Walt Disney World (FL)

Fluctuation in Lightning Lane Return Times

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It has been three weeks since the Disney Genie has been let out of its bottle. We have been collecting data since October 20. We will be using the data to give recommendations in the Lines app and incorporate Lightning Lanes into the optimized Touring Plans. With enough data, we will be able to evaluate plans and quantify the benefit, or lack of, using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.

From Walt Disney World’s Lightning Lane page:

[With the] Disney Genie+ service, you can select the next available arrival window for select Lightning Lane attractions and entertainment all day long.

With our experience with paper FastPass and verbiage from Disney, we were a bit surprised to see return times fluctuating for Slinky Dog Dash. In the first week, we did not know if this was a bug, but the fluctuation continues to this day. On the morning of November 4, I opened the My Disney Experience app and went to the Tip Board, and refreshed the Hollywood Studios page 124 times between 7:00 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. Below is a chart and table of each Lightning Time return time for Slinky Dog Dash.

Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane return times

We expected that we would see a smooth line of Lightning Lane times increasing at 7:00 a.m. until all return times were claimed. The distribution is anything but a smooth line. At first glance, it looks like the available return times are presented randomly.  It might also look like Disney is withholding return times, and adding them as the morning moves on. I believe neither of these cases is true.  My hypothesis is that Disney is displaying the next available arrival window, but putting a hold on all return times that are displayed. With paper FastPass, a machine would spit out return times in sequential order. With Lightning Lane, all available attractions, and their Lightning Lane return times, are displayed in the Disney app. With a limited number of spots in each arrival window, a specific number of guests will see a specific return time. As thousands of people are hitting the Disney app, any return time that is displayed is reserved so if the user selects the attraction the return time is available. We also believe that if an arrival window is canceled, it is put back into the available arrival windows. My guess is the hold for Slinky Dog Dash is around 10 minutes. At 7:11, 7:20, and 7:29 we see more arrival windows show up.

After seeing the fluctuation at Slinky Dog Dash, and believing it was mostly due to “holds” we expected we would see fluctuations in return times at other attractions. Below are tables with return times for all Hollywood Studios attractions on November 4.

Poor Muppets. MuppetVision 3D is not a popular Lightning Lane attraction in the morning. For all other attractions, you can see fluctuation in return times; the only difference is the magnitude of the fluctuation.

Once the parks are open, we still see fluctuation in return times, but the linear distribution is more prevalent. Below are some sample return times from across Walt Disney World.

How to use this information?

The biggest takeaway is that if you do not see a “good” return time for the attraction you want, refresh the screen. After the park opens there is still fluctuation but it is less frequent.

More to come

Lightning Lanes has only been available for a few weeks, and only for low crowds. Once we get through Thanksgiving week, we will have a better idea of the impact of Lightning Lanes during more popular times. I will be writing more blog posts looking at the Lightning Lane data. If you have any questions that the data will answer put them in the comment section.

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Steve Bloom

By helping TouringPlans.com continue to reach the most accurate crowd level predictions, Steve finally found a way to meld his training in statistical analysis with a lifelong passion for Disney. He first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1972, just a few months after it opened. Now he enjoys frequent trips with his two kids. At age four his son insisted on wearing cowboy boots to reach the height requirement for Test Track, and his daughter believes that a smoked turkey leg and Dole Whip make a perfectly balanced meal. Even though she doesn't quite get it, Steve's wife is supportive of his Disney activities.

28 thoughts on “Fluctuation in Lightning Lane Return Times

  • Going next week (Dec 1-8) and only have one day at HS planned. Do you know if these 7:10 & 7:20 additional drops for ROTR & SDD are still occurring?
    Also, have you had anyone in the parks since Disney seemingly made some changes on Tuesday the 23rd in re: to holding multiple Genie+ LL at a time?

    • I’ve been in the parks this week with my main goal to test the Lightning Lane on the hacks shared on the internet.

      Tuesday, the loophole to book multiple LL after a LL expires has been fixed. You can still book LL for later in the day, and hold multiple LL. Now you can only get 1 LL at a time. You can book your next LL after using your last LL booked, or 2 hours since booking your last LL.

      Next week I’ll have a full blog post on what I’ve learned.

      • Looking forward to that post Steve! It was fun while it lasted anyway… Honestly, I’m shocked that Disney was able to move fast enough to close this down within only a few weeks!

    • They are not actually doing dumps at 7:10 and 7:20. You can see this on the Thrill Data heat maps for G+ and ILL. For at least ILL, it’s held for up to 10 minutes until you confirm it. We have seen this with Rise and 7 Dwarves this week. Many times when we bought them, it would send a passcode to the MDE owners email that had to be entered to continue the purchase. Getting and loading the email can take several seconds, or what feels like minutes. The original chosen time remained until we entered the passcode and confirmed. I think I saw the 10 minutes mentioned on a screen somewhere while doing the purchase. Also, there was a comment on the passcode request page about poor connection. We were using a solid data connection, not WDW wifi. I think their system is just getting overloaded and doing this ridiculous passcode thing.

  • Excited to see the Android version soon! Can’t wait to “test” my plans.

  • Love the data. Thank you.

    Are we still going to see some more touring comparisons?

    Comparisons I would love to see:

    1. Hardcore Rope Drop Touring Plan -VS- Genie+ (i.e. With efficient touring, how much does Genie+ really help?)
    2. Early Entry + Touring Plan VS Genie+ without Early Entry.

    The one I was really hoping for is optimized Touring Plan vs Genie+, just to see how big a difference Genie+ really makes if you already have an efficient touring plan.

  • @Chrystal, can you please explain how this works?
    Parties can be added to a LL, so each member of a family can select a different ride. Then after comparing notes to decide the winner, everyone else cancels and is added to primary LL. Could explain some of the fluctuations.

    • @Chrystal – I understand the concept, but is everyone logged in under a different MDE login and just linked to their party or can everyone be under the same login to accomplish this? I assume the former, which means we need more accounts (we all currently use the same one).

  • THANK YOU for this info. I should have known y’all would do this. My math brain was trying to do it on excel and I was doing it solo and this is so much better, lol.

    I would love to see published data about when during the day rides are running out of LL return times, period. Like, if Haunted Mansion is actually running out before Jungle Cruise, or if Smugglers is running out before or after Tower of Terror, so I know how to prioritize when we hit our 120m window to make round 2. I’ve been surprised when I “practice” at home what has already run out sometimes.

    Thanks for all you do. Math Ed major and I geek out majorly over here. You are my people.

  • I have also read that people are being told a certain time in the tip board. Once they get to the actual confirmation, it can move to later, even an hour or more later. So watch what time you book.

  • This is a really interesting analysis. Thanks for writing this up!

  • Yes! Love all the data and the analysis. Can’t with for more!

  • Super interesting stuff as always. Thanks for letting us peak behind the curtain! Looking forward to this info making its way into Lines/TP.

  • I LOVE the quantitative analysis! I have been doing some spreadsheets on seemingly crowded days for 7am, 11am, 1pm, etc. to guess what I want to go for when we visit during the holidays, only to find that crowds were much lower than TP predicted so it may not be applicable.

  • Thank you for all your work. It is so appreciated!

  • Will you all be able to roll out your app changes in December? We are going to be there Christmas week, and am looking forward to seeing how Genie+ works during Thanksgiving week.

    • It’s coming very, very soon. Just waiting for the Apple app store to approve the update. Andriod version will be a few days later.

      • Thank goodness. Need it for Thanksgiving trip. Thank you to your team. You are willing doing the work of the gods.

      • Parties can be added to a LL, so each member of a family can select a different ride. Then after comparing notes to decide the winner, everyone else cancels and is added to primary LL. Could explain some of the fluctuations.

      • That’s great news! We are there next week…any chance it will be ready? Thanks so much!

      • I got the app update, but I can’t see how to add the LL times to an existing plan. Do I need to create new plans? The plans are for Thanksgiving week. Thanks

  • thanks for posting that chart On HS. We will be at HS on 11/18 staying on property. I was trying to figure out the order to get LL – and the answer seems to be RoR then wait 10 minutes and try for SD. Looking forward to when you roll it out on the App!

    • I think either RoR or SD first will work. Both have earlier times available after the 10 minute mark. I would look at see what the Disney App gives you for either attraction at 7 am, and take whichever time you like better. Then get the other at 7:10.

      • Continue to find all this so confusing. Rise and Slinky are ILL, right? Not regular G+. Which means you can only start trying for a spot at park opening time, unless you’re staying on property, right?

      • Rise is ILL, and Slinky is G+LL. So all guests that purchased G+ can reserve Slinky LL at 7 am. Rise is only available to onsite guests at 7 am. All guests can purchase ILL at park opening.

      • I will be staying at a deluxe resort and will also be at HS on 11/18 and planned to ILL ROR first. But then I was wondering if getting an earlier LL for something like TOT to be able to add on additional LLs ASAP. Then RD SDD assuming the wait will be relatively short ?

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