Magic Kingdom is the best park for buying Genie+ at Walt Disney World, something that’s true even during peak season 2022 dates. To confirm this, I tested my strategy on what I thought would be a 10/10 crowd level weekend (spoiler: it wasn’t) to see how much could accomplish using Lightning Lanes to skip standby lines.
This photo report walks you through my step-by-step day using paid FastPass, with my Lightning Lane selections & return times, ride reservation screenshots, what I accomplished, and thoughts at the end about whether Genie+ is worth the money at Magic Kingdom. It also includes strategy and other useful advice, plus plenty of useless and random commentary.
This day in Magic Kingdom came after Walt Disney World moved Individual Lightning Lane attractions to Genie+ through August 7, 2022. Theoretically, that should improve the quality of the Genie+ experience, adding availability, and (maybe) how many standard Lightning Lane selections you can score in a day. This is least noticeable at Magic Kingdom, which already had a solid attraction lineup for Genie+ even before shifting Space Mountain over.
As quick background for those who are unfamiliar with it, Walt Disney World’s new Genie+ line-skipping service is the permanent 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+.
As noted at the top, my “goal” was to do this on a 10/10 crowd level day at Magic Kingdom (or at least a 9/10). I assumed it would happen given crowds the previous weekend, and the fact that closing had been extended by 2 hours, until 11 pm. As discussed in our March 2022 Crowd Calendar, Walt Disney World added a significant number of hours this week for reasons we couldn’t explain, but their internal forecasts presumably supported the strong move.
As it turned out, they were wrong. Not that I’m personally complaining about moderate crowds or anything, but they are less helpful when I try to do step-by-step walkthroughs like this. Suffice to say, you might not be able to reproduce my results the week of Orange County’s Spring Break or Easter. But you should be able to come pretty close.
Anyway, let’s move along to my day using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Magic Kingdom…
Starting at 6:55 am, I bought Genie+ in the My Disney Experience app, customized my Tip Board for strategic advantage (see below), and browsed around in Genie to see if anything had changed. I’ve done this enough that it’s second nature, and I can now breeze through this entire process in about 2 minutes.
At 7:00:00 am, I refreshed the Tip Board. I saw Jungle Cruise with a return time of 9:00 am to 10:00 am, but what I got was a start time of 9:35 am.
There was a bit of lag on the confirmation screen, which I assume was the culprit. Still not a bad result, but not my best work. I’m just thankful I didn’t get an error message, as I’ve been seeing those more when tinkering around with Genie+ lately.
Being able to book a second Lightning Lane attraction at Magic Kingdom before 11 am is important, because that’s the first possible time anyone subject to the 120 minute rule–which is many savvy guests–will be able to make another Genie+ ride reservation. Even though it’s a far longer window, not many people are booking between ~7:10 am and 10:59 am. Return times tend to move slower during that time frame.
One thing to note is that if you’re already seeing a return time this late…just wait. Like mischievous monkeys operating a turntable, the clock will “spin around” on them–meaning that you’ll see morning times if you just wait a bit.
That’s in part because I was only strategizing when it came to Lightning Lanes, so unless you want to do the PeopleMover multiple times, it’s not practical planning advice. It’s also in part because it is really easy to backfill your non-Genie+ day at Magic Kingdom thanks to the abundance of low or no wait shows and other attractions. (There’s also the fact that I didn’t take diligent notes and can’t account for a lot of our time that isn’t covered by screenshots or photo timestamps. Oops.)
My next selection was Splash Mountain.
Based on average daily wait times for March 2022, I should’ve chosen Peter Pan’s Flight. However, it only has a slight edge over Splash Mountain (75 minute v. 74 minute wait), and Splash Mountain had a much earlier return time–and one that was <120 minutes. That made it the subjectively superior pick here.
Following that, I opted for Space Mountain.
The discrepancy better this and Peter Pan’s Flight is greater (75 v. 60 minutes), making that Fantasyland classic a better pick, all else being equal. Peter Pan’s Flight did have a much later return time, but that shouldn’t have matter since both were beyond 120 minutes. (In other words, all else was equal.)
As such, Space Mountain was an objectively poor pick here.
However, I wanted something more immediate and indoors during the middle of the day, and was very confident Peter Pan’s Flight would still be around 120 minutes later. If you’re visiting on a peak season day, swap these two.
As expected, Peter Pan’s Flight did have availability 120 minutes later.
When my window first opened, its return time was ~8 to 9 pm. I didn’t really want that slot, as wait times elsewhere would be dropping by then. Figuring the clock would roll over, I gave it a couple of minutes. Sure enough, I was able to score 5:45 pm to 6:45 pm.
Haunted Mansion was my next pick, and literally the exact same scenario played out there.
Return times were originally after 7 pm. I waited a couple minutes, and got 4:45 pm to 5:45 pm.
Lightning Lanes are now available to See Mickey at Town Square Theater, See Princess Tiana and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall, and See Cinderella and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall.
However, we did the first two of these with under 10 minute waits via standby (which also allowed both of us to do them). Mickey still doesn’t have a PhotoPass photographer, the lighting remains uneven, and it’s still a sighting rather than a traditional meet & greet. It’s thus not much of a surprise most guests aren’t interested.
Given the recent end of the indoor face mask rule, plus the entirety of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience being normal, it’s likely we’ll soon see other awkwardly-modified entertainment and character interactions return to normal. At least, that’s our hope.
At this point, I had a pretty good afternoon at Magic Kingdom lined up.
These three Lightning Lanes alone would save me over 3 hours as compared to posted wait times (which are inflated, but the point still stands). Add to that my morning stops at Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain, and that time-savings is already up to around 5 hours.
Next up was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
I was really excited to see this appear when I refreshed, with a return time of 5 pm (!!!) at 4:47 pm. I quickly clicked through, and didn’t notice the time jumped to 6:50 pm to 7:50 pm. This was really annoying, and I’ll reiterate here my position that My Disney Experience should place a ‘temporary hold’ on cancelled Lightning Lane reservations (what this must’ve been) once they’re in your “cart.”
Adding insult to injury, there was no way to cancel my Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride reservation and book something else with a more immediate return. For whatever reason, attempting to ‘manage details’ of my selection just took me to the normal attraction page.
This often happens when the window for a Lightning Lane reservation has yet to open. I’m not sure if there’s somewhere else in the clunky Genie interface to cancel, but if so, I couldn’t locate it.
On a positive note, I lucked out with a stoppage on Peter Pan’s Flight while perfectly positioned flying over London.
I was able to brace my camera against the ride vehicle and use a very slow shutter speed to capture the cleanest shot I’ve ever gotten on Peter Pan’s Flight. (Not really relevant to the topic at hand, but it was a highlight of my day!)
This wasn’t the only problem I had with Genie+ at Magic Kingdom.
There also were a couple of occasions when the app told me I wasn’t eligible to book another Lightning Lane selection, even after the time had passed. In the above case, it started working 1 minute later. In other instances, I’ve had it take up to 5 minutes to register my eligibility. Also frustrating.
Once eligible, I was able to score a quick return time for Pirates of the Caribbean, which seems to be about par for the course.
Even when POTC is posting 45 to 60 minute wait times (as it was this evening), it has abundant availability for Genie+ Lightning Lanes. This seemed to be the case with FastPass+, too.
Same deal with Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
Got this Lightning Lane reservation at 7:20 pm with a return time only 10 minutes later. The posted wait time was 35 minutes.
My return for “it’s a small world” was only 5 minutes later despite that attraction posting a 45 minute wait time.
It’s difficult to gauge accuracy now that Lightning Lanes are in use, but “it’s a small world” has seen its wait times spike recently.
My evening ended with the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
I could’ve knocked out many other attractions instead with near-immediate return times, but most of these were either also walk-ons via the standby line (e.g. Little Mermaid dark ride, Dumbo) or things I had no desire to do (e.g. Barnstormer, Magic Carpets). I’m almost positive I could’ve booked those all had I been a bit more aggressive and wanted to “prove” that I could do everything via Genie+ at Magic Kingdom in a day.
We didn’t stay until the bitter end of the night, but here’s a look at posted wait times 5 minutes before park closing.
The vast majority of attractions would’ve been walk-ons at this point. Our experience with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the last ~6 months is that actual waits are, at most, one-third of posted wait times at the end of the night. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the wait time at SDMT was 10 minutes or less when Magic Kingdom closed for the night.
Ultimately, I ended up using Genie+ to secure 10 Lightning Lane selections during this day at Magic Kingdom, and could have scored at least another 5, but they would’ve been largely useless. It was a moderately busy day, but not too bad and the combination of manageable crowds and long hours really made my job easy here.
Based on posted wait times at my return times, I saved around 550 minutes with those 10 ride reservations. Even if 2-3 hours were knocked off that due to the disparity between posted v. actual wait times at Walt Disney World, I still would’ve saved at least 6 hours of waiting in line. Given the $16 cost, that’s less than $3 per hour, making Genie+ easily “worth it” at Magic Kingdom in terms of the time v. money cost calculus.
Genie+ is not great every day in every park at Walt Disney World. It can save you a lot of time in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but also be very stressful. It may not offer much benefit at all in Epcot and Animal Kingdom. The one park where it is consistently worthwhile is Magic Kingdom. Not only will it save you a lot of time waiting (unless the crowd level is 4/10 or lower…but how often does that happen anymore?!), but it’s not stressful and requires less screen time. Even dealing with a few glitches, I had a pretty easy go of it.
With the other three parks, the argument could be made that a strong itinerary, arriving for rope drop (or for Early Entry) and staying until park closing would yield similar or superior results. I’d personally rather utilize savvy strategy in those parks than just Genie+. That’s not true with Magic Kingdom. The sheer number of attractions and easy availability of mid-tier and above Lightning Lanes makes it the clear-cut winner.
If I were looking to court controversy, I might even take this a step further and say that Genie+ is the best ride reservation system that has ever been offered at Magic Kingdom, surpassing its FastPass predecessors even taking into consideration its cost. I’m not the kind to stir the honey pot (I’ll leave that to Pooh), so I won’t say that, but I wouldn’t disagree if someone else were to say it.
Thoughts on my day in Magic Kingdom using the Genie+ service after the Spring Break 2022 Lightning Lane changes? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or sticking to free standby lines? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that Genie+ is the best ride reservation system ever at Magic Kingdom? 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!