When Will Pre-Arrival Lightning Lanes Start at Disney World?

“When will advance booking of Lightning Lanes come to Genie+ at Walt Disney World?” has become a common question, with vacation planners wondering when they’ll be able to make ride reservations before their trips. This post we shares what we know so far, what we’re expecting to happen, and more. (Updated April 17, 2024.)

As you might recall, Walt Disney World first teased pre-planning capabilities coming to the Genie+ service and Lightning Lanes with the announcement of 2024 vacation packages. That was on May 8 of last year and also included the return of the Disney Dining Plan and removal of park reservations for most guests. Subsequent to that, Disney announced a return of all-day Park Hopping. All of those aforementioned changes took effect earlier this year–except Lightning Lane pre-booking.

Unsurprisingly, many Walt Disney World fans have been confused and assumed that advance-booking of Lightning Lanes was also debuting in early 2024. After all, the original announcements occurred simultaneously and there was ambiguity about when the pre-arrival ride reservations would roll out. Since pre-arrival Lightning Lanes have yet to arrive–and there haven’t even been any official updates since, we’ve started getting a lot of questions.

Walt Disney World has only made the one announcement about pre-arrival ride reservations: “We have heard from guests that they would like ways to plan with Disney Genie+ service and individual Lightning Lane selections before the day of their park visit, and we want you to know we are working on ways guests may do this for visits in 2024. Our goal is to give you the opportunity to spend less time planning in the park and more time enjoying your visit with friends and family. While we are not yet able to share specific details, we look forward to sharing more information at a later date.”

Again, that was last May. The company has provided a lot of updates on 2024 at Walt Disney World since that original announcement. When they announced the return of all-day Park Hopping, they reiterated the other changes (Disney Dining Plan, park reservations, etc.) on the horizon. Except there was no mention of pre-arrival Lightning Lanes.

We’ve been doing this for a while, and normally, nebulous news followed by months of radio silence from Walt Disney World means one of two things. The first is that the plans were never firm to begin with, and the announcement was less an actual announcement and more a fishing expedition to gauge fan feedback.

The second is that a decision was made from on high and the announcement was fast-tracked for…reasons unknown. The decision-makers moved without regard for logistical impediments or hurdles, and those tasked with actually doing the thing had to scramble to figure out how said thing would be done.

If you’ve been a fan for a while, you can probably think of instances of both occurrences. It’s often obvious from the outside, even without the benefit of inside info. Announcements that simply seemed like one of those two scenarios, with corresponding cancellations (usually quiet!) or slow-moving changes that ‘evolve’ from announcement to roll-out as operational realities are discovered in real-time.

The good news is that this is not the first scenario. Advance booking of Lightning Lanes is still progressing through development–it hasn’t been quietly killed. The bad news is that, obviously, early 2024 came and went without pre-arrival Lightning Lanes being introduced. Here, it’s the second scenario at play.

For our part, we have heard credible rumors about pre-arrival Lightning Lanes over the last ~9 months. The degree to which this info is still accurate is very unclear (it cannot all be, since some of it was conflicting), but the general sentiment has been that Disney is still figuring it out. If you’ve heard “rumors” about the specifics of Lightning Lane pre-bookings, there’s a very good chance those are already wrong.

With that in mind, what follows should be treated as speculative and is not based upon any inside info. These are simply our best guesses based upon past precedent and reasonable timelines. If you aren’t particularly concerned with what we think might happen and only care about official announcements and news, you should probably stop reading–we don’t want to waste your time. You can subscribe to our free email newsletter for updates when Walt Disney World shares concrete dates & details about advance booking of Lightning Lanes.

For now, here are our best guesses as to timelines and other relevant details…

In terms of a launch date, we’ve been predicting for a while now that an overhaul to Disability Access Service to further crack down on abuse and misuse was a necessary prerequisite for the rollout of Lightning Lane advance bookings. That started last fall with tour groups, and as we said at the time, it was an opening salvo and not the endgame. Our understanding was that more DAS changes were to come early this year–months ago.

Fast-forward to mid-April 2024, and the long-awaited announcement that Disney is once again redoing DAS at Walt Disney World and Disneyland due in large part to abuse and proliferation of the program’s use. Those changes take effect on May 20, 2024 at Walt Disney World, and on June 18, 2024 at Disneyland Resort.

Even though there’s no indication that Disneyland is going to get Lightning Lane pre-booking, we mention its DAS rollout date because it’s coming almost a month after Walt Disney World. That’s possible that’s simply a matter of Disneyland needing more time for the rollout for whatever reason. It’s also possible that Walt Disney World is fast-tracking DAS changes because that needs to happen before Lightning Lane advance bookings can debut.

In a roundabout way, we’ve already covered the “why” of that in our FAQ to Disability Access Service Changes at Walt Disney World. In a nutshell, it’s because the majority of Lightning Lane users are DAS guests, and there are internal concerns about the sufficiency of Lightning Lane inventory with a pre-booking system. DAS changes need to occur first to reduce abuse and misuse, and free up Lightning Lane availability for paying guests.

That background provides the earliest possible launch date for Lightning Lane pre-arrival bookings: May 20, 2024. It would make sense to debut the new system around then, as that’s also one week before Memorial Day, which is the unofficial start of the summer tourist season at Walt Disney World. It’s also about a month before Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is expected to open.

This presents a double-edged sword. One side of that is the desire to launch the advance booking of Lightning Lanes ASAP in order to capture revenue from those vacation-goers. But it’s not just about the money (although that is obviously paramount!), it’s also about improving the guest experience and satisfaction, along with key metrics like intent to revisit or recommend. That is precisely why this is changing (again) in the first place–not because a vocal minority of diehard fans left mean YouTube comments on the DisneyParks channel.

The other side of rolling out in time for summer is that it needs to be done right and without hiccups, glitches, or bugs. Walt Disney World won’t see guest satisfaction benefits if the new system launches in the same shape as the original Genie+ did back in October 2021.

Personally, I don’t think a May 20, 2024 launch is likely for advance Lightning Lane ride reservations. For one thing, that would be absolutely atrocious optics. Disney is positioning these DAS changes as being aimed at curbing abuse and misuse, which is 100% true.

However, if they launch the pre-booking of paid Lightning Lanes the exact same day, there’s going to be a lot of cynicism and criticism about greed and Disney trying to “force” disabled guests to pay for line skipping. The timing of such a launch would, itself, give rise to further abuse as guests would deem DAS changes as having ulterior motives and would thus justify trying to obtain DAS fraudulently.

That alone is reason enough not to roll out pre-arrival Lightning Lanes on or before May 20, 2024. But that isn’t the only reason! Another is that Disney needs to see the results of the DAS changes and how they impact Lightning Lanes before finalizing these plans. Again, the rumors we’ve heard about pre-arrival Lightning Lanes suggested they “couldn’t” happen until DAS changed.

Based on the totality of that, we’ll offer a couple of different predictions for the launch of Lightning Lane advance booking. The first is an announcement in early to mid-May 2024 with a launch in late June 2024. That would be savvy because both the announcement and rollout are distanced from the DAS changes, avoiding that news cycle to at least some degree.

This is the most logical timing if Walt Disney World is in a hurry to debut pre-arrival Lightning Lanes and wants the system ready by the summer tourist season. It would give Disney some time between announcement, implementation of DAS changes, and debut of Lightning Lane pre-bookings. It also means pre-booking would be available for the debut of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure in Magic Kingdom.

We’ll call this the “race against the clock” timeline. In the past, Walt Disney World wanted to avoid a rushed rollout to minimize problems, but that may no longer be the case. After all, the original plan was to have the DAS changes take effect several months ago and pre-arrival Lightning Lanes debut not long afterwards. Walt Disney World is already months behind on that, and may seek to make up for lost time by fast-tracking the announcement and roll-out schedule.

The second scenario for pre-arrival ride reservations rolling out is after the summer season is over, sometime between mid-August and September 2024. This is the more measured approach, allowing for Walt Disney World to analyze the results of the DAS changes and potentially make more tweaks to this, and also the pre-arrival Lightning Lane booking system.

If Walt Disney World deems the system not ready for summer and wants a decent amount of time to ‘soft launch’ Lightning Lane advance bookings before the busier (and lucrative) months of October through December arrive, that gives them about two full months of runway. It’s a timeframe that makes a lot of sense, and we could see other additional ‘guest experience enhancements’ on or around that date, even if Lightning Lane pre-arrivals don’t start then.

In my view, these two scenarios are the earliest and latest timeframes for the launch of pre-arrival Lightning Lanes. And honestly, there’s a very good chance of any dates in between being what actually ends up happening. For one thing, the summer season is popular with tourists but not that busy, so it wouldn’t be a ‘trial by fire’ type of scenario–nothing like launching during Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas weeks. For another thing, as mentioned above, all of this is already months behind schedule. At this point, Walt Disney World might just want to get this over with, and will rush the rollout as soon as they’re comfortable that the new system is going to work.

As for when we’ll get an announcement, my expectation is that the announcement occurs roughly 30-40 days in advance of the changes–probably not much more or less. They need to give sufficient time for planners with trips on the horizon to make their ride reservations, but we suspect that’ll be about all the lead-time given.

Pretty much everything else is also unknown about advance booking of Lightning Lanes, including how many days prior to arrival guests will be able to make ride reservations. Under FastPass+, it was a 60 day window for on-site and 30 day for off-site.

Our expectation is that it’ll be a much shorter timeframe than that, but far enough in advance that people with weeklong trips can book Lightning Lanes in advance. If we had to guess, it’d be 7 days vs. 3 days or 14 days vs. 7 days. It’s possible that pre-booking will only be available to on-site guests.

One big “clue” about the booking window could come via Walt Disney World’s updated cancellation policy for next year. Beginning January 1, 2025, guests must cancel at least 8 days before the arrival date to receive a full refund with no penalty, an increase from the current 5-day notice. This change could be unrelated, but it perhaps not. It’d be a good way to close a loophole and prevent guests from making hotel reservations for the Lightning Lane pre-booking advantage, only to later cancel the hotel.

As for the timing of the announcement, the debut of Genie+ is actually somewhat instructive here. It might feel like ancient history now, but the original same-day Lightning Lane system debuted on October 19, 2021. That date was revealed on October 8–only one week ahead of time–after first being announced on August 18, 2021.

The announcement and lack of details might sound somewhat similar to the scenario for advance booking, except on a more drawn out timeline this go-round. It sort of is, but with one critical difference (beyond the silence measured in months rather than weeks): advance-booking of Lightning Lanes necessarily requires more lead-time between announcement and roll-out than same-day bookings.

There are a lot of lessons that were learned from Genie+ and things that can be gleaned for its rocky rollout. The first is fairly obvious, which is to not rush the launch of a product that isn’t ready for primetime. Disney has taken this to heart, and it definitely helps that there’s once again leadership in Burbank that is more cautious and methodical.

Another is not to make a substantive announcement that’ll raise more questions than it answers…unless you’re also ready to answer those questions! Personally, I think Walt Disney World should’ve shared a follow-up about advance booking of Lightning Lanes by now, even if it was just a simple, “this is still coming later in 2024, stay tuned.” That would’ve put some minds at ease, and would’ve been the courteous thing to do.

But I can understand the decision not to keep teasing what the new program would entail. Once that rubicon is crossed, they need to be ready to explain how it’ll work in full and have answers to every conceivable question. Genie+ was never going to be a fan-favorite simply by virtue of going from free to paid–but it was further doomed by that rocky rollout. Even as Genie+ has markedly improved over the last few years, it is still widely reviled.

Walt Disney World knows that anything short of going back to free FastPass is going to fall short for some fans, but it’s still possible to win people over on the new advance booking Lightning Lane system if the launch is handled well. That’s gotta be the goal here, with every step taken to ensure success. You only get one chance at a first impression, or so my grandma says.

You might notice that we’ve repeatedly referred to the advance booking of Lightning Lanes as a “new system.” This isn’t by mistake. As discussed in Walt Disney World Could Fix the Guest Experience by Improving These Things, we view the Genie “brand” as irrevocably tainted.

Genie+ is a a toxic name on par with Monsanto, Philip Morris, Comcast, or Robert Chapek. While it’s certainly possible that the advance booking of Lightning Lanes will simply slot into the existing Genie+ system that would, frankly, be an awful idea. Break from the past and all of the badwill associated with Genie, and make it something new entirely. There’s gotta be something salvageable from the FastPass+ or MaxPass infrastructure that could be recycled and serve as the foundation for the what’s old is new again (but now paid) system.

Finally, we also expect there to be an on-site advantage and special offering for Club Level guests…eventually. What’ll be interesting is whether this is offered at launch, or rolls out later once Walt Disney World realizes they need to do more to move the needle on occupancy numbers.

Ultimately, there are a lot of other unknowns and Walt Disney World fans will undoubtedly have a ton of questions about advance booking of Lightning Lanes. Obviously, we cannot give definitive answers to any of those. What we can say is that our expectation is that advance booking of Lightning Lanes ends up looking a lot like FastPass+ but paid and with different rules (ride tiers, booking timelines, etc). So look back to FastPass+ if you’re wanting some semblance of certainty about the future of Lightning Lanes. Beyond that, we’ll keep you posted and share specifics as soon as we learn more, so stay tuned!

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!


What do you think of Lightning Lane pre-booking coming to Walt Disney World? Any other considerations we failed to take into account or details we missed/got wrong? Will you purchase a version of paid FastPass if it allows for pre-planning and making some selections ahead of your trip? 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!

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