This Walt Disney World park report walks you through my step-by-step afternoon and evening at Hollywood Studios using the new Genie+ service. It covers what we accomplished via standby and Lightning Lanes, and covers two different ways to beat the crowds at DHS. While one is the obvious way (buying Genie+), the other is totally free and simply requires savvy strategy.
Let’s start with the paid Genie+ line-skipping service, which is Walt Disney World’s paid replacement to free FastPass+. 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.
Same caveat applies here as with other Genie+ posts–this is testing and not a recommended itinerary. It’s all about pushing Genie+ to the limit and maximizing the service to showcase what’s possible and how much bang for your buck you could get, in theory. In a day of normal “for fun” touring, we definitely would not skip shows, entertainment, etc. Nevertheless, this series of posts should give you a good idea of what’s possible with Genie+, with lessons that you can apply to a more laid back plan.
Anyway, let’s move along to my day using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…
At the end of my early afternoon at Epcot, I had set myself up nicely for the rest of the day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. My Day had become quite jumbled—reservations weren’t grouping together by park for some reason—so I don’t have a single screenshot.
Nevertheless, I had Lightning Lane reservations for Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, and Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run lined up all in the span of a few hours. Slinky Dog Dash was pure luck—it had been gone for a while and I snagged what must’ve been a cancellation. In retrospect, I should’ve booked that for my first or second Lightning Lane selection of the day, but the plan didn’t originally call for both Epcot and DHS.
Fast-forward to my arrival to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster had a 25 minute posted wait time as I entered the Lightning Lane return line at 4:30 pm. My actual wait was 8 minutes to the pre-show, and I was off by 4:45 pm.
I had lined these reservations up to minimize walking, so my next stop was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at 4:50 pm.
It was posting a 20 minute wait at this point (in judging the line, it was probably more like 5 minutes). My actual wait via the Lightning Lane was 3 minutes to the pre-show. I was done with Tower of Terror by 5:04 pm.
From there, it was on to Toy Story Land, where the first stop was Toy Story Mania at 5:17 pm, where I waited in line 3 minutes via the Lightning Lane.
The posted wait time for standby was 35 minutes, and it was easily this long. The standby queue extended almost to the ride entrance, which was longer than the other day when I waited 65 minutes. I realize standby length is no longer indicative of wait times, but I’d be shocked if this was only 35 minutes. In the era of FastPass, certain attractions have always had more of their capacity dedicated to the line-skipping systems, causing higher wait times for standby. I suspect Toy Story Mania might be that for Genie+. The ride always has ample availability for those ride reservations.
That’s probably due for an update, as this was my second consecutive mediocre meal at the Star Wars quick service. It seems like whenever a restaurant is deemed “too good,” corners are cut and portion sizes decrease. Sadly, that has been my experience here. (Sarah still loves the Felucian Kefta and Hummus Garden Spread, which is definitely the restaurant’s MVP. I’m slightly scared to write that, worried that the praise will result in the loss of one “meat”ball or something.)
After dinner, it was on to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run where the posted wait time was 25 minutes at 6:13 pm.
My actual wait time was 3 minutes, and it probably would’ve been 5 minutes if I did the ride via standby since that queue involves slightly more walking. Otherwise, no real wait for either–something we’re seeing more and more in the last 3 hours of the day at DHS.
Which brings us to a point touch upon in other recent posts. At the end of My Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Using Genie+, I teased that our evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was “just getting started” at 7 pm with no Genie+ reservations left on the board and 120 minutes left on the clock. That mentioned that we had done every major ride via standby during this day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That includes Star Wars: Rise of Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, twice each.
Since those posts, we’ve gone to DHS a few more times in the last couple hours of the day to test this, making sure we didn’t just get lucky.
During this very important research, we’ve found that slotting Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway slightly earlier into the schedule is actually advantageous. For whatever reason, its waits can get slightly longer closer to park closing. Probably because people are returning to the front of the park, seeing the short line, and jumping in line for “one last ride.”
Whatever the case, we lined up for Runaway Railway in the standby queue at 6:40 pm when the posted wait time was 35 minutes.
Our actual wait to the theater pre-show was 3 minutes, and that included no wait at the merge point. We noticed a couple outside of the Lightning Lane fumbling to get their ride reservations to work; we actually beat them (by like 10 seconds, but it counts). We’ve discussed this phenomenon in Genie+ Buyer Beware: Actual v. Posted Wait Times, but this is a really bad/pronounced example of it. Paying money to skip an advertised 35 minute wait that was actually ~0 minutes wouldn’t just be annoying–it’d be a “lesson” I’d only need to learn once.
After that, we doubled back to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Our decision not to do this while previously in Galaxy’s Edge was also strategic. The wait time had spiked to 95 minutes, and our expectation–based on plenty of recent experience–was that this would discourage guests from queueing up.
In addition to being inflated, Walt Disney World wait times are very much reactionary and some rides oscillate between under and overestimates. Low posted times induce demand, resulting in a flood of guests to the line who will wait much longer than the posted time. That causes a sharp spike to the posted wait, leading to reduced demand–and significantly shorter waits at the tail end of the higher time.
Timing this can be a fool’s errand, especially on a ride like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance that’s prone to breakdowns. But we are fools. Or at least, I am. (Then again, isn’t Sarah by association? I can assure you that my foolishness is not a recent development–it was fully formed when we wed.)
Enough with this foolishness. We got into line for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at 7:03 pm when the posted wait time was still 95 minutes. Within only a few minutes of walking through the queue, I noticed that it had dropped to 80 minutes in the My Disney Experience app. Vindication!
Our actual wait time was 39 minutes to almost the first briefing room. When there were only 2 parties in front of us, someone raced past to the front of the line indicating that their mother had a medical emergency somewhere in the queue. Most of the Cast Members in this area rushed back, and stopped loading the pre-show. I’m not sure what would’ve happened if we were 3 parties earlier in line, but I’m guessing we would’ve finished the ride. Instead, we waited a while, finally leaving the the queue at 8:07 pm.
For what it’s worth, this has been our consistent experience with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in the evenings. Posted wait times of 90-120 minutes, actual wait times of under 45 minutes. Our experiences are obviously anecdotal, but we’ve heard from severalreaders who have similarly waited about half of the posted time or less.
While I’d be annoyed with the wait time discrepancy at Runaway Railway if I paid for the Individual Lightning Lane, this is much more forgivable. For one thing, the wait is still long. For another, buyers of ILL will have no clue how long standby guests wait and even if they do, they’re buying their way out of the uncertainty and unpredictability of downtime. Finally, the potential for a breakdown is always looming, so building extra cushion in with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is not a bad idea.
The next stop was Slinky Dog Dash to use my final Genie+ ride reservation of the day. At 8:13 pm, the posted wait time was 40 minutes. My wait in the Lightning Lane was 3 minutes.
There was no one else in the return line, which I’m guessing is common. How many people make that ride reservation at ~7:45 am, but can’t find enough to fill the day at DHS and bail? It’s difficult to gauge, but I’m guessing the standby line was less than a 20 minute wait.
All told, I redeemed 12 Genie+ ride reservations in this day and did almost every headliner in Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios without buying a single Individual Lightning Lane.
The only ones missed were Rise of the Resistance on a technicality and Frozen Ever After on laziness. I could’ve done them all–easily–but for bad luck and being tired.
At this point, we left Disney’s Hollywood Studios to return to Epcot, but above is a look at wait times as of 8:30 pm. Don’t expect to replicate this during peak Christmas season dates, but it’s been our experience since reopening that crowds clear out in the last 3 hours of the day at DHS.
While Genie+ is incredibly useful at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this should underscore that it’s not necessary to buy even here. Additionally, this illustrates just how much easier it is to knock out headliners at DHS later in the day as opposed to at rope drop via the standby lines. I know families only have so much stamina to get through the day, but the midday nap or pool time truly is your friend here. Not only are waits significantly shorter, but everything about the park is more pleasant. There’s less congestion and no tension in the air–people seem to be having a great time. At DHS!
Thoughts on my afternoon and evening in Disney’s Hollywood Studios using the paid Genie+ service and standby lines? Are you planning on buying Genie+ at DHS? Have you done an evening at Hollywood Studios recently? Did you encounter similarly short standby lines? Get a lot accomplished? 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!