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Should You Buy Lightning Lane for These Rides?

November 24, 2021
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With the introduction of Disney Genie, park officials also added a new pay-to-play system for various attractions. Many rides feature shorter lines called Lightning Lanes when you purchase Disney Genie+ for $15 plus tax. However, some E-ticket attractions work differently. This is because they fall into a different tier, also known as Lightning Lane.

For this one, guests decide whether they should pay $7-$15 to enter the shorter line. It’s entirely different than Disney Genie+. You can purchase up to two Lightning Lane reservations per day…but should you? Let’s quickly evaluate your options at all four Walt Disney World parks.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Park planners have slotted two attractions into the Lightning Lane category at each Walt Disney World theme park. And some of them make more sense than others. Animal Kingdom aptly displays the good and the bad here. On the one hand, Pandora – The World of Avatar remains the most crowded area of the park. Tracking data suggests that the two attractions with the longest wait times at Animal Kingdom are here. Only one of these rides, Avatar Flight of Passage, is pay-per-ride, though. Disney placed Na’vi River Journey in the Disney Genie+ category instead. Thus far, Avatar Flight of Passage Lightning Lane passes have sold for $11- $14 per person plus tax. Please remember that if only one person from a group pays, that’s the only one who can skip the line. As such, families usually must pay triple or quadruple the listed prices here. Admittedly, that can add up fast. Still, Avatar Flight of Passage has required an average wait of 60 minutes over the past calendar year. Importantly, those numbers are skewed lower because they include the smaller pandemic crowds we witnessed until April. So, I’d recommend spending the money rather than waiting an hour or more in line for this ride.

Conversely, the other Lightning Lane option here makes no sense whatsoever. It’s Expedition Everest, which costs at least $7 to skip most of the line. Don’t get me wrong. Expedition Everest is arguably the best thrill ride at Walt Disney World. Its average wait time last week was about 20 minutes, though. Save yourself the money and wait 20 minutes, my friends.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

I don’t have to tell you how crowded Hollywood Studios has gotten since the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A few years ago, you could ride everything at this park and leave in time to have lunch somewhere else. Now, you’ll wait two hours or more just to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. That’s not hyperbole, either. For November, its average wait time hovers around 115 minutes. It should trend downward over time…but not for another several months. So, paying $15 per person makes the most sense here, presuming it doesn’t put a dent in your vacation budget. For that matter, the other Lightning Lane option here is the park’s newest ride, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Like the attraction it replaced, The Great Movie Ride, Runaway Railway features phenomenal throughput. You can ride this one in about 50 minutes on average. Or, you can pay $8- $11 for it. My advice here is to pay for the Lightning Lane if you don’t buy Disney Genie+ here. But, conversely, if you’re spending money to skip the line on several attractions, you can wait on this one.

EPCOT

This is another park where one option makes perfect sense while the other seems strange. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is only a few weeks old. So, Disney understandably wants to maximize its earning potential by offering a Lightning Lane experience. For $8-$11, you can guarantee yourself a ride on Disneyland Paris’ most popular attraction. You shouldn’t feel pot-committed, though. You can also try for a Virtual Queue reservation twice daily. As a DVC member, you’re probably spending multiple days at EPCOT. For this reason, you should choose not to pay until your final scheduled day there. The Lightning Lane purchase makes sense if you still haven’t caught a break with the Virtual Queue. The same can’t be said of Frozen Ever After. Look, this ride opened more than five years ago. So, you’ve likely done it a lot and Maelstrom many times before then. Meanwhile, Frozen Ever After has averaged a 45-minute wait this month. Only Test Track rivals it, which means you’ll have ample time to stand in line. Everything else at the park should take 20 minutes or less unless you’re visiting around the holidays. For these reasons, you have the time and might as well skip the extra payment unless you only have a short time at the park.


Magic Kingdom

One of the Lightning Lane options here is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. You know the deal here. Since the ride’s opening, it’s remained the longest wait at Magic Kingdom. You’ve likely ridden it plenty by now. As such, the choice is yours. When you really need to do Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you’ll save time and aggravation by spending $10-$12 for Lightning Lane. Otherwise, this one’s a pass. Speaking of which, the other option here absolutely baffles me. It’s Space Mountain, which features the finest technology of 1975. You’ve probably ridden this one since the first time you managed to stand on your tippy toes and pass the height requirement. So, there’s absolutely no reason to spend $7-$9 to ride it now. In fact, its average wait time of 35 minutes this month isn’t that bad anyway.

Final Thoughts

First, let me offer an explanation. I’ve listed ranges on the Lightning Lane prices here. I did this because Disney employs tiered pricing. On the weekends, you’ll pay more for Lightning Lane than on weekdays. DVC guests can use this knowledge to their advantage. When you know you’ll pay for something, pick a weekday to save some cash. Also, please remember that you earn the amenity of Early Theme Park Entry by staying at an official Disney resort. As long as you don’t mind being the early bird, you can get in line at all these attractions before they get crowded. Starting your day half an hour earlier than others will save you money, too.