Normally, Magic Kingdom is the best park for buying Genie+ at Walt Disney World. For this Lightning Lane report, I tested my strategy during the day of a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party night 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 on a party night when the park closes at 6 pm. It also includes strategy and other useful advice, plus plenty of useless and random commentary.
Typically, my goal with these Genie+ run-throughs is to “stress test” the system on days when I expect Magic Kingdom to be busy, with the goal of hitting 8/10 or above crowd levels. This was essentially the exact opposite of that…
For this run-through, I was visiting on Magic Kingdom’s Third Slowest Day of 2022! This was a 1/10 crowd level day, with an average wait time across all attractions of 18 minutes. This is as contrasted with a 35 minute wait time average and 5/10 crowd level for the week.
However, with Magic Kingdom closing 5 hours earlier than normal, my goal was to figure out whether Genie+ was still a worthwhile purchase during a party day–or potentially even necessary to get everything accomplished in fewer hours.
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 after tax 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…
Although this screenshot was taken at 7:33 am, I actually booked my first Lightning Lane ride reservation for Jungle Cruise before this. I’m not sure of the exact time, but my goal was to get a slightly later return time so I could take advantage of low wait times during Early Entry and at rope drop.
That’s now easier said than done since the Tip Board now says “Check Availability” until 7:30 am. Regardless, my window started at 10:45 am, which was pretty close to what I wanted.
Since my return time for Jungle Cruise was more than 2 hours after park opening (8 am on party days), 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 10 am.
Objectively, it’s a really close call as to whether Jungle Cruise still deserves top priority, and depends upon whether you’re doing Early Entry or regular rope drop. For now, Jungle Cruise remains #1 on our Magic Kingdom Genie+ Priorities & Lightning Lane Ride Ranks, but that recommendation will likely change soon.
My 10 am selection was Splash Mountain.
I made this pick because Peter Pan’s Flight already had mid-afternoon return times, and I didn’t want to keep subjecting myself to the 120 minute rule. With an earlier closing, that could potentially really limit the usefulness of Genie+ on this shorter day in Magic Kingdom.
For reasons unrelated to this post, I headed to Splash Mountain before doing Jungle Cruise.
It actually worked out to be savvy strategy since I was able to tap into that Lightning Lane 5 minutes early and open up my next option at 10:50 am. Doing Jungle Cruise first wouldn’t have had the same upside since my next booking after that (Splash Mountain) was already made pursuant to the 120 minute rule. So let’s just pretend this was my purposeful intent all along.
I booked Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Again, not a matter of savvy strategy as BTMRR is only moderate priority. Rather, it was one of convenience since the two mountains are next door neighbors and I figured my window for this would open by the time I was done with Splash Mountain.
It did, and I hopped in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad immediately after exiting Splash Mountain.
To the surprise, confusion, and frustration of several people around me, the standby line was physically shorter. One couple even got out of the Lightning Lane and into standby. (I wonder how often that happens.) As a reminder, the standby line moves slower in situations like this–you cannot judge by queue length, a lesson that couple would likely learn the hard way.
Above is a look at wait times at Magic Kingdom at what would normally be about the peak hour.
On party days, the peak is more like 5 pm. Before that is a lengthy plateau from around 10 am until 2 pm. Totally different dynamic than a normal day, which should make sense given that the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party mix-in occurs from 4 pm until 6 pm. While crowds aren’t necessarily “bad” during those couple of hours, they’re definitely worse than earlier in the day.
My next selection was Haunted Mansion, which–again–is not the highest priority pick at this point.
This might not make sense, but I started choosing attractions with more immediate returns for a couple reasons. First, the aforementioned convenience. I knew I’d be in the general vicinity of Haunted Mansion around this time, so it made more sense than taking Space Mountain or Peter Pan’s Flight hours into the future.
Second and more importantly, I noticed that the return times for other headliner attractions had stalled.
It was as if everyone using Genie+ in Magic Kingdom had already “done the smart thing” and chosen Peter Pan’s Flight early on, and now the clock for that was barely budging. It was still in the afternoon, but it was not advancing much as compared to other attractions.
Perhaps this was merely coincidence, but I think my theory here makes sense–Peter Pan’s Flight was prioritized by most Genie+ users in the morning, and with the no re-ride rule of Genie+ and few people Park Hopping to Magic Kingdom on the shortened day, there simply wasn’t much of a pool of guests left to book it.
After leaving Haunted Mansion (jumping ahead a bit here), I stood over by Peter Pan’s Flight to observe the ratio of guests entering its queue. This line is always Lightning Lane heavy (with backups common), but that was particularly pronounced on this day.
Back to my morning, I did Jungle Cruise just before my window on that closed.
I know that I just wrote that line length is not indicative of wait times, but there’s no way the 35 minute posted wait time was accurate. Given the slow trickle of Lightning Lane guests and short length of standby, it was 20 minutes, tops.
Judging Haunted Mansion’s actual wait time versus its 13 minute posted wait time proved to be much easier.
I know this because I watched people who joined the standby queue alongside me enter the Stretching Room ahead of me. It didn’t help that there were some “user errors” at the Lightning Lane tapstile, but that should still give you an idea of how laid back this party day was at Magic Kingdom.
My next selection was Space Mountain, which had a return time of 12:30 pm as of 11:54 am. This was not due to a ride reservation refill. It was just the standard availability.
By this point, I had lost all sense of urgency in using Genie+ diligently.
Finally, I booked Peter Pan’s Flight after tapping into Space Mountain. I feared hesitating much further here, as there was a decent chance that times after 4 pm would move much faster with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party guests booking Lightning Lanes for the 4 pm to 7 pm window.
This was the biggest challenge of the day, mostly because I forgot Space Mountain has two touchpoints and then kept losing service in the queue. This being the “biggest challenge” says more about the low-stakes Genie+ day than the insurmountability of those obstacles (or my competence levels, hopefully).
With a return time almost 3 hours into the future (but only ~30 minutes later than it was earlier in the day), this once again subjected me to the 120 minute rule.
By the time my next selection window rolled around, the only thing left that I wanted was Meet Mickey & Minnie at Town Square Theater. Not booking this earlier was the fatal flaw of my Genie+ plan that brought dishonor on me, my whole family, and my cow. Fortunately, I had a plan that would bring redemption upon me, my family, and my cow.
Technically, it was not the only thing worthwhile. The princess meet & greets had 20-30 minute posted wait times that might’ve been accurate and made those smart picks. However, it was just me testing this and the stakes definitely were not high enough for me to do a princess meet & greet without Sarah. Sorry, but interacting with face characters is already uncomfortable enough even with her present to do all of the “work.”
I also could’ve knocked out many other attractions instead with near-immediate return times, but these were either also walk-ons via the standby line (e.g. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Little Mermaid, Dumbo) or things I had no desire to do (e.g. Barnstormer, Magic Carpets).
Aside from the meet & greets, I had literally hit a wall with what Genie+ could do for me at Magic Kingdom on this day. And it was still only 2:45 pm!
Instead of booking pointless Lightning Lanes, I switched parks (in the app, not real life) to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to scope out my options there.
To my surprise, they were actually pretty good. I was even able to score Slinky Dog Dash immediately via what I assume was a refill. With party season lasting another 4+ months, I plan on doing a DHS Park Hopper Genie+ day at some point soon…this bodes well for that.
While I’ve skipped over many of the attractions I did throughout the day, including all of the mountains again via standby, everything else in Tomorrowland via standby, and more, there are two final things to which I want to call your attention.
First is watching the second showing of Festival of Fantasy Parade from outside Town Square, just under the Train Station. I grabbed this spot at the last minute, and it’s often the best Cinderella Castle and Main Street view left shortly before the parade starts. However, that’s not the main reason I got this spot…
As Festival of Fantasy ended, I raced over to Town Square Theater for the Minnie & Mickey Mouse meet & greet for a 10 minute standby wait. Disaster averted, cow’s integrity intact. Phew.
This is a consistently effective workaround for not having a Lightning Lane to what is now one of the most popular attractions in Magic Kingdom. You have to be fast, though. Others will have the same idea, and if you wait too long, a backlog of Lightning Lane returns will really slow down the standby pace. What might be a 10-15 minute posted wait can easily turn into 30 minutes or longer.
Ultimately, I ended up using Genie+ to secure “only” 6 Lightning Lane ride reservations during this day at Magic Kingdom, but booked all of them by 12:40 pm. Another few selections would’ve been easy to book, but also largely useless. It was only a 1/10 crowd day at Magic Kingdom, making Genie+ absolutely unnecessary for the vast majority of attractions.
More interesting from my perspective is how many Lightning Lanes I could’ve booked in Disney’s Hollywood Studios had I only opted for the strictly necessary ones–or none at all–in Magic Kingdom. I’m know I could’ve obtained at least 8 between the two parks (because I did!), and am pretty sure I could’ve scored 10 solid ones had that been my approach from the start.
Based on posted wait times at my return times, I saved around 3 hours waiting in line with those ride reservations. That is way lower than my norm when using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom during a full day when crowd levels are 8/10 or higher. But it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Genie+ is much less useful on a 1/10 crowd level day when the park closes early.
It’s also worth noting that number is probably inflated by at least 90 minutes due to the disparity between posted v. actual wait times at Walt Disney World. I definitely saved a little time on a few of these attractions, but I would not be the least bit surprised if my total actual advantage worked out to be less than an hour. I also did a little extra walking (although thankfully not as much as normal) and wasted time using Genie+ on one attraction.
There’s also the fact that that’s how much time I saved with an apples to apples comparison to wait times during my Genie+ return window. In reality, I wouldn’t have simply done most of these attractions via standby when I used the Lightning Lane. I would’ve used a savvy strategy to beat the crowds. Given that, I’m pretty sure I could do just as well with Early Entry or by rope dropping Magic Kingdom.
Given all of that, my view is that Genie+ is not worth it at Magic Kingdom on party days in terms of the time v. money cost calculus. This is the opposite of the conclusion we’ve reached every single time when using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom–and it’s literally the first time we’ve found that paying for Lightning Lanes did not make sense at Magic Kingdom…because there largely were not many lines to skip.
As discussed in our recent report on Magic Kingdom crowds, this could change if management adjusts capacity upwards–and probably will change come October through December. In the here and now, though, it does not make sense to purchase Genie+ during the daytime hours before Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and probably won’t anytime between now and late September 2022.
In short, save your money if you’re on the fence about Genie Plus, and do not buy it at Magic Kingdom during a party day unless you’re going to Park Hop. With Genie+ ruled out as the optimal strategy for these days, we’ll be back with Early Entry and regular standby strategy in the days to come. There are some unique wrinkles to both that diverge from our normal recommendations, so stay tuned!
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 using the Genie+ service on a low crowds day prior to the start of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? Are you planning on buying Genie+ prior to MNSSHP or MVMCP, or sticking to free standby lines? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that Genie+ is not worth buying on party days (for now) 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!