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Genie+ Simple Strategy Example Day At Each Park

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Last week I took a look at a straightforward strategy for choosing Lightning Lane reservations with Genie+. Today I’ll be walking through an example day in each park to show how this strategy might play out in real life. I’ll also line up these results with the ones Becky got in her comparison of two alternate strategies and see how they stack up.

The Simple Strategy

Just in case you weren’t reading last week. 🙂

When you make a Lightning Lane reservation, you’re blacked out from making another reservation for a period of time.  The Simple Strategy says that you shouldn’t make a reservation unless it saves you at least 10 minutes of waiting in line per hour of blackout. If you can’t find one that meets the rule, then book whatever you want!

About the Numbers

A nice thing about the Simple Strategy is that you can (mostly) use it without looking up any charts or expected availabilities or savings or whatever in advance. It only relies on estimating wait times based on what you can see in Lines or the My Disney Experience app while you are touring the park. (The original post gives a quick overview of how to do this, but you would naturally get the hang of it after a bit of time in the parks.)

However, today I am not actually touring the park. I’m doing a “virtual” tour that represents what could happen if I was touring the park. So I do need to use charts of expected availability and savings, to know what I can reasonably assume.

Estimating Return Times

For expected return times, I’m using the charts from How Has Genie+ Availability Changed. In case you are not familiar with those charts, they look like this:

Example Genie+ Availability Heatmap

The number in the box is the average return time over the whole hour. I fudged the average up or down a bit to create a reasonable return time depending on whether I was booking earlier or later in the hour. Remember, if I was in the park I wouldn’t expect to see these numbers exactly match up. Rides go down, it rains for a while and people leave the park, all sorts of real-life factors combine to make these numbers estimates.

The coloring shows how likely you are to get a return time. To keep things simple, I mostly stuck to return times that were dark green “guaranteed”. This doesn’t always represent what might happen if I was in the park and saw the return time getting really late, but it makes it a lot easier to say that the example days are realistically achievable.

Estimating Time Saved

To estimate time savings, I used the numbers from our Genie+ Tips page and from How Much Wait Time Will I Save With Genie+. This article is updated frequently, so you can click here and here to see the specific charts I used for these estimates. Time of day does matter, so for return times that were significantly before 11 a.m. or after 5 p.m. I bumped expected savings up or down a bit to try to match what you’d see in real life.

Animal Kingdom

I want to start with Animal Kingdom, because it has few attractions with Lightning Lane and so it’s easy to talk about how this played out without letting the discussion get really long and wordy. I’ll assume the park opens at 8 a.m. and it’s a medium crowd level day.

Example day in Animal Kingdom using the Genie+ Simple Strategy
Times in parentheses are the actual times of booking or redemption if not lined up with the half hour block.


At step 1, I could have booked Na’vi River Journey or Kilimanjaro Safari for about 10 if I had started booking at 7 a.m.  But part of the goal here was to show what happens if you use the Simple Strategy to focus on shorter return times, so I pretended I slept in.

At step 2, I redeem Expedition Everest and reserve DINOSAUR. The return time on DINOSAUR is only 15 minutes away, but the blackout is 30 minutes because I still have to wait in the LL line for Everest, ride it, and then walk over to DINOSAUR and tap in. We see this again at Step 6, but since there’s nothing left to reserve after the bug show it doesn’t really matter.

I marked the redemption time of the first LL and the last one in bold to show how long this park day was. There’s plenty of time to see some other exhibits, but notice that between the 11:15 ride on Kali River Rapids and the 3:15 return for the Safari there’s a 4 hour block where you don’t need to do anything. Perfect for taking a midday break if you want to, and you don’t even need to be back at the Safari at 3:15 since it’s not blocking your next pick.

The Animal Kingdom heatmap, showing which picks were made when.

Other ways to play this day

1 – Do Na’vi River Journey during Early Entry (7:30 a.m.). Then the 11:15 pick can be used for the Safari, giving you a return time of around 2:30.  Stuff the bug show in there somewhere, and you’re done for the day at about 3 p.m.

2 – Stick with the 9:30 a.m. arrival and Everest first thing, but take Kali River Rapids for your second pick and then stand in line for DINOSAUR. The wait for DINOSAUR is often only about 20 minutes at that time of day, and that could give you a 10:15 a.m. arrival time for KRR. Even if you don’t get to KRR until 10:45 you’ll be about half an hour ahead.

3 – Do Na’vi River Journey during Early Entry (7:30 a.m.). Book the Safari with your first pick at 8 a.m. because you can see how fast it’s going up in comparison to everything else. Your Safari is now at 11:30 or so, and you can book KRR which is the other big time-saver with your 10 a.m. pick. Wait in line for Everest and DINOSAUR in the first hour that the park is open, and you’ll be done by about 1 p.m. (should you choose).

That second option shows something important – you’ll have saved 10 fewer minutes with Genie+, but you’ll be out of the park a half hour earlier. Maybe that’s great! Or maybe you’re in no hurry to leave and always happy to wander around the trails, so the 10 minutes you save is more valuable to you. This is a good example of why number of attractions and total time saved shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of Genie+ success.

How does it compare to other strategies?

Let’s compare to the strategies used by the teams in Becky’s virtual face-off.  As a reminder, the “Stacking” team always prioritized the reservation that would save the most time in line.  The “Use it or lose it” team prioritized the reservation with the earliest return time.

The Simple Strategy and the Stackers actually end up with days that look almost identical. We see a tiny difference in time saved, but both teams rode all the attractions using LL and that means that their total time in line should be the same.

Comparison of three Genie+ strategies in Animal Kingdom
(*) If the team doesn’t get a LL for Na’vi River Journey, then the last LL is at 3:15 and the biggest gap will be 2h 15 minutes.


I’ll assume the park opens at 8:30 a.m. and it’s a medium crowd day.

Example day with the Genie+ Simple Strategy in EPCOT
Times in parentheses are the actual times of booking or redemption if not lined up with the half hour block.


Remember, I’m behaving like someone who is making decisions based on looking at the Tip Board and seeing what happens with the times. With the most recent change to Genie+, I’m not able to see times anymore between 7 and 7:30. If I’m paying attention at 7:30 a.m. I notice that Remy is gone and Test Track and Frozen are the ones to book NOW. Here I’ve chosen to sleep in until almost 8, and my return time for Frozen is already 4 p.m. or so.

If you’re not riding Mission Space Orange, you won’t save 15 minutes. As we (and by we I mean Becky) have noted several times, most of these LLs don’t save that much time. Even Spaceship Earth, which has heavier lines in the morning, is often easy to ride with short waits and almost no savings with an LL later in the day.

The EPCOT heatmap, showing which picks were made when.

Other ways to play this day

Arrive to do Remy using Early Entry (8 a.m.). Afterward head to the front of the park and Spaceship Earth, then work your way along the right side through World Nature. If Soarin’ is a short wait do it while you’re in the Land, otherwise skip it and plan to pick it up in the evening. If you’d like to take an afternoon break this should give you a decent-sized gap. Or if you have Park Hoppers, then use your picks at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30 to stack a few attractions in Magic Kingdom and hop over on the monorail for a few hours. Come back to EPCOT in time for your Frozen LL and mop up.

How does it compare to other strategies?

Missing the Remy LL here is obviously a big difference for the Simple Strategy Team, but the earlier park arrival time opens up the option to use Early Entry to make that up. And looking at the heatmap, there’s no guarantee that the Stacking team will be able to pick up a second big timesaver when they pick at 10:30 — if they don’t, then the difference in time saved will go down by a lot.

Either Simple Strategy or Stacking could use Genie+ effectively here, depending on what times of day you want to be in the parks.

Comparison of three Genie+ strategies in EPCOT


Hollywood Studios

I’ll assume the park is opening at 8:30 a.m., and it’s a medium crowd day.

Example day using the Genie+ Simple Strategy in Hollywood Studios
Times in parentheses are the actual times of booking or redemption if not lined up with the half hour block.


Again I’m sticking with my plan to sleep in until 8 and then see which way the wind is blowing. Booking early return times if possible isn’t required by the Simple Strategy. But one of my goals was to revisit the approach of Becky’s “Use it or lose it” team and see if focusing on short return times could be effective.At 8 a.m. the Toy Story reservation is one of the few that doesn’t come with the full 2-hour blackout. By the time I can pick again at 10:30 a.m the writing is on the wall — I can see that I have to keep ahead of the LLs that are running out. I can also see that everything with a line worth worrying about is already booking more than 2 hours out. At Hollywood Studios, it’s almost impossible not to switch over to stacking early on.

At 1:45 p.m., Runaway Railway is likely but not guaranteed. But Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is booking at about the same likelihood and about the same time, and saves about the same amount of waiting. I’m almost sure to get at least one of the two.

The Hollywood Studios heatmap, showing which picks were made when.

Other ways to play this day

There are lots of other ways to play this day, partly because there are quite a few headliners that I didn’t get Lightning Lane reservations for.  Early Entry or no?  Leave the park during the 4-hour gap between Star Tours and Millennium Falcon? Choices, choices, choices — including a number of different LL combinations that result in a similar savings.

How does it compare to other strategies?

The Stacking team did score one more LL … for MuppetVision. The total time and biggest gap don’t give us a great picture of each team’s day here, as both missed out on LLs for some big attractions and would need to spend some time in line to fill in the gaps. Still, the Stackers show us how effective it can be to plan hopping to Hollywood Studios, and the Simple Strategy team shows us that you can use Genie+ effectively if you’d like to tour in the morning and early evening with a break in the afternoon.

Comparison of three Genie+ strategies in Hollywood Studios
(*) If the team doesn’t get an LL for Runaway Railway then the last LL will be at 6:45 p.m.

Magic Kingdom

I’ll assume that the park is opening at 9 a.m., and it’s a medium crowd level day.

Example day with Genie+ Simple Strategy in Magic Kingdom
Times in parentheses are the actual times of booking or redemption if not lined up with the half hour block.


Since the Magic Kingdom wasn’t opening until 9 I decided to go wild and wait until 8:30 a.m. to make my first pick. Extra sleep, woo-hoo!

Small World and Winnie the Pooh are both 8:30 p.m. return times. But it’s important to tap into Small World first because that opens eligibility to make the Pirates pick.

The choice to focus on short return times until everything [useful] is over 2 hours naturally results in the “hybrid” strategy that is popular with many Magic Kingdom visitors.

The Magic Kingdom heatmap, showing which picks were made when.

Other ways to play this day

Similar to what we saw with Hollywood Studios, there are a large number of alternative combinations for LL picks. But one thing I want to call out is that 7-hour gap in the middle. Some people will see that as an afternoon break and a leisurely table service dinner before coming back to the park. Some will be wishing it was a bit shorter because they’ve got kids with an 8 p.m. bedtime.

In this plan, I only switched over to stacking when all the remaining attractions that met the simple rule had return times more than two hours away. But switching over at an earlier point in the day will tighten up that gap and bring you back to the parks 2-3 hours earlier. You can

  • Arrive at the park earlier (before the 10:15 a.m. Buzz LL) to knock off some of those short-return attractions in this plan with low waits in standby.
  • Pick up LL’s on a few of them with relatively short return times when you return to the park later
  • Leave those attractions in the same order they are here, but do a bit of extra waiting in line for the ones that you’re [now] not getting LL reservations for.

One thing that doesn’t work as well: trying to stack a couple of big ones first and then stuff in the same number of short returns later on. Even attractions that have very rapid return times early in the day tend to be booking an hour out or more by mid-afternoon.

How does it compare to other strategies?

The Simple Strategy team appears to have a much longer day in the parks here, but that’s deceptive – there’s a 7 hour gap where they can choose to stay or go. That gap can be shortened up by switching the focus from short return times to stacking earlier in the day.Comparison of three Genie+ strategies in Magic Kingdom

What to Take Away

  • Both Stacking and the Simple Strategy can lead you to use Genie+ effectively in every park.
  • Most often, Stacking will lead to touring mostly in the evening, whereas Simple Strategy lends itself to split days with a gap in the middle for an afternoon break.
  • Since Simple Strategy allows you to be effective if you start with an attraction that doesn’t book up as rapidly, you don’t need to have an itchy trigger finger and be booking right on the dot of 7 a.m.
  • Sometimes skipping the opportunity for an LL might give you a better flow to the day, even though it decreases your “total time saved”. Keep in mind that 10 extra minutes in line might get you out of the parks a half-hour earlier, and make the decisions that suit your style.

How do you prefer to use Genie+? Which park do you think clearly has a superior strategy? Let us know in the comments!


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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer has a background in math and biology, so she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

12 thoughts on “Genie+ Simple Strategy Example Day At Each Park

  • Wondering if you can touch on why Slinky Dog Dash was not part of the strategy?

    • Hi Edgar, sure thing. There are three reasons.

      1 – In my real life family, I have one kid with motion sickness and one who thinks Slinky is a wimpy coaster and has little interest in riding it. It would never be a priority for my family. Of course, I know that it *is* a priority for plenty of others, but this just goes to emphasize that every group will look for different things and have different constraints. These walkthroughs are an example of what you could do if you chose, not an example of what you should definitely choose to do. (Hopefully that makes sense). Incidentally, this is also why there were no Meet & Greets chosen, even when some of them might have saved time.

      2 – I was sticking to “guaranteed” returns in order to avoid “what if” scenarios. When I “slept in until 8”, I trashed my chances of a guaranteed Slinky LL. But it died for a good cause: to show that if the thought of having to be on your phone at 7 a.m. every day makes you anxious, you can let go of it. It’s not necessary to get a good value out of Genie+.

      3 – With the Simple Strategy you can pick anything that meets the rule. Slinky certainly meets the rule. But it’s easy to see the value in stacking, and I wanted to show that there’s more than one way. So in this post I focused on trying to make a first pick that didn’t come with the full 2-hour blackout.

      On #3, I want to make a note. Those pre-opening averages are really deceptive for rides that go quickly. I mean, the average is 5:30 p.m. in the first hour, but that includes hundreds of people who got return times before 10:30 a.m., right? So if you want to do the 7 a.m. thing, but you also like the idea of grabbing something without a 2-hour blackout, you can play it both ways. Make your first try for Slinky. If you get 9:30 a.m., you’re golden! If you get 2 p.m. then throw it back and make another pick for something you can redeem before two hours after park opening.

      • Totally get it. Thank you Jennifer.


  • Hi Jennifer! Awesome. Thank you so so much for explaining that to me. Now hopefully my plan will work haha! I appreciate the response and all things Disney! Thanks again!

  • I have a stacking question, so assume you want to enter park at 4pm (9am open) and begin stacking 9am. Okay, so you can book at 9am. 11am, 1pm, 3pm…got it, so you have 4 reservations for lets pretend:
    9am – book 3:30
    11am – book 4pm
    1pm – 6:15
    3pm – 7:30
    at 5pm you can book another so pretend get a 5pm…get a reservation for right then and there.
    Because I stacked and I have a bunch of reservations my next book is 7pm? Even though I redeemed my last genie + for 5:00 right away and scanned in right away…do I get another one or have to wait until 7pm? Sorry if this is confusing or do I make sense?

    • Hi Molly – I get it, everything about Genie+ feels confusing and using a word with four consonants in a row every time we talk about it (Lightning) makes our brains stumble.

      No, you don’t have to wait until 7 p.m., you can make another one as soon as you redeem the one at 5 p.m.

      I like to think about it this way:
      – only one reservation at a time can be blocking you; the last one you made
      – no reservation can block you for more than 2 hours

      So the only thing you need to remember is when you made your last reservation and what it was for. Did you redeem it? Then you’re good to go. If you still have it, has it been two hours? Then you’re good to go.

      Have a great trip!

  • Interesting post that clears up (for me) some questions. It appears to be periods with lots of activity followed by periods of “open time”. I kind of thought things would be that way but didn’t have the personal experience to be sure. So I guess one spends those open times going on low-demand rides with (relatively) short wait times or eating or in shops.

    An irreverent question: Is there a “bank” for “saved time”?

    • Hi Len – Yep you can use that “open time” for anything; riding low-demand rides, standing in a long line that you couldn’t avoid, or napping back at the hotel if the gap is long enough. Also, I feel I can’t stress this enough, but these are examples of what you could do, not examples of the *only* thing you can do – if you have particular constraints, you’re going to make choices around them based on what you see in the moment and your day might look pretty different.

      And with that, I love your question about whether there is a bank for “saved time”. I think I would have to respond by saying that my saved-time-bank is called the resort pool. 🙂

  • Great article! Lots of food for thought.

    For the Animal Kingdom example, should the Total Saved value after DINOSAUR not be 27 minutes? (It shows as 10).
    (Always happy to peer review data).

    • Oops! I’ve uploaded a corrected chart, and thanks for catching that! I always appreciate peer review. 🙂

  • How can you determine time saved? I have read several of these articles now and cant determine how you determine your time saved in the calculations. If a standby wait is 60 minutes for any ride and you book a LL how many minutes will you actually save? Do you save the entire 60 minutes? Thank you. And thank you for all these fantastic articles!

    • Hi Amy – just to be clear, you won’t really know how much time *you* saved until you actually get on the ride. Everything in this article, and in the articles it references, is an estimate of what’s most likely, but not a guarantee.

      But, if you look at the first section that says “About the Numbers” and the subheading that says “Estimating Time Saved”, there are links in there to several articles that talk about where those averages come from. A couple of times I couldn’t get good enough information there, so I looked at a couple of wait time charts from recent days that matched the park hours and opening times of my “example” days.

      If you look at the original article (https://touringplans.com/blog/genie-strategy-made-simple/) there is a section on how to estimate your time savings using the information that you see in MDE or Lines while you’re touring.


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