Best Way to Use Genie+ at Hollywood Studios
There are a lot of complaints about Genie+ at Walt Disney World, with one of the biggest being that return times at Hollywood Studios are frequently in the afternoon and evening. With that in mind, I tested a DHS Park Hopping day to see how much I’d be able to accomplish using Lightning Lanes to skip standby lines after 2 pm.
This walks you through my step-by-step late arrival afternoon using paid FastPass, with my Lightning Lane selections & return times, ride reservation screenshots, and what I accomplished using Genie+ after midday. Plus, thoughts at the end about whether Genie+ is worth the money at Hollywood Studios in such a scenario. (I guess the post title is a “spoiler” of sorts when it comes to that question.)
The idea is to determine whether you’re potentially better off not rope dropping Disney’s Hollywood Studios if you plan on using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. You’ll definitely get more done if you’re in the park all day–that should go without saying. Nevertheless, if you want a relaxing morning, pool time, or want to start your day in Disney Springs or some other parks, this could be a good approach for efficiently beating the crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…
Before we get to that, we’ll start with some background for those who are unfamiliar with it, which is totally skippable if you’ve already read one of our other Genie+ posts. Walt Disney World’s Genie+ line-skipping service is the replacement to free FastPass+ for select attractions in each park. Genie+ costs $16 per person per day and excludes the most popular ride per park. 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. We’ve already updated that several times, and it’s a great jumping off point if you’re confused, overwhelmed…or fully understand the system, but want some next-level strategy to better leverage Genie+.
This is not a recommended itinerary, Genie+ touring plan, or universally-applicable day that I would suggest replicating. Simply a sample of what’s potentially possible with Genie+ during an afternoon at DHS. While this is a good approach to outsmarting the crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s one of many options. Viable alternatives are covered in the following posts:
- Early Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Full Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary (With Genie+)
- 1-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary (No Genie+)
Anyway, let’s move along to my day using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…
Like clockwork, my morning started at 6:40 am, which is when my alarm went off. I bought Genie+ in the My Disney Experience app and attempted to customized my Tip Board for strategic advantage, which is where I ran into my first problem.
As it turns out, you cannot do this for your Park Hopping destination. Or at least, I couldn’t. Meaning that since my reservation was for Magic Kingdom, I could only make selections in that park. It wouldn’t let me change to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, claiming that I didn’t have a linked Disney Park Pass reservation. I wasn’t aware of this problem before, and I’m probably a relatively unique use case as someone who had no intention of making Magic Kingdom Genie+ selections despite starting there. In any case, it put me at a disadvantage in the Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane dash.
At 7:00:00 am, I refreshed the Tip Board.
Without being able to pin Slinky Dog Dash, I instead used a different technique: clicking on the attraction name followed by the Lightning Lane logo. Then I tapped the top of the screen and pulled down. Upon refreshing, My Disney Experience auto-scrolled for me (this is a feature, not coincidental). I’m sorry if this is difficult to follow–I can’t think of a better way to explain, and I didn’t stop to take screenshots since time was of the essence.
My confirmed Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane ride reservation was for 9:30 am to 10:30 am, but that was automatically shifted to the start of Park Hopping: 2 pm to 3 pm.
For booking Slinky Dog Dash especially (but really whenever possible–it’s always good practice), we highly recommend following our Speed Strategy for Genie+ Selections.
As always, Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane reservations via Genie+ go fast. It’s possible to get lucky with a refill or cancellation, but you’re strongly advised to make Slinky Dog Dash your first pick–or else you probably will not get it. It remains #1 on our Disney’s Hollywood Studios Genie+ Priorities & Lightning Lane Ride Ranks, even after the recent changes.
I wasn’t eligible to make another selection until 10 am. This is due to the 120 minute rule, coupled with an 8 am official park opening time for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Throughout my day, all of these reservations would be 2 hours apart since I had an afternoon arrival.
However, this would’ve been the case pretty much regardless. This is a phenomenon unique to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where all of the return times are quickly pushed into the afternoon and evening. At all three other parks, it’s possible to get return times within 2 hours throughout the day. This is also why afternoon arrival makes more sense at DHS than the other parks.
As previously covered, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is receiving a “stealth” refurbishment, with one elevator shaft down. This is expected to be ongoing for several months, through Summer 2022 and perhaps beyond. Consequently, the attraction is effectively operating at half-capacity.
This means that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is now our #2 Genie+ priority of the day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Wait times are significantly elevated, with it currently averaging a triple digit wait (it didn’t drop below 120 minutes until late in this particular day). Based on what I’ve been seeing lately with Tower of Terror, you won’t get it if you don’t select it second.
My return time here was 8:10 pm to 9:00 pm. As always, I like to save this last hour for doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or other short standby lines, so this wasn’t ideal. There was no other option, though.
When my noon Lightning Lane booking window opened, I tried to snag Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. I got the dreaded error message: “Currently Unavailable: The Lightning Lane entrance for this experience is not available to book at this time. Please check back throughout the day or try selecting a different experience now.”
Typically, this happens when you’re trying to book a Lightning Lane that someone else cancelled, and either your party is too large (guest number mismatch) or someone else beat you to the punch. As a party of one, this had to be the latter.
Of the attractions that actually had Lightning Lane availability, Toy Story Mania was my next best option.
I wasn’t wild about selecting this third, as usually Toy Story Mania is the last “good” Lightning Lane attraction available. In this case, there was just a ride reservation refill, so I was happy to get an earlier time here, closer to my Slinky Dog Dash return window. Except I didn’t–the system shifted my return time to 6:15 pm to 7:15 pm. I debated cancelling, but just stuck with it.
One thing worth noting about this particular day (and the one after it…and after that…) is that Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith was down the entire day.
This meant one popular, high capacity attraction was out of commission and didn’t have any Genie+ inventory in a park that struggles with capacity even on a good day. Disappointing, but probably “good” for my run-through as this type of thing has been happening frequently.
For my next selection at ~2 pm, I chose Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
This was a no-brainer, as it had Genie+ times replenished right as my 120 minute window opened. As covered in Ride Reservation Refill Rules at Walt Disney World, one of the more common times for this is a few minutes after the hour or half hour. Note that with these replenishments, party size is irrelevant. Walt Disney World is just dumping a ton of inventory, not trying to match that to certain party sizes. Except in the case of cancellations, the Genie+ system is not like ADRs.
As of 2 pm when I could enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is the slate of Lightning Lanes I had lined up for the afternoon and evening.
Although I have an excessive amount of (misplaced) pride in my ability to book Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lanes quickly, I definitely would’ve been better off with a later window for that so I could’ve arrived at DHS later. The problem is that there’s no good way to try for that. Pause too long, and you’re liable to miss it entirely.
I don’t have screenshots for the process and failures (since I was trying to do this quickly), but my next Lightning Lane selection at ~4 pm was a challenge. There were only a couple of attractions I wanted at this point, and I kept refreshing to see if there was a refill or cancellation.
My personal “policy” on this is to just book my first 3 selections of the day ASAP. No waiting, excessive screen time, or overthinking it. I just set an alarm for my next eligible time and book my highest priority as soon as I’m eligible–taking the sure thing over the risky one. For options after that, I have a 5 minute rule during which I’ll refresh and wait for something good. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway opened up at the very end of this (via a cancellation, not a refill), and I scored it.
Not long after, I received a message that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway was down, giving me a Multi-Experience Lightning Lane. Hooray!
…Or perhaps not, given everything that was excluded (see far right above).
Even in the late afternoon and evening, wait times were high at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the headliners. These are all inflated to varying degrees–especially after 7 pm–but they’re still not short.
Fortunately, the lower profile attractions all have minimal waits and last performances of stage shows don’t fill up far in advance. You could easily do Star Tours, MuppetVision 3D, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, Mickey Shorts Theater, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, and even Alien Swirling Saucers after 5 pm with little to no wait.
No Lightning Lanes necessary, which is good, because none were available for anything worthwhile when my next booking window opened at around 6 pm. (There were good options at both Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but it’d be pointless to reserve those, since my schedule locked me in to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.)
Ultimately, this is what my evening would look like at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with Slinky Dog Dash already knocked out at ~3 pm. It requires criss-crossing the park, but thankfully, DHS is no Animal Kingdom. Bouncing around doesn’t require nearly as much walking–and is definitely worth it for the time savings. A little bit of extra walking to knock out every single headliner (minus the down-all-day Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster) seems like a reasonable tradeoff.
I ended up using Genie+ to secure 5 Lightning Lane selections during this afternoon and evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which I think is pretty good. Notably, I was not at any disadvantage by only doing a late arrival half-day at DHS. I could not have booked a single additional Lightning Lane had I arrived at park opening. (Pretty wild that it makes no difference whether you arrive at 8 am or ~2 pm, right? But this is consistent with my past testing at DHS…which is why I tried this strategy in the first place.)
Based on posted wait times at my return times, I saved over 6 hours with those 5 ride reservations. Even if 2 full hours were knocked off that due to the disparity between posted v. actual wait times at Walt Disney World, I still would’ve saved 4 hours of waiting in line. Given the $16 cost, that’s roughly $4 per hour, making Genie+ “worth it” in terms of the time v. money cost calculus from my perspective.
However, it’s fair to say the Genie “granted my wish” and I got lucky with the Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway cancellation. Heck, the same could be said for the Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run reservation refill. So, let’s take both of those out of the equation, dropping my total down to 3 Lightning Lane reservations. That’s an average amount, and I know a normal guest could have booked 3 ride reservations on this particular day. That’s still over 3 hours saved, or just over $5 per hour. Given that, Genie+ is still worth it at DHS from my perspective.
Of course, that’s assuming you want to do morning somewhere else and couldn’t devise your own end-of-night strategy for tackling most of these attractions with significantly shorter wait times. Personally, I still think the best approach is to do Early Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then come back another evening for the last two hours of the night. I could’ve done more (including Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance via standby, probably twice) during those first and last 2 hours of the day–and it wouldn’t have cost $16.
With that said, those ideal morning/night times at Walt Disney World are finite, wait times are high everywhere during the afternoon, and you’ve gotta spend that time somewhere. If you’re going to do it at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, using Genie+ to beat the lines is pretty much the optimal approach.
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Thoughts on my optimal late arrival Disney’s Hollywood Studios day using the Genie+ service to book Lightning Lane ride reservations in the afternoon and evening? Would you use Genie+ during a half-day at DHS? 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!
quick question! We plan to kind of do the reverse on an August trip. we are going to MNSSHP at 4:00 after a day at Hollywood Studios (WITHOUT a park hopper ticket). If I but Genie+ for Hollywood Studios, will I be able to get lightning lanes for Magic Kingdom during that 4:00-7:00 time before the after hours party starts?
I just googled this:
Disney Genie+ is not available during special after-hours events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Disney Genie+ can only be added to regular theme park tickets, so even if you plan to head to the park at 4 p.m., you won’t be able to add the service to your event ticket.Aug
Hope it helps!
I knew we couldn’t get it for the event that starts at 7, but I was wondering if I could use it in the Magic Kingdom from 4-7.
It says it can only be added to regular theme park tickets. The ticket you’ll enter MK with will not be a regular theme park ticket.
My family and I just returned from our WDW vacation today. Your strategies worked like an absolute charm! Spot on, so I just wanted to say thanks for the tips because my boys didn’t miss a single attraction.
I haven’t used Genie+ or LL as of yet and this was a bit confusing. I’m scared I’m going to spend all this money for our family and miss out because I’m not 100% sure how to use it. It stinks too because I was a Fastpass+ genius lol!
seems like a gamble with RoTR, as it breaks down so often. Waiting for later in the day and only having 1 day at HS, you could hose yourself out of getting to experience it. Would it be better to use the 30 minute to close rule, and get it at end of day? I know there’s a certain timeframe where they cutoff standby for the night, but if you get in before that, they still let you ride past official park close
I’d love to see tips for someone who has to take it slow. I have a bad knee and a bad back, so my son and I plan to spend 2 full days at Hollywood Studios. We’re thinking one day for Star Wars and one day for everything else. (Or should we do it differently?) I’ve made lunch reservations both days so we have an opportunity to sit and relax in the middle of the day. What else would you recommend for someone who can’t walk fast and needs to sit down periodically, but still wants to hit all the highlights for an adult and a 15 year old boy?
Tom, thanks for testing an itenirary that you knew going is wasn’t going to be ideal. This may be more useful if, say, WDW maintains staggered opening times but shifts the hours for the Srudios later.
One advnced/expert level planning question: Do you think the “first 3 LL selection ASAP” worked here because Toy Story Mania was still a high priority, or is that based more genrally on your experience?
There are a couple of reasons I follow that rule for the first 3 selections:
1) To keep my booking window near the top of the hour, which tends to be when reservation refills happen (at least, for now).
2) These days are already difficult to follow and frustrating for a lot of readers. If I were more aggressive about refreshing or waiting for the ‘perfect’ attraction, I suspect it would turn a lot of people off.
Taking TSM that early was a gamble and scoring other attractions later might’ve not worked out on a different day. If I were my family’s “Genie+ QB” and it’s my only day at DHS, I’m probably doing a bit more refreshing and trying to get something else in that spot. But that’s just me–as they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
If you are an AP holder and staying on site at a Disney resort for an extended period of time, are you able to pre purchase the Genie +?
No. That’s only an option with regular tickets.
Just another angle, as a 76 year old who would love just one more visit to WDW from UK -take a step back and reading your very helpful post, to someone who was a Florida Resident in the 1990,s it reads like a schedule for an extremely busy workday not a pleasant vacation! This really is a case for the old day were the best days I would never survive having to do all this planning let alone the extra expense. I truly hope that as visitors that are new and have no other experience will not find this off putting. Sadly, my abiding memories of my last visit Christmas 2018 and using a mobility scooter will be of the rudeness of fellow guests, but that is a whole other story.
Genie+ definitely can be overwhelming and more stressful than a straightforward itinerary. No denying that!
One thing to keep in mind is that here we’re covering a lot of more advanced-level strategy for those who want to maximize their use of Genie+ and get the most accomplished. None of this is strictly “necessary.” It’s still possible to show up early or stay late at DHS and not use Genie+ at all.
Genie plus did not work for us at this park! I was up at 6:50 AM to set rides. I could not get anything except for very late in the afternoon. We were at the park at rope drop, got in line for slinky dog with a 50 minute wait already and then the ride went down/closed. Then we went to the rock ‘n roll coaster and after standing in line for 10 minutes the ride went down and closed. We had a lightning Lane finally for 11 AM at Mickey’s runaway train and after standing in line for 10 minutes that ride shut down due to technical difficulties same as with the other 2rides!!!! We left the park and went home at this point we then came back at 6 PM and used lightning lane for the tower of terror at 8:10 PM. We did not like this park and will never go there ever again! I kept checking all day long there was nothing available for the genie + or lighting lanes, complete waste of money and time.
Our new “midday” pool break is now up to 10:30am following rope drop, because the parks have become impossible in the late morning and the options for quick-return lightning lanes are slim. Genie+ has made the mid afternoon relatively more efficient than it used to be for us.
Also, What’s going on with all the ride breakdowns?! I’m late to this realization, but it’s bad.
Just a tip regarding capturing your screen, because you said you couldn’t get screenshots because time is of the essence. the iPhone has a screen recording feature, which you could turn on when you’re doing the genie+ stuff and just take stills from that.
Thanks for the heads up.
My other problem is that I’m perpetually getting ‘storage is full’ messages because I take so many screenshots, forget to delete them when I’m done with them, etc. Recording my screen would probably only exacerbate my existing (self-induced) storage issues.
Hi Tom, it’s 3:17 and we’re resting in our room at the CBR before dinner at The Brown Derby after a morning at HS. With early entry, using Genie+ and paid Lightening Lane we managed to do all of our favorites with some fillers to boot.
ADR for Oga’s at 11:50. Booked ROTR at 7;00 for 11:55. SDD was practically a walk on at 7:55. 10 min wait for M&MRR at 8:45. Walk on for Star Tours at 9:30. Booked Indiana Jones for 10:45. Then watched M&M vacation fun. Toy Story Mania and Smugglers Run were in there somewhere, then lunch at the ABC Commissary.
Just want to say thanks, these old folks never could have accomplished so much and had as much fun here without your enjoyable and informative blog.
You’re welcome, and thanks for the feedback on your experience. Sounds like an incredibly efficient day!
Out of everything, the 10 minute wait for MMRR is what stands out to me the most. Maybe WDW actually is going to see a (slight) reprieve from the crowds in May!
Have to make a correction on MMRR. That was a typo. We arrived around 7:25 for early entry, made a beeline for MMRR, then straight to SDD, so my times were off a little. Crowds definitely were lighter than expected though. MK was packed yesterday yet still managed to get a lot done there too.
Maybe Tom or someone else can help me out. I really prefer not to pay for Genie+ or ILL at HS, and I only want to ride: RotR, SDD, MMRR, ToT, and RnR. If we arrive at Early Entry, do RotR first, can we knock out the other four without insanely long lines, and then bounce entirely? Or would it still be better to split the day in two, and do early morning and then later at night?
I think you’d be able to do RotR and SDD or MMR (maybe all 3 on a good day), but probably not all 5. By the time you get to your 3rd or 4th attraction, the crowds will be starting to catch up to you.
You might have better luck with this approach in August or September–or whenever Tower of Terror is back to 100% capacity–but not right now.
We used this strategy on our arrival day. I was able to get Slinky Dog at home for around 6:00. As we were driving, I kept checking the app and added Toy Story Mania. I also added Swirling Saucers even though I knew we probably wouldn’t need it. Our plan was to get in line for Rise 5 minutes or so before closing. The only problem was Rise went down and did not come back up. We arrived in park at the end of our window for Slinky Dog- rode that, immediately got on Toy Story Mania. Stopped by Baseline Tap House. Watched the muppets, wandered around Star Wars land a bit waiting to see if Rise would come back up. When it was clear it wasn’t, we went ahead to Swirling Saucers (totally a walk on and no LL needed), checked for Rise one more time and decided to do Toy Story Mania again as a walk on. I figured that was not bad for about a 2.5 hour window.
“The only problem was Rise went down and did not come back up.”
I’ve been burned on this before–more than once.
As much as I love evenings at DHS, if RotR is essential, it’s important to hedge your bets and try for it earlier (ideally, during EE). It goes down way too often in the last ~2 hours and just does not reopen.
Curious if timing would have changed if first park was animal kingdom? Is 120 minute rule based on two hours from when reserved park opens or two hours from park you want. Would it make any different if you did an instant second reservation and check in at first park (like dinosaur) and then be able to reserve something at Hollywood less than two hours after Hollywood opening?
“Is 120 minute rule based on two hours from when reserved park opens or two hours from park you want.”
I second this question.
While Disney is officially silent on this, it’s gotta be 2 hours from the opening time of the park where you’re making the Light Lane reservation (at least, based on my experiences testing so far).
My Park Pass reservation was for Magic Kingdom, which opened at 9 am. I made my second LL at 10 am, which is 2 hours from when DHS opened.
On April 27th, I made a reservation for AK, and planned to go to HS later in the day. At 7:25 am, I booked a lightning lane for MMRR, getting a 2:00 – 3:00 pm return time (adjusted for park hopping.) Since AK officially opened at 7:30 that day, my next opportunity for choosing a LL SHOULD have been 9:30 am, but Genie + said I couldn’t book one until 10:00 am! At 10:00 am I booked Na’Vi River, getting a return time for 12:10 pm.
I intentionally made a reservation at AK because I thought it would give me a half hour advantage over those with a HS reservation, but it didn’t work out that way. I went to Guest Relations to ask why the 120 minute rule didn’t apply here. The lady there said that sometimes with park hopping things don’t go as planned.
Hi sue, (and Tom and wwcpd)
Thanks so much for your reply. I ‘ve been really wondering about that! Sorry you had the frustrating experience but you probably saved me disappointment at animal kingdom, because I would have done the same exact thing! At 9:30 did you try to make reservations for Hollywood and animal kingdom or just Hollywood?
I’m curious if you were able to make a Hollywood reservation @12:10 or later, after you checked into Na’Vi river? But I’m sure your choices wouldn’t have been good by that time! Again, thanks for taking the trouble to respond and saving me the frustration you went through!
Now it seems per Tom that you may be better,when park hopping, off starting at a park that opens later than Hollywood, cause you still have the advantage of using 120 minute rule two hours after HS opens! All this will be very useful for me during my next wow visit! Thanks again
At 9:30 am I was trying to book Na’Vi in AK. I’m thinking that my first LL selection for HS caused my second selection to be moved back (as HS opened at 8:00 am that day, making 10:00 am the next possible time for a selection.) It would be interesting to see if I had booked a LL for AK first whether the second LL selection would have been for 9:30 am, but that’s for someone else to discover! At 12:10 pm I booked Toy Story Mania in HS, which was pretty much the only LL available that I was interested in by that time.
I agree 100%. We just left there yesterday. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster) seemed to be down all week with no explanation why. Also the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror seemed to be up and down most of the week as well. No good.
That must be an update to the ‘pinning’ strategy, because I did this exact thing at Thanksgiving (started early at Animal Kingdom and rode a few rides without Genie+ while lines were short), so I ‘pinned’ Slinky Dog to the top (even though my reservation was for AK) and right at 7 booked that as my first ride. Then I stacked rides for HS and Epcot in the afternoon/evening.
It might be a change, or maybe I encountered a glitch. Since you’re saying it worked before and the message it gave was that I didn’t have a Disney Park Pass reservation (I did), I’m inclined to believe it was the latter.
I am also trying to wrap my head around this Genie+/LL conundrum. While doing all this, would it have still been possible to buy the LL+ (or whatever) for RotR? Slinky dog dash and RotR is really the only two rides my wife wants to do. And TSM, b/c that’s my favorite.
“While doing all this, would it have still been possible to buy the LL+ (or whatever) for RotR?”
Although if the only attractions you want to do are RotR, SDD, and TSM…you might be better off just arriving to DHS at ~6 pm and doing that trio in the last three hours. That or during Early Entry (if eligible) is almost certainly going to be the most efficient and cost-effective way to experience them.
That’s some next level LL stuff going on there lol. I’d say this is for “pros” of LL. I’m trying to get my family studying this stuff for their trip in June. Between my knowledge and your blog I hope they listen. Your afternoon/evening at DHS is a great time out l, bit with a lot of user overhead. Great article!
It reads as complicated/convoluted here, but becomes much easier once you actually are using the app feature. Definitely worth having your family do a dry run before their travel dates arrive (or at least familiarizing themselves with the layout of Genie+). Good luck!