Friday, May 3, 2024

How We Did Every Attraction in Epcot (with the help of Genie)


We recently returned from another successful trip to Walt Disney World.  I've had a lot of thoughts over the years on how best to "beat" each park and we had some opportunities to test out these various theories over the course of a week.  I'm going to be talking about some of these here, and the first one today will be about Epcot.  This is going to challenge or perhaps revise an old opinion of mine related to Genie+ and talk about some options whether you choose to purchase it or not.

The day that I'm going to focus on here today was our first day in the parks.  We had an incredibly early flight to Orlando, and were therefore at our resort by mid-morning.  After leaving our bags and reorganizing things we'd need to take with us, we walked from the Boardwalk over to Epcot, arriving right around 11:00 a.m.

Before I get into the details of what we accomplished, I wanted to take a brief detour and talk about Genie+.  I've been on the record as saying that you don't particularly "need" Genie+ in Epcot.  This remains true, and we will discuss some of that below.  But I've found that Epcot is the most "beatable" park in Disney World with Genie+, so if you have the funds to do so, purchasing it will make your day much easier.

In this case, we had chosen to purchase Genie+ for the simple reason that we knew we would be arriving at the park well after it opened.  I figured that we could "stack" Genie reservations for later in the day, rather than fighting what was sure to be the most crowded part of the day for decent standby wait times.  This would get the trip off on the right foot, as we could get our bearings while still picking up a bunch of rides to do as the afternoon and evening wore on.  We actually did something very similar to this on another trip, but that park was Hollywood Studios.  I figured this would work as well or even better than that had.

The most important part of getting Genie+ to work in this case was booking our first attraction as early as possible.  On any other day, that would mean right at 7:00 a.m. when the system goes live.  But in this case, we would be high in the sky at 7:00 a.m., without access to wi-fi (a first world problem, to be sure).  But since I knew we were going to use Genie+ this day, I purchased it on the way to the airport, to save some time later.  As soon as the plane landed (I want to say around 8:45 a.m.) and we had signal again, I booked a lightning lane for Frozen Ever After.  My reasoning here is that this would probably be harder than Test Track to pick up later; I actually hadn't intended to try for Remy's Ratatouille Adventure at all on this day, but plans ended up changing later.  In any case, we got this one for something in the 12:00 p.m. hour (I don't have exact records, which is unfortunate, but I believe this is correct).

We walked into Epcot right around 11:00 a.m.  Since we were coming from the Boardwalk, we came in through the International Gateway entrance.  I had no specific plans until our time for Frozen came up, but we were hungry so we wanted to grab something to eat before that.  Since Frozen is in Norway, we took the shorter way around World Showcase (the Canada side) and went over to China to eat at the Lotus Blossom Cafe.  We normally wouldn't eat lunch so early but we were all out of whack from getting up at 3:30 in the morning to catch this plane.  Lotus Blossom didn't even open until 11:30, and we were there a few minutes before that.

Based on the classic photo of my children by the troll in the Norway gift shop, we had done Frozen by 12:25 or so.  I also should mention that we had booked a second lightning lane by this point; since we had made our first selection before 9:00, we were able to book a second one at 11:00 a.m.  This is because of the two hour rule - if you don't tap into your first ride before that time, you can book another attraction two hours after you booked your first one.  In this particular case, the two hour rule was in effect AFTER PARK OPEN, which was 9:00.  This means that we could book at 11:00.  I'm pretty sure both Test Track and Remy were out at this point, so we took the next best option, which was Soarin'.

After finishing Frozen, we went over to the Imagination pavilion to do Journey Into Imagination with Figment as a standby.  The line is usually not bad here, so this is always a good option to do via standby (and it gets you out of the heat for a little bit).  Since we had finished Frozen, we were now eligible to book another lightning lane.  Here's where some inside knowledge and/or magic comes into play.  Disney releases more lightning lane times throughout the day for its most popular attractions (at least at all parks besides Magic Kingdom, as far as I know).  With some knowledge of the clock and some luck, you can pick up a lightning lane for a ride that had previously been fully booked.  In this case, we nabbed Test Track for something in the 2:00 hour.  We also used the virtual queue system at 1:00 to book a boarding group for Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind; at the time, our estimated return was 3:45 (though that ended up changing as the day went on).

We worked our way back to that section of the park, and we went through Journey of Water Inspired by Moana here, as well as stopping for some photos with the new Walt the Dreamer statue.  We took care of Test Track with no difficulty (often a feat unto itself) via the lightning lane.  And while we were at that end of the park, we did Spaceship Earth via standby, since the wait time was only about five minutes and the long looping switchbacks weren't even in use.  

I noted at the top of this post that we did "every" ride in Epcot but that's not entirely true.  We ended up skipping The Seas With Nemo and Friends (as well as Turtle Talk with Crush - our kids are a little too old to really enjoy that one) though we could have fit it in had we wanted.  We ended up doing it a different day.  We also skipped Mission: Space, since that one is always a skip for us.  Again, this would have been relatively easy to fit in, but for the sake of full transparency, I wanted to mention these.  I could have changed the title of this post to "almost every" attraction in Epcot, but that didn't have the same ring to it.

At this point, we were able to use our lightning lane for Soarin', still a personal favorite of mine at Epcot.  While there, we did Living With The Land as well.  I believe we were able to book more lightning lanes at this point, and while I would normally do Land via standby, the line was 25 minutes, which is about 20 minutes longer than I wanted to wait for this one.  So we just grabbed a lightning lane with an immediate return time and just jumped right on.

At this point, we didn't really have any other lightning lanes we really wanted to book and it was only about 4:00.  Remy wasn't available (at this point - more on this below) so we then just worked our way back to the front of the park since it looked like our boarding group for Guardians was coming up soon.  We spent some time in Creations Shop and Club Cool to kill some time.  Our Guardians time had been pushed back until around 5:00, and we had a dinner reservation at 5:45.  I thought we could still get it done, but things slowed to a crawl there and we abandoned Guardians (on this day anyway) as I wrote about here.  

Dinner was at the San Angel Inn.  Not only was it delicious (and cool in there!), we had another opportunity to take advantage of more times being dropped by Disney and picked up a lightning lane for Remy for around 7:45.  We ate dinner, rode The Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros (we were right there, and there is no lightning lane for that one) before heading over to take care of Remy.  The lightning lane was long, and it looked like Disney had released too many ride times, but it moved quickly and we were able to get out of there, get dessert at the always wonderful L'Artisan de Glaces and still grab a good spot to watch Luminous.

To recap, we managed to do all three of the "big" Epcot rides via Genie+ (plus Soarin', which is a distant fourth in difficulty at this point) as well as a bunch of the smaller rides.  And that was all between noon and 8:00.  Not a bad day's work!  We would have been able to do Guardians if it weren't at a standstill, but we did get a boarding group and were prepared to ride, so I count that in this case.

If we had had a full day at Epcot and wanted to get Genie+, this would have been even easier.  We would have attempted the 7:00 a.m. Guardians boarding group, and booked our first Genie+ ride right at 7:00, rather than 8:45 or whenever we did it this time.  A couple of tips here - one, if you're getting a virtual queue AND making a Genie selection, it is helpful if you have two members of your party both logged into My Disney Experience (under the same account) so that each of you can do one of these things.  This isn't that big of a deal at Epcot, but it can't hurt.

And the earlier you get your first return time, the better.  This leads me to tip number two - if you're rope dropping Epcot and have Genie, you first selection should probably be Test Track rather than Frozen or Remy.  First, Test Track is the likeliest ride to break down, in which case you can often get an "anytime" return time if it's down during your window.  And second, you are more likely to get an earlier return time with Test Track. This is the opposite of our plan above, but in this case, if you can tap into Test Track before 11:00, you will have the ability to book your next attraction immediately and not have to wait for the two hour rule.  There should be plenty of availability for Frozen or Remy at this point, and you will have the jump on everyone else.

Another factor to consider is what resort you're staying at.  If you're coming from the Crescent Lake resorts (like us) or the Skyliner resorts, the plan should be to rope drop Remy, hit an early lightning lane for Test Track, then book Frozen.  That gets all of the difficult rides out of the way immediately.  It's a little harder when entering from the main entrance due to logistics; in this case, I would probably instead rope drop Test Track, and get a lightning lane for Frozen.  Again, if it's early enough, you should be able to book Remy even without the knowledge of when Disney releases more ride availability.

If you choose not to purchase Genie+, Epcot is still beatable but it will take more effort and legwork.  In this case, I would follow either of the two rope drop strategies I listed above, depending on your resort.  From the first ride (either Remy or Test Track), I would move as quickly as possible to Frozen (it's closer to Test Track, but doable from France as well if you're fast enough).  I would save the third "big" ride for the end of the night here, though that might mean missing Luminous (and I would recommend seeing it at least once).

All of this will likely change if and when Guardians drops the virtual queue.  Guardians will then become - by far - the longest standby wait time in the park.  Perhaps this is the reason Disney hasn't done so yet, almost two years after its debut.  The virtual queue is a great tool if you are prepared - I say you should embrace it.  This makes the rest of the park easier, whether you have Genie+ or not.  With Genie+, your day will be much more relaxed and you should be able to get everything done rather easily.  For us, it worked out wonderfully and set us up for a great trip.

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