My Morning at Animal Kingdom Using Genie+
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.
This walk-through of our half-day at Animal Kingdom assumes basic knowledge of Genie+ and Lightning Lane, and accordingly, doesn’t explain each step. For the “why” behind how this, working knowledge of the 120 minute rule and how to “stack” Lightning Lane reservations is a must.
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!
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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!
Add me to the curious. How did you manage those 3 EPCOT ride reservations while still at DAK?
Thanks Tom, super helpful! Thanks to your posts I’m starting to understand this, but I too would be very interested in hearing how you got the third AK LL booked, and the steps you took to get the three reservations at Epcot. Thanks!!!
Thanks Tom for the great tip about Flight of Passage at lunchtime. I got in line a little late at 1pm and the standby was posted at 85 min. I walked through the entire queue to the lab without stopping. It slowed down from there, but overall it was only 30 min wait to sitting instead of 85.
Tom did a post on top queues a few years ago. Read the comments too.
Tom have you ever done an article on which attractions have the most interesting queues in case someone had a desire to stand in line longer in order to enjoy all the pretty themeing for longer? I ask because I actually quite enjoy the “expanded” queues for “Flight of Passage” that are opened up when the lines for it are longer and I constantly wonder if I’m missing out on the “expanded” queues for other attractions.
Answering Leesa about why wait until 7:01 to book Navi River Journey – that’s because if you book it right at 7am, you’ll get a very early return time, maybe right when the park opens (8am?). If you don’t plan on arriving so early, wait a few minutes so that the return time is a little later in the morning. I kept refreshing the screen until the return time matched when we’d be arriving. You do have at least an hour window to ride. We always checked in 5 minutes before the return window opened and got the green light to proceed.
In your experience, if Park Hopping to AK as of 2:00pm, what is best strategy for Flight of Passage?
I think Disney made a mistake not including Genie+ in the regular ticket price (by adding in the extra $15 to the price). They, Disney could offer a discount ticket for $15 less for those not wanting the Lightning Lane access. There would probably be less complaining about that “added” $15 by just including it in the regular ticket price. We’ve already made our reservations for next October 22-29, staying at Port Orleans Riverside Sat-Wed then Wilderness Lodge Wed-Sat. I hope no one purchases that Genie+ option so that we have the Lightning Lanes to ourselves and can easily book the “fancy rides”. Genie+ worked great for us this past week. An extra $90 for 3 days of Genie+ (2 people) when you’re spending $5000 on a vacation isn’t much to pay to save hours in line.
So you were able to book Epcot passes before 2pm?
I’ll let Tom confirm this, but I just noticed you can select your top picks for rides, experiences and restaurants in Genie. I don’t know if you need to do this every day or just once and it remembers from day to day what you chose, but it puts your top picks at the top of the tip board which would make it easier to find and click LL reservations quickly.
Hi. Great hacks. We’re senior citizens from the West Coast and won’t be in the parks until 1. Would you recommend Genie + and ILL ( for FOP)
So you’re starting at 1 pm and staying until park close?
Honestly, you probably don’t need either. Start by doing shows upon arrival, and then do the more popular attractions towards closing time. The lines usually clear out at Animal Kingdom in the last two hours of the day.
I have the same question as Ben about park hopping. Do you anticipate the 2pm rule ending soon?
Would you explain your suggestion to book Navi @ 7:01 and not at 7:00am? I missed why that one minute would make a difference. I read your other articles, but maybe I missed something from them. Can’t wait to try your tips. Thanks!
“Park hop by midday”? I thought you can’t park hop until 2pm or has it changed again?
Also posting just to ask for clarification on how by 11:13am you had 3 Genie + reservations for Epcot.
I get how you “doubled” it using your Navi reservation (letting it expire then tapping in), but that should have only left you with 2, not 3?
As an aside, this last action thing is definitely a “hack” and not an intentional feature (it shouldn’t matter the sequence of whether you book before tapping or vice versa) but might as well take advantage of it now.
Nobody is using single rider lines right now. The single rider lines are faster than the LL lines.