Magic Kingdom is the best park for buying Genie+ at Walt Disney World. For this Lightning Lane report, I tested my strategy on a fully-booked day over a holiday weekend to see how much time I could save skipping standby lines with paid FastPass.
This Genie+ photo report walks you through my step-by-step day in MK, 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.
My goal here was to “stress test” Genie+ on a day I was sure Magic Kingdom would be busy–my goal was a 9/10 or 10/10 crowd level day. Well, you know what they say: the best laid plans of the Mouse and magical blue men often go awry. In actuality, this particular day at Magic Kingdom was a 7/10 crowd level.
Nevertheless, this day at MK more or less tracks with my last experience using Genie+ about a month prior on a crowd level 8/10 day. In fact, my experiences with Genie+ at Magic Kingdom have been pretty consistent in all crowd levels, although I still haven’t “lucked out” with a 10/10 day.
For illustrative purposes, that’s fine. This pretty accurately reflects a normal day in Magic Kingdom, and outside of a few weeks (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve), will be what you can expect to accomplish using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom.
My other goal using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom was to embrace a more laid back approach to illustrate that you don’t need to get up bright and early at 7 am, diligently set alarms to book subsequent reservations, or develop a tactical plan of attack with military precision.
That’s how to use Genie+ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Thankfully, such vigilance is not required at Magic Kingdom due to the larger attraction roster and superior capacity. This is good news because, as we’ve mentioned repeatedly, Magic Kingdom is the only park at Walt Disney World where we view buying Genie+ as necessary to beat the crowds.
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+.
Anyway, let’s move along to my day using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Magic Kingdom…
I woke up around 7:45 am, bought Genie+ in the My Disney Experience app, navigated to the Tip Board to see available options, and booked a Lightning Lane reservation for Peter Pan’s Flight. This entire process took only a few minutes.
After Walt Disney World eliminated the Genie+ ticket add-on, there have been fears that guests would need to be up at midnight to purchase Genie+ and again at 7 am to book before attractions. Thus far, there has not been a single day that Genie+ sold out at any park–and certainly not before 7 am. (Many guests don’t even learn about Genie+ until they arrive to the park, and then buy around 10 or 11 am.)
In actuality, I could’ve made this same selection over an hour later–up until 8:59 am–and my day would’ve looked almost exactly the same. At Magic Kingdom, such a laid back approach to Genie+ works just fine.
Since my return time for Peter Pan’s Flight was more than 2 hours into the future, I’d be subject to the 120 minute rule. This meant that I’d be eligible to book my next Lightning Lane ride reservation 120 minutes after park opening, or 11 am. I wasn’t setting reminder alarms, and didn’t remember to do that until 11:08 am, when I booked Space Mountain.
I opted for this instead of Jungle Cruise because I knew I’d be over in Tomorrowland around this time, and felt I could gamble on Jungle Cruise having availability 120 minutes later. In any case, Jungle Cruise remains #1 on our Magic Kingdom Genie+ Priorities & Lightning Lane Ride Ranks, even after the addition of Space Mountain.
The PeopleMover, in particular, was a challenge because it kept breaking down. This meant long waits both in line and stuck on the attraction. I was trying to get a clean video of the new narration, failing on my first half-dozen ride-throughs. In other words, our day was not the average tourist experience in Magic Kingdom. (Not to discourage you from looping the TTA or Carousel of Progress. Doing both repeatedly is, of course, a good idea.)
My next selection was Jungle Cruise.
I got this shortly after a ride reservation refill, which meant an earlier return time by a few hours. This was totally dumb luck. I was not spending time refreshing the My Disney Experience trying to improve my selections–I was just taking what I could get.
Above is a look at my Lightning Lane lineup thus far, all obtained by around 1 pm at Magic Kingdom.
Below are Magic Kingdom wait times this particular afternoon.
Throwing out Seven Dwarfs Mine Train because it’s an Individual Lightning Lane and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin because it has near instant returns (see below), I think I chose pretty well.
With that said, there’s no way I saved 235 minutes waiting in line. The standby line for Space Mountain was bad when I returned, but the lines for Peter Pan’s Flight and Jungle Cruise were quite short. It’s difficult to eyeball these due to the Lightning Lanes, but I can’t imagine either had actual waits that were over an hour. They were probably closer to 30-45 minutes.
Most of this day at Magic Kingdom was laid back; after tapping into Jungle Cruise when my window opened I made Splash Mountain my top priority.
The reason was simple–it was really hot and I wanted to ride Splash Mountain during those triple-digit “feels like” temperatures rather than after sunset. Also, Splash Mountain was an objectively good choice at this point.
Haunted Mansion was my next pick, and literally the exact same scenario played out there–I tapped into Splash Mountain and immediately selected Haunted Mansion.
At the time I made the selection, Haunted Mansion had a lengthy standby line and hour-long posted wait time. By the time fireworks roll around, it’s usually a walk-on or close to it.
Next up was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. I made this selection at 6:44 pm and my return time was one minute later.
I’ve noticed this is a relatively common occurrence with Space Ranger Spin. Even when the overflow queue is in use, you can score a Lightning Lane reservation with a return time not too far into the future. (Avoiding the miserable line for Buzz is arguably worth the cost of Genie+ by itself.) It seems like every park has an attraction like this, with a disproportionate amount of its capacity allocated to Genie+ and easy availability.
My final selection was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
This wasn’t because nothing else was available (see below) but because this had more or less exhausted everything I wanted to accomplish in Magic Kingdom. Normally, we also would’ve done some of the meet & greets, but that was a nonstarter thanks to the aforementioned heat, humidity, and afternoon rain. Suffice to say, the resulting photos would not have been usable.
With that said, everything except Jungle Cruise (and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) had availability.
It would’ve been easy to book another 2-3 Lightning Lanes…it just wasn’t necessary. I had already done all of the high profile ones, and everything else would have short waits by the time their return windows rolled around.
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. Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Little Mermaid, Dumbo) or things I had no desire to do (e.g. Barnstormer, Magic Carpets).
Doing most or all of those would’ve been possible had I been a bit more aggressive and wanted to “prove” that I could do everything via Genie+ at Magic Kingdom in a day. But it wasn’t necessary. Our actual wait for the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh via standby was under 5 minutes. It’s also nice to do these attractions together; it’s still a bit awkward for me to do Fantasyland dark rides by myself during these tests.
With ~20 minutes left on the clock, we passed Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and opted against doing it.
Instead, we raced over to Tomorrowland for one last ditch attempt at a clean PeopleMover video. That’s right–even after riding a half-dozen times earlier in the day, we still had not had an uninterrupted ride.
We exited the TTA PeopleMover at 10:58 pm and booked it back to Fantasyland in a buzzer-beater attempt at queueing up for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before Magic Kingdom closed at 11 pm. I’m not sure how long that walk normally takes, but the answer is definitely more than 2 minutes.
We ended up in the very last train of the night, with an actual wait time of <10 minutes. This is entirely consistent with our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train “buzzer-beater” experiences in the last year. The actual waits is, at most, one-third of posted wait times at the end of the night.
I can’t recall the last time we waited more than 15 minutes for SDMT, which is why we never do it during Early Entry. It’s so much easier, consistent, and more pleasant at night. (Those fans hitting you with a blast of cool air are refreshing in the evening, rather than strictly necessary during the daytime hours.)
Ultimately, I ended up using Genie+ to secure “only” 7 Lightning Lane selections during this day at Magic Kingdom, but did so with minimal effort and screen time–and without setting any alarms. Another 5 ride reservations would’ve been easy to book, but also largely useless. It was only a moderately busy day at Magic Kingdom–not too bad aside from the weather–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 supposedly saved ~6.5 hours waiting in line with those ride reservations. That’s probably inflated by at least 2 hours due to the disparity between posted v. actual wait times at Walt Disney World. Still, it’s at least 3 hours saved waiting in line on the conservative side. Even if I arrived for Early Entry or didn’t spend half my day in Tomorrowland, I would’ve been hard-pressed to accomplish all of this without using Lightning Lanes.
Given all of that, Genie+ is easily “worth it” at Magic Kingdom in terms of the time v. money cost calculus. This is the conclusion we’ve reached every single time when using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom–and it’s the only park at Walt Disney World with this consistent outcome and ease of use. Buying Genie+ for both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT can make sense, but there are superior alternatives at both, and DHS certainly is not a laid back experience (if you want to score more than 3 good Lightning Lanes).
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 instead of paying for Genie+. That’s not true with Magic Kingdom. The sheer number of attractions and availability of Lightning Lanes makes it the clear-cut winner. Save your money elsewhere if you’re on the fence about Genie+, but definitely buy it at Magic Kingdom. Even accounting for the cost, Genie+ is better than FastPass+ at Magic Kingdom.
Thoughts on my day in Magic Kingdom using the Genie+ service on a moderately crowded day? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or sticking to free standby lines? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that Genie+ is worth the money and can be a laid back experience 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!