How I maxed out Disneyland’s Genie+ and rode 26 attractions in a single day

Dec 15, 2021

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No one likes to stand in long lines for rides at a theme park. But until last week, Disneyland guests often had no choice. FastPass and MaxPass, Disneyland’s cut-the-line offerings, had been suspended since the park’s pandemic closure in March 2020. That all changed on Dec. 8 with the launch of Disneyland’s paid FastPass successor: Disney Genie+.

Disney Genie+ (along with a related service, individual Lightning Lane) offers a way for Disneyland guests to cut the lines at many of their favorite attractions. It of course comes at a cost. As someone who has made it my mission never to stand in lines at Disneyland, this was the moment I had been waiting for. I flew to Anaheim for a quick trip during the opening week of the new Genie+ to put it through the paces. Would Disney Genie+ be worth the upcharge? Could I still ride as much as I used to be able to with FastPass and MaxPass? Would it work differently than Walt Disney World’s version of Genie+ that debuted earlier in October?

In order to test out the service fully, I decided I would attempt to ride all 19 attractions on Disney Genie+ in both Disneyland parks in a single day. Just to keep it interesting, I also tried to make time for other offerings that a regular Disneyland guest wouldn’t want to miss.

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Disney Genie+ basics and rules

(Image courtesy of Disney)

Every theme park’s cut-the-line services work a little differently, so just what is Disney Genie+ and how does it work at Disneyland?

Disneyland guests can use Genie+ on a smartphone in the Disneyland app on the day of their park visit. It works by allowing them to reserve return times for many popular attractions. The return times are hourlong windows, usually with an unpublished grace period of five minutes early and 15 minutes late to redeem. When the window opens and it’s time to ride, guests can access the attraction via the “Lightning Lane.” The Lightning Lane is just a rebranding of the FastPass queue. There, waits are much shorter, usually about five to 15 minutes long. Guests are limited to riding each attraction on the Genie+ system just once in a single day. No taking repeat rides on Space Mountain!

Genie+ is a feature available for purchase for $20 per person per day. At Disneyland, guests can only start to use Genie+ once they have scanned their ticket to enter one of the parks each morning. While new tickets are now sold with a Genie+ add-on offered, the vast majority of guests still have older tickets that require daily purchase in the Disneyland app.

Related: Complete guide to Disneyland ticket types

Since it’s integrated into the Disneyland app, Genie+ is subject to the usual challenges that can and do happen with Disney technology. On the first day it was offered, the app crashed for the better part of the day. It has been functioning more reliably ever since, but just know that tech hiccups are always possible.

Guests can make a new Genie+ ride booking at least every 120 minutes. But it’s possible to make ride bookings much more quickly when there are return windows available to book less than 120 minutes later. As soon as a guest taps their phone or ticket at the Lightning Lane entrance to redeem a Genie+ booking, they are eligible to book a new ride.

Here’s an example to demonstrate how this works in practice:

  • 8 a.m.: Guest enters Disneyland park, purchases Genie+ and books a return window for Space Mountain of 8:05-9:05 a.m.
  • 8:10 a.m.: Guest taps into the Lightning Lane of Space Mountain, immediately books Matterhorn Bobsleds for a return window of 8:15-9:15 a.m.
  • 8:30 a.m.: Guest finishes riding Space Mountain and taps into the Lightning Lane of Matterhorn Bobsleds. Guest immediately books a return window for “it’s a small world” of 8:45-9:45 a.m.

As you can see, it’s possible to move through a number of attractions very quickly as long as the return times that Genie+ serves up are fairly immediate and the guest redeems them right away. If and when return time windows offered are many hours later, then the 120-minute rule comes into play.

Screenshots showing booking and redeeming with Genie+ for Haunted Mansion Holiday. (Screeshot courtesy of Disney)

Other Disney Genie-related services

It’s important to note that Disney Genie+ is just one of several new products that launched on Dec. 8 at Disneyland.

There are also three popular rides (Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disneyland park and Radiator Springs Racers and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure in Disney California Adventure park) that are not offered on the Disney Genie+ system. These rides also have Lightning Lanes. But to access them, guests must pay a separate per-person, per-ride fee of between $7 and $20.

There is also a free service, Disney Genie (no plus). It guides guests through regular standby lines only, (theoretically) suggesting the best times to ride attractions guests preselect. So far, Disney Genie is shaping up to be a pretty poor planner for guests looking to optimize their Disneyland day, just as it has been at Walt Disney World so far.

As you might imagine, these names are causing a lot of confusion among Disney visitors. The similar names of Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ cause mix-ups. And it certainly doesn’t help that there are two different types of Lightning Lanes: ones accessed by Genie+ and ones offered for individual sale.

Thankfully, my goal was only to test out Disney Genie+, so you can forget all these other Genies and Lightning Lanes (for now).

The challenge: Maxing out Disneyland’s Genie+ in one day

Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane Entrance Grizzly River Run at Disneyland
(Photo courtesy of Disney)

So now let’s turn to the fun part: the ultimate test where I tried to ride all 19 attractions available on Genie+ in both Disneyland parks in a single day. Armed with my Park Hopper ticket, I set out for the resort on Friday, Dec. 10.

This kind of challenge is ultimately artificial and not really how a regular guest would necessarily want to experience the parks. The point of doing it though wasn’t just for bragging rights. My goal was to test out Genie+ as much and as quickly as possible and to get a feel for how it works and its chokepoints all over the resort. I was also just curious to see how much could really be done for guests wanting to maximize their $20.

The rules were simple — ride every ride that offered Lightning Lane on the Genie+ system in both parks. Ideally, my plan was to use Genie+ to book a Lightning Lane return time to ride for every attraction, but there was one occasion I allowed myself to ride an attraction via standby line when there was zero wait for it. This is of course how regular guests would use Genie+, as they wouldn’t waste time booking a Lightning Lane reservation for a ride when it wasn’t needed. I did not permit myself to use single-rider lines for any attractions that offered them, as the point was to use Genie+ like a regular family would.

What I rode with Disney Genie+ (and beyond!)

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. I did it! Not only was I easily able to ride all 19 Genie+ attractions in a single day, I actually was able to accomplish a lot more than that.

In addition to riding all 19 Genie+ attractions, I also made time to watch the holiday fireworks, see the Christmas parade, eat a leisurely table service dinner, snap a few distanced character selfies and meet a friend for an afternoon drink. Furthermore, I rode 6 additional rides that aren’t part of the Genie+ system, as well as one ride that offers paid individual Lightning Lane, Radiator Springs Racers. If you’re keeping count, that’s 26 total rides.

I did all of this and was still able to leave the parks by 10 p.m., which was two hours before Disneyland park closed for the night. I logged just over 30,000 steps in this endeavor, but I did it at a pace that my competitive and ride-loving 12-year-old could certainly have done with me. (If you want to see my day in action step-by-step, I documented each ride and activity in my Instagram stories.)

To be sure, I was helped by somewhat low crowds and by the fact that many guests simply aren’t yet buying Genie+ because they don’t know about it. I can’t promise identical results for all future Disneyland visitors.

What I was able to determine from this experiment, however, is that Genie+ shows much promise at Disneyland. Even on a day with more guests using the system, I think most visitors will be able to accomplish a lot and skip multiple long waits.

In fact, I tried Genie+ again on the following day after the challenge. This was a busy Saturday during the popular Disneyland holidays period. The most reliable site for tracking how busy Disney parks are, Touring Plans, rated the crowds on Saturday as 7/10. The system continued to work well for me even then, with most attractions continuing to offer return windows that were reasonably soon that would have permitted quickly jumping from ride to ride.

How Does Disneyland’s Genie+ Compare to Walt Disney World?

If you’ve been following the Walt Disney World news, you’ll know that Genie+ is working quite differently there. With fewer attractions available on the system in several parks, it has strained more under the weight of guest demand. This was particularly true during the recent high-crowd Thanksgiving week in a park like Hollywood Studios. The result is that some Genie+ attractions at Walt Disney World like Slinky Dog Dash “sell out” in minutes — for the entire day! Many other rides quickly have their available return windows pushed until much later in the day.

Related: Is Disney’s new paid FastPass, Genie+, worth it?

This was nothing like my experience at Disneyland. The return time windows that Disneyland’s Genie+ offered me for most rides all morning long were nearly instantaneous. Nothing sold out until very late in the day on either day I tested the system. The stress test for Genie+ at Disneyland will surely be the busy week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and we’ll be watching.

The bottom line though is that Genie+ is a very different beast at Disneyland than it is at Walt Disney World. It seems reasonable to hope for a better long-term prognosis, with it operating much more like MaxPass did. With MaxPass, a couple of headliner attractions booked more quickly, pushing some return times until later in the day, but other rides were more immediately available all the time. A smart Disneyland strategy with Genie+, even on a busy day, should still enable guests easily to experience a dozen or more attractions overall if they so desire.

Essential tips

Matterhorn Lightning Lane Disneyland
(Photo by Leslie Harvey for The Points Guy)

So after putting the system to the test for two long park days, I picked up quite a few tips for maximizing Genie+. Here’s how fellow ride junkies can get the most out of a Genie+ purchase too.

1. Use Genie+ in combination with other strategies

You can get a lot done with just Genie+, but Genie+ is still best used in combination with other line-avoidance methods to maximize your day. Because guests can’t start booking rides with Genie+ until they’ve entered a park for the morning, early birds still get the worm.

Guests who attend the morning rope drop can also take advantage of short lines for non-Genie+ attractions. Disneyland — unlike Disney World — has quite a few of these attractions! In Disneyland, these include many kid-friendly ones in Fantasyland and a few classics like Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. Over in Disney California Adventure, some of the non-Genie+ offerings can be found along Pixar Pier and in Cars Land.

In fact, my morning strategy starting at 8 a.m. was not even to redeem a Genie+ booking right away. Instead, I used the first hour of my day when standby lines are short to hit a number of attractions that don’t offer Genie+. Within the span of less than an hour, I rode Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Fantasyland before hopping aboard Jungle Cruise. It was only at 9:06 a.m. that I tapped into my first Lightning Lane at Indiana Jones Adventure.

2. Genie+ is most flexible in the mornings — go hard early

After that first hour when standby lines are best, mornings are otherwise the time to use Genie+ heavily. Because return times are still fairly instantaneous on regular and low-crowd days, it’s possible to move through a number of attractions very quickly. Quickly book, tap and book again, moving from ride to ride in a way that makes rough geographic sense if possible to minimize extra walking.

Lightning Lane tap point Disneyland
Tap point at a Disneyland Lightning Lane entrance. For now, Disneyland guests use their ticket or smartphone, but in 2022, MagicBand+ will come to Disneyland and can also be used. (Photo by Leslie Harvey for The Points Guy)

I used this strategy midmorning in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland on my challenge day. I started with Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, tapping in for a 10-11 a.m. reservation at 10:23 a.m. I immediately booked and redeemed Star Tours — The Adventures Continue next. From Star Tours, I went to Space Mountain, then to Autopia, next to Matterhorn, and finally to “it’s a small world” Holiday and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, finishing all of these attractions by 12:45 p.m.

The key is to remember to book a new reservation as soon as you tap into the Lightning Lane scanners. Disneyland’s Wi-Fi and cellphone reception are notoriously unreliable in places, so you need to have made your next booking before you enter a ride building where you may lose service.

3. Know when certain attractions “sell out” and prioritize accordingly

One of the keys in making efficient use of Genie+ is to understand varying demand for different rides. Some rides will be instantaneously available all day. Others will be in high demand and will begin to offer later and later return times as the day goes on as guest demand exceeds supply. And at some point, those rides will run out of Genie+ return windows for the day.

If you leave Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! for the last hour of your evening in California Adventure, it will almost assuredly be gone. In fact, if you wait to book it until late afternoon, you may well not get a return time for several hours later. Instead, prioritize this ride midmorning when you can get a sooner reservation window.

(Photo by Leslie Harvey for The Points Guy)

As someone who visits Disneyland regularly, I have the advantage of knowing what’s popular and when. But you don’t just have to go with your gut or past experience. The site Thrill-Data tracks the day-to-day wait times at Disneyland, and now also offers a daily “Lightning Lane Availability Map” where you can see (in all of its color-coded glory!) just how quickly Genie+ bookings run out each day.

Right now, almost no rides run out, but that will surely change as Genie+ becomes more popular and on high-crowd days. So far, I think it’s safe to expect thrill rides like Guardians of the Galaxy or Indiana Jones to be in higher demand. Seasonal offerings like Haunted Mansion Holiday and “it’s a small world” Holiday are popular right now as well.

4. Combine Genie+ with park-hopping for maximum value

There are 19 attractions on Genie+ at the Disneyland Resort, but they aren’t divided equally between the two parks. Disneyland park is home to 12 of them, while Disney California Adventure has just seven. It’s entirely possible for someone prioritizing rides to run out of Genie+ attractions in a single day, particularly if limited to just one park because repeating Genie+ attractions using the Lightning Lane isn’t permitted.

This is particularly true if you don’t have interest in every attraction on the Genie+ system. For example, not everyone may wish to get soaked on Splash Mountain in December (like I did for the sake of this challenge). Many families may have kids who are not yet tall enough or ready to ride every thrill ride on the Genie+ system.

You can therefore get the most for your money by park-hopping. Of course, because Park Hopper tickets cost $60 extra (regardless of the number of ticket days you purchase), the extra costs do keep adding up!

Park-hopping is permitted at Disneyland starting at 1 p.m., but you can start making bookings for the other park before that time. Genie+ automatically adjusts your reservation for the other park to a time that is 1 p.m. or later.

5. Take advantage of ride breakdowns — they have a silver lining!

Ride breakdowns are usually disappointing because they can interrupt a day’s optimal touring plan. But with Genie+, they have a real silver lining. When a ride goes down during your booking window, Disney Genie+ automatically turns the reservations into a Multiple Experiences pass. Genie+ also lets guests make an additional Genie+ booking immediately upon this pass being issued.

These Multiple Experience passes can add so much flexibility if you are lucky enough to snag one or more. They can be used anytime until park closing and are valid in both parks at Disneyland if you have a Park Hopper ticket. They are subject to some ride blackouts depending on what the original attraction was that you booked. Save these passes to ride the attraction when it is operating again or to use them to ride something else you love more, including doubling up on a ride you already experienced with Genie+ that day.

Bottom line

Genie+ at Disneyland has finally brought back more options at Disneyland for guests who like rides. While Disneyland superfans may quibble that it isn’t as good or as flexible as MaxPass (I agree), it’s still a pretty potent offering that shows a lot of promise. For $20, it’s a solid value for guests who want to minimize their waits and ride a lot of rides on a Disneyland day.

Featured photo by Leslie Harvey for The Points Guy.

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