Walt Disney World’s Genie+ line-skipping service has a lot of unique wrinkles. One about which we’ve received 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 June 9, 2022.)
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 announced the paid FastPass option, we’ve been referencing the 120 minute rule in our info posts–even when Disney itself didn’t acknowledge that the 120 minute rule would actually be 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.
June 9, 2022 Update: After “only” 7+ months of the system being live, Walt Disney World has finally explained some of the “rules” for using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes–including the 120 minute rule. Below is the latest clarification from Disney, which doesn’t address everything–but it’s a start!
Per Walt Disney World, guests can use the Lightning Lane entrances offered through Disney Genie+ service and save time waiting in line. 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.
You can enjoy a Disney Genie+ service Lightning Lane entrance once per day. If you’d like to experience an attraction again or see a certain show again within the same day, you are welcome to use our regular standby line.
What Are the Rules?
- Make sure you have valid admission and a theme park reservation to the same park on the same day.
- 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.
- All attractions and experiences are subject to availability.
- Guests may be able to purchase Disney Genie+ service the day of their park visit and make their first Lightning Lane selections at 7:00 AM.
Disney Genie+ service, attractions and experiences may vary by date, are subject to change or closure, are limited in availability and are not guaranteed and may not be available at all on the date of visit or at the time you make a selection. Price, terms and entitlements are subject to restrictions, and change or cancellation without notice.
Please Remember: To enter a theme park, both a valid admission and theme park reservation for the same park and same date are required. Parks and park reservations are limited, subject to capacity and availability, and specific dates or parks are not guaranteed.
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+ (see below). 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 your first 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.
The screenshot above shows my Lightning Lane arrival window of 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 (see above). 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.
As you can see in the screenshot above, I 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. I was able to do the same thing again at Magic Kingdom once I had used up my DHS late afternoon stockpile, essentially trading one warchest of Lightning Lane ride reservations for another.
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!
By contrast, you could go with less popular attractions that have shorter wait times and get more immediate return times, using those back-to-back-to-back. 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!
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!
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!