How My Wife, Son & I Maxed Out Our Day at Disneyland with Genie+
This guest post comes from one of our Facebook group moderators, Ryan, about his recent trip to Disneyland in California and how you can maximize your day with Genie+ and some good planning.
Disney can be a challenge. It can be even more challenging with a toddler. But when it comes to Disney, we are always up for it. I spent a day each at Disneyland and California Adventure with my wife (a true Disney master) and three-year-old son. Like most people, our objective was to avoid long lines as much as possible. Genie+ was pivotal in achieving our objective at Disneyland. It operates a bit differently than at Disney World, and I’ll dive into the best way to put it to use.
Preparation – Dining Reservations & Disney Gift Cards
Before the trip, we pre-booked reservations at Oga’s Cantina. Getting the reservation isn’t as clear cut as with Disney World, where it’s dropped at a certain time 60 days before. I set an alert on the Mouse Dining website, and around 20 days or so before the trip I got a notification of availability. There doesn’t seem to be a set time or pattern as to when they load new reservations, so it just requires a bit of watching. I also stocked up on Disney gift cards through various credit card offers at different stores: Sam’s Club, grocery stores — basically anywhere where I could get them at 5-10% off. You can combine cards up to $1,000 per card, and I paid for everything using gift cards.
I had already purchased tickets prior to the release of Genie+ at Disneyland, so I wasn’t able to add it on to our tickets until we scanned into the park in the morning — much like the way the old MaxPass system worked. New tickets can add Genie+ at the time of purchase, which I recommend doing. I was watching my wife walk out of my peripheral vision while I was adding Genie+ to the tickets. Thankfully, she has the map of the park etched in her brain. Let’s break down how my day went in terms of riding and booking.
Hotel and Rope Drop Plan
We stayed at Hyatt House Anaheim using free night certificates. Very spacious rooms, and about a 15-minute walk to the parks. Both days, we left around 6:45 am. We went through the initial security screening around 7:15 am and scanned tickets to officially enter the park around 7:30. We proceeded to the rope drop area we wanted, where both days they held the rope until exactly 8 am.
Parks will open a little early on busier days, but with the crowd calendar at 3 of 10 both days, perhaps they didn’t feel the need. We were at the front of the crowd for both days for rope drop. We explained to our son ahead of time that by staying in his stroller and not getting up, we would get to do more rides and get there faster. He was happy to comply as long as we gave him snacks. A fair deal.
On the first day, we went to Disneyland. The parks (Disneyland and California Adventure) are right next to each other, but we opted for the one park per day pass, which is a bit cheaper. We figured it would be easier with our son. With Genie+ purchased and ready to go, I started keeping an eye on the things I wanted at Disneyland, like an Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) for Rise of the Resistance.
How Genie+ and Lightning Lanes are Different at Disneyland and Disney World
A key difference when buying ILLs at Disneyland is that you don’t get to pick whatever time you want, like you would in Florida. I wanted it early in the day, in case of ride issues, which are frequent. However, there are many rides we wanted to do that don’t have a Lightning Lane (LL), so our goal was to knock a few of them out during what I refer to as the “Rope Drop Hour,” which goes until around 10 am.
LL times don’t shoot out nearly as quickly as in Florida, so a little patience goes a long way in the morning. I waited until about 8:30 to buy an ILL for Rise of the Resistance for all three of us. It’s also important to know that, whatever time you get for any LL or ILL, you can scan in anytime from 5 minutes before until an hour after. This helps with planning. Also, once you scan into the queue for a ride, you are immediately eligible to book another. Or, if your booking is far out, you can book another ride 2 hours after your previous booking.
Rope Drop Hour – Starting The Day
Our first target for the day was Peter Pan’s Flight. It doesn’t have a LL, and wait times always shoot up pretty quickly — going up to around 45-60 minutes. We figured many people were going towards Rise of the Resistance or Space Mountain, and we were right.
We had a bit of an issue finding the stroller drop-off near Peter Pan’s flight. I scooped my son up while my wife found it, and then the cast member let her join the queue with me as I was walking through it. We were able to get on the ride by 8:04 am. This is key, because we knocked out our first target quickly. Now we were ahead of everyone else and heading towards rides we knew we could still walk right on.
Tip: Be Flexible but Have a Plan
During this part of the rope drop hour, you want to have a loose plan of the direction you want to go, possible things to do, where you want to end up, etc. But, you need to be flexible as you go. For instance, our planned path was to go through New Orleans, ride Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise, head to Galaxy’s Edge, ride Rise of the Resistance, and have time to snag the delicious Ronto breakfast wrap before the 10 am cutoff.
However, both Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise were not open yet as we passed them, so, instead, we jumped on Haunted Mansion at 8:15 and walked right on. We didn’t use our LL, since the time was instant. By skipping the LL, we left the option to get it later again if we wanted to. That’s because you can only book a LL once a day for each ride, unless you get a multiple experience pass. You get this if a ride goes down while you have a pass. Unfortunately, our son was pretty scared by this ride, so we didn’t end up going back later.
After getting off Haunted Mansion, we saw that Pirates had opened, and we walked on right away at 8:33. This ride doesn’t have a LL and often has 30-45 minute wait times. After this ride, I mobile ordered the breakfast wraps we wanted from Ronto Roasters for the latest window to get it (9:30-10 am) and we headed to Galaxy’s Edge. While walking, I booked LLs for Smuggler’s Run for 9 am. Remember that you can scan in up to an hour after your time, so that gave us until 10am to enter the line.
Tip: Measure Your Children’s Height at Home Before You Go
Our first challenge was to see if our son would make the 40″ cutoff. He was right at it when we measured him at home. We figured we would just stop at guest services later in the day and get his ILL refunded if he was denied entry, and we would just take turns riding. That was also our plan for other rides that he wouldn’t be able to ride. He did make the height requirement for Galaxy’s Edge but, again, was pretty scared of this ride. We were planning on taking him on Smuggler’s Run, so we decided against that.
My wife decided she would shop instead, so I cancelled both of their LLs and rode it solo at 9:30. Most LL queues were fairly short, often less than 5 minutes, with a couple exceptions. After finishing the ride, I picked up our breakfast, and our rope drop hour came to a successful completion with 5 rides already in the books.
Booking a Closed Ride on Purpose
While eating, I saw that Matterhorn was closed, but LL times were instant, so I booked it. Once our time hit and the ride was still down, all our passes were converted to the coveted multiple experience pass. That meant I could use it on any LL (except Rise) at any time of day — even if it was completely booked out. Always good to have that in your pocket, especially if something runs out for the day.
Maximizing Genie+ at Disneyland During the Busy Part of the Day
This is the part of the day where the queues for non-LL lines start to peak, so it’s a good time to shop, eat, explore, etc. This is when you can start getting good value out of Genie+ at Disneyland and Disney World. Like I said, once you scan in, you can book another, so this is the time of day to put it to use while everyone else is wasting time in lines.
Our son saw Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and surprisingly begged us to do it, assuring us he wouldn’t be scared. So, we booked it at 10:15 for a 10:30 LL. We took him to the bathroom and then went right in, and he loved it! Seems he likes thrills, but not villains.
As soon as we scanned in, I booked my wife and I for Indiana Jones, since we were close by, and the availability had pushed out to 11:30 — roughly an hour away. We figured we would eat more and check some of the non-LL rides wait times. We saw that Jungle Cruise had opened with a 20-minute wait time, so we jumped in line, as that tends to get high later in the day. Actual wait time was about 15 minutes.
Tip: Watch Your Times if Parents are Riding Solo / Taking Turns Waiting with a Child
Upon completion, my wife went on Indiana Jones at around 11:55 while I ordered a dole whip. Something to note: if you are going take turns on a ride like this, make sure you don’t run out of time for the second person to scan in. I went second and scanned in around 12:10, so I was cutting it close. I did manage to get my son to fall asleep while wheeling him around waiting for my wife. He slept for about a half hour, which helped keep him from melting down at the end of the night. When he woke up, we were near Small World with an instant LL time, so we booked that.
It’s around this part of the day that we found instant LL times on rides with a standby time of 30+ minutes, which is an excellent time to book a ride. We used Genie+ to book Roger Rabbit for about 40 minutes out at 1:05pm, building in time for a snack on the way to Disneyland Toontown. We rode that at about 1:15.
Moving Through the Afternoon
At this point, Space Mountain was starting to book out a little far, which I had been monitoring all day. I booked it at 1:10 for a 2:40 entrance. This gave us plenty of time for shopping, eating, playing, etc. We took turns going on the ride. My wife went first and then went shopping while I rode it. Once I scanned in at Space Mountain, I booked Star Tours for myself for a time that would be ready after I finished Space Mountain.
This LL queue actually took about 20 minutes to get through, which was the exception at Disneyland. All the others took about 5 minutes. I booked Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters for all of us while I waited and met my family over there once I was finished. Our time was ready when I got there, and my son loved helping get all the bad guys.
It was now 3:45pm, and we had finished every ride with an LL that we planned on doing for the day. We still had until 8 pm, so we headed towards Fantasyland, where the bulk of the non-LL rides were. We had pre-booked reservations at Oga’s Cantina at 5:30, so we figured we’d try to knock out a couple rides, go to Oga’s, get another ride, watch the fireworks, and then make a late rush to get the last couple rides we wanted.
The plan worked well. We rode Dumbo, which had a posted wait of 20 minutes but was actually closer to 40. It’s worth knowing that a lot of the wait times in Fantasyland are often wildly inaccurate — usually on the shorter side. Not in this case, though. Our son was a bit finicky in line, but he had a couple new toys to distract him. We also squeezed in Pinocchio before going over to Oga’s Cantina.
Dinner at Oga’s Cantina
We lucked out at Oga’s, getting seated in a booth, so our son could scurry around. He was very excited all day and had a lot of energy, as you’d expect from a three year old. We got him a Blue Bantha (blue milk with a cookie), and he chugged it. Really impressive. There were a couple new drinks that I hadn’t tried before that we really enjoyed: the Tarkenian Night Flower and the Takodana Quencher. We planned to just have one drink, but since our son was behaving and having a good time, we stayed for a second round, getting a Jedi Mind Trick and a Yub Nub.
When we left Oga’s around 6:40, we headed over to pick a spot to watch the fireworks.
Fireworks and Planning for Closing Time
We positioned ourselves towards the right side of the main square, which gave us a good view of the castle but also put us closer towards the rides we wanted to hit before the park closed. It’s like an evening rope drop hour, as wait times drop while people watch fireworks and eat. If you can hurry after the fireworks end, you can squeeze 3 more rides in. As long as you step foot in line just before the official park closing, you will get to ride — no matter how long the wait is.
We wanted to ride Snow White and Alice In Wonderland. Alice had a steady 45-minute wait, so we decided to save that for last. Snow White had a posted 20-minute wait, but it only took 15. Our son wanted to do the carousel, so we did that, as it had a 5-minute wait. We got in line for Alice at 7:50pm with a 45 minute wait, but, surprisingly, the wait was only 10 minutes. This concluded our day.
All in all, we did 20 rides in total. If I had to ballpark the amount of wait time saved at Disneyland by using Genie+ and some good planning, I’d say I easily saved myself 4 hours. Even though we were on the move, we never really felt rushed or overwhelmed, and we enjoyed the pursuit of more action! We ate a lot of good food, bought plenty of toys, took lots of pictures, and had a great day! Our son was fairly well behaved, enjoyed most of the rides, contributed to the day’s choice of activities, took a nap midday, and seemed to really have fun! Now, it was time to head back to the hotel to rest, in order to get up and do California Adventure the next day!