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How Do Genie+ Return Times Shift Throughout the Day? Part 2

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Yesterday we took our first big look at Genie+ return times and how they shift throughout the day at Animal Kingdom and EPCOT. Since that post was such a resounding success, lauded everywhere by everyone as the coolest thing ever (or the voices in our head said at around the 10th hour of looking at charts and graphs), we’re treating you to round 2 today. Animal Kingdom and EPCOT are interesting and all, but the real money-makers for Genie+ are Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. They have the biggest time-saving potential, and are therefore the parks that you, the savvy reader, should care the most about. Something tells me that today’s post is going to have more than enough words for us all to read, so let’s cut to the important stuff.

If you opt to not book Jungle Cruise as your first Genie+ reservation of the day, are you up a tree?

Explain the Math

(Pat on the back if you read this yesterday. Proceed to the actual analysis if you want.)

I work all day every day with data, and I can tell you – data is always messy. And Disney data is no exception. No magical wand to wave to get clean Disney data. If you’re wondering why Lines doesn’t yet support suggestions for which Genie+ reservations to make and when, this is part of the reason why. We need data on these return times, and we also need data on wait time savings. That means you can help by submitting your Genie+ and standby wait times if you’re in the parks.

But if we choose to simplify our math today down to the very basics, we’re looking at two data points:

  1. Time – This is what we’re calling the time that you scroll through MDE and decide which Genie+ reservation to make.
  2. Return Time – This is the return time window you’re given once you book your Genie+ reservation for an attraction. In this case, it’s the time at the beginning of the hour you have to arrive at the attraction to enter the Lightning Lane.

With just those two data points, we can make some cool little scatterplots of time that you make the reservation and time that you can return. But even with those plots, things start to get complicated. Each attraction has a different plot, and each day has a different plot. To get really predictive, we have to combine all the days together and extract some meaning out of them. On top of all of that, we have to deal with the messy, dirty data. Often, return times will follow a pretty nice curve or line of some sort, but any time that a guest cancels one of their return times, that one shows up as available and then the curve or line gets jagged and not as clean.

That means that for today’s post I’m doing some really awesome and not boring at all data cleanup to present a peek into some trends and what you might be able to expect. We’ll look through each park on three different days to see if the lines and curves change. Then we’ll be able to see if you can use this little preview to already help inform some strategies and expectations.

Genie+ Return Times at Hollywood Studios

October 27th – Crowd Level 1

Return time distribution for Hollywood Studios Genie attractions on October 27th (Crowd Level 1)

A few tips on how to interpret these graphs – the X axis (horizontal) shows our Time variable – that’s when you’re opening up your app to make a Genie+ reservation. The Y axis (vertical) shows our Return Time – that’s the return time that the app was offering when you opened the app to make your reservation. The black dashed line shows when Time = Return Time. So if a dot appears on that line, you could immediately get and use a Genie+ reservation for that attraction. If the dots appear above the line, the attraction is booking out ahead of the current time (to be expected). If the dots appear significantly below the line … Genie must need a reset. You shouldn’t get a return time in the past. So what can we learn from this graph?

  • One very clearly popular attraction has a return time curve that looks like a rocket ship taking off. That’s good ole Slinky Dog Dash. And it makes sense – it’s easily the ride where Genie+ will save you the most time at Hollywood Studios under normal conditions. Even on the lowest crowd level day, it’s totally sold out for the day before 11 am.
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is the next obvious choice. Quite a few people chose to book it around 7 am, and it stays booked ahead by 4 or 5 hours throughout most of the day. It too eventually sells out, but not until between 7 and 8 pm.
  • Most other attractions stay booked up about an hour ahead (your return time will be ~1 hour away from when you make the reservation). The two exceptions are Muppet*Vision and Star Tours, which stay book now/ride now all day long.

November 22nd – Crowd Level 7

Return time distribution for Hollywood Studios Genie attractions on November 22nd (Crowd Level 7)
  • Return times look incredibly different during holiday week crowd conditions. The first thing that jumps out to me is that Slinky Dog Dash has a single dot on this graph. There was a 6 pm return time that popped up just after 7 am. But effectively, Slinky Dog Dash sold out for the entire day almost immediately.
  • After Slinky sells out, people very quickly opt for Millennium Falcon instead. And then it sells out within half an hour of the park opening. So in these crowd levels, there is virtually no way to get Genie+ reservations for both Slinky and Falcon. You will be forced to choose. Or, actually, you should consider yourself lucky if Slinky hasn’t sold out and you get a choice.
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania all follow similar return time curves, and they all start disappearing very quickly at 11 am – which, incidentally, is 2 hours after park opening right when all of those Falcon and Slinky guests are eligible to pick their next attraction. All three sell out before 1, quickly followed by Alien Swirling Saucers.
  • Star Tours is obviously third-tier, and then Muppet*Vision is the bottom of the heap. Unfortunately, any time after 3 pm, Muppet*Vision will be the only thing that you can book.

December 3rd – Crowd Level 3

Return time distribution for Hollywood Studios Genie attractions on December 3rd (Crowd Level 3)
  • Back down at crowd level 3, we see an interesting mix of behavior. Slinky Dog Dash still sells out very quickly – gone well before the park opens. Millennium Falcon also books out all the way to 5 pm before the park opens.
  • There is still a small smattering of late evening availability for Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, and Alien Swirling Saucers around 3 pm. But because they’re all booking out around 4 hours in advance, that means that the 2-hour rule is going to be in place. So there’s very little chance of actually being able to book and use all four even on a crowd level 3 day. In reality, you’ll probably either get Slinky Dog Dash OR Millennium Falcon, and then perhaps 2 of that second tier.
  • Even with all of the other demand, Star Tours and Muppet*Vision still stay close to book now/ride now throughout the day, so that can be your consolation prize.

Genie+ Return Times at Magic Kingdom

Strap in folks. Prepare yourselves for many, many little colorful dots. It’s gonna be awesome.

October 27th – Crowd Level 1

Return time distribution for Magic Kingdom Genie attractions on October 27th (Crowd Level 1)
  • You get two graphs for each Magic Kingdom day so that everything isn’t just a total jumble of dots.
  • On the lowest crowd level days at Magic Kingdom, the only two attractions that sell out before the park closes are Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight. Peter Pan books out about 2-3 hours in advance, and Jungle Cruise hovers in the 3-4 hour range.
  • Otherwise, only 3 or 4 attractions pop up above their peers – Splash Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, Haunted Mansion, and it’s a small world all book between 30 and 90 minutes in advance during peak hours.
  • The rest of the pack is pretty solidly in the book now/ride now category. Which is great – you should technically be able to burn through a ton of Genie+ reservations at Magic Kingdom on the lowest crowd level days. The caveat is that standby waits are also likely very low at most of those same attractions.

November 22nd – Crowd Level 6

Return time distribution for Magic Kingdom Genie attractions on November 22nd (Crowd Level 6)
  • Genie+ return time distribution at crowd level 6 is not anywhere near as nice as crowd level 1. Shocker. Even with these 17 different attractions for Genie+ users to choose from, every single option is sold out by around 5 pm. Not ideal when the park is open for 5 more hours after that.
  • In this more crowded world, there are four different attractions that see the most demand – Jungle Cruise (sells out ~1 pm), Big Thunder Mountain (sells out ~2 pm), Peter Pan’s Flight (sells out ~2:30 pm) and Haunted Mansion (sells out ~3 pm). It’s possible to get and use two or three of these in a day based on the 2 hour rule and them booking out so far in advance, but you couldn’t do all four.
  • Problems really start becoming apparent around 3 pm when the “big 4” have sold out and everyone starts considering other attractions. Most likely, no matter what attraction you pick (unless it’s PhilharMagic), your return time that you get at 3 pm will be more than 2 hours away, which means you don’t get to pick again until 5 pm … when everything is sold out.

December 3rd – Crowd Level 5

Return time distribution for Magic Kingdom Genie attractions on December 3rd (Crowd Level 5)
  • At these sort of mid-level crowd conditions is where savvy strategy can really come into play. Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan still fly above the rest, with Jungle Cruise selling out around noon, followed by Peter Pan at 3 pm.
  • If you book either of those two attractions first thing in the morning, you would be eligible for your second reservation at 10 am (two hours after park opening). At that point, Big Thunder Mountain is booking out two hours in advance, but almost everything else is book now/ride now. It’s a clever move to take advantage of that real-time availability and try to burn a few reservations before things pick up in the middle of the day.
  • By 1 pm, several attractions are booking 1 to 2 hours in advance, but Mad Tea Party, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor stay close to book now/ride now.
  • Splash Mountain sees a very interesting distribution curve throughout the day, hovering around book now/ride now (I’ve written that so many times … should’ve just abbreviated it to BNRN–lesson learned) until 2 pm where it starts rocketing out to 3 hours in advance. Keep that in mind if you’re wanting to ride.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. Under most conditions, you are going to have to choose between Slinky Dog Dash and Millennium Falcon for Genie+ access at Hollywood Studios. On the very lowest crowd days you may be able to do both, but otherwise you will have to get lucky with a hard-to-find early morning Slinky Dog return time followed by an immediate booking for Millennium Falcon while you’re in line.
  2. At Magic Kingdom, Jungle Cruise is in the highest demand. This makes sense – it regularly sees the longest standby waits of any Genie+ attraction in that park. It’s definitely worth booking, but will book out pretty far in advance.
  3. Splash Mountain’s popularity depends a lot on temperature and weather. So if that’s important to you, do a little advance planning, look at when the sun is supposed to pop out and warm things up for the day, and book your return time before that happens and demand skyrockets.
  4. If you’re using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom on a crowded day, start being really picky about which reservations you pick up around 1 and 3 pm. Those might very well be your last two selections of the day, so make them align to what you really want to do and what will save you time.
  5. If you’re using Genie+ at Hollywood Studios on a crowded day, you’ll likely only be able to use Genie+ to skip standby at two attractions from the (Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, Alien Swirling Saucers) group, so plan in advance for which two you want to aim for.

Did you use Genie+ during Thanksgiving week and run into issues with low availability of return times? Which choices would you make when you run into these situations where you have to decide between a few attractions, knowing that they tend to sell out around the same time? Let us 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

20 thoughts on “How Do Genie+ Return Times Shift Throughout the Day? Part 2

  • hey good work here thank you, consider doing a different graph, if you do a histogram with ‘time’ on the x axis and (‘return time’ – ‘time’) on the you axis and label the ‘wait time’ it will be a litter more interpretable! this way you can directly calculate the time to get in line based on what time you request a ride! since you have so many rides you dont want overlapping bars so dots would be perfectly good

  • Just did HS on 12/31, crowd level 9, using rope drop, Lines App, and G+. Went better than I thought given that RotR was our first ride and was down, requiring me to re-optimize everything. This article was very helpful as it gave me a good idea of what to expect and to plan accordingly.

    Here’s how the G+ day went:

    7am – won the lottery and got SDD at a 10am return – saved 90 mins
    9:30 – TSZm at 12:30 – saved 55 minutes
    11:30 – ToT at 6:30 – saved 50 minutes
    1:30 – Mickey/Minnie at 10:20 – 45 minutes
    3:30 – Star Tours at 3:45 – no savings, was a walk-on
    Didn’t try for Smugglers Run as we did it at rope drop in lieu of RotR

    So overall about 4 hours saved on a busy day. Sample size of one but I think that the combination of early hours rope drop, Lines optimization, fast walking, and Genie plus is a good strategy on a busy day.

    • Edit: TSZm = TSM Toy Story Mania. Fat fingered due to Fuzzy Tauntaun at Olga’s…….

  • Awesome data and analysis 🙂

    We’re going at the end of Feb into March, and it looks like we’ll have 7/10 days in HS and MK, even trying to structure things efficiently. My current plan seems to be a pretty good one based on this data. We nap in the afternoons, and park hop, so once return times start getting into the afternoon, we’ll just have to grab an evening time when they pop up and see how many we can collect during the day. We seem to have good pairs too: AK AM, HS PM, and Epcot AM, HS PM, plus a full day at MK. So that should work. Seems like a string of BNRN likely won’t be a thing for us, unless crowds end up being lower than expected.

  • First off – thanks for the data, always helpful. I asked this in a previous genie+ post, as a family that park hops every day….does genie + even make sense? We will be going during the first week of April next year (so expected 2-6 crowd level days). Do we get it and simply start booking our evening/after nap park or should we just save the $68/day ($544 for the whole trip). Your help is greatly appreciated.

    • Hey Josh! Apologies if that comment was on one of my posts – I must have missed it.
      It’s hard to predict what “revenge travel” is going to make the Spring look like. If crowd levels stay in the low-to-moderate range, I highly doubt that you’ll need (or want) Genie+ for the length of your trip. If you don’t mind waking up a little early on a couple of days where Genie+ would actually be helpful, I’d say to not pay the $544. Instead, perhaps purchase just for the days where you’ll be visiting Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios as your second park, and to begin booking Genie+ reservations for those second parks starting at 7 am to have a bunch stacked and ready to use when you enter the park.

      • Thanks – that was my thought reading all the data, but wanted a fellow nerd confirmation. Thanks again and keep up the great work.

  • So back when Genie+ was starting, you made a post about reservation time ‘refills’ for rides. In that post, it appeared that Disney would release a few more ride reservation times roughly every ten minutes (7am, 7:10ish, etc). Does your data still show this?

  • I was at WDW during the week of Thanksgiving and at MK on the 22nd. It was awful! It was my first time using Genie+ and I was not impressed. Looking at your data, from my experience that day, it was spot on. It’s the only time rope drop failed us, too. We were back on Thanksgiving day and had a splendid day–choices were much better. But also got lucky with some “free lightning lane” returns after our G+LL was “cancelled” bc of the ride being down etc. I also struggled to optimize the T.Plan on the Lines app (bc it was still having me wait long times and criss-cross the park despite trying to limit walking). I found it easiest to look at the Lines list of attractions and see what was close that said ride now.

  • “Strap in folks. Prepare yourselves for many, many little colorful dots. It’s gonna be awesome.”

    Made me laugh too much. I wanted to share it with someone, but there was no one around nerdy enough to appreciate it.

    Thanks for the work and the write up

    • Oh, DC – you need more nerdy friends, coworkers and family! I’m glad someone appreciates my nerdy pseudo-humor 🙂

  • I did a Google search for this exact data (I knew some ‘geek’ out there would have it) and it was very informative. I need to search more but I was intending to use this data for park hopping strategy. Although I plan to resort guest rope drop all of the parks, I also intend to park hop. I was hoping to stack up LL for a non-Galaxy’s Edge afternoon/evening at HS. Our main goal will be Slinky Dog as we have yet to ride that at WDW (the Slinky Dog at DLP was pretty boring). Then anything else we can book, but Toy Story Mania will probably be #2 priority. Then we will go with the flow. We will be there from Dec 22-28.

    • Proud ‘geek’ here 🙂
      I don’t know if you already have your park order set, but if you’re aiming to hop to HS for an afternoon, I’d recommend starting at a park that doesn’t require Genie (as much) like Animal Kingdom or EPCOT that day. Probably preferably Animal Kingdom. To get Slinky, especially on the week of Christmas, you’re going to have to have a quick clicking finger and probably some luck. Make sure you buy Genie about 10 minutes before 7 am (if you don’t have it for the length of the trip), and then be ready to go right at 7 am. Hover over Slinky and try to grab a reservation as quick as possible.
      Given that it’s Christmas week and you’ll be abiding by the 2-hour rule, you may only have the chance to reserve 1 or 2 other rides before everything sells out for the day. Sounds like you already have your strategy in mind for that, so that’s great!

  • Hi Becky,

    Can I just say how much I love scatter graphs. (I know – unpopular decision.)

    It’s odd how, for some of the attractions, Genie+ reservations just…stop.

    On 22 November PhilHarmagic and Laugh Floor reservations become unavailable way before the end of the park’s operating hours. I’m assuming neither of them closed early.

    How did all of this compare with FastPass+? Was it impossible, on a crowd level 6 day, to get a FastPass in MK at 5 p.m., even on the minor attractions?


    • Sometimes the problem just calls for a good scatter, right?
      And good catch on PhilHarmagic. It’s actually behaving really oddly, consistently. When it hits 5 pm for return times, it almost always just stops and doesn’t give out any more return times. But then, occasionally instead of stopping it just jumps to 9 pm and gives out 9 pm or 9:15 pm return times for the rest of the day until it decides it’s really done.

  • I LOVE the work you guys do!

    I spent about 15 years doing Operations Research (Stochastic Simulation and Queuing theory) followed by 15 years doing Business Intelligence, and I really appreciate your data-based approach. I used to use The Unofficial Guide as an example of real world value when discussing the practical use of OR (and I now tell my friends to buy Lines).

    I am looking forward to see how this years Lines planning pans out when we go for our first time in crowd level 9-10 days at the end of the month. Based on what your data is uncovering, I’m not sure whether G+ will be of much value during high crowd levels and park hopping. We may just stick with an optimized RD strategy along with buying a “fancy ride” or two.

  • MK crowd 10 day? I’m going Jan 2nd. Will Lines be updated by then?

  • Love it! Thanks for more stats with Becky!!!!

  • This sort of data collection and analysis may not be the coolest thing ever, but it’s so very much appreciated! This is all very helpful information.

    • It’s _not_ the coolest thing ever?!
      Just kidding. Thanks for the appreciative note!


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