My Park Hopping Half-Day Using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom in 2023

Magic Kingdom is the best park for buying Genie+ at Walt Disney World on peak dates in 2023. For this day with Lightning Lanes, I tested my strategy for skipping standby lines to see how much time could be saved when Park Hopping to Magic Kingdom.

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 in the afternoon and evening at Magic Kingdom, 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.

As quick background for those who are unfamiliar with it, Genie+ is the paid line-skipping service at Walt Disney World and Lightning Lanes are the old FastPass queues. All of this is booked in the My Disney Experience app and can be quite complicated and overwhelming. If you’re new to the Genie+ service, this post is a poor place to start. Instead, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ. That regularly-updated resource is a great jumping off point if you’re confused, overwhelmed, or want strategy to better leverage Lightning Lanes.

As noted up top, this run-through was done when Park Hopping to Magic Kingdom, which meant that all of my ride reservations were for 2 pm or later. I did this not because it’s the best approach to Genie+ at Magic Kingdom. Quite the contrary, in fact. This is the one park at Walt Disney World where it’s possible and productive to use Genie+ for the full day.

However, it’s also easy and efficient to use Genie+ for a full day at Magic Kingdom. This is true with crowd levels from 5/10 to 10/10; Magic Kingdom is the one park where Lightning Lanes never buckle under the weight of colossal crowds. That’s great news for actual guests spending time in the park…less so for repeated ‘stress tests’ of the system. They all essentially yield the same results, and become unnecessary without adding new ‘angles’ to the itinerary.

I’ve already done run-throughs of a day before MNSSHP or MVMCP and another when I’ve slept-in and still used Genie+ at Magic Kingdom. For this, I thought I’d take that thinking to an even greater extreme, and start in a different park, use Genie+ for a headliner or two there, and then bounce to Magic Kingdom at 2 pm to see just how much I could still accomplish.

The “problem” is that this bright idea dawned on me while on the bus to Animal Kingdom for Early Entry, at an time when I was sleep and caffeine-deprived. My thinking was basically, “I’m already up, might as well do this!” And so I did.

Had I given it any additional thought beyond that, I would’ve realized that I was going to accomplish literally everything during Early Entry at Animal Kingdom. The end result would be a second ride on Na’vi River Journey with no wait. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Na’vi River Journey. But it’s not something I need to do twice in one morning. (In a perfect world, it would be an early afternoon escape from the heat and crowds.)

With even 2 minutes of level-headed thinking beyond that, I would’ve realized this same strategy would’ve been exponentially better when paired with a morning at EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Had I just waited a day to do this, it would’ve been a great test for an attraction-packed day at Walt Disney World. Kids, that’s why it’s always important have a big cup of Mountain Dew to start your day. 

While it’s not what I did on this day, it’s very easy to piece together my Genie+ days and Early Entry at EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios and come up with a full-day run that works really well.

Basically, the plan for EPCOT should be booking your #3 attraction. You should be able to knock out at least 2 of the 3 headliners plus Soarin’ during Early Entry and the first hour after park opening, so make a Lightning Lane selection for whichever you anticipate not being able to accomplish. After that one single selection, start making Lightning Lane ride reservations for Magic Kingdom attractions.

The approach for Disney’s Hollywood Studios can be even more aggressive. Start by following our tried and true Strategy for Early Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (I’ll have an update to that for 2023, but it’s virtually unchanged) to knock out three of the most popular attractions in the park.

For your first Lightning Lane selection, choose Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run. Return to this as early as possible (without sacrificing low standby waits) and then immediately book a Lightning Lane for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway upon tapping into Smugglers Run. Return to that as early as possible, and book Toy Story Mania upon tapping into Runaway Railway. Then proceed with booking Magic Kingdom Lightning Lanes. (I can do full posts fleshing out these Park Hopping strategies at some point if there’s interest, but that should cover the basics you need to know to execute.)

Had I chosen one of those other two parks for this test, not only would my Lightning Lanes have been more useful, but the day would’ve been more seamless. I would’ve gone directly from booking DHS or EPCOT Lightning Lanes to my top priorities in Magic Kingdom.

Instead, I had to wait around for over an hour after I was eligible to make another selection following Na’vi River Journey. This was due to a change made last late summer or early fall; the Genie+ system no longer automatically advances ride reservation times to start after 2 pm. Instead, you have to wait for the return times to naturally reach that.

My “problem” was that every time Peter Pan’s Flight or Jungle Cruise got close to 2 pm return times, a ride reservation refill would drop and start the whole process all over again. Those are air quotes around problem because this is great for most actual park guests, and further underscores why the “Genie+ makes you wake up at 7 am!” claims are suspect.

To be sure, being up at 7 am is the best course of action–especially if you want Slinky Dog Dash, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, or Frozen Ever After. However, it’s not strictly necessary even for any of those, and certainly not anything at Magic Kingdom. So long as you make your first Lightning Lane selection 1 minute before park opening, you’re in perfect shape at Magic Kingdom.

I was finally able to make my Peter Pan’s Flight Lightning Lane selection at 9:35 am.

That’s 36 minutes later than I would’ve liked in this scenario, but not the end of the world. Had I done this test at EPCOT or DHS, I would’ve made this selection even later. The difference is that I would’ve been pulling and using excellent Lightning Lanes in the meantime, rather than just waiting around for the clock to advance at Animal Kingdom. Lesson learned.

Indirectly, this should also answer the common question of whether to make Genie+ selections or TRON Lightcycle Run first. It’s not even a remotely close call: prioritize TRON Lightcycle Run. Even with expanding hours, it’s still booking up within milliseconds via virtual queue and selling out quickly as an Individual Lightning Lane attraction.

See our Ride Guide for TRON Lightcycle Run for speed strategy and tips & tricks for success in experiencing Magic Kingdom’s newest ride!

Since I was Park Hopping to Magic Kingdom, I used the “stacking” approach to Genie+ Lightning Lanes thereafter.

Above is my stockpile I accumulated by booking consistent with the 120-minute rule. Even if you started at EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios and didn’t book your first Magic Kingdom Lightning Lane until 10 am or later, you should be able to book all of these on most dates. Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight typically have Lightning Lane availability until around 3-4 pm.

After arriving at Magic Kingdom and knocking out Peter Pan’s Flight and Space Mountain, I continued booking more Lightning Lanes as shown in the screenshots above. (I was in PhilharMagic when my next booking window opened, hence the delay in reserving “it’s a small world.”)

You might notice that I didn’t follow our Magic Kingdom Genie+ Priorities & Lightning Lane Ride Ranks in making these. That’s because time was my biggest enemy, and continuing to make selections that were 120+ minutes into the future would’ve limited my total number of (useful) Lightning Lanes.

Instead, I opted for earlier return times. If you look at the timestamps in the screenshots above, you’ll see just how close together many of these were booked. My goal was to knock out as much as possible, as quickly as possible. As soon as I tapped into one Lightning Lane, I’d reserve the next–ideally something higher priority and somewhat nearby, but not always.

I opted for this approach because wait times are longest during the middle of the day, and fall off a cliff during dinner, fireworks, and thereafter. When I did “it’s a small world,” for example, its posted wait time was 55 minutes. Later that same evening, it would be a walk-on.

To that you might say, “so just do it later in the evening.” Fair enough. The problem with that is there’s only so much you can do during those evening hours. Riding “it’s a small world” then comes with an opportunity cost of some other more popular attraction with minimal wait.

In the end, this is as much an art as it is a science. After you get past the top 3 or 4 Lightning Lanes that are objectively the best, everything else is more of a judgment call. I almost didn’t book Haunted Mansion because I assumed it’d be a walk-on after the fireworks; in actuality, it was still (somehow) a 45 minute posted wait time with an extended queue suggesting that was pretty close to accurate.

If you’re simply reading about Genie+ and have not yet used it, this flexibility can be overwhelming and lead to the erroneous conclusion that Genie+ is too complicated or confusing at Magic Kingdom. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The salient point here should be that a number of different approaches are workable, and you can still achieve excellent results following an “imperfect” plan and not zealously following stock strategy.

Ultimately, I ended up using Genie+ to secure 10 Lightning Lane selections during this half-day Park Hopping to Magic Kingdom. I could have scored at least another 3 for the evening hours, but they would’ve been largely useless. I also could’ve prioritized meet & greets during the afternoon and moved some of those Fantasyland dark rides to the evening, but I had no interest in that. (Had I started the day in Magic Kingdom, it’s safe to say I could’ve done all of the meet & greets via Lightning Lanes in addition to everything here.)

Based on posted wait times at my return times, I saved over 8 hours waiting in standby lines 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 5 hours of waiting in line.

However, it’s also worth acknowledging that I waited in longer Lightning Lanes (throughout my days doing these tests, not just at Magic Kingdom) than ever before. For those who missed it, this was discussed at great length in What Went Wrong During Spring Break at Walt Disney World.

Above is a look at the “it’s a small world” return line, which was over 10 minutes long. Below is Peter Pan’s Flight, which was 17 minutes. Those were two of the biggest offenders, but others had 5-10 minute waits. So adjusting for that, my time saved was probably closer to 4 hours.

From my perspective, Genie+ is still easily “worth it” at Magic Kingdom in terms of the time v. money cost calculus. And that’s without even taking into account what I could’ve accomplished in the morning via Lightning Lanes at EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Genie+ is not great every day in every park at Walt Disney World. It can save you a lot of time in EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but also be very stressful and require exacting strategy or a strong refresh game to score Lightning Lanes for most headliners. The one park where Genie+ 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 it’s not stressful and requires less screen time.

With the other three parks, the argument could be made that a strong itinerary, arriving for Early Entry, and staying until park closing would yield similar or superior results to using Lightning Lanes. In fact, that’s an argument I would make after my experiences testing everything during Spring Break 2023 at Walt Disney World. Savvy strategy beats Genie+ in the other 3 parks.

That’s not true with Magic Kingdom. Not only is Genie+ the best option, but it’s the easiest and most efficient. The sheer number of attractions and easy availability of mid-tier and above Lightning Lanes makes it the clear-cut winner. It may sound complicated on paper, but the takeaway here should be that just about any approach–or even none at all–will yield great results at Magic Kingdom.

I didn’t start booking Lightning Lanes until after park opening and didn’t start using them until after 2 pm, and still saved several hours waiting in line and had a highly productive day at the park. This is common when using Lightning Lanes at Magic Kingdom, but much more difficult when using other approaches for this particular park.

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!

Your Thoughts

Thoughts on my partial day in Magic Kingdom using the Genie+ service during Spring Break 2023? Have you had similar success using Lightning Lanes while Park Hopping? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that Genie+ works best 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!

14 Responses to “My Park Hopping Half-Day Using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom in 2023”
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