This report walks you through my step-by-step day using Walt Disney World’s new Genie+ service in Hollywood Studios. It features Lightning Lane selections & return times, ride reservation screenshots, what I accomplished with paid FastPass, and thoughts at the end about whether Genie+ is worth the money at DHS.
As quick background for those who are unfamiliar with it, Walt Disney World’s new Genie+ line-skipping service is the permanent replacement to free FastPass+ for select attractions in each park. Genie+ costs $16 per person per day, excludes two of the most popular rides per park, and is similar to MaxPass at Disneyland–it’s a basically a digital version of the paper FastPass system from the “old days.” For more info and answers to common questions, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ. Additional posts are coming soon with strategy, ride recommendations & priorities, and more.
One thing I want to note up front is that this is my day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios using Genie+. It’s not a recommended itinerary, Genie+ touring plan, or universally-applicable day that we’d suggest replicating. Simply what I did over the course of testing Genie+ in DHS. In response to reader complaints about walking, I’m going to include alternatives to my ride reservation selections, which should help illustrate that there’s no one single “right” way to use Genie+ at DHS.
There’s also not going to be a “without” Genie+ counterpart to this article. There are several reasons for that, one of which is that I’m not sure how valuable that would be for planning purposes. As has been pointed out, my Magic Kingdom day not using Genie+ is impractical to most families.
If you’re trying to accomplish just as much in a day without Genie+, an aggressive approach and savvy strategy are sort of required. There’s no magical formula to sleeping in, rolling up to the park a couple hours after rope drop, not buying Genie+, enjoying the park in a leisurely way, and accomplishing everything. Compromises are going to be necessary–just as has always been the case.
With that said, I did a lot of standby during this day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Genie+ and we have spent a lot of time in the park over the last year finding ways to beat the crowds. It’s been something of a moving target with changes to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, but I’m confident a lot of strategy is still workable to do DHS efficiently without hour-plus waits for everything. We need another weekend day to test that, but stayed tuned for more on DHS strategy.
Anyway, let’s move along to my day using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…
Let’s start at 6:50 am, which is when my alarm went off. I bought Genie+ in the My Disney Experience app, went to the virtual queue feature for some reason (old habits die hard–and it was early!), and browsed around in Genie to see if anything had changed.
At 7:00:00 am, I refreshed the Tip Board. It automatically scrolled down to Slinky Dog Dash–but for some reason the page readjusted right as I clicked, leading me to select Star Tours by mistake. I fumbled back to the previous page, scrolled back to Slinky Dog Dash, and selected it.
When all was said and done, my confirmed Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane ride reservation was for 10:45 am to 11:45 am.
This was a significant setback–I would’ve had 9:05 am but for the fumble–but is an error that anyone could make. If anything, my screw-up here probably makes this day more realistic!
It’s also worth noting that Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane reservations via Genie+ went fast.
Two screenshots above, you’ll see a return time of 12:50 pm right at 7 am (that’s from about 30 seconds after I confirmed my 10:45 am ride reservation). By 7:18 am, it’s already at 6:05 pm.
However, the times bounce around a bit. This happened with MaxPass at Disneyland, and was driven by cancellations reentering the inventory. I’m not sure whether that’s the case here, or it’s just early hiccups with the system.
The only other attraction that moved quickly was Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Even by 8 am, everything else still had Lightning Lane return times in the 9 am hour.
We’ve received a lot of questions asking whether we’re having better success with Genie+ return times as parties of one. That should not be the case, except when there are ride reservation cancellations. (Neither of us have successfully booked one of those, for what it’s worth.)
When it comes to initial availability, this should work just like FastPass, FastPass+ or MaxPass. The system is simply allocating X riders per hour to the Lightning Lane entrance, and distributing for those windows until they’re gone. It is not like Advance Dining Reservations where availability is allocated by table/ride vehicle size. That would be impossible given the one-hour return windows.
To that point, Slinky Dog Dash didn’t run out of Lightning Lane ride reservations until around 10:30 am.
I personally would not sleep in until 10:30 am on my DHS day, but the point is that you could’ve done exactly that and still made ride reservations for every single attraction via Genie+. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run was the next attraction to run out of availability, and that didn’t happen until mid-afternoon. Everything else had availability well into the evening.
Fast-forward to my arrival to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Actually, fast-forward past that as I took the Skyliner over from Caribbean Beach Resort for Early Theme Park Entry, which will be covered in a separate report. Instead, we’ll pick up my morning post-rope drop at 9:26 am when I got in the standby line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster had a 25 minute posted wait time as I entered the queue, but it jumped to 45 minutes shortly thereafter. My actual wait was 29 minutes.
As we’ve noted repeatedly in park reports and strategy guides, wait times peak early at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
I could’ve queued up for Tower of Terror at this point, but its overflow queue was already in use and that 40 minute posted wait time was probably accurate. Instead, I took a leisurely stroll over to Walt Disney Presents and perused that for about 25 minutes.
A good alternative to this for those looking to “accomplish” something would’ve been Alien Swirling Saucers, which probably would’ve taken less than 30 minutes from start to finish despite the 35 minute posted wait.
That would’ve also put me in the neighborhood of Slinky Dog Dash when my Lightning Lane window opened for that.
As Sarah noted in her day using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom, you can tap into Lightning Lane reservations 5 minutes early.
I did exactly that, entering the Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane at 10:40 am.
At this point, I had my first Genie+ dilemma of the day: book Smugglers Run as my next Lightning Lane reservation and wait 120 minutes before making another, or go for something with a quicker return time.
I chose Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. This isn’t what I personally wanted to do, but I thought it was the better move “for the sake of research.” (Walt Disney World research is a double-edged sword that sometimes allows me to justify ordering steaks the size of my head, and other times “forces” me to pilot the Millennium Falcon. It’s tough work!) Regardless, I started second-guessing that almost immediately.
There were options at other DHS headliners in the 11 am and noon hours, and that would make for a far more pleasant experience. Whether to cancel and change my selection was a tough decision.
In the meantime, it was time for Slinky Dog Dash (my total Lightning Lane wait was 4 minutes).
I figured the average guest wouldn’t want to spend the entire middle of the day doing standby lines at DHS, so I opted to cancel my Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride reservation and book something else. My pick was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
For those who want to minimize walking, Toy Story Mania was also available starting at 11:40 am. At this point, I could’ve Mobile Ordered something at Woody’s Lunch Box, done TSM immediately after that, and been finished with Toy Story Land for the day. DHS is the smallest park at Walt Disney World, and it’s also the easiest to do in bite-sized chunks.
Instead, I headed over to ABC Commissary to grab something to eat while waiting out my Tower of Terror Lightning Lane. While browsing My Disney Experience, I also scored an ADR for us later in the afternoon at the Hollywood Brown Derby.
There’s a lot of new food that we “need” to review at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but some might say it’s just as important to do quality control on the Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich that I order all the time. Perhaps even more important! (You can read all about the new-ish options in our latest ABC Commissary Review.)
Since I was in the neighborhood, I headed over to MuppetVision 3D and did that via the standby line.
No wait and the show started about 7 minutes after I entered, which was actually a disappointment since that meant missing most of the pre-show. MuppetVision finished at 11:49 am, at which point I walked slowly over to Tower of Terror.
I tapped into my Tower of Terror ride reservation at 12:10 pm. I had no wait whatsoever aside from walking through the Lightning Lane, but the standby queue was still backed up into Sunset Boulevard and was posting a 55 minute wait.
After tapping in, I made my next Lightning Lane ride reservation–Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. (My window ended up being later than what’s pictured above because I briefly lost service while in Tower of Terror’s boiler room and had to finish the process upon exiting.)
With a lot of time to kill, I wandered around Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards after that, taking photos and checking out shops. I also caught one of the character cavalcades and cooled off in Mickey Shorts Theater with a viewing of “Vacation Fun.”
I could’ve easily just stayed on Sunset Boulevard, gotten some ice cream or another snack, and arrived early to grab a seat at my next stop. There are constant showings of “Vacation Fun,” and it could’ve easily been slotted into this day elsewhere.
Following that, I wandered back over to Sunset Boulevard and watched the 1 pm showing of Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage.
This was basically for lack of better options. No offense to this production, but I’ve been saying that this has needed a refresh for years–and the awkward physical distancing modifications are not exactly what I had in mind for that.
From there, I bounced to the other side of Disney’s Hollywood Studios to do Star Tours: the Adventures Continue via the standby line. It was posting a 20 minute wait, but ended up being 7 minutes in actuality.
I actually enjoy walking, so I didn’t think anything of the distance between the two. With that said, Star Tours was pretty much a walk-on from this point forward, so you could slot it into a DHS itinerary wherever. There’s no strategic significance to me doing it here.
The next step was my biggest misstep of the day: Toy Story Mania, which had been posting high wait times throughout the morning. Given its high capacity, I assumed they were exaggerated. Plus, it was 2 pm–officially park hopping time. I figured that meant an exodus of guests leaving Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as is often the case.
I was thus willing to bet on Toy Story Mania’s 45 minute posted wait being significantly inflated. It was not. I waited 65 minutes in an excruciatingly slow-moving standby line, watching as a steady stream of Genie+ guests flowed through in the Lightning Lane. I honestly don’t remember the last time I’ve waited that long for any attraction–probably Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance during a ride breakdown early last year.
This reiterated an important lesson: it’s impossible to gauge waits by looking at lines. Over the last year-plus, I’ve become adept at eyeballing a line and guessing its actual wait time, usually within 5 minutes. This has been incredibly valuable with posted waits being inflated so often. Genie+ and Lightning Lanes threw that out the window, since those guests aren’t standing in line and it’s impossible to know how many ride reservations have been distributed and will return within a given time frame.
This is really nothing new–it was the same way with FastPass+ in the BC (before closure) times. Just a word of warning to other regulars in the last year who have become accustomed to looking at lines and “knowing” wait times based on those. You can’t do that anymore, again.
Anyway, I was late to our late lunch at the Hollywood Brown Derby as a result. We were still seated pretty quickly, and lucked out on getting a booth. This was a welcome relief, and a nice chance to decompress with good food and abundant air-conditioning.
We make this recommendation elsewhere, but if you’re doing a full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, consider two table service meals. Maybe the first seating at 50’s Prime Time Café, when everyone in your party is still in the spirit for shenanigans. Then a late afternoon lunch at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, when you’re all wanting a dark respite from the sun and heat. Strategically, eating both meals early is ideal.
While we were finishing up our meal at Brown Derby, I was able to make another Lightning Lane selection via Genie+, leaving me with the above ride reservations all stacked for my evening.
There has been some confusion as to whether you can stack or overlap with Genie+ and this should answer that. In short, the only timing that matters is when you’re able to make the selections–either after 120 minutes or upon tapping into your previous ride reservation, whichever is earlier. The return times don’t matter at all–just like paper FastPass.
After Brown Derby, we played around with the PhotoPass AR filters that are included with Genie+ for a bit longer.
The joke I want to make here is probably inappropriate for a family-friendly blog (although I’m not sure why any children would want to read this), but any fan of Arrested Development will instantly know it.
At this point, it was time to use my stockpile of Genie+ ride reservations.
Starting at 5:20 pm, I knocked out Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (50 minute posted wait), Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (40 minute posted wait), and Toy Story Mania (45 minute posted wait), exiting the last of those at 6:49 pm. I also spent a ton of time enjoying early evening in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run definitely had its wait time inflated by a healthy amount, but the other two appeared fairly accurate. (Again, noting that it’s now tough to judge–but they had long lines in standby and constant flow in the Lightning Lanes. Smugglers Run had neither of those things.)
You cannot re-ride attractions with Genie+ and I was out of options in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so I started making Lightning Lane ride reservations in other parks.
I managed to book Soarin’ Around the World, Jungle Cruise, and Splash Mountain towards the end of the night. (All of which I ended up cancelling to free up for others when we opted not to Park Hop.) I could’ve had really good options in another park, but we opted to stick around DHS to continue researching by re-riding via standby.
This Walt Disney World park report with Genie+ is already over 3,000 words–and I fear it’s going to be overwhelming if I keep going with our evening after that and go off-topic with standby strategy.
I’ll just say that our evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was just getting started at 7 pm with no Genie+ reservations left on the board and 120 minutes left on the clock. As a teaser, I did every major ride *via standby* during this day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That includes Star Wars: Rise of Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, twice each.
It was a long day from before park opening until park closing, but you saw most of it–not like I overexerted myself trying to cram in as much as possible!
Instead, we’ll turn to some additional commentary. Included with Genie+ is audio tours, one of which at DHS covers “California Crazy.” I’m a huge sucker for that architecture (see our Disney Details: Dinosaur Gertie at Hollywood Studios) and we’ve stopped at plenty of real roadside designs, including the Cabazon Dinosaurs outside of Palm Springs.
As such, I really wanted to give the “California Crazy” audio tour a listen. However, you can’t without keeping the screen on–a pretty significant and unnecessary flaw–that makes the audio tours a big battery drain. The PhotoPass AR filters and the My Disney Experience app itself already do plenty to deplete your phone, to the point where an external charger is almost necessary for a full day in the park. (See our Unique Packing List for Walt Disney World for recommendations.)
This is just one of many perplexing UI issues with Genie+ and Genie. I’m going to refrain from enumerating those here as they are not unique to DHS (and Disney is already starting to fix some of these), but will do a separate post in about a week or so with whatever problems still remain.
With that said, I do want to push back a bit on the complaints that you’re forced to spend all day looking at your phone with Genie+ or Lightning Lanes. If you previously only ever booked 3 FastPass+ reservations before your trip to Walt Disney World, sure, Genie+ means more screen time on vacation.
If you had a strong refresh game day-of trying to score fourth FastPass+ reservations (and beyond), this is literally no different than that. You can be on your phone for ~60 seconds once every 120 minutes or immediately after returning to a Lightning Lane. It’s really not that much for ordinary guests.
It may not seem that way while reading this, but you’re seeing a ‘peek behind the curtain’ at what my day entails while testing this stuff. This is another instance of my experience not being comparable to yours–I’m constantly checking the app for the sake of research and putting together plans. Just as during a normal, pre-Genie day I’d be obsessively checking wait times.
Beyond that, this all makes way less sense when viewing screenshots in isolation and not actually navigating through the Genie features in the My Disney Experience app. Some of the user interface is clumsy, confusing, and cumbersome–there’s no denying that Genie would’ve benefited from a few more months of refinement and testing. However, as with anything, Genie+ is much easier to use when you actually use it, rather than just read about it. I’m guessing you wouldn’t learn to ride a bike by reading “Bricker’s Beginner’s Blog to Biking.”
Like my biking blog (coming in 2027!), this is more useful in sharing experiences, “paths” to take–or not take, helping you learn from my mistakes, and so forth. When it comes to this day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Genie+, there are a few key lessons and takeaways.
First, your first Lightning Lane ride reservation should absolutely be Slinky Dog Dash. Get your “fast fingers” strategy ready and try to secure an early return time. Even if you don’t get one, book it anyway–the 120 minute rule is your friend.
Second, go for the “low-hanging fruit” with earlier return times after that. While Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run might be the objectively-best #2 selection, you’re subjectively better off with ride reservations throughout the late morning and early afternoon.
Finally, figure out a plan in advance that fills out your day in DHS or be prepared to Park Hop in the late afternoon. Night is a great time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so our strong recommendation would be to book an ADR or two for midday, especially if you’ve already done the shows and don’t have much interest in repeating them.
Ultimately, I knew going into this that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the park where Genie+ is second-most useful, after Magic Kingdom. My park touring experience definitely benefited from using Lightning Lane ride reservations, especially with Slinky Dog Dash and during the late afternoon. I saved a ton of time over the course of the headliners, making Genie+ easily “worth it” in terms of the time v. money cost calculus.
With that said, Genie+ wasn’t quite as useful at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as I had anticipated. Whereas our strong and unequivocal recommendation is that tourists and families purchase Genie+ at Magic Kingdom, the endorsement here is more qualified. It’s good in tandem with standby if you want to do popular rides multiple times. It’s also great if you plan on being in DHS from late morning through late afternoon.
However, Genie+ is not necessary at DHS. There’s still plenty of room for strategizing and accomplishing everything at Disney’s Hollywood Studios without Genie+ or Lightning Lane ride reservations. For anyone who doesn’t want to re-ride attractions multiple times, that is arguably also the better way to do DHS, as it doesn’t involve spending the full day at the park. Our follow-up posts will focus on those alternative plans of attack, so stay tuned!
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Thoughts on my day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios using the paid Genie+ service? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or sticking to free standby lines at DHS? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!