The number one question I get from people planning their first Disney trip (or first since the advent of Genie) is usually something like this: “What in the world is this stacking thing?” Genie, Genie+ and Lightning Lanes are confusing. Even more complicated than that big FastPass monster (thanks Defunctland for that handy metaphor). There are already lots of thoughts and opinions about the best strategies to use if you purchase Genie+. And one of those strategies is stacking.
I’m not here to debate the merits of stacking. But there isn’t a lot of approachable information about what stacking is or how to do it during your WDW vacation. If you’re choosing to purchase Genie+ at Hollywood Studios and/or Magic Kingdom, you should at least know about the concept. I’ll go over the rules around stacking and some examples of how you could utilize it at the park.
And good news if you don’t like reading, we’ve also got this same information on YouTube as part of our TP Teaches series, so you can watch/listen here instead.
What Is Stacking?
Stacking is a brand-new strategy in the era of Genie+. The whole idea is that you try to get Genie+ return times that are all in the late afternoon or evening so that late in the day you’re strolling through the Lightning Lanes, avoiding almost all waits and having a splendid time.
That means that you’re booking reservations throughout the day, but not using them. Instead, you’re adding them to your “stack”, which you’ll redeem later. Each time you make a reservation, it’s like stashing an apple away to have as a snack later. And each time you redeem a reservation by tapping into the Lightning Lane, it’s like taking an apple out of your stash to eat. Stacking strategists are like … Lightning Lane gluttons.
120 Minute Rule
The first thing that you need to understand, whether stacking or not, is the 120-minute rule. This rule states that you are eligible to make your next Genie+ reservation either:
- 120 minutes after you made your most recent reservation
- When you redeem your most recent reservation
The one caveat to the 120-minute rule is if you make your first reservation before the park opens (like at 7 am when you arguably should be making your first reservation), your 120-minute timer doesn’t start until the park opens. And that means official park opening time, not early entry, even if you’re eligible for that cool perk.
Those italics in the rules are really important. When Genie first released, using any reservation unlocked a new reservation. Disney closed that loophole, so now both parts of the rule only apply to your most recent reservation.
Let’s look at some examples:
- At 7 am, I make a 4 pm reservation for Slinky Dog Dash. I can make another reservation 120 minutes after Hollywood Studios opens.
- At 7 am, I make a 9:30 am reservation for Star Tours. I can make another reservation as soon as I check in to Star Tours.
- At 11 am, I make a 7 pm Splash Mountain reservation. I can make another reservation at 1 pm.
- At 11 am, I make an 11:15 Monsters Inc Laugh Floor reservation. I can make another reservation as soon as I check in to Monsters Inc Laugh Floor.
Stacking is totally reliant on this 120 minute rule. Because you’re purposefully selecting return times late in the day, you won’t be unlocking upon check-in. You’ll always be eligible 120 minutes after you make your previous reservation. Since you’re in that constant wait, some folks find it helpful to set a timer on your phone or watch for every 2 hours so that you don’t forget when you’re eligible to make another reservation.
Differences from FastPass+ that Make Stacking Possible
There are two more rules that existed in the FastPass+ days that no longer apply that make stacking possible:
- You could only ever hold 3 FastPass+ reservations at once. You had to use all of them to make a 4th reservation, which you had to use before you made a 5th reservation, etc. Genie+ lets you “hold” (stack) as many reservations at once as you’d like. No limits!
- FastPass+ return windows couldn’t overlap. If you had a Peter Pan’s Flight reservation with an 11:40 am – 12:40 pm return time, none of your other FastPass+ return times could overlap with that hour at all. This made it so that your reservations had to be spread out a little. Again, Genie+ removes this guardrail. You can overlap return windows as much as you’d like. No limits!
So that’s why “stacking” is a new thing – it wasn’t possible under the old rules. Now you can have as many reservations as you’d like, and they could all be for potentially the exact same time.
A Practical Example
This is still all theoretical and very rules-y, so let’s make it real! We can get an idea of what stacking might actually look like by using the Genie+ availability charts found here for AK and EP and here for HS and MK.
Let’s use a high crowd day at Magic Kingdom as an example. To save you from flipping back and forth, here’s the availability chart for that park/crowd level combo:
Remember: My whole goal is to save up as many late-afternoon or evening reservations as possible.
- In this case, I can actually sleep in until 8 am. Luxury! That’s because as long as I make my first reservation before the park opens, I’m not “penalized” in any way, since my 120 minute doesn’t start until the park opens. Hooray!
- At 8 am, I scroll through and the latest available return time is for Jungle Cruise at 4:30 pm. I book that, and I have a “stack” of one reservation.
- When the park opens (let’s say that happens at 9 am), my 120 minute timer starts.
- At 11 am, my timer goes off and I’m eligible for another reservation. I want to find another reservation that is at 4:30 pm or later, and I see that Peter Pan’s Flight has a 5:15 pm return time, so I book that. Now I have a “stack” of two!
- At 1 pm, 120 minutes have passed and I’m eligible to make a new reservation! Again, I’m looking for something is booking out past 4:30 pm. I see Space Mountain has availability at 7 pm, so I grab it. Now my “stack” is three reservations long.
- By 3 pm, my 120 minutes is up and I can make another reservation. I scroll through and see Big Thunder Mountain for 8 pm. That works for me, so I book it. My stack is getting more impressive, with 4 reservations now.
- At 4:30 pm, I could check into Jungle Cruise. But even if I do, it doesn’t unlock a new reservation, because my most recent reservation was Big Thunder Mountain. Let’s say I delay checking in until later in my return window.
- Instead, at 5 pm I’m eligible for another reservation (120 minutes after 3 pm). I look through, and see Haunted Mansion is available at 9:15 pm. Boom, stack of 5 reservations!
- Now I start redeeming, first by checking in to Jungle Cruise. Again, this does not unlock a new reservation, because my most recent is for Haunted Mansion.
- Then I head to Peter Pan’s Flight and check within my return window. This too does not unlock a new reservation.
- I can eat dinner and hang out in/around Tomorrowland until my timer goes off at 7 pm (120 minutes after 5 pm). I look through and see a reservation for Pirates of the Caribbean at 8:45 pm. I used two reservations, but I still have a hefty stack of 4 reservations for the rest of the evening.
- Now I can check into Space Mountain, but this does not unlock a new reservation.
- After Space Mountain, I can take a leisurely stroll to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and check in at 8 pm. Pop Quiz: Does this unlock a new reservation? Nope! Because it wasn’t the one I made most recently.
- I check in at Pirates of the Caribbean at 8:45 pm, and … wonder of wonders, it DOES unlock a new reservation! That’s because it’s the one I made most recently. If Magic Kingdom is staying open late, there should still be plenty of attractions with availability. Let’s say I book Under the Sea for 9:30 pm.
- I ride with the pirates and then head over to check in at Haunted Mansion. This check in does not unlock a new reservation.
- But by 9:30 I’m over at Under the Sea, and once I check in, I can get and use whatever other reservations remain. My stack is finally depleted!
But What Do I Do With My Morning?
If you’re stacking all of your Genie+ reservations for the afternoon/evening, that leaves a whole bunch of possibilities for what to do with your morning. The most important thing to do is to be keeping track of your reservation eligibility and not missing your 120-minute timers so that you can maximize your stack. But while you’re doing that, you could:
- Have a relaxing morning at your resort. Don’t sleep in too long and miss your first pre-park-opening Genie+ reservation to start your stack. But you can hang out without hurrying to a park.
- Go out for brunch! Do some resort hopping or visit Disney Springs and fuel up for your day with delicious, slow-paced food.
- Tour the same park where you’re stacking and focus on attractions with low wait times. Catch some shows or entertainment and don’t worry about beating the crowds. That’s what your evening is for!
- Rope drop some big attractions in the morning so that you can use Genie+ for others in the evening. You can even do a midday swim or nap break after an early rope drop morning as long as you keep setting your 120 minute timer to make more reservations.
- Tour a different park with lower crowds in the morning while stacking for a park with higher crowds. My favorite Genie+ park hopping combos are AK morning -> HS afternoon/evening and AK morning -> MK afternoon/evening.
Which Parks are Best for Stacking?
Ideally, you’ll want to stack reservations at Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. Both parks have attractions that book out into the afternoon pretty quickly, so it’s not hard to search for something in the timeframe you want, even at 7 or 8 am.
The one caveat is that at Hollywood Studios on a high crowd day, you may only be able to stack 2 or 3 reservations before everything is sold out for the day anyway. You can still save a lot of time, but you should start the day with a plan for how to rope drop a few attractions and stack reservations for the others.
Have you tried the stacking strategy on a WDW vacation? Or do you prefer getting Genie+ reservations that you can use almost immediately? Do you have more detailed questions? Let me know in the comments!