This Walt Disney World park report walks you through my step-by-step morning at Animal Kingdom using the new Genie+ service. It features Lightning Lane selections & return times, what I accomplished with paid FastPass, and thoughts at the end about whether Genie+ is worth the money at Animal Kingdom.
The new Genie+ line-skipping service is Walt Disney World’s permanent replacement to free FastPass+ for select attractions in each park. Genie+ costs $16 per person per day, excludes two of the most popular rides per park, and is similar to MaxPass at Disneyland–it’s a basically a digital version of the paper FastPass system from the “old days.” For more info and answers to common questions, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ.
Note that this is my personal experience at Animal Kingdom using Genie+. It’s not a recommended itinerary, Genie+ touring plan, or universally-applicable day that we’d suggest replicating. Simply what I did over the course of testing Genie+ in DAK. While there are some clear and relevant takeaways for everyone here, this sample day is not going to work for everyone.
For one thing, this was a day with average crowd levels at Animal Kingdom. As crowds grow during the holidays and other peak travel dates, you can expect Genie+ purchases to increase along with them. That means longer standby lines and more competition for the best Lightning Lane ride reservations.
Anyway, let’s move along to my half-day using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Animal Kingdom…
At 6:55 am, I bought Genie+ in the My Disney Experience app, spent some time setting up the free Genie feature to increase my booking speed, and got ready to make my first Lightning Lane selection.
At 7:00:00 am, I refreshed the Tip Board. I quickly was able to book Na’vi River Journey for the 8 am to 9 am time slot. This was solely for the sake of testing some ‘fast finger’ strategy just to see if I could.
We wouldn’t be arriving at Animal Kingdom until ~9:45, so I cancelled that and rebooked for 8:55 am to 9:55 am at 7:02 am. Na’vi River Journey is the only Animal Kingdom attraction with a ride reservation clock moving this quickly.
Fast-forward to our arrival at Animal Kingdom. With the window closing for Na’vi River Journey, we quickly made our way to Pandora…
In our “stacking” hacks, I mentioned that the official end time triggers eligibility for another Lightning Lane reservation even though it’s only 115 minutes after park opening, rather than the normal 120 minutes. I received some pushback about this, with some suggesting it was only possible because 2 hours had elapsed.
Here’s a screenshot from the booking process:
You’ll notice the 9:55 am timestamp on my phone. (I didn’t think to take a screenshot of the confirmed ride reservation, as I didn’t think I’d need “proof” that this worked.)
If anything, this should demonstrate that the official close of a Lightning Lane window might/probably also triggers a ‘last action.’ I haven’t tested that with other attractions, so I’m not sure the same would hold true with a more immediate return time. If so, that would be a potentially huge hack, as you could deliberately let the window close and effectively double your booking capacity early in the day with the only “cost” being an hour or so of time.
In any case, I waited for the window to close on my Na’vi River Journey Lightning Lane reservation, then used Genie+ to book a Lightning Lane for Kilimanjaro Safaris. Immediately after that, I tapped into the Navi River Journey Lightning Lane checkpoint (ride reservations are valid up to 15 minutes after they end–so I had until 10:10 am) and booked a Lightning Lane for Dinosaur. Above is a look at my ride reservations as of 10 am.
Doubling my Lightning Lane numbers so early in the day set me up for a big day, especially since I then doubled some subsequent selections. If it helps, think of it like compound interest—starting earlier pays bigger dividends in the future, but in the currency of Lightning Lane reservations rather than dollars. Or, like a family tree, with future “generations” of Genie+ selections descending from that Na’vi River Journey selection.
As a matter of principle, we are not on board with Individual Lightning Lane and don’t plan on purchasing any.
Accordingly, jumping into the standby line for Avatar Flight of Passage at this point was attractive. The wait time was 50 minutes, but that almost always peaks early in the day. We were willing to gamble on it being shorter later, so we instead headed towards the other side of the park.
Even over 2 hours after park opening, the crowds still hadn’t made their way to Dinoland and Asia. This is surprisingly common–as discussed in our 1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary, the vast majority of guests go directly to Pandora, and it takes a while for the wave to hit the opposite side of the park.
In any case, my Lightning Lane reservation was totally wasted on Dinosaur. There was no wait for anyone, and Sarah made her way through the standby queue just as quickly as I did the Lightning Lane.
After that, it was on to Expedition Everest, the park’s other Individual Lightning Lane attraction (for now?).
As of 10:38 am, the posted wait time was 5 minutes. My actual wait via standby was 8 minutes. I will gladly take an 8 minute wait to save $7.
From there, on to Kali River Rapids where the posted wait time was 5 minutes as of 10:50 am.
This was a walk-on, with the attraction still dispatching partially-empty rafts. I was off Kali River Rapids by 11:05 am.
Then it was time for Kilimanjaro Safaris via the Lightning Lane at around 11:15 am.
At this point, the standby line was posting a 45 minute wait. That was probably inflated to some degree, but there was a lengthy line. My wait was however long it took to walk through the Lightning Lane queue.
While this saved me at least 30 minutes, it’s worth reiterating that we arrived almost 2 hours after park opening.
Arriving for rope drop and following a good itinerary would’ve been more effective than using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Animal Kingdom on this particular day. At best, I saved an hour of time.
However, I went into this morning at Animal Kingdom with the expectation that I’d be doing a half-day at DAK before Park Hopping to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
So the real value in purchasing Genie+ for this day was in accumulating Lightning Lane ride reservations for those subsequent parks when their wait times would be worse. Any time saved at Animal Kingdom was simply icing on the cake.
It was also something of an insurance policy.
Normally, we’d arrive early and rush around Animal Kingdom to stay ahead of the aforementioned wave of guests. That can be stressful and sometimes it doesn’t work out perfectly. It would’ve been just fine on this particular day, but the safety net offered by Genie+ allowed for a later arrival, slower pace, and taking time to enjoy entertainment.
Speaking of which, we enjoyed the character flotillas, a full set of Kora Tinga Tinga, and took a bit of time to marvel at Disney KiteTails crashes from afar.
We’ve received a lot of reader feedback about Genie+ sounding “stressful,” but that’s only if you’re singularly focused on maximizing an ultimately meaningless ride count. And even when I was sorta doing that, it still allowed for more time to switch gears and dawdle. When a low wait time is more or less guaranteed, that removes some sense of urgency in racing around while lines are shorter.
At almost noon exactly, we jumped into line for Avatar Flight of Passage.
The posted wait time was 45 minutes–only 5 minutes lower than the 50 minute time we passed up earlier. However, we made the calculation that the wait was likely rising earlier and falling now, as fewer guests were likely getting into line due to lunch.
Call it good instincts, but we walked all the way through the queue to the above area before catching up to the line. More accurately, it’s a result of closely monitoring wait time trends and knowing that this same phenomenon predictably happens every day.
The standby line was still moving briskly even with Individual Lightning Lane availability sold out for this time slot.
A lot of the standby queue wasn’t even in use, which was a pleasant surprise as we exited the lab.
Our total wait for Avatar Flight of Passage was 22 minutes. We will happily take that to save $22 ($11 x 2) in a fairly pleasant and well-themed queue. We were off the ride by 12:35 pm.
At this point, it was time for quick lunch(es) at Flame Tree BBQ and Satu’li Canteen. All in all, a successful half-day! Even though we didn’t do any shows or animal exhibits, we easily could’ve accomplished some by simply arriving at park opening–or staying another couple hours before heading to Epcot.
When it comes to this day at Animal Kingdom with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, there are a few key lessons and takeaways.
First, your first Lightning Lane ride reservation should absolutely be Na’vi River Journey.
You might be better off not having a return time right at park opening, as that gives you more time to do Avatar Flight of Passage and/or Expedition Everest without wasting money on Individual Lightning Lane, among other things. Still, choose this first–just consider doing so at 7:01 am rather than 7:00:00 am on the dot.
After that, Kilimanjaro Safaris is almost certainly your next highest priority. Ideally, you should do that attraction early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the animals are most active.
Beyond those two attractions, the extent to which Genie+ even matters anywhere else is entirely dependent upon crowds. Due to its lack of rides, wait times can scale up pretty quickly with higher attendance. On days when Dinosaur or Kali River Rapids are posting 60 minute wait times, Genie+ will obviously be much more valuable.
Finally, figure out a plan in advance that fills out your day in DAK or be prepared to Park Hop by midday. Sunset is a great time at Animal Kingdom, so our recommendation would be to book an ADR for midday, see all of the shows and entertainment, and make a point of exploring all of the trails and Conservation Station. (Or to do two half-days at Animal Kingdom, with one being an afternoon arrival.)
With that said, unless you’re wanting to repeat major attractions or are going on a significantly busier day, Genie+ is not necessary at Animal Kingdom if you’re spending all–or even most–of the day here and not Park Hopping. Waiting in line at Animal Kingdom isn’t the end of the world. The queues are almost all well-themed and it helps kill some time waiting out the crowds, most of which leave by mid-afternoon.
Ultimately, I knew going into this that Genie+ would be less useful at Animal Kingdom and Epcot than Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios–and that a day-long itinerary with Lightning Lanes would be pointless given crowd levels. This isn’t to say that Animal Kingdom is not a full day park. While I’d argue that, like DHS, it really needs all of its entertainment to return, you can fill a lot of time with leisurely exploration.
It is to say that anyone doing a day of “leisurely exploration” at Animal Kingdom will not benefit tremendously from Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. A solid itinerary and good timing for the headliners will suffice. Conversely, Genie+ at Animal Kingdom is absolutely worthwhile if you’re heading to a second park later in the day. With that in mind, we’ll pick up this report in Epcot at 2 pm for Park Hopping time!
Thoughts on my morning in Animal Kingdom using the paid Genie+ service? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or sticking to free standby lines at DAK? 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!