Skip to Content

Touring plan strategies for Disney World (with and without Genie+)

HomeTouring plan strategies for Disney World (with and without Genie+)
Touring plan strategies for Disney World (with and without Genie+)

Congratulations!

If you are reading this post, that means you are spending some time thinking about how you’ll tour the parks on your Disney World Vacation. The fact is, not everybody knows to do that. But the ones that do put the time in ahead of their trips are rewarded with a much better experience when they are there.

Ready to learn how to tour the parks like an expert?

Let’s dive right into our advice on how to tour Disney World, both with AND without Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.

Park touring strategy graphics

Looking for the graphics to save to your phone?

Jump down to the individual parks.

Magic Kingdom | Epcot | Hollywood Studios | Animal Kingdom

touring plan graphic

Best touring advice for Disney World

Down below, we will go park-by-park on which attractions see the highest waits and give you recommendations for the ways to ride each one, including the time of day and whether or not you should pay to use Genie+ or purchase an Individual Lightning Lane selection for it (when applicable).

But before we do that, we wanted to cover some of the best general advice we can pass along.

tip board epcot

This is the stuff we tell our families and friends when they are visiting.

It’s the advice we’ve been using ourselves for years and years, and even though a lot has changed, these core pieces are still the backbone of putting together a great day in the parks.

Rope drop, break, return

For the absolute best touring at Walt Disney World, we highly recommend you plan to rope drop (which simply means arriving to the park before it opens), then take a break in the middle of the day when the crowds are the thickest and the temps are the highest, and finally that you return in the evening for more rides and/or nighttime entertainment.

Magic Kingdom rope drop

If you do nothing else, just following that pattern will help ensure you’ll have a great day.

Do I really have to wake up early on vacation?

We get it. It isn’t always fun to wake up early on vacation – especially if you have little ones.

But…

If you can get up and out the door before all the people who choose to sleep in make it to the parks, you’ll be ahead of them in all ways.

Trust us.

You’ll be ahead of them in the line for transportation to the park. Ahead of them in line at the park entrance and tapstyles. And, most importantly, ahead of them in lines at the attractions.

bus stop

When you are at the front of the pack, it is much easier to accomplish everything that is on your “must do” list.

Conversely, when you start your day behind, you’ll have to deal with long lines before you even get started having fun.

And all that waiting leads to frustrations and unhappy families, and we bet that is something you’ll want to avoid.

Early Theme Park Entry

Keep in mind that all onsite guests and guests at select offsite resorts will have access to Early Theme Park Entry, which allows you to enter every park, every day, 30 minutes before the official opening time.

Early Theme Park entry

Do not skip these!

30 minutes may not seem like much, but if you can knock out even 1 of the most popular attractions in that 30 minutes, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Do I really have to take a break?

No. Of course not.

You don’t “have” to do anything, but we think you should, and here’s why:

For most months out of the year, central Florida where Disney World is located is h-o-t. And not just REGULAR hot.

It is oppressively hot, with humidity so high it feels like you are walking through air-sludge. So humid that your eyeglasses fog up when you leave an air-conditioned room. So swampy that you’ll immediately want to shower and change your clothes. ALL your clothes.

Now, imagine that level of humidity during the heat of the day.

crowded magic kingdom

Yuck!

And, don’t forget, heat + humidity often means rain, and the most common time for pop up rain showers is the afternoon.

Now, pair the heat and humidity and potential rain with people. Lots, and lots of people. Because the parks are at their busiest during the middle of the day, which also means the lines are typically longest during the middle of the day.

Are you picturing that scenario in your head? The lines and the swampy heat and the crowds and the possible rain?

That’s why we say you should take a break in the early afternoon.

Unless you are on a super-short trip, and you want to pack in the absolute MOST that you can, head back to your resort to cool off during the middle of the day so that you’ll be able to go strong later in the evening and into the night.

If your goal is to take a break AND you want to use Genie+ or purchase Individual Lightning Lane selections, this is something you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re planning your selections. More on that below.

What if I have little ones or teenagers?

We don’t like stereotypes, but speaking from personal experience, there are certain ages when getting up early or staying up late just don’t mix that well.

So, if you’ll be traveling with someone who fits that description, you may have to bribe adjust.

In those instances, it probably isn’t the best idea to wake up early or stay up extra late every day. You know your traveling partners the best.

spaceship earth at night

Just keep in mind that the first and last hours of the day are usually the best for riding attractions with the shortest waits, and the middle of the day is typically the worst.

Extended Evening Theme Park Hours

If you are staying at one of Disney’s Deluxe or Deluxe Villa (DVC) resorts or one of the other eligible offsite resorts, you will have access to Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.

This is a nice perk, but it is typically only available 1 day a week each at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and very rarely at Hollywood Studios.

If you are eligible, we highly recommend you take advantage of it as the lines during this time will be some of the shortest of the entire day, plus, since these happen at the end of the night, the temps for most of the year will be lovely, too.

Putting together a touring plan for Disney World

Ready to get to planning?

Your primary goal will be to identify which attractions in each park garner the longest lines, and then try to do those whenever the lines are shortest (which will typically be at park opening or at the end of the day).

You’ll also need to determine how much extra money you’ll be willing to spend on Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes to minimize your waits.

That sentence sounds kind of scary because Disney World vacations are already expensive. But, before you get too scared, keep reading.

Touring without Genie+ or Lightning Lanes

When used correctly, Genie+ and paying to ride Individual Lightning Lane attractions can definitely make it easier to tour.

But, you don’t have to purchase them if you don’t want to. You can do it old school and just use the Standby Lines only.

If that is your plan, you’ll want to follow the advice above about arriving at Rope Drop. You may also have to consider skipping breaks and, just like the early morning, the end of the day will be important too, so the later you can stay, the more things you’ll be able to accomplish.

Here’s the deal, though:

You don’t HAVE to buy Genie+ for every day of your trip – you can pick and choose. And, you don’t have to pay for every Individual Lightning Lane selection.

Instead, if working with a budget, we recommend you prioritize your selections and pay for Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes only when it makes the most sense.

Do I need Genie+ for every park?

In our opinion, you should definitely consider buying Genie+ for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

If you decide to also purchase Genie+ for Animal Kingdom and Epcot, your days touring there will be easier, but those 2 parks are a bit less tricky to tour without it.

Do I need to purchase every Individual Lightning Lane?

Ideally, it would be nice to buy *all* the things.

But that isn’t realistic advice.

If you don’t want to pay-to-ride the attractions that offer Individual Lightning Lane spots, you’ll typically have the shortest standby waits if you ride them early in the morning or right at the end of the day.

Probably the trickiest of the pay-to-ride attractions to get on without long waits are Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Rise of the Resistance and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.

Out of those 3, only Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind offers a Virtual Queue. In order to ride Cosmic Rewind without paying for an Individual Lightning Lane, you *must* join the Virtual Queue. You can’t just walk-up as there is no “regular” Standby Line.

As you can imagine, since this is a brand-new attraction, spots for both the Virtual Queue and the Lightning Lane passes are very, very competitive. Make sure you check out our guide on how it works so that you can maximize your chances of snagging one:

As for Remy’s and Rise or the Resistance, you’ll have a few more options for riding those. Make sure you check out the guides below for help:

What about Park Hopping?

Park Hopping at Walt Disney World has changed a bit. You used to be able to hop at any time of the day, but as it works now, you can only park hop after 2 pm (technically they usually start letting people in around 1:47 pm, but 2:00 pm is easier to remember).

Even though park hopping is handy, it isn’t always necessary.

Unless you are absolutely certain that you are going to park hop, we recommend holding off adding that feature until you need it.

You can always upgrade a ticket when you arrive to Walt Disney World, but you can’t get your money back on entitlements like Park Hopping if you never use them.

How much should we plan on doing per hour?

When touring, we find that we can typically complete about 2-3 attractions per hour. This allows for plenty of time for restroom and drink breaks.

What about characters?

Characters are slowly coming back, which means you’ll have lots of opportunities to see them.

A few character opportunities even offer Genie+ now.

anna epcot meet and greet

We recommend you set aside some time during the afternoon (before you take a break) when the lines are the longest at the attractions to character hunt.

What about fireworks and parades?

Nighttime entertainment is a highlight for many trips – including ours!

Right now, Disney Enchantment (Magic Kingdom) and Harmonious (Epcot) are back and shown nightly and Fantasmic! (Hollywood Studios) is slated to return sometime this year.

harmonious

We think they are definitely worth a watch at least once.

But, if you prefer to skip them, you’ll also find that the lines for attractions will get shorter while they take place (which makes it a good time to jump in one).

And, if the parks remain open after the fireworks – which they typically do during busy times of the year – the overall crowds will dissipate as families make their exit after watching the show.

As for parades, right now there is only 1 parade (Festival of Fantasy) at Magic Kingdom.

It is a great parade, but oftentimes happens only during the hottest times of the day.

Festival of Fantasy parade

If you really want to catch it, we recommend trying to find a place in the shade under the train station on Main Street, that way you can easily slip out for a break after it is over.

Note: We used information from Thrill-Data.com to help put together the recommendations below.

An important note made by Disney about Genie+ at Walt Disney World

In March, Walt Disney World added the following update to its Genie+ webpage:

“On average, guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using the Lightning Lane entrance if the first selection is made early in the day.”

disney world genie plus verbiage update

This is a big statement and one alerting guests that even if they start booking Genie+ selections early in the day, the chances of them gaining access to more than 2 to 3 rides or experiences in one single day might not happen.

It seems here that Disney is trying to simply lower expectations, especially for those who aren’t familiar with the parks or using a system like Genie+. It can certainly be a struggle and overwhelming.

We’ve always known that a Genie+ purchase never guarantees a full day of rides and experiences. But, it is supposed to be there to help guests lessen their wait times and hopefully help them enjoy a worthwhile Disney theme park experience.

As much as we want to tell you Genie+ will always work in your favor, we can’t. There are too many factors at play and it varies for different parties.

But, what we can do is try to help you to the best of our ability when it comes to navigating Genie+, providing tips on how to take advantage of the service, and, in the end, help you experience as much as possible at the parks.

It is possible to get on more than 2 to 3 attractions with Genie+, but you have to know what you’re doing and understand the ins and outs of Genie+. And that’s why we and all of our guides are here!

Magic Kingdom touring plan strategies

Is Genie+ recommended at Magic Kingdom?

Yes, especially if you are only planning to spend 1 day here.

SAVE the image below to the camera roll on your phone:

Magic Kingdom Genie Plus touring plans

Important things to know about touring Magic Kingdom

  • Magic Kingdom has the most attractions of any park. You can see and do a lot in 1 day, but for an even more relaxed experience, 2 days will be better.
  • This is also a great park for Genie+, and if it is in your budget, we definitely recommend you purchase it.
magic kingdom genie+ priority booking graphic

Best times to ride every Magic Kingdom attraction

Check out the table below for more information on the best times to ride every attraction at Magic Kingdom.

Note: If you’re reading this table on your mobile device, tap the “+”  for more details.

Epcot touring plan strategies

Is Genie+ recommended at Epcot?

Genie+ will make touring Epcot easier during busy times of the year, but if you are traveling during a less busy time of the year, and you don’t mind standing in some lines (and possibly skipping breaks) you can get a lot done without it.

SAVE the image below to the camera roll on your phone:

Epcot touring plans genie+

Important things to know about touring Epcot

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is extremely popular, but it is only available via Virtual Queue or by purchasing an Individual Lightning Lane Selection. If you wish to ride it, make sure you read up on how those work.
  • During busy times of the year, both Frozen Ever After AND Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure may move from an Individual Lightning Lane Selection to Genie+.
  • Epcot has 2 entrances. Guests with easy access to the International Gateway Entrance (either by walking or via the Skyliner) will have an easier time rope dropping Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
  • Epcot hosts nearly year-round festivals. Some festival offerings (like the Candlelight Processional) are extremely popular and will require a chunk of your park touring time. Make sure you review our Festival Guides to see if you’ll need to add in extra festival time to your touring plan.
  • Genie+ can come in very handy if you are traveling during a busy time of the year. Make sure you review our Genie+ recommendations before you make your first selections
Genie+ priorities Epcot Book these first
  • 2 of the main attractions here – Soarin’ and Test Track – both have 40″ height requirements, but they’re fairly mild and non-scary (as long as your child can handle a car traveling at a high speed for a lap around the track on Test Track). If your child is at least 40″, it may be worth giving them a try, but maybe skip Mission: Space which has a height requirement of 40″ and could scare some kids.
  • If you don’t mind having your party split up, Test Track has a single rider line that can significantly cut down your waits there.

Best times to ride every Epcot attraction

Check out the table below for more information on the best times to ride every attraction at Epcot.

Note: If you’re reading this table on your mobile device, tap the “+”  for more details.

Hollywood Studios touring plan strategies

Is Genie+ recommended at Hollywood Studios?

Yes. If it is in your budget, we think it is worth it to purchase Genie+ for Hollywood Studios.

SAVE the image below to the camera roll on your phone:

hollywood studios touring plan best time to ride

Important things to know about touring Hollywood Studios

  • Rise of the Resistance is the most popular attraction at Walt Disney World. Make sure you review our guide on riding Rise without standing in long lines.
  • Slinky Dog Genie+ spots go faster than any other attraction on property, and that means that frequently the available return times will be late in the day. If you are planning to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane selection for Rise of the Resistance, it may make more sense to rope drop Slinky Dog and choose Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway as your first Genie+ selection.
Hollywood studios genie_ booking priorities
  • Galaxy’s Edge is spectacular and worthy of spending some time exploring, so be sure to allow some flexibility in your day for that.

Best times to ride every Hollywood Studios attraction

Check out the table below for more information on the best times to ride every attraction at Hollywood Studios.

Note: If you’re reading this table on your mobile device, tap the “+”  for more details.

Animal Kingdom touring plan strategies

Is Genie+ recommended at Animal Kingdom?

Animal Kingdom is probably the easiest park to tour without Genie+. If you are looking to save some money, skip purchasing it for this park.

SAVE the image below to the camera roll on your phone:

Animal Kingdom touring plans when to ride

Important things to know about touring Animal Kingdom

  • Even though Kilimanjaro Safaris isn’t listed as an official Early Theme Park Entry attraction, it isn’t unusual for it to open up a bit early (especially during the summer months when it gets lighter earlier).
  • Expedition Everest has a Single Rider Line. If you don’t mind having your party split up, consider using that to save time in line.
  • If you do decide to use Genie+ here, make sure you know which attraction you should book first.

Animal Kingdom Genie Plus Priorities

Best times to ride every Animal Kingdom attraction

Check out the table below for more information on the best times to ride every attraction at Animal Kingdom.

Note: If you’re reading this table on your mobile device, tap the “+”  for more details.

Related News
Heather Thomas