Now that Genie+ and Lightning Lane have been up and running for the better part of a year, Disney has started to tweak the experience at Walt Disney World. Starting June 8th, guests will not be able to purchase Genie+ until the day of their visit. Disney has also stated that the number of Genie+ purchases available may be limited on a given day. Recently, they also updated the product description, which now states that guests should expect to get 2 or 3 Lightning Lanes in a day. This tells us that Disney is starting to recognize a need for change in the way Genie+ runs. This raised the question of whether you need Genie+ to be able to see the park in a day. To test it out, I set out to see all of Epcot without Genie+ in a single day. (Spoiler alert: I saw most of the park without it!)
To see how well I did, we’ll be comparing what I did to the list of 65 things to do at Epcot from Disney World’s Attractions page. Let’s look at some numbers to summarize my day, and then I’ll walk through my itinerary. When it comes to things like the Bijutsu-kan Gallery I counted it as a visit if I was able to spend a few minutes there, not necessarily see every item. Same story for things like Bruce’s Shark World. I was in the park by myself, so I looked at the kids’ playground, but didn’t climb into the jungle gym. Kids definitely would have spent more time there than I did.
Rides – 9/10. I did not ride Soarin’ Around the World. I did ride both versions of Mission: SPACE, and I rode Frozen Ever After twice (only counted once here). I’m not counting Cosmic Rewind, which was in soft opening during my test.
Continuous shows – 3/7. I Did not see the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, Impressions de France, Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival, or Turtle Talk with Crush.
Galleries and exhibits – 17/18. I saw things like the aquariums and the exhibits scattered through World Showcase, including the Kidcot Fun Stops. The one I’m missing here is Leave a Legacy. For those who don’t know it, it’s a set of colored panels with pictures of guests outside the park. You used to be able to have pay to have your picture added to the collection.
Meet and greets – 0/11. I didn’t make it to any of these. If you have kids with you, this will be much harder to do.
Performances – 5/10. For these, it was street performers that I missed. I would say I made it to the biggest three: Voices of Liberty, The American Adventure, and Harmonious.
Exploring World Show Case – I spent 5 hours wandering around each country’s pavilion. I took pictures like a tourist and enjoyed the scenery until I felt I’d gotten to see most of the pavilion. This excludes the time I spent in shows (like Reflections of China or the American Adventure).
I drove to the park and was through the gate at about 8:15. The park officially opened at 9:00, but Disney typically lets guests in at about 8:30. I started at Ratatouille, trying to beat the crowd there. The wait time was about an hour. If I had taken the SkyLiner and come in the International Gateway instead of the Main Park gate, I probably could have saved a half an hour on the wait at Ratatouille. After Ratatouille, I went to Journey into Imagination, Frozen Ever After, and Gran Fiesta Tour. I was able to get on all four rides by 11:30.
For World Discovery, I hit Test Track and Mission: SPACE, then went shopping at the Creations shop. Test Track was the one line I got an advantage on, compared to a party going together. I just used the single rider queue. It still took me about 30 minutes to get through, with a posted wait time of 65 minutes. I finished all that by 12:45.
My next task was to explore World Showcase. I started at Mexico and made way through the entire loop. I stopped to watch Reflections of China, the American Adventure, and Canada Far and Wide along the way. I finished this whole loop just before 6:00. Keep in mind that most of this time was not waiting in line. I took my time exploring the environment and architecture, and I spent five hours doing it, including a stop for a quick lunch.
At the end of World Showcase, I headed over to the Land Pavilion. I rode Living with the Land, had dinner, and watched Awesome Planet. I knew time was getting short for the day, so this is where I had to start making choices about what I would skip. I decided I didn’t want to spend the hour wait for Soarin’ Around the World. I hit the Seas with Nemo and Friends and Spaceship Earth.
It was now 7:30, and I felt like I had been able to see the entire park. The last few things I wanted to do were Mission: SPACE (green mission this time) and a repeat of Frozen Ever After. I ended the day with Harmonious.
I was able to see Epcot without Genie+ in a single day. The biggest advantage I had was that I was by myself. If I’d had a bigger group, there would have been more bathroom breaks, more snack stops, more time on the playgrounds and kid exhibits. Those would have been a trade off with the time I spent in World Showcase. However, I was able to see everything I wanted.
I watched the Lightning Lanes closely while I was in line, too. I think that I would have been able to save 30-40 minutes each on Ratatouille and Frozen. Test Track may have saved another 10 minutes over single rider. I don’t think that purchasing Genie+ would have made a significant difference to the day. The major change I would make if I repeated this day would be to enter the park at the International Gateway, which would have saved a lot of time on the Ratatouille line. I also did not take advantage of the Early Entry for Disney Resort guests, which could have helped to get more done before queues started to grow.
If I repeated this day with a little money set aside for Lightning Lanes, I would have spent it on Frozen or Ratatouille. Those are definitely a smarter purchase than Epcot’s Genie+. But neither is necessary for Epcot. One issue with Lightning Lane is that it schedules you to be in a specific spot at a specific time, and Epcot is a big park. If you don’t carefully plan your day around those events, you may end up crossing the park a few times. You would spend most of the time you saved just to walk to the next Lightning Lane attraction.