posts–even before Disney itself acknowledged that the 120 minute rule was a feature of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. That’s not because I’m clairvoyant (I wouldn’t be using my powers for Disney planning purposes if I were!), but because the 120 minute rule is actually nothing new.
February 22, 2024 Update: We have an interesting on-the-ground update shared by several readers in the comments to this and other posts. Before we get to that, let’s start with the official rules for using Lightning Lane entrances offered through Disney Genie+ service. Walt Disney World indicates that, on average, Guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using Lightning Lane entrances, if the first selection is made early in the day.
There are a bunch of rules for Genie+ on the official DisneyWorld.com page, but here’s the pertinent pull quote for the purposes of this post: “Disney Genie+ service Lightning Lane selections can only be made one at a time. You must redeem an existing Disney Genie+ service Lightning Lane selection or wait 2 hours—whichever comes first—before making another Lightning Lane entrance selection through Disney Genie+ service. Please note: the 2-hour wait to make another selection begins when the park opens, even if you made your first booking at 7:00 AM.”
In addition to that, planDisney (an official resource by the company) answered this question yesterday (Feb. 21): “Can I book another lighting lane with genie plus once I tap into a reservation?” with more or less the same response: “I’m happy to share that Guests with Disney Genie+ service are eligible to reserve their next Lightning Lane entry either once they have redeemed their current Lightning Lane by ‘tapping in’ to the attraction or 2 hours have passed since the reservation was made, whichever comes first.”
Despite the official policy being quite clear–and reiterated in the last day–we’ve received reports from readers that only the 120 minute rule is “working” and tapping into the existing Genie+ Lightning Lane selection doesn’t open the ability to book a new ride reservation. If the 85+ responses to our new Facebook post asking about this problem are any indication, it appears to be an issue about one-quarter of the time in the last month.
For whatever it’s worth, we’ve received questions/comments about this since at least late last year, but by the time I had the chance to test, I could not replicate the problem–redeeming an existing ride reservation did enable me to make a new one. Honestly, I chalked it up to user error since I didn’t encounter the issue. Especially given that Walt Disney World’s official policies had not changed and there were not widespread reports of this Lightning Lane selection limitation.
However, in the last month, I’ve been hearing this more and more. It’s to the point that continuing to believe it’s user error–especially given Disney’s lack of transparency about Genie+ policies in the past and intermittent IT issues–would strain credulity. There aren’t suddenly this many Walt Disney World guests making the same mistake and sharing their frustrations online.
Unfortunately, the last time I tested Genie+ was in late January, and I’m not going to have another occasion to do so until early-to-mid March 2024. By then, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this problem once again “magically” resolves itself. Or if Walt Disney World offers definitive clarification via a policy change.
Based on the reports of when this has been happening, my suspicion is that Walt Disney World is ‘disabling’ the redeem to unlock more Lightning Lanes ‘feature’ as a way to throttle power users and preserve ride reservation inventory during busier times in certain parks. In looking through when we’ve received comments of this nature, they’ve mostly come during peak dates: last year’s holiday season and this year around MLK Weekend and now Presidents’ Week/Mid-Winter Break.
While I cannot independently confirm what’s happening or the motivation for Disney (potentially) doing this, that’s what I suspect is happening. That also means that when I test this next month (during what’s anticipated to be a lower crowd time), I probably won’t experience the same problem–but other users could a week or so later when visiting for one of the peak weeks of Spring Break.
Rather than assuming that my (possible future) experience is fully representative of what has been happening consistently for the last few months–and everyone experiencing the issue is simply screwing up–I’m willing to at least allow for the possibility that Walt Disney World is quietly limiting users on busy days without making it the official, published policy. In fact, I’d bet on that being the case.
I’d love to hear from readers who have recently been to Walt Disney World and were able–or unable–to make subsequent Lightning Lane selections after redeeming the prior one. Please also include your travel dates and parks visited, so we can get an idea of how crowd levels overlap (or don’t) with this issue. Hopefully we get enough crowdsourced data points that we can draw further conclusions.
What’s what else you should know about the 120 minute rule, from its history to practical applications and in-park examples…
The 120 minute rule is actually well established and has been a prominent feature of legacy FastPass systems since the beginning. That includes Walt Disney World’s paper FastPass, plus the same paper and digital systems in California, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
Basically, every FastPass system ever has used the 120 minute–except two. The less notable exception is MaxPass at Disneyland, which used a 90 minute rule. There was actually some question as to whether Genie+ would follow in its footsteps, but our understanding is that did not occur due to the lower attraction counts at Walt Disney World’s parks as compared to Disneyland. Shortening the window could result in ride reservation inventory issues due to the lack of attractions. (Same reason there are no re-rides with Genie+ at Walt Disney World.)
For most of you reading this, the more prominent exception to the 120 minute rule is FastPass+ (seebelow). Ironically, this is the outlier even if it’s the system with which the vast majority of “modern” Walt Disney World fans are familiar.
FastPass+ didn’t have this rule because it was booked in advance, making it fundamentally different from all of Disney’s other line skipping systems. All of the rest are same-day and work very similarly to Genie+.
With that background established, let’s turn to the 120 minute rule.
Regardless of whether you’re staying off-site or on-site, you can book your first Genie+ selection at 7 am on the day of your visit. The way Genie+ ride reservations work is that you can book one at a time, and can either make another selection after two hours (120 minutes) or once you tap into your previous Genie+ selection (both tapstiles at attractions that have two)–whichever comes first.
The 120 minute rule exists so that guests choosing more popular attractions aren’t unduly penalized for that, and don’t get shut out of Lightning Lane reservations later in the day.
The above screenshot should help illustrate why this rule is needed. As you can see from my phone’s timestamp, this was taken at 7:18 am, by which time Slinky Dog Dash had a return time of 6:05 pm. By 9 am, its return time would be within an hour of park closing. If you booked a Slinky Dog Dash ride reservation before 9 am and there was no 120 minute rule, that would be your only Lightning Lane selection of the day. (It would basically become a de facto Individual Lightning Lane experience without the 120 minute rule.)
The clock on the 120 minute rule starts ticking at park opening, meaning that you cannot make another Genie+ selection at 9 am (e.g. 120 minutes from 7 am).
If the park opens at 9 am, you’d be able to make your next Genie+ ride reservation at 11 am or upon tapping into the Lightning Lane for that Genie+ ride reservation, whichever occurs first. This is probably confusing, so let’s use an illustrative example…
During My Day Using Genie+ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, my first Lightning Lane ride reservation was Slinky Dog Dash. As explained in that post, we strongly recommend booking this first–right at 7 am. My Lightning Lane arrival window was 10:45 am to 11:45 am for Slinky Dog Dash.
On this day, Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened at 9 am. This could potentially make the 120 minute rule or my actual arrival applicable, depending upon whether I entered the Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane before or after 11 am.
The second part of this is reflected in the Genie+ system, which indicates I’ll be eligible for another Lightning Lane selection starting at 11 am (seeabove). However, on ride reservations that potentially “overlap” the two rules, it doesn’t indicate that either could apply. (Probably because that would be too confusing!)
Since I entered the Lightning Lane for Slinky Dog Dash at 10:40 am (5 minutes before my window officially opened–a different wrinkle to the convoluted system!) and tapped into both checkpoints by 10:41 am, I was then eligible to book another Lightning Lane ride reservation at that point.
I then booked the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at 10:47 am–13 minutes before the Genie+ system indicated I was eligible. Again, this occurred because I tapped into both checkpoints of Slinky Dog Dash. Had I not returned to SDD until 11:05 am, the 120 minute rule would’ve kicked in, and I would’ve been eligible for another Lightning Lane ride reservation via Genie+ at 11 am.
In response to my Genie+ day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, several of you question how I ended up “stacking” the above Lightning Lane reservations for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, and Toy Story Mania.
The 120 minute rule is the explanation. I booked Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run upon tapping into the Tower of Terror Lightning Lane at 12:10 pm. Since that Smugglers Run ride reservation did not start until 6:05 pm, I was eligible to book another Lightning Lane reservation at 2:10 pm (two hours after 12:10 pm).
At 2:10 pm, I booked the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster reservation for 5:25 pm. Since that was more than 120 minutes away, my next window opened at 4:10 pm, at which point I booked Toy Story Mania for 6:35 pm. That is how I ended up with “stacked” Lightning Lane ride reservations for the late afternoon and early evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Anyone who has experience with the legacy FastPass systems can likely attest to how common it is/was to unintentionally be an “evening FastPass hoarder.” If you prioritize grabbing Lightning Lane reservations for popular rides early in the day, this is probably how your reservation lineup will look as the return times will be kicked out further into the future.
Unlike FastPass+, Genie+ doesn’t care if you overlap ride reservations–just like the legacy FastPass system, it’s “dumb” in that regard. This means the onus is on you to be mindful about not making conflicting selections, which should be pretty easy since all of the return times are displayed on “My Day” in the app.
If you’re concerned about a time being too close to an existing Lightning Lane reservation, either choose a different attraction or wait 5-10 minutes for the return time clock to move forward and give you more of a buffer between them. Nothing says you must make another reservation the instant you’re eligible!
As indicated at the start of this post, there was a lot of initial confusion about the 120 minute rule since Walt Disney World never published an official explanation anywhere. Accordingly, some people assumed they couldn’t book another Lightning Lane until redeeming the prior one, no matter when that was. For example, we heard from readers who had late afternoon Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lanes and didn’t reserve anything in between.
Since then, Walt Disney World has published more info about Lightning Lane policies and also added a “when you can book” feature (see above screenshot) that reflects the 120 minute rule. This makes everything a lot easier, and if you’re booking mostly headliners on busy days, it might be the only resource you need.
By contrast, you could go with less popular attractions that have shorter wait times–or you’re visiting on a moderately crowded day–and get more immediate return times, using those back-to-back-to-back via the ‘redemption rule.’ Sarah prefers this strategy, and you can see her leverage it to great success during her day using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom. (This approach only really works at the castle parks–I don’t think it’s a good idea at second gates or beyond.)
Now that you (hopefully) understand the basics of how the 120 minute rule works, this should open up a range of strategic possibilities. One is Sarah’s “Small Ball” Strategy discussed above. Another is the “Park Hopper Protocol,” in which you start at one park and knock out as much as possible via standby, while accumulating Lightning Lane ride reservations for a second park in the afternoon and evening. (Animal Kingdom to DHS or Epcot are fantastic for this.)
Ultimately, I hope this has helped you understand the 120 minute rule and not made it more confusing, but it’s hard to convey some of this via blog posts. Unfortunately, Walt Disney World doesn’t help make this easier to understand, as there’s no convenient way to see when you’re eligible for another Genie+ reservation (a major design flaw, if you ask me–but they didn’t).
You simply try to book another Lightning Lane reservation, and either succeed or get the error message towards the top of the post–but even that might be wrong, as tapping into a prior selection (as was the case with me and Slinky Dog Dash!) will trigger eligibility even before Genie+ indicates you’re eligible.
In the past, the 120 minute rule wasn’t this confusing because paper FastPasses plainly stated on the bottom when you’d be eligible for your next selection–and that was it. Genie+ not only offers less clarity, but is variable. On top of that, the user interface has a variety of other options, making it look like you can book Lightning Lane ride reservations when you actually can’t, using unclear language and meaningless warnings, and organizing things in unintuitive ways. But those complaints and problems are mostly beyond the scope of this post.
If you still don’t understand all of this, we’d recommend simply trying to make a ride reservation via Genie+ every two hours or after tapping into both checkpoints at every Lightning Lane. It’ll work if you’re eligible and will give you an error message if not. At this point, that’s the “best” way of knowing when you can book another Genie+ Lightning Lane selection. This is all tough to keep track of, and it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Did this help you understand the Genie+ system’s 120 minute rule? Thoughts on strategy for making Lightning Lane ride reservations in light of this rule and the ability to stack selections for later in the day? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? 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!