Best Individual Lightning Lanes to Purchase

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If you’ve paid attention to any Disney news recently, or are in the middle of planning your first WDW vacation in a while, you have probably seen lots of talk about ILL. Is everyone coming down with some weird Disney-related sickness? Well, maybe, but that’s not what ILL means. It stands for Individual Lightning Lane attractions – big headliners that Disney now charges you extra for if you want to skip the standby line. Some Individual Lightning Lane purchases can actually be a decent value if you don’t mind shelling out the extra cash, or if you’re really tight on time or are travelling with humans that don’t deal well with long lines. But making those decisions in a smart, informed way requires some data. So today we’ll walk through a few different datasets that can help you determine which are the best Individual Lightning Lanes to purchase!

Real look at how to plot out when and where you’ll save the most time while giving Disney as little of your money as possible. Start training them young.

Explain the Math!

In this post, just like the ones that dealt with Genie+, you will see three different tables. Each table represents data from a group of different crowd levels:

  • LOW = crowd levels 1 through 3
  • MED = crowd levels 4 through 7
  • HIGH = crowd levels 8 through 10

In each box, you’ll see two different pieces of information. The first is represented by the color of each box.

So you can pick an attraction (row) and a time that you think you’ll be able to book an ILL return time (let’s call this the booking time for simplicity, and those are shown in the columns). The color of the box where you land will show you what the odds of you being able to get a return time are. If it’s green, that means you can absolutely always successfully get a return time. If it’s red, that means the attraction is always sold out by that time. If it’s yellow, you have a 50% chance of being able to book it.

And, we’re also adding in some bonus information. Woohoo! In each colored box, you’ll also see a time.  That’s the average earliest return time you should expect for that attraction at that booking time, given the appropriate crowd level. Wow. That’s a lot of qualifiers. This is slightly more confusing even than the Genie+ average return times, because for ILL at WDW, you get the luxury of choosing your return time. So in order to present useful information, this chart is showing you earliest available as a way of giving information about what you can expect the earliest return window option to be if, for example, you can’t book Rise of the Resistance until the park opens because you are staying off-site.

So if we take that example and say that I’m visiting Hollywood Studios on a medium crowd day. I’m staying offsite, so I can’t book ILL until the park opens at 9 am. Unfortunately for me, that box is almost totally red at 9am. That means I have about a 1% chance of even getting the opportunity to purchase. If I do get lucky and it hasn’t sold out, I can expect the earliest available return time to be 7 pm. Ouch.

Individual Lightning Lane Availability

Summary ILL availability data from October 19th through February 10th – click to open in a new tab at full size

I’m putting all three tables together here so that you can do easy comparisons across different crowd levels. And since there are only eight attractions eligible for ILL, and you might book them at different parks in the same day, we’re mashing them all together in one big happy (expensive) family.

  • The first thing that jumps out at me here is that ILL availability is WAY WORSE, in aggregate, than Genie+ availability. You might think that since these cost extra, or because the number of people eligible to book in the early morning is lower that this would be a rosier picture. But nay. These are popular rides. That’s why they’re effectively paywalled.
  • The two big exceptions to that rule are Space Mountain and Expedition Everest, both of which maintain decent availability through the day at any crowd level. I don’t have data for Everest on high-crowd-level days because it was either on the Genie+ list temporarily for those days, or it was closed for refurbishment. But I’m comfortable saying it would’ve looked similar to Space Mountain.
  • Rise of the Resistance is the clear winner of the popularity contest here. Even on the lowest crowd days, if you’re staying off-site, there’s almost no chance that you will be able to purchase access to Rise by the time the park opens. On the high crowd level days, success in booking ILL for Rise reverts to close to the boarding group lottery madness of the virtual queue days.
  • On low crowd level days, the only other attraction that might give you some availability trouble is Remy. Even off-site-ers should still be able to book it, though, although you might only be presented with later afternoon or evening return times.
  • On high crowd level days, there is just a lot of doom all around. Rise, Remy and Flight of Passage all almost always sell out before the park opens, so off-site-ers are totally blocked from those. Seven Dwarfs sells out soon thereafter. Frozen Ever After is an interesting case – it doesn’t sell out immediately, and retains decent availability right until the park opens. And then it almost immediately sells out. Runaway Railway stays available for most of the morning, and Space Mountain stays available all day.
Want to pay your way around the long standby wait to get your mission from Rey? Stay onsite. That’s pretty much your only option.

Individual Lightning Lane Wait Time Savings

Summary ILL time saving data from October 19th through February 10th

The numbers in the table above represent the average difference between a Lightning Lane wait and a standby wait at each attraction if two people were to enter the queues at the exact same time. It’s calculated based on wait times submitted at nearly the same time, or with the equivalent estimated time at the time of entering line if there is no nearby timed standby wait for the timed Lightning Lane wait. Morning times are from before 11 am, peak times are between 11 am and 5 pm, and evening times are after 5 pm.

For example, let’s say that a user started timing a standby wait at 9:58 am at Rise of the Resistance. On the same day, at 10:01 am, a user starts timing a Lightning Lane wait at the same attraction. The ILL user ends up waiting 16 minutes, and the standby user ends up waiting 104 minutes. That means the ILL user “saved” 88 minutes.

  • Rise of the Resistance consistently has the highest time savings of any ILL attraction, overall and at any single time throughout the day. Average overall savings compared to standby of almost 80 minutes is incredible.
  • We’ll update Genie+ time savings next week, but according to our initial data, none of the other ILL attractions save more time, on average, than Slinky Dog Dash. That being said, Flight of Passage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train both save almost an hour on average.
  • The next group of attractions save around 40-50 minutes on average and includes Frozen Ever After, Space Mountain, Remy and Runaway Railway. Something interesting to note is that Frozen Ever After and Space Mountain both falter because of their relatively low time savings in the morning. If you can rope drop either, then ILL isn’t a good use of your money. Runaway Railway shows the opposite behavior – if you can ride in the evening, then maybe ILL isn’t worth it for you.
  • By itself at the back of the pack is Expedition Everest. There is a little bit of an asterisk to talk about here, and that is because Everest hasn’t been open or ILL-eligible during many high-crowd days, when it would potentially save you the most time. Even still, it’s hard to make any case for ILL being worth it on this particular attraction. If you want to buy your way around standby at Animal Kingdom, invest that money in Flight of Passage, or in Genie+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Na’vi River Journey.
If waiting for Seven Dwarfs has you feeling like this, then I have good news! ILL will save you almost an hour, on average!

Individual Lightning Lane Cost Per Minute

Summary ILL value data from October 19th through February 10th

The numbers in the table above represent the amount of money that you will pay to skip one minute of standby wait at each ILL attraction. Because we know the price of an ILL, and we know the time savings, we can calculate the cost of each minute of time saved and then average them all out. So on any given weekday, you can spend 37 cents per minute to skip the standby at Expedition Everest, or you can pay 20 cents per minute to skip the standby at Flight of Passage instead.

  • The table is organized with best “value” at the top. So … I’m a little surprised that both ILLs at Magic Kingdom are, by the data, better values than Rise of the Resistance. So you’ll save a bunch of time at Rise, but because it’s so much more expensive, the Magic Kingdom pair is technically on average a better use of your money. Technically.
  • The first-best use of your money is to bypass Space Mountain on a weekday (and, specifically, given the table in the previous section, bypass it during peak hours). This is handy, because Space Mountain almost always has tons of availability. Pick a time during peak hours, and you get to save lots of time. But here’s the catch. You can also rope-drop Space Mountain and avoid paying for it entirely. That means you don’t get to rope drop Peter Pan’s Flight or Seven Dwarfs or Jungle Cruise, etc. But it’s a better option than Rise of the Resistance, which if you don’t pay for it, has high standby waits … always. Unless you get lucky late in the evening on a day with high reliability.
  • The second-best use of your money is to bypass Frozen Ever After on a weekday. And actually, you’ll get the best time savings by picking an evening return time, which should be easier to snag even if you’re staying off-site.
  • On the whole, many ILL attractions increase in cost on the weekends, but the time savings on weekends don’t increase enough to make up for the higher cost. So if you’ve got multiple park days with headliners that you’re considering purchasing ILL for, do it on a weekday and save yourself a few dollars.
Extended Queue scare you at Space Mountain? Cool. Paying your way around it is actually one of the most effective uses of your money.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. Everything is a trade-off. Weekday ILLs for Space Mountain and Frozen Ever After are statistically good values for the time you save. But if you book them in the morning, you’re not saving that much time. So you could choose to rope drop them and save money, but then you’re not rope dropping other wait-heavy Genie+ or ILL attractions at the same park.
  2. ILL for Rise of the Resistance will pretty much always save you the most time compared to standby. But you’ll still be susceptible to the reliability issues that the attraction has, and if you purchase on a day with a lot of downtime, your wait, if it happens, still won’t be too great.
  3. ILLs for Flight of Passage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train can also frequently save you an hour or more compared to standby. Could be worth it for your party, especially if you have just a morning at Animal Kingdom, or just an afternoon/evening at Magic Kingdom.
  4. Don’t ever buy ILL for Expedition Everest.

Have you purchased any Individual Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World? What was your experience, and do you think it was “worth it” in hindsight? Are you budgeting for Genie+ or ILL for a future WDW vacation? And did any of these results surprise you? Let me know in the comments!

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

24 thoughts on “Best Individual Lightning Lanes to Purchase

  • February 16, 2022 at 12:06 pm
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    I love, love, love these posts. I’m a person that likes to have data to back up my decisions, and these data-crunching posts give me just what I need! Thank you!

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    • February 16, 2022 at 4:18 pm
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      Right! Can’t go in without a plan – thanks for the feedback!

      Reply
  • February 16, 2022 at 1:05 pm
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    Love to the analytics! I’m a numbers nerd and Disney need so this feeds my soul and also informs me at the same time. Brilliant analysis all!

    Reply
    • February 16, 2022 at 4:18 pm
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      Having analytics feed your soul is something that I can totally relate to TJ, thanks for following along!

      Reply
  • February 16, 2022 at 1:29 pm
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    Great data. Thanks so much!! 🙂

    Reply
  • February 16, 2022 at 2:55 pm
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    With the longest time savings making the third best cost per minute, I’m not sure that is a valid statistic. I don’t think every minute in line feels the same. The first minute in line certainly does not feel the same as the 60th minute.

    I have no idea how “wait time feeling” could be quantified, but if there’s a way, I’m sure Becky will figure it out!

    Reply
    • February 16, 2022 at 3:58 pm
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      I suspect that it is an artifact of ILL for Space Mountain not being as popular. With out high utilization, the price stays low. 7DMT might be affected by this dynamic if the operations-critters* constrain the differential in ILL price.

      *as an aside, I usually imagine the behind the scenes cast members as anthropomorphized animals from the respective IP.

      Reply
      • February 16, 2022 at 4:24 pm
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        But interestingly, there isn’t really an artifact since Disney hasn’t altered _any_ of the ILL prices, other than the normal weekday/weekend changes. Rise is $15 always, and always sells out almost immediately. So the …. operations-droids (did I do it right?) haven’t tinkered with it in the place where it would make most sense to tinker with it.

    • February 16, 2022 at 4:20 pm
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      I thought about writing about that exact things in the commentary here, TwoBits! But then decided there were already too many words 🙂 But you’re right – increasing “feel” of return on wait savings is totally a thing. But I am thus far unsure of how to quantify it.

      We could do something like bring in satisfaction scores and say well, you’re paying $xx per “point” of satisfaction or something … but then, yikes, lots of inferences being made.

      Reply
    • February 16, 2022 at 4:28 pm
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      While I think this analysis, although counter-intuitive, is spot on, I think you make an excellent point; and one of the only flaws with the Touring Plan system to me. Touring Plans is designed to optimize your overall waiting in lines- ie the commutative wait time over the course of the day. So it might have you hit 9 rides with 5 minute waits, and then wait for an hour at the 10th ride for a cumulative wait time of 105 minutes. When I might instead enjoy a plan that has me wait 12 minutes at 10 different rides more, even though I’d be waiting 15 more minutes during the day. Not as efficient, but potentially a better experience.

      If you are going to shell out for ILL, you’d rather hold your nose once and pay up for Rise and avoid 80 minutes than pay up multiple times with smaller $s to avoid shorter waits.

      Reply
  • February 16, 2022 at 3:54 pm
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    Back when the G+ system was first announced, I recall someone opining that if you can save an hour of time waiting in line, the Genie+ was “worth it”. That works out to about $0.27/minute. So, by that metric almost any ILL is “worth it”.

    Definitely changes my calculus a bit. Though, I note that your last table has no error bars. I imagine that having two (only slightly dependent) variables make the result swing a fair amount.

    Reply
    • February 16, 2022 at 4:21 pm
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      It was me, I opined that. Strictly from a cost point of view, assuming that the average price a person is paying just to physically be in a park is $15/hour. But obviously that varies wildly. It’s not something I would actually use as a cutoff. But it was something.

      And yes, none of the tables have error bars. Hard to make error bars look appealing in a table 😉 Eventually I’ll want to make sure that we’re capturing all of the variation – time of day, day of week, crowd level, etc – but it’s just too much data to stuff all in one post, so this gets you pretty close.

      Reply
  • February 16, 2022 at 4:16 pm
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    I am planning to visit WDW for the first time and our party has a DAS. So with DAS is ILL really not necessary anymore or it is still a good idea to spend on ILL for Rise and/or Remy?

    Reply
    • February 16, 2022 at 4:23 pm
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      Unfortunately, Jason, I am not a DAS expert. I know you _can_ use both, but I would say that if you can use your two DAS advance selections on ILL attractions, then that alleviates the need to pay for them. Unless you want to do them twice in a day.

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      • February 16, 2022 at 5:35 pm
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        Thanks Becky for the reply. I just found out that you cannot book Advance DAS for ILL attractions. WDW have a list of attractions that you can book but I don’t see those ILL attractions in there.

  • February 16, 2022 at 7:16 pm
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    Thank you for your analyses! I love these articles. I’m assuming that Tron will eventually replace Space Mountain and Guardians of the Galaxy will eventually replace Frozen, possibly sooner than Tron. It’s clear that from Disney’s perspective AK doesn’t have two big ticket attractions that people are willing to pay for, especially now that Everest is closed for a 3 month refurbishment. Do you think they’ll make a different attraction like The safari an premium ILL ride or will they remain content with the supplemental revenue from only one attraction in that park? Clearly AK should be next in line for a new ride – maybe something to replace Twirl and Hurl? l

    Reply
  • February 17, 2022 at 3:54 pm
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    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these geeky, data-heavy posts. Keep sharing them with us.

    we are going to WDW in March and I have been trying to decide if I’m willing to purchase ILL. This definitely helps the decision-making.

    Reply
  • February 17, 2022 at 9:51 pm
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    Do you have data on the breakdown of Genie+ rides and which ones run out fastest as well?

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    • February 17, 2022 at 9:53 pm
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      Nevermind… found part 2!!! I love data!!!

      Reply
  • February 18, 2022 at 9:35 am
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    On this site’s drop-down menu for Walt Disney World, there still lives a link for FastPass+. Maybe all of these articles on the data involving Genie+ and ILL efficiencies could be corralled there, and repurpose a link for a feature WDW hasn’t had for quite some time.

    Reply
  • February 22, 2022 at 3:50 pm
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    Very interesting indeed. I am going this weekend and it appears it will VERY crowded. I booked a cheap hotel off site but considering getting one night a a WDW Hotel just to use the early entry and ILL early. We need to go on Frozen and Remy not sure of its worth it but spending all day in line sounds horrible!

    Reply
  • February 25, 2022 at 9:12 am
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    Love these posts Becky, very informative and helpful! One question – for the purpose of these posts (ability to book ILL or G+ LL at 7) do Good Neighbor Hotels (ones with access to early morning entry) get included with on-property or off-property?

    Reply
    • February 25, 2022 at 9:23 am
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      Good question, Kevin! Everyone (on and off property) can make their first G+ selection at 7 am. So nothing to worry about there. However, for ILL purchases, you have to be at a Disney property (the normal crew, plus Swan/Dolphin/Shades of Green) in order to book at 7 am. Anywhere else (including good neighbor hotels) will have to wait until the park opens.

      Reply
      • February 25, 2022 at 1:48 pm
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        Thank you!

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