Tom’s Day at Magic Kingdom Not Using Genie+
As an alternative to regular standby lines, Walt Disney World’s new Genie+ ride reservation system launched for select attractions in Magic Kingdom and the other parks. This walks you through my step-by-step day not using Genie+, from park opening until closing, with a look at everything I accomplished without spending any extra money. It’s a companion post to Sarah’s day with Genie+, which is coming soon.
My original intent was to use the free Genie feature to see how it performed head to head against the paid Genie+ service. This is already going to be a long post, so I’ll simply refer you to our Free Disney Genie Itinerary Creator Review for thorough thoughts on that and why that plan was abandoned before even arriving to Magic Kingdom.
Instead, I went with a mix of my instincts, observations, and experience in visiting Magic Kingdom hundreds of times. While the new Genie “stuff” will unquestionably and dramatically change the way people visit Walt Disney World, it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel. Anyway, let’s start our day at MK…
We arrived at Magic Kingdom shortly before rope drop. In addition to being standby only, I also didn’t have access to Early Theme Park Entry since we weren’t staying on-site. On top of that, it was a Disney After Hours Boo Bash date, meaning Magic Kingdom closed 90 minutes earlier than normal and there would be a mix-in of event guests before that.
Given all of that, it felt a bit like the deck was stacked against me. Obviously not ideal for a casual tourist, but oddly enough, exactly the circumstances I wanted for this day at Magic Kingdom. It provided for a more challenging field test, and would prove more satisfying once I “prevailed” in my quest to conquer most Magic Kingdom attractions, against all odds…
Also, what Sarah didn’t know–because I didn’t tell her–was that my goal was to “outperform” her day with Genie+ while only using the standby lines. I am fiercely competitive about certain things, almost all of which are totally pointless and non-adversarial scenarios. I’m also aware this is not exactly a popular personality trait, so I mostly keep it to myself.
In any case and for whatever reason, I developed this obstinate obsession with getting a lot done without Genie+ in Magic Kingdom on its launch day. Just to prove the haters wrong. (Or in this case, I guess, prove them right–since most people seem to hate Genie+.)
Anyway, even though Sarah and I were bitter rivals during this day in Magic Kingdom, we started by heading together towards Jungle Cruise. The intent was for her to do that via Genie+ and Lightning Lane, while I did it via standby to see how much extra time it cost me.
Naturally, the best laid plans of the Mouse and magical blue men often go awry: Jungle Cruise was down to start the day, throwing a monkey wrench into both of our plans.
I called a quick audible and headed deeper into the frontier, finding short posted wait times at both Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain.
Even though Splash Mountain averages a much longer wait time throughout the day, I gambled on Big Thunder first since it has a shorter ride duration. I got in line for BTMRR at 9:10 with a posted 10 minute wait, and waited a total of 6 minutes.
It was on to Splash Mountain from there, which was still sporting a 5 minute posted wait time (vindicating my decision to do Big Thunder first). In actuality, it was a walk-on (it took 4 minutes) and was still dispatching empty logs at that point. I was already done with half of the Magic Kingdom Mountain Range by 9:39 am–not too shabby!
My next stop was Pirates of the Caribbean, which still only had a 10 minute posted wait. This might seem like an odd choice, but PotC is the #7 attraction in terms of Magic Kingdom wait times this month, and everything else but Haunted Mansion had already spiked. However, I saw that the line was already backed up to near the entrance and that coupled with Genie+ returns almost certainly meant a wait time significantly longer than 10 minutes. That plus the opportunity cost led me to bail.
Instead, I took a big gamble on Jungle Cruise, which was now up and had a posted 50 minute wait. I was almost certain this was both wildly inaccurate and likely to cause other guests to avoid it since so many attractions still had posted wait times under 20 minutes.
I was once again vindicated, as the posted wait time dropped to 30 minutes shortly after I jumped in line, and my actual wait was 23 minutes. Not bad for what is currently the #2 ride in Magic Kingdom after Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in terms of average daily waits.
The downside of doing two water rides back to back is that they inspire you to go…and I don’t mean deeper and deeper into the jungle. That pit stop cost me crucial minutes, and by the time I made my way over to Haunted Mansion, its line was already outside the marquee.
I debated doing it anyway, as Haunted Mansion is currently #5 in average Magic Kingdom wait times, but I figured it would get shorter later in the day, totally forgetting about Boo Bash and proximity Halloween. Rookie mistake. (In fairness, I live in Central Florida where Halloween has been in full swing for two months already. I’m ready for it to be over at this point.)
Instead, I raced over to Space Mountain, which had a 30 minute posted wait time at 10:34 am.
The line was not out the front entrance, which was a good sign. My fear was that this would spike later in the day as guests encountered long lines everywhere and became more inclined to buy their way out of crowds. My actual wait ended up being 22 minutes, which I will gladly take.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was next up at 11:05, with a posted wait time of 20 minutes and an actual wait time of 13 minutes.
I’m a sucker for this attraction, but it falls a bit flatter when Sarah is not around to impress with my ability to max out the blaster at 999,999 points. (She claims to be unimpressed by this, but how could she not be?!)
While in line for Space Ranger Spin, I placed a Mobile Order at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for the Mission to Mars Burger. It was still relatively early, but I wanted to beat the lunch rush and not wait for my food. I hit “I’m Here” while exiting Buzz, and received the notification that it was ready right as I walked up to the entrance of Cosmic Ray’s. That made me feel pretty cool–it’s the small victories.
Less cool was eating this burger by myself. Not because I have any anxiety about eating alone, but because this very bright, very orange burger bun left my face looking like George Sanderson. I’m not one to mask outdoors, but I made an exception en route to the restroom to wash my face.
While leaving the restroom next to Cheshire Cafe, I could hear Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade approaching.
I made a beeline for Main Street to see it. Fortunately, I’m much faster than parade floats, and managed to get a pretty good spot.
Immediately after that, I saw the Main Street Philharmonic coming out from near Crystal Palace, so I stopped and watched their set.
I know it’s divisive, but I’m a fan of “The Magic is Calling.” Every celebration should have an anthem, and I strongly believe this will become more beloved over time, especially as guests develop nostalgia and associate memories of their trips with this song.
Anyway, after that I headed over to Casey’s Corner, where the pianist was finishing up his set.
Three entertainment acts all in close proximity to one another and in a short time span–what is this, Disneyland?!
From there, it was back to Carousel of Progress at 12:34 pm.
No line for that–but just wait until Genie starts giving out “Surprise Lightning Lanes!” for it.
I saw that the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover had a relatively short line and the sun was behind clouds, so I opted for that next. The posted wait time at 1:02 pm was 15 minutes, and my actual wait time was 10 minutes.
From there, it was on to Storybook Circus, where Dumbo was my next stop. The posted wait time was 20 minutes, and my actual wait was 14 minutes.
Since I was already in the neighborhood, and Barnstormer had a 5 minute wait time (it might’ve jumped to 10 after I got in line–not totally sure), I did that. The actual wait was 7 minutes.
Had I been one party earlier in line, I would’ve had a shorter wait than guests using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. It’s always interesting when you can see the entire line and merge point. (Moral of the story: Barnstormer is probably not a high priority Genie+ attraction…but we all probably knew that already!)
Although it may not seem like it given my day thus far, wait times were building throughout Magic Kingdom, with about a half-dozen attractions over an hour.
Given that I was going for quality and quantity, I opted to do Sam Eagle proud with the distinctly patriotic one-two punch of Country Bear Jamboree and Hall of Presidents. I had minimal wait for both of these, but since they’re so long, they ate up the better part of an hour.
I was also getting tired (not from the subject matter of those shows) and feared losing my edge, so it was time for a Starbucks stop. Sarah met up with me there, and we waited about 15 minutes at 2:52 pm.
From start to finish at Starbucks, that’s not too bad.
We played around with her Genie+ PhotoPass AR filters for a while, which was a surprising amount of fun. I’ve been instructed not to share our outtakes or how much difficulty we had with these since we don’t want to ruin the impression (held by none of you to begin with) that we’re hip and trendy. Suffice to say, there’s a reason neither of us have Snapchat–I’ll just leave it at that.
As an aside, I strongly suspect that all of this photo fun was a big ruse. While I have no evidence to confirm this, I believe Sarah was trying to mess up my stats as she waited out her next Genie+ reservation. Even though I never told her we were competing, she always seems to intuitively know when I’m hatching schemes.
We parted ways and I headed to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which had just returned from downtime. I got in line at 3:51 pm, when the posted wait time was 20 minutes and the line didn’t appear too bad.
This was a good lesson in line lengths once again being irrelevant now that Genie+ is in use. The line moved at a snail’s pace as a steady stream of Genie+ returns flowed into that line. My actual wait time was 27 minutes (the posted wait time jumped to 45 minutes by the time I exited the attraction).
From there, it was time to knock out everything else I had missed in Fantasyland. Next up was “it’s a small world,” which had a posted wait time of 15 minutes and an actual wait time of 10 minutes.
Following that, whatever the Little Mermaid dark ride is called, which had a 25 minute posted wait but an actual wait time of 21 minutes. While I think this attraction is actually underrated, I’d normally hold off on it until the wait time subsided–but I was running out of hours in the day and still had a lot to get done.
From there, I crossed through Fantasyland to see if I might be able to pick off Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, or Haunted Mansion, but all had lines that were prohibitive. Haunted Mansion was literally the longest I’ve seen it in years, and that would’ve been exacerbated by Genie+ making standby even slower-moving.
Instead, I headed over to Adventureland to knock out a couple more attractions there, starting with Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. I timed this poorly, waiting 10 minutes for the next show.
Following that, it was time for Pirates of the Caribbean.
This had a posted wait time of 45 minutes at 6:10 pm, but I had no other options with only ~2 hours left in the day and the Disney After Hours Boo Bash mix-in starting to cause wait times to increase throughout the park–something that would not happen during a normal day in Magic Kingdom. Fortunately, my actual wait was only 31 minutes, but still longer than I would’ve liked.
At this point, it was almost 7 pm and all wait times on what I needed to finish were longer than ideal. I debated knocking out Haunted Mansion, but its line wasn’t any shorter than before. I almost did it just to “prove” my approach worked, but I put my pride aside. Instead, we regrouped for the night, playing with the PhotoPass AR filters included with Genie+ (let us know if there’s interest in a post running through all the options).
After it got too dark to continue using the AR filters, we headed to Tomorrowland to see if Astro Orbiter was a viable option, as it was one of the only things Sarah had yet to do. At 7:32 pm, the posted wait time for Astro Orbiter was 35 minutes and our actual wait was 14 minutes. Not too bad for an attraction that is exponentially better at night, anyway.
We didn’t have much time until Disney Enchantment, and planned on knocking out another attraction after the fireworks, so we debated between doing the PeopleMover or heading to the Tomorrowland bridge or Fantasyland.
While the PeopleMover would’ve been a relaxing way to end the day, the bridge was a strategically better option. Towards the end of the fireworks, we made our way towards Seven Dwarfs Mine Train…
As we approached Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, I noticed that there was literally no one in line outside–the area all the day into the building was clear. This meant that, at most, the ride had a 10-15 minute wait.
With this in mind, we decided not to watch the finale of Disney Enchantment from Fantasyland. Instead, we jumped in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train just before the fireworks ended with a sliver of hope that it wouldn’t be our last ride of the night. The posted wait time was 50 minutes, our wait time was between 3 and 4 minutes. It was a walk-on with some empty rows!
We easily made it to Peter Pan’s Flight before Magic Kingdom closed at 8:30 pm. By this time, the posted wait time was 30 minutes. Our actual wait time was 10 minutes, but the line was growing as we got off (due to the start of Boo Bash).
Ultimately, I am really satisfied with my day at Magic Kingdom without paying for Genie+. I accomplished a lot with an aggressive approach and only standby lines. It was a moderately crowded day, yet I managed to do 20 attractions, including almost every single headliner and several lengthy shows. I did far more than the average guest, despite staying off-site and doing this plan on a day with an early closing due to the After Hours event.
My plan wasn’t flawless, but I did have a few advantages. First, more knowledge than the average first-timer that better positioned me to make real-time adjustments to my itinerary. Not trying to toot my own horn, that’s simply the reality of testing itineraries at Magic Kingdom all the time. Second, a willingness to walk; I logged over 21,000 steps and criss-crossed the park (at lightning speed!) several times over. Third, I got really lucky at the end of the night being able to knock out both SDMT and PPF.
In addition to that, I would say that the crowd level was generally on my side. As discussed in October Crowds Spike at Walt Disney World, wait times have shot up but still aren’t bad for this time of year or the beginning of the World’s Most Magical Celebration. While some recent visitors dispute this characterization of crowds, it’s far better than I expected. If attendance was even 1 level higher or more guests bought Genie+, my results wouldn’t have been as good.
Finally, my day was not exactly relaxed. Part of this is because I kept tinkering around with the free Genie system, but another part was because I was so fixated on optimizing my approach. On the occasions when Sarah and I met up, and again at the end of the day, her demeanor and overall enjoyment of Magic Kingdom was far better and higher than mine. (Well, her demeanor is always better than mine, but that’s not the point!) She reiterated how much fun she was having on multiple occasions, and was very pleased with how things were going with Genie+.
This is something I’m willing to include in my report because I know the feeling. I remember using MaxPass at Disneyland and how that made the park experience both more relaxed and more efficient. That cuts against the prevailing narrative of Genie+ “forcing” people to get up early and have their faces glued to screens, but that narrative is simply inaccurate–and largely perpetuated by people who have never used Genie+ or even MaxPass.
Ultimately, the good news is that you can still have a great day at Magic Kingdom by using only standby lanes and savvy strategy. My results are proof of that, and the same would hold true even if 4-5 attractions were removed from what I accomplished. However, visiting Walt Disney World and accomplishing a lot without Genie+ or Lightning Lanes will take a little more work and effort. Whether you value your time or money more is a personal question. As a matter of principle, I’m extremely glad this day went so well, as guests should be able to enjoy Magic Kingdom like “normal” without spending even more. With that said, if I only had one day per year in Magic Kingdom as an actual tourist and not a tester, buying Genie+ would’ve been an absolute no brainer.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Thoughts on my day in Magic Kingdom without using the paid Genie+ service? Does this make you feel better about doing standby-only on your next trip to Walt Disney World? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or skipping it? 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!
I’m curious about Heather C. as well. Can Tom or someone else clarify if you can get repeat rides using Genie +? That was one of the things I hated about it (well I hate all of it if we’re being honest) and one of the big differences between Genie + and max pass, you only get a chance for one ride on each attraction. Can you do one ride via Genie + then buy another all carte via Lightening Lane? I’d never pay for that if that’s the trick, but can I get multiple return times for Rockin Roller Coaster with Genie+? Is there a trick to getting 3 rides on Tower of Terror? If so I’d love to know! Thanks!
Going the first week of November to MK (just for the day). This will be my first time back in 6 years… which is a record for me, and also the first time we are taking our four year old daughter. We plan to purchase Genie +, despite the fact that paying for something that was free as FP for so many years really bugs me. I just want to maximize the potential to do as much as we can in one day for my daughter’s sake. I appreciate your article, because though we will not be making multiple or quick passes across and around the park, it still gives me hope that some lines will be short.
Since our first visit to DLP when my child was 5 until the last visit last week (now 11) he has always “destroyed” us in terms of running and criss crossing the parks and getting in line at the very last minute while my feet only want to rest…So I think that we could follow Tom’s pace without problems!!
Heather C – if I am not mistaken, you could have only rode Tower of Terror once using Genie+, and isn’t Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway one of the individual pay rides not included in Genie+ . So how much did it really cost you in addition to your park ticket?
I’m mostly annoyed by the additional tax they are charging. Don’t cal it $15 when it’s actually $16. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but for a family of 5 that would purchase for the whole week, but if we did 5 days, and let’s say 3 total individual attractions, it would add up to an extra $40 for the trip (on top of the actual cost of the Genie/attractions). And then, finally, my kids aren’t adventurous so they all won’t ride every ride – big Thunder and pirates coming to mind in MK and RNRC and TOT in studios.
Thanks! We’re going to be there next week (2 adults, 1 teen, 1 preteen), and my husband and I really appreciated both this post and Sarah’s version of her day. Much appreciated!
For the commentators who say this is not aimed at families I have to say if you ve ever been in the magic kingdom with an over exited 4 year old in the middle of a tense game of “ sorcerers of the magic kingdom “ they can move at lightning speed down a crowded Main Street to get to the next location ! It’s all about motivation, as I’ve learned from experience.
I wonder how accurate (or not) the posted stand by wait times will continue to be as Genie+ and LL users increase.
This article was for the most part, irrelevant for the target audience of a FAMILY theme park. Most people visiting will not be alone, and you skipping the attractions that most people care about was the biggest ‘what?’ factor in your information. Seeing a mid day popular attraction’s (haunted mansion) stand by wait time, and comparing it to the Genie+ would have been extremely useful. Your experience on PiratesOC standby line and actual wait time would have been useful, because it would help your audience know if dishing out more money for lighting lane would be worth it, or if a good old fashion line is still bearable. A lot of people visiting don’t live and visit the parks often enough to know any basic details of park activities/crowd wait times. I understand that you rope dropped SM, BTMRR, and SpaceM, but that’s just it… you, and only you, can weave through the crowds… super early. what about families that can’t rope drop? and enter the park around 11am? what can they expect?
“Three entertainment acts all in close proximity to one another and in a short time span—what is this, Disneyland?!”
This had me almost spit out my drink at my desk! Thanks for the laugh.
Great analysis. We have used MaxPass and loved it many times. I am now heading over to read Sarah’s analysis.
Great article Tom as always. I have to admit that Magic Kingdom is the only park were we are thinking of Disney+. I read someone else’s day at Studios and they did 6 or 7 rides with Genie+. The other parks just don’t have enough rides to us especially after you take out 2 headliners.
I disagree with Paul as I have done Disney with young kids and grandparents and this article would be lots of help!
I had to laugh reading this as I am also competitive. My husband is not as competitive and I think find it funny that I want to win at silly things but I am not a soar winner or loser as I suspect you are not with Sarah.
Also, what Sarah didn’t know—because I didn’t tell her—was that my goal was to “outperform” her day with Genie+ while only using the standby lines. I am fiercely competitive about certain things, almost all of which are totally pointless and non-adversarial scenarios. I’m also aware this is not exactly a popular personality trait, so I mostly keep it to myself.
Brilliant article from yourself and Sarah. We booked our original holiday in 2019 for 2020. We live in the U.K , so after multiple date changes we are now due to go august 2022. Our original booking had free Disney dine, free fast pass, mickeys magical express. Our new booking which incidentally has cost more now has none of those previous perks. When fast Lane was announced my initial reaction was absolutely no way am I paying anymore for an already expensive trip. But your article gave me hope that we can still have a fun day in the magic kingdom, doing all the things we love to do without an upcharge, and Sarah’s article was a reality check, and that if we pay for fast Lane on some of our park days, it will max out our time in Disney World, whilst making it a more enjoyable experience. Your articles have kept us going during our enforced Disney famine keep them coming.
I vote yes for an in-depth article on the AR filters.
“My plan wasn’t flawless, but I did have a few advantages. First, more knowledge than the average first-timer that better positioned me to make real-time adjustments to my itinerary. Not trying to toot my own horn, that’s simply the reality of testing itineraries at Magic Kingdom all the time. Second, a willingness to walk; I logged over 21,000 steps and criss-crossed the park (at lightning speed!) several times over. Third, I got really lucky at the end of the night being able to knock out both SDMT and PPF.”
Fourth, you were not doing this with kids in tow, or grandparents.
Fifth, you’re decades away from receiving senior discount status.
Now, I’m of the school that believes that the Genie+/Lightening Lane scheme is why Tar & Feathering used to be a thing (and would be led by a guy named Walt if he suddenly came back today). However, reading the two articles, there’s no question but that Sarah had a relaxing and fun day and you ran a marathon.
I enjoy your blog a great deal, and have successfully relied on it for many things over many years. However, this is one article that I really can’t, and I suspect that it’s of limited help to a large percentage of your blog readers and the WDW guest population as a whole. Don’t get me wrong; there’s value here, but much of it is speculative for me. It’s more geared to couples, fit couples, and even here, it was just you. This article would have more relevance to me if my wife and I were planning on going on our honeymoon soon, instead of 25+ years ago (just realizing that 2X years ago at this very moment we were somewhere in Pleasure Island, probably getting ready, libations in hands, for the nightly New Year’s Eve event).
But it’s a vastly different experience when going as a couple and going with kid(s) in tow, or as part of multigenerational family trip, or with other family units. Those are the kind of speed tests I need to know about, heh.
OK, well I’m impressed with your ability to max out the blaster at 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear!!! How do you do it so I can get a better score than my husband (who always seems to be better at these things)? Thanks for another fantastic post! I cannot wait for our next trip.
Fun post, as always. The $15 upcharge still bothers me on principle, although Genie+ is clearly a service I’d like to have. However, buying for a family of 4 makes the cost harder to swallow, especially when added to what is already a premium vacation – high season ticket pricing and on-site hotel. At some point you do have to draw a line on spending. I may have made a different decision on accommodations had I known Genie+ would be launched during my stay – choosing off site so I could allocate more $ to this upcharge ticket service.
We are going to the park over the Christmas holidays. I doubt we’d be able to do as many rides as you did without the Genie+ pass.
Really loved these companion pieces. Yours did make a little more tired than Sarah’s though! As always, thanks for the research.
I’ve got to say, I just love your writing style! Yes, I’m here for the great content but the entertaining way you put the information out there is a big plus!
I have that happily exhausted after reading your post. I appreciate that you give us honest experiences and note that you were speed walking and less happy than Sarah at the end of the night. That’s the norm on some of our park days pre-Genie so I don’t find it that out of the ordinary.
Off to read about Sarah’s day…