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We’ve all told our kids a thousand times not to cut the line because it’s rude and selfish. But what if there was a way to cut a line that was neither rude nor selfish? Intriguing, right?
One of the biggest – and most consistent – complaints from theme park guests is long waiting time in lines, and while the parks obviously try to make queue experiences as entertaining and immersive as possible, there’s no way to eliminate them. Or is there?
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Universal Parks Virtual Lines
When the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon attraction opened in 2017, Universal Orlando Resort introduced a revolutionary new idea: a virtual line. With this new system, guests can sign up for spot in the Race Through New York virtual line and eliminate the dreaded “endless switchback” waiting experience. By using the Universal Orlando app from anywhere in the park, you can simply select the time you would like to ride and show up. It’s honestly as simple as that. No smartphone? No problem! Kiosks at the attraction work equally well to choose a return time (it just might be a tad less convenient to have to walk over to the ride).
But that’s not all! Once guests are inside the attraction, they still don’t have to wait on a long line. Instead, they are handed a colored ticket and are then free to explore on their own – and there’s a lot of cool Tonight Show memorabilia to see – until the color of the light signals, then it’s their turn to move upstairs. Here, there’s still no line. Guests can relax in the Tonight Show “Green Room” and even enjoy performances by Tonight Show regulars, the Rag Time Gals and Hashtag the Panda.
When the lights change color again, it’s time to ride – I admit there is a short line this time, but it really is short!
Universal Orlando uses their Virtual Line occasionally with other attractions on unusually busy days. Make sure to check the app if you are visiting on a busy day! I also often see Virtual Line passes when a ride is brand new!
Note that as of this update, Virtual Line times are not *required* for any ride at Universal Orlando its just an easy and free option!
Universal Express Pass
But, you may ask, what about the rest of the attractions at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood? For that, I turn your attention to the Universal Express Pass (or as it’s called in Hollywood, Universal Express). This separately purchased perk allows guests to enter through expedited lines – so, just to be clear, this is not a “front of the line” pass, but it can cut wait times by about a third.
On busy days (like weekends and holidays), the Express pass does cut down the wait time, but if the park is not excessively busy and wait times are not outrageously long, that’s honestly when each family needs to determine if the added expense is worth it for them. If your family includes impatient toddlers (and/or teens) or if you have people in your group who have trouble standing in line for a long time, the Express line could be a real lifesaver. After all, if you’re going to invest in taking everyone to a theme park (which we all know is pretty expensive nowadays), you certainly don’t want the day ruined by grumpy line waiters. Another thing to consider is whether to choose the standard Express pass, which only allows one use of the Express queue per attraction per day versus Unlimited Express, which lets you use the Express queue as many times as you want. Of course, unlimited access comes at a higher cost.
“I love that Express Pass is included at the Hard Rock, Portofino, and Royal Pacific,” says Meredith Wallace, a Disney travel specialist and mother of three. “The value of staying at one of these resorts really adds so much enjoyment (who likes to wait in line?) that it’s absolutely worth the slight increase in price. My family always stays at one of these properties so we can maximize our visit.”
We’ve all told our kids a thousand times not to cut the line because it’s rude & selfish. But here’s a way to cut lines gracefully.
Disney Parks Genie +
Genie+Some people love it, some people hate it, let’s talk about it.
It’s an add on to your ticket, currently priced at $15 a day per person in Orlando and $20 in California (because everything is more expensive in California). Genie+ allows you to make reservations to wait in a shorter line. You can make a new reservation every 2 hours OR when you used up all of your reservations.
The ability to purchase Genie+ opens up at Midnight, the ability to make your first reservation opens up at 7 am. You don’t need to be in the park to make Genie+ reservations. If you have park hopper, Genie+ will let you make reservations at another park after hopping opens up at 2 PM.
Not sure when you can make your next reservation? Don’t worry, the app will tell you! Just try to make any reservation and it will remind you of when you are eligible.
My husband calls Genie+ “the monster” because it can be a bit of a beast. I highly suggest reading all the tips and tricks you can before you go. I also highly suggest checking out some videos from Molly, she’s affiliated with both AllEars and Club Mammoth on Youtube. She has TONS of great tips that will help you maximize your day!
My experience is that most causal users get 4-5 Genie+ selections a day. However, if you study the tips, you can absolutely get more. A friend of mine just secured 10 on a day when Magic Kingdom closed early! As my husband would say, you need to befriend the monster.
Single Rider is a bit of a well-kept theme park secret, and in my opinion, is perhaps the most underutilized way to avoid long theme park lines – especially for families.
Certain attractions offer people riding alone the ability to “fill in” single seats in a ride vehicle. For example, if there is a party of five in a vehicle that seats six, a single rider will fill that extra spot. Every park has different rules, but once kids are old enough and/or tall enough to ride alone – and, of course, are willing to – Single Rider lines are a great option because they’re frequently much shorter and/or faster than even Genie+ or Express lines (though not always). Plus, at Disney parks, there’s really no reason to “waste” a Genie+ on a ride with a Single Rider line.
There have been plenty of times when my sons and I have waited in Single Rider lines and have still been able to ride together, but you do have to be willing to be separated if you choose to use that line because most of the time, you will be.
One caveat is that, on certain attractions, like Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts at Universal Studios Florida, the single rider queue bypasses most of the super cool magical wizardy stuff in the standby and Express lines, so it should definitely not be used the first time you experience the attraction, but for subsequent times, it can be a huge time saver. On other attractions, like Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure, the single rider queue runs right alongside the standby queue, so you’re not missing anything important.
There’s one last way to skip the lines (and this one really does allow you to skip the lines), and that’s a VIP Tour.
Both Universal and Disney parks offer VIP tours, which provide a personal guide who will act as your “human Genie” and escort you right to the front of the line. For families who are willing to spend the money, this is a guarantee that you will be able to ride every attraction in the park – even more than once if you want – without waiting.
I’ve been fortunate to have experienced VIP Tours at Disneyland and at Universal Orlando Resort and there’s something to be said for sashaying past all the other people in line and right to the front – because, really, who doesn’t like to sashay? But, unless it’s a super special occasion or this is the one and only time your family will ever be visiting that theme park, it may not be worth the expense. Though the sashaying part is definitely fun, not gonna lie.
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This article was originally written by Samantha Davis-Friedman and updated by Emily Householder Stacey in September 2022.