If you’re visiting Walt Disney World during peak season when attendance and crowds are higher, you’re going to face more “competition” for popular rides with the new Genie+ service. This means Lightning Lane ride reservation times will go faster, and you might even get shut out of the highest profile attractions, like Slinky Dog Dash. This post explains how you can use speed to your advantage when making your first selection of the day.
This is the final component of the Triforce of advanced-level Genie+ strategy. (It’s more accurately the first in practice, as you’ll do this before anything else.) The other parts are
Courage and Wisdom the 120 minute rule and stacking. See How the Genie+ 120 Minute Rule Works and Tips for “Stacking” Genie+ Ride Reservations, which explains how to leverage the 120 minute rule in tandem with “last actions.” Getting the earliest possible return time for your first Lightning Lane selection is good for obvious reasons, but it’ll also lay the foundation for more successful stacking–the essence of the Genie+ Triforce.
All of this might be confusing or intimidating at first, but it’s worth mastering as it will improve your day tremendously. Without question, the 120 minute rule and stacking are the two most important things to know about the Genie+ system, with this being a distant third. We highly recommend reading those two separate posts in addition to this one. With that said, all parts of the Triforce are graduate level and beyond what 95% of guests will do or even need. In other words, these are not the basics.
For foundational knowledge, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ. That covers the need-to-know essential info about this paid FastPass+ replacement. The Genie system is confusing and convoluted, so you might have a question or 17. That answers all of the most common ones we’ve been receiving from readers.
The goal with that FAQ and guide is to address the basics of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. The goal here is to take things to the next level with more advanced hacks and strategy.
Think of Genie+ like air travel. If you’re looking to get from point A to B, one option is booking a flight on Southwest. That’s hopefully pretty easy for most of you, and offers a simple solution that is more efficient than driving. Or you can learn to fly an aircraft. That’s going to be a bit more challenging, but offers more flexibility and freedom.
In this illustrative example, simply getting in standby lines is driving, booking a flight on Southwest is using Genie+ in a straightforward way, and the three levels of advanced Genie+ strategy that we cover is flying the plane yourself. With that in mind, let’s start the process for making your first Genie+ selection with this speed strategy…
Normally, we do not recommend messing with the free Genie itinerary builder service, which is virtually useless. This is the one exception to that–you’ll need to partially set that up for this. There are several ways to get to Genie–the easiest and most consistent is clicking the hamburger button (three horizontal lines) on the bottom right corner of the My Disney Experience app.
Select the “My Genie Day” button with the lamp icon in the upper right corner. It all should take you to exactly the same place to start. The first time you initiate that process, you’ll be greeted with an introduction, briefly explaining the Disney Genie service. None of this text matters–just click “Start Now” on this screen.
You’ll start by selecting a date.
We’re visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios on this day–the best example for this since it’s the most “competitive” park for Genie+ selections–so that’s what we chose.
Then you’ll choose your party.
As with virtual queues, anyone with Disney Park Pass reservations should already be preselected here.
The first thing you’ll do is select from a list of attractions in whichever park you select.
Each attraction will note whether it offers “Lightning Lane Included with Genie+” or is a “Lightning Lane” (no further explanation given) in the case of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at DHS.
The important part of this process–truly, the only reason we’re doing this at all–is to select your first attraction of the day…and only your first attraction!
In our case, that’s Slinky Dog Dash. As explained in Disney’s Hollywood Studios Genie+ Priorities & Lightning Lane Ride Ranks, this is the #1 Genie+ attraction in all of Walt Disney World. If you want to do Slinky Dog Dash, you should be selecting it here, too.
From there, it’s on to selecting interests. None of this or anything that follows matters for our purposes–just skip it all.
At the end of that process, you should receive a prompt to purchase Genie+ if you haven’t already. Do that now.
Once Genie goes through its “advanced algorithmic” (lol) process, ignore whatever nonsensical results it spits out at you and click over to the Tip Board (see the top of the screen above).
Here, you should see your highest priority attraction–Slinky Dog Dash in DHS–pinned to the top of the screen. This might seem like a minor thing, but it’s huge. Normally, attractions are listed in alphabetical order; since Slinky Dog Dash starts with the letter “s”, it’s near the bottom of the list. This saves you time scrolling, and as anyone who tried their hand at the old Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue knows, milliseconds matter.
All of this might seem overwhelming, cumbersome, and time-consuming–especially first thing in the morning. To the contrary, it’s quite quick and simple. One thing I’ve repeatedly reiterated is that this is way easier in practice than it is when reading about it online. Again, there’s a reason you learn to ride a bike by doing it rather than watching YouTube.
For what it’s worth, my alarm was set for 6:45 am. I got up, went downstairs, and made a cup of coffee. Then I started this process and bought Genie+. I was done and ready to roll, as the screenshot shows, by 6:53 am. I spent the next ~7 minutes sitting nervously in front of my laptop waiting for 7:00:00 am to roll around. (I also took the above photo of myself in the dark, cut things a little too close, and almost missed out on an early SDD return time!)
Which brings us to the next step…
Before 7:00:00 am rolls around, you’ll want to optimize to ensure your timing is accurate and your phone and internet connection are as fast as possible. This might sound like overkill, but again–milliseconds matter. We’d recommend doing a quick speed test a few minutes before it’s time to make your first Lightning Lane ride reservation. Anything at or above 40 Mbps should be sufficient, but the higher the better.
We’ve noticed that some lower-level Walt Disney World hotel rooms have issues, so you might want to go outside, to the lobby, etc. Whatever is convenient. Test your cellular carrier versus Walt Disney World’s WiFi to see which is faster, too. (You might want to do a speed test the night before waking up at 6:45 am, as having to move around will definitely make this process take longer.)
Next, force close all apps other than My Disney Experience. (You should also make sure your phone and My Disney Experience is fully updated before starting this entire process.)
Finally, double-check the time on your phone or watch against time.gov, which is what Walt Disney World uses for ‘unlocking’ the Genie+ selection feature. Most of the time, I’m doing this while sitting in front of my computer, and I just leave the time website up behind my phone while getting ready.
These three simple steps can often be the difference between getting an early return time. Now it’s time to, in the immortal wisdom of Slinky Dog Dash, “GO! GO! GO! GO!”
At 6:59:59 am, pull down “hard” on the Tip Board (see above) and release right as the clock strikes 7:00:00 am.
As soon as it reloads, you will hopefully see you “Top Pick” attraction with a Genie+ Lightning Lane time starting at or shortly after park opening.
Click the box to book the experience, and quickly click through the process to complete the ride reservation.
Don’t be surprised if the return time adjusts–if you’re too slow in clicking, you’ll end up with a later return time. While I am “perfect” at other parks and with all other attractions, there have been a couple of times when I haven’t scored Slinky Dog Dash with a return time right at 9 am. Don’t fret over this–anytime before noon should be viewed as a win here, especially during higher crowd times.
Above and below are screenshots showing the same process for Na’vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom.
If you’re spending all day at DAK, that should be your pinned pick there. At Magic Kingdom, it should be Jungle Cruise (see our full Magic Kingdom Genie+ Priorities & Ride Rankings). At Epcot, it should be Test Track.
This process is much easier and less competitive for any park but Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
I don’t obsessively check this every single day for all of the parks, but anecdotally, I’d say Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is the #2 Genie+ attraction (demand-wise) in all of Walt Disney World. It goes fast on its own, but even faster once Slinky Dog Dash is gone. For reasons beyond the scope of this post, the case could be made that MFSR is potentially a higher priority Genie+ selection than SDD right now!
Speaking of which, here’s a look at my Tip Board as of 7:00:30 am–Slinky Dog Dash is already gone for the day. In fairness, it’s a ‘sold out’ day during Thanksgiving week, so a bit of an anomaly. Nevertheless, it has basically become as difficult to book Slinky Dog Dash as the now-defunct virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
If you have issues with this speed strategy, it is worth noting that sometimes availability does open up in the few minutes after 7 am. Rather than booking a “consolation prize” Lightning Lane, we’d strongly recommend repeatedly refreshing this screen for a couple minutes. If you already have an alternative booked, you’ll have to cancel that before booking something different–that process is clunky and you’ll almost always miss out on the ‘limited inventory’ for Slinky Dog Dash if you have to cancel and rebook. If you haven’t seen anything for Slinky Dog Dash by ~7:05, book a different attraction.
If you plan to start elsewhere and Park Hop to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you will still want to follow these speed strategy steps for booking Slinky Dog Dash as your first Lightning Lane selection. At least, to the extent possible. You won’t be able to pin Slinky Dog Dash to the top of your Tip Board, but you can still scroll to it; when refreshing from there, Genie+ will (hopefully) save your spot. This process is slightly slower, so there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get a time after 2 pm.
Even if you would’ve otherwise received a time before 2 pm, Genie+ will adjust your return time to that. It’s one of the only ways the system is “smart” when it comes to your plans. (See our Park Hopping Tips for Genie+ at Walt Disney World if you need help changing parks in the system…or anything else.) The reason you’ll want to book Slinky Dog Dash first is because it won’t be available 120 minutes after any of the parks open. It’s not possible to select second, unless you luck into a cancellation.
Finally, after scoring Slinky Dog Dash or whatever your top priority was, you should click the “Edit Selections” button on the Tip Board to replace what you booked with your next 2 priorities. This will make the process easier for subsequent selections–especially if you’re going to refreshing regularly in the hopes of scoring a coveted Lightning Lane ride reservation or time during a refill/drop.
That should be everything you need to know in terms of a speed strategy for scoring an early Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane selection–or a return time of around 9 am for any eligible headliner at Walt Disney World. This is a ton of text that arguably over-explains the process (without exhaustive explanations, we get a lot of questions). Again, it’s much easier and faster in practice. Mastering this strategy while using the Genie+ service will take you far less time than reading this blog post!
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!
Does this speed strategy for scoring an early morning Lightning Lane selection make sense to you? Have you had success in getting Slinky Dog Dash before noon? What about headliners in other parks? Thoughts on leveraging Genie+ via the Triforce strategy? 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!