Genie Testing: What We Learned in One Day

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We’ve been preparing for (and maybe dreading?) Genie launch day for months, and it finally happened. Leading up to day one, we knew that we wanted a robust plan for testing and answering as much as we possibly could in a single day with our in-parks team and researchers at home. That meant some spreadsheets, planning sessions, task lists, soliciting feedback on what questions our users had, making park reservations, and then getting up really early to try it all out today. Plus a lot of caffeine and sugar to make it through the day. So what happened and what did we find out? (Note: if you’d rather watch most of this info instead of reading it, you can check out our YouTube stream from yesterday afternoon instead!)

This was the crowd for Guest Relations on launch day. Unfortunately, you could not book a Genie+ return time for guest relations. They should consider that.

What We Learned About Genie Being Tricky

I promise this post won’t all be doom and gloom about how buggy Genie was. In fact, I think on the whole the day went a lot more smoothly than we all expected. Stitch didn’t eat the app. Hoards of hangry humans weren’t roaming the park aimlessly with nothing to do until their next return window opened. But here were the big outliers, at least as far as things we gave the side-eye.

$15 per day! … *cough*plus tax*cough*

ILL Access for Remy is $9 … plus tax.

Most of us had gotten over the mental hurdle that sure, we’d have to pay for Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane Access (now called ILL, in this article at least). We did all of our “is it worth it” math based on $15 per person per day. And then we bought it. And we got charged for tax. And suddenly after getting over feeling nickled and dimed, we were literally nickled and dimed. It is what it is. And what it is is salt in the wound.

Forecasted waits! Or at least … bars going up and down

Data Viz 101: Don’t Do This

Genie (the free version) promised forecasted waits for all! Here at Touring Plans, we are all about forecasting waits. It’s our jam. So we were pumped to see these. And then we opened them. And Disney broke one of the cardinal rules of data visualization (or at least honest data visualization). They didn’t label the axis! So you can see the vague shape of the really vertically squished forecasted wait. And bonus, it looks like each of those big long horizontal lines means something different for every ride. So if you pull up It’s Tough To Be a Bug and Flight of Passage side by side, you’ll see that you should obviously rope drop the Bug show because the rest of the day, you’ll wait longer for it than you would wait for Flight of Passage. Right?! Wrong. But it’s okay, because …

Don’t make decisions based on “data” anyway, okay?

In the fine print of the Genie terms and conditions, it tells you the following:

Disney execs, probably: “It’s cool, no one reads the legal jargon anyway. We could just Lorem Ipsum in there if we wanted.”

So it’s okay that you don’t know what the bars actually mean, because even though the app will keep throwing the Genie+ and ILL purchases in your face repeatedly, it doesn’t mean that they’re actually telling you to purchase something. Legally speaking.

Wait 5 minutes now, or pay $7 and ride 20 minutes from now

At least as you’re perusing the tip board, you can see the posted standby times. Still no guarantee that these are accurate (refer back to that fine print, y’all). But at least it’s not an unlabeled bar. Rise having a 150 minute posted standby wait is very different than Expedition Everest having a 5 minute posted standby wait, at least as it concerns my propensity for purchasing ILL and skipping the line.

Wait 5 minutes now, or pay $7 to wait <5 minutes, 20 minutes from now. Decisions, decisions.

But if you’re in the “My Day” side of Genie, which is the arguably more helpful listing of all of your plans and reservations for the day, you don’t get that information. You get “ride now, wait times low” or “wait times high”, or whatever other arbitrary terms Disney has chosen to show you. So an example we found was that My Day showed you that wait times at Expedition Everest were low, but that you could still purchase Lightning Lane for $7 per person. If you flipped over to the Tip Board at the exact same time, you saw that it was currently a posted 5 minute wait, and the next ILL return window didn’t open for 20 minutes. Hmm.

Questionable rope drop recommendations

There were multiple reports from users and on social media that the free Genie planning tool was maybe not as useful as people had originally hoped. Many people were told to proceed directly to the Carrousel upon arrival at the Magic Kingdom. Or to mobile order lunch at 9 am … for Pinocchio Village Haus. The horror! Alternatively, your first three attractions could’ve been Magic Carpets, Swiss Family Treehouse, and Haunted Mansion. Hm. All interesting. Maybe a first-day learning curve thing. But while Genie climbs the learning curve, you can stick with TouringPlans. We climbed the curve long ago.

Things We Learned About Genie That Made Us Giggle

Swaperoo

Can there please be a secret theme song for Swaperoo, ideally performed by the Country Bears?

You know that teams and teams of people have to approve everything that goes into an app as big as My Disney Experience and this Genie update. And maybe it was just because we woke up way too early, but when we figured out that you could take a Genie plan and try to switch out a recommendation, and that the app then declared “Let’s Do A Swaperoo” … WHAT?! How? Why? What is a swaperoo?! I don’t know, but I’m now going to use it all of the time.

Teacups or Die

Chrissy attempted to swaperoo her Magic Tea Party recommendation for 7:30 pm at Magic Kingdom. And Genie told her that there was literally nothing else to do at that time in the Magic Kingdom. Given that other suggested “swaperoos” included swapping attractions for walking trails or other attractions … it’s odd that there’s nothing else to do instead of the teacups.

There is definitely nothing to do, see, or eat nearby the teacups at 7:30 pm. Sorry.

Why This?

When the free Genie service throws together an itinerary for you, it gives you recommendations. Even better, you can then click “Why This?” to get the detailed reasons why it was selected! In theory, this would be awesome. It would even give us a peek behind the curtain regarding why people were being sent certain places. In reality … it’s just “Because parties like yours enjoy this” and “It’s air-conditioned” and a random factoid about the attraction. So, very generic and probably not real reasons anyway. We’ll let you know when we stumble upon an honest “Because no one goes here ever and we need to move crowds away from the popular attractions and restaurants.”

Things We Learned About Genie That Were Painful

Parties that do different things

When you purchase Genie+ for yourself, purchase it for your whole party. You know, if it lets you. If they purchased tickets separately, you might not be able to. But if you don’t do it all at once, it can also be hard to line everything up and connect it.

And once you are connected, best of luck to you if your party likes to split up and do different things during parts of the day. Based on our day-one experience, the My Day list shows everyone’s plans all in one big list organized by time. And they’re not labelled helpfully. It takes 3 clicks to figure out who the reservation is for. All in all, very much a pain unless your party is all on one set of tickets, all buys Genie+ at the exact same time, and all want to stick together for the entire day.

DAS (at least early in the day)

DAS was the one part of the roll-out today that didn’t really go surprisingly smoothly. In the morning it was at a hard crash. Maybe not a shock since DAS advance had to push back its start date. But eventually everything came back online, and we were able to see that parties can hold DAS reservations and Genie+ reservations and ILL reservations all at the same time. The systems play … nicely? Or at least play together.

Things We Learned About Genie To Answer Your Questions

**Fine print – these answers are all as of the first day. Things are definitely changing as Disney adapts to how people are using Genie, so keep that in mind when reading through.

Q: Can I “stack” multiple Genie+ return times before the park even opens?
A: Nope! Disney swiftly closed this nifty loophole before Genie launched. If you get your first MK Genie+ reservation at 7 am, your 120 minute counter doesn’t start until the park opens (say, at 9 am).

Q: What happens when I try to purchase ILL Access for an attraction at a park that I plan on hopping to?
A: You can purchase ILL as soon as you become eligible (7 am if you’re a resort guest, and at park opening if you’re off-site), but you will only be offered return times of 2 pm or later.

Q: How does return time availability change throughout the day?
A: It’s the first day, and a pretty low-crowd day, so don’t take this as truth moving forward. But the only park that had issues with rides “booking up” was Hollywood Studios, with Slinky Dog Dash booking up around 11 am, and Millennium Falcon also booking up before the park closed. But really, even late into the evening, most rides had Genie+ return times available starting within 10 minutes of searching.

Q: Are there options for return times, or is it always just next available?
A: For ILL Access, you get to choose. For everything else, it’s next available. The only exception to this is park hopping (more on that later).

Q: Can I cancel or modify Genie+ reservations?
A: Yes, you can cancel. No you cannot modify (for now). That being said, cancelling immediately gives you the chance to select something else, or even just select the same attraction again, which is basically modifying.

Q: What happens to my boarding pass for Remy if I also purchase ILL Access?
A: It just keeps cooking. You can do both and they won’t interfere with each other. So if you’re determined to ride Remy twice, this is the way to do it. ILL waits will be shorter than boarding pass/virtual queue waits, though.

Q: When can I start making Genie+ reservations for a park that I plan to hop to?
A: Whenever you want! But they’ll be limited to arrival at or after 2 pm. No matter what the “next available” is, in the morning you’ll be offered 2 pm – 3 pm, or later if other park hoppers have already booked or if the ride is booking up quickly.

Q: What happens if I decide to purchase Genie+ late in the day?
A: Nothing! Disney happily takes your money, and you just have fewer chances to use return times in your “shortened” day.

Q: What happens if I get a Genie+ return time that conflicts with my dining reservation?
A: You beat yourself up for making that planning mistake. At this point, Genie doesn’t have guardrails that save you from double-booking yourself. So you deal with it, or you go to Guest Relations and kindly ask for some help.

Q: Is it possible to hold two Genie+ return times at once that overlap (i.e 2 pm – 3 pm for Peter Pan and 2:45 pm – 3:45 pm for Buzz Lightyear)?
A: Yes, it’s possible. Again, Genie knows no bounds – unlimited cosmic power and whatnot. So you can overlap them.

Q: Is it possible to get a Genie+ return time that overlaps with one of my ILL return times?
A: … Yes. Still possible to overlap all of the things.

Q: Is it possible to get two ILL return times that overlap with each other?
A: If you don’t know this answer by now. . . . But as an example, Chrissy was able to hold ILL return times for Frozen Ever After and Remy that were exactly the same, and as a bonus she also had a dining reservation at the same time.

Q: What happens if I miss the ILL return time that I purchased?
A: Mostly, you’re out of luck. At least if you arrive significantly late. I mean, you chose the time, so that’s on you. Unless something related to the attraction was down during your return window, then maybe you have a case to make.

Q: What happens if I show up late to a Genie+ return time?
A: Turns out this is remarkably similar to the FP+ rules. If you show up 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late, you tap in and it turns green and you go right through. Outside of that window, no green … and the CM gets to decide your fate. We were able to push it out to 17 minutes, but didn’t attempt anything further past the return time.

Q: Can I get multiple Genie+ return times for the same ride?
A: No, you cannot. One per attraction, so no cycling through the Lightning Lane for it’s a small world all day, sorry.

Q: If I miss a Genie+ return time, can I pick up another return time for that same attraction?
A: That’s another no. If you miss it, it’s like you used it. It still shows up as “booked” on your tip board, and you’re done with it for the day.

We’ll be testing more on day two (and three, and four, and pretty much forevermore), so let us know what other questions you may have. And if you were in the parks and tried out Genie+, let us know your experience!

 

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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

41 thoughts on “Genie Testing: What We Learned in One Day

  • October 20, 2021 at 9:25 am
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    If my family group all gets Genie+ for convenience in scheduling as suggested, can we then switch magic bands if a couple kids don’t ride the experience like we used to do for say Expedition Everest and have a couple die yards ride twice?

    Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 9:51 am
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    Great info, final confirmation that resort guests that want a late start are screwed over on genie+, as park hoppers can make 2pm bookings at 7am but guests with a park reservation cannot choose their time. Same issue with basic genie. Unlike touring plans,You cannot indicate when you will arrive at the park. Disney assumes you are there at opening. Thanks for all of your team’s patient testing, been using ya’ll since the info was only available on paper.

    Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 10:23 am
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    Any data yet on how quickly top E-tickets sell out of ILL reservations?

    Say I want to purchase an ILL reservation for Flight of Passage in the afternoon, but plan on spending my morning in MK before hopping over to AK. Should I be booking that ILL first thing in the morning, or can I wait until lunchtime?

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 10:25 am
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      So far, Rise of the Resistance is selling out the quickest of any of the E-ticket ILLs. I believe that yesterday, no other ILL sold out. That may obviously change on days that are more crowded.

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 10:32 am
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    Posting mainly to follow the comments, but loved the YouTube review last night. You guys tested a lot yesterday! How many people did you have in the parks testing yesterday???

    Looking forward to hearing about Thursday’s tests!

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 10:43 am
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      Thanks! Believe it or not, we only had three in-park testers (plus one person dedicated to testing out DAS). They were crazy busy yesterday and did an amazing job. We also had a small army of behind-the-computer (or phone) folks testing what we could.

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 11:01 am
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    “But while Genie climbs the learning curve, you can stick with TouringPlans. We climbed the curve long ago.”

    Oh snap!

    Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 11:51 am
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    So when is Genie+/LL going to be added into TP personalized plans?

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 1:35 pm
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      We expect to support same-day input of Lighting Lane return times in our Lines app in a matter of weeks. That will allow you to enter the times you get that day and optimize your plan based on those.

      By the end of the year, we expect to support Genie+ recommendations in our Personalized Touring Plan software. We are currently collecting and analyzing data to support that effort.

      Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 4:53 pm
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        Would it be possible for the Touring Plans app to connect to My Disney Experience? In other words, is it possible for me to make a reservation on the My Disney Experience app and then have it automatically populate in the Touring Plans app? There is zero chance I’ll be taking any advice from a Disney run tech system, but it also seems like a lot of work to be updating both apps all day.

  • October 20, 2021 at 12:34 pm
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    I have read a ton of information about Genie/Genie+/ILL. I think I’ve mostly got an understanding on it for our trip this December. However, there is one thing I am still a little fuzzy on. Is the 120 minute rule happen once each day and only after the initial selection? So say I book a Genie+ for 9am when the park opens. If I understand correctly, that means the next Genie+ I can book would be for 11am. Can I book that second one (for 11am or later) right after using the 9am one? Also, after I use the 11am one is it a free for all the rest of the day? For example, I use the 11am one and while in line for it I book something for 11:30. Then, another at like 12 once I used the 11:30 one? If so, would it be fair to say that there is a large portion of Genie+ users not using the service between 9-11am each day? I would assume people will try maximizing their selections by getting their first one at 9am or as close to it as possible…

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 1:23 pm
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      So, the timer resets whenever you pick up a new return time. Let’s say:
      At 7 am I make a 10:05-11:05 reservation for Peter Pan
      At 9 am (when the park opens) my 120 minute timer starts ticking
      I can make my next reservation at 11 am, or when I tap into Peter Pan, whichever happens first.
      We’ll say I tap into Peter Pan at 10:05, and then I pick up Splash Mountain for 1:30-2:30.
      Now my timer is that I have to tap into Splash Mountain, or wait until 12:05 to make my next one. In that case, 12:05 comes before I tap into Splash, so that’s when I can make my next one.

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 12:55 pm
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    If you get a Genie+ pass for the park you are going to hop to, can you get another one 2 hours later, or do you have to wait until 2 hours after park-hopping begins?

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 1:24 pm
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      You can get another one 2 hours later. It appears that the only thing that hopping impacts is the choice of return times that you are offered (so, 2 pm or later), otherwise the rules work the same as if you were booking them in your “first” park.

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 12:57 pm
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    Do you have to have purchased Genie+ for the day in order to purchase a ILL for an attraction that day?

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 1:13 pm
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      No. You do not have to purchase Genie+ in order to purchase an ILL. The ILL’s are completely separate from the Genie+ program. Think of them as an a la carte option for your day in the park.

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 2:28 pm
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    Can i buy the Genie + ILL in advance? I will be there early november, but can i buy the service today for example?

    Thanks very much

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 2:53 pm
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      If you have a vacation package, you can add Genie+ for the length of yoru stay in advance. Otherwise, you just purchase day-of (or night-before if you’re up past midnight)

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 2:41 pm
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    So if I’m staying off property, I cant make any genie+ OR ILL reservations before park open?

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 2:53 pm
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      If you’re staying off property, you can make Genie+ reservations at 7 am along with everyone else visiting the parks that day. You just can’t make ILL until the parks open.

      Reply
      • October 20, 2021 at 3:10 pm
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        I find it humorous that we are abbreviating Individual Lightning Lane to “ILL”. As used in a sentence:

        I am paying a lot of extra money at Disney to get ILL.

      • October 20, 2021 at 3:15 pm
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        It’s much more fun than IAS.

  • October 20, 2021 at 3:27 pm
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    If I get a 9am and tap in at 9:30 I can then boil something else at 9:30? Let’s say next one is at 10? I tap at 10:15 and I can select something else?

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 3:28 pm
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      That’s right Karlie – if your strategy is just to always select whatever attraction has the closest next available return time, you could churn through many attractions quickly.

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 6:57 pm
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    Are you going to post about how DAS worked? Does Disney offer DAS return times for G+ or ILL attractions or do they “force” you to purchase? At DL with MP I used MP for attractions with that & DAS for attractions not included, but at WDW pretty much everything is included with the paid option.

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 9:10 pm
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      Yes, Rose! Our friend Amy was in Magic Kingdom on the 19th testing all things DAS. She will be writing up a dedicated post on that, so stay tuned for all of the details. But I know enough at least to say that you can get DAS return times for anything. But you still have the option to “enhance” it with Genie+ and ILLs if you want. They’re all pretty much independent.

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 7:59 pm
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    I understand the Genie+ rules however with the ILL reservations, can you book and pay for the two that you are entitled to first thing in the morning and at the same time or do you have to book one and then wait for that one to be used (or wait the 120 minutes) before you can book the next one?

    Reply
    • October 20, 2021 at 9:11 pm
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      Good news, Anne. You don’t have to wait the 120 minutes between the two ILL reservations. You can make them both first thing in the morning when you’re eligible if that’s what you want to do.

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 9:29 pm
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    Great information! Just watched the video. Wish you could display how many Disney Executives are viewing / reading these posts?

    Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 9:54 pm
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    Is Genie+ basically the same as Max Pass used to be at Disneyland? It sounds like it. Are there any major differences?

    Reply
    • October 21, 2021 at 9:00 am
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      Somewhere Buzz is saying, “You’re mocking me, aren’t you?”

      Reply
  • October 20, 2021 at 10:05 pm
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    Your damning indictment confirms for me that, overall, this has to be one of if not the biggest clusterfudgesicle in Disney vacation history. Is it too soon to fire Chapek?

    One big point I’m not clear on is organizing G+ rides for simultaneous use by more than one member of a party. With FP+, when I chose a time I simply added my partner to it as my party’s guest. That added the FP+ time to her account and her band worked at tap-in. For G+, I was unable to directly purchase it for my partner (even though I purchased her trip ticket); instead, she had to add G+ to her ticket in her own account’s MDE app. So now, if we decide to ride X together as a G+, will I be able to select her as my guest when I grab a G+ time for X, with the system seeing that A) she has paid for G+ and B) that she is a member of my travel party? Because if not, I’ll be having words with a CM at that ride when our time comes to board it.

    What an awful, awful mess. Not only did Disney violate a cardinal rule of marketing – don’t ask people to pay for something that’s always been free – but they did it very poorly.

    Reply
  • October 21, 2021 at 9:23 am
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    Am I counted as a resort guest (can I reserve at 7AM) the day I check in on my reservation, before I arrive at the resort (I have done online check-in)?

    Reply
  • October 21, 2021 at 9:25 am
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    More to the point, can I start making G+ reservations from the Airport when we will arrive at the resort mid-morning and the park at noon?

    Reply
    • October 23, 2021 at 9:40 am
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      I was wondering the same thing.

      Reply
    • October 23, 2021 at 9:52 am
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      You sure can! You can make Genie+ reservations from anywhere, anytime. We had folks making G+ reservations from the comfort of their own home just to test things out.

      Reply
  • October 22, 2021 at 12:14 am
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    Great info so far, thanks! Quick question, we are heading down on Nov 9-14, staying at Boardwalk Villas. Plan to purchase a 5 day park hopper which we will use 11/9-13. I plan to book HS Park Pass Rez for 11/9 and try to login at 7am while still in New York/before we fly down and book/purchase LL for ROR for late in the day 11/9. Do you know if that will be possible before I actually arrive and check in at the hotel? I want to think yes, but just wanted to ask in case that is a definite no, in which case I will probably scrap going to any park on 11/9 and just do a 4 day park hopper starting on 11/10. thanks again for such amazing work and info!

    Reply
    • November 14, 2021 at 11:26 pm
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      I have this same question (but for February). Wondering if you figured it out before your trip?

      Reply
  • October 25, 2021 at 10:04 am
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    in the end, if you arrive say an hour early to HS, is it necessary to get ILL for RoR?

    Reply
  • October 25, 2021 at 9:15 pm
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    Is it ever _necessary_ to get ILL for Rise? No. And especially if you get there an hour early, you should be good.

    Reply
  • November 15, 2021 at 6:53 am
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    We arrived at 745 and they let us in to park right away to get on Ror line. On ride by 830 when opened to resort guests, and again at 815 in evening. 45 min wait. Found genie plus to be a waste.

    Reply

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