In the past few years, Disneyland Resort debuted Genie+ and Lightning Lane, offering a paid way for guests to skip the line. The most popular rides at both parks offer Lightning Lane a la carte, meaning guests pay for each individual ride when wanting to skip the line. Those attractions consist of Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland and Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure. In this post, we’ll discuss the value of these a la carte Lightning Lanes and alternative touring options to paying the extra cost.
These three attractions all employ dynamic pricing, meaning the cost for Lightning Lane will go up or down depending on how busy the parks are. On opening day of Genie+, Lightning Lane costs were $7 for both California Adventure attractions and $20 for Rise of the Resistance. In the year plus that has passed, Rise has gone up slightly on certain days while the others have stayed under $20.
Rise of the Resistance has an eye popping number. I think ‘eye popping’ is a phrase and now I’m wondering why? If your eyes are popping in any sort of way, please stop reading this and go to the hospital. But, $20 to skip ahead of a line? If you’re traveling with 3 others then that’s an extra $80 gone just like that. Honestly, I think the price is pretty absurd and I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ll get to alternatives to paying the price a little further into the post.
As for the other two attractions, the lower price tag is far more tempting for Radiator Springs Racers. The ride has stood the test of time and remains the most popular attraction in the park. While we’ll get to strategy on how to avoid the lines, splurging for this if you want to ride next to your family is understandable. Unlike the other two attractions, I think there is a slightly better value here if the cost remains under $15, although that does add up. Runaway Railway simply is not worth it. Go after the fireworks each night and it’s rare to wait for the ride for more than 30 minutes. I think it will be joining Genie+ soon like WEB Slingers before it.
Before we get to alternatives to dishing out the extra dough, I should bring up the usual caveat. We write about spending on add-ons pretty often on this site and my view has been fairly narrow in that I don’t think those additions are a good value, whether that be holiday parties, Lightning Lanes or a number of other options. This is generally because there isn’t enough unique offerings that guests couldn’t already do on a normal park day. Why shell out even more money to Disney when it’s not necessary? That point remains, especially in regard to Lightning Lanes, and will likely be our view for quite a while as we want to help you plan the best trip possible while also being cost effective.
The other side of the coin though is that sometimes guests want to splurge! There is nothing wrong with that and almost all of these add-ons will make your trip better in some regard. You know what’s better than waiting in line for an hour or even 30 minutes? Waiting in line for 10! There’s no disputing that and if you’re ready to spend then please do. Everyone assigns different values to things and we’re trying to find a happy middle ground.
That ground is where the conversation about Lightning Lane, especially the a la carte iteration, becomes interesting. Now that complimentary FastPass is gone, we can actually assign a dollar amount to how much people value their time. With these price tags, Disney is banking on a certain amount of people thinking that an hour of their time is worth $20 individually. In that same vein, they are also trying to factor in the breaking point for some people because they don’t want every park goer to pay the $20 or else the queue system doesn’t work. Like Vegas oddsmakers who are trying to get an even number of bets for both teams, Disney is setting a line and hoping (or educated guessing) that the numbers will work out and the queue system will work.
What your strategy should ultimately come down to is how much time is worth in a dollar amount to you. For what it’s worth, we do recommend guests go on each of the a la carte attractions, we just don’t think it’s worth spending the money. What the price points are suggesting is that there comes a breaking point for guests where they’ll pay instead of wait in line. And sure, I’d probably rather pay $7 than wait in a line that’s over an hour. The counter to that is the lines on all three of these attractions won’t always be at their peak. Because I’m not willing to pay $7, even just for myself, if the line is half an hour or shorter.
The obvious answer to beating the long wait times and not paying to skip the line is to arrive at the parks very early and be one of the first in line. You’re not wasting much of your park ticket value that way since the line will be short and you can go about your day once off the ride. Getting to either park half an hour early and doing these attractions should keep you from spending very long in line.
Inversely, doing these attractions as the last ride of the night is a good alternative. Getting in line minutes before closing will mean that you aren’t missing any time where you could be going elsewhere. Even if you have to wait an hour (which you won’t), that isn’t time lost anywhere else in the park as all of the other rides are closed. Most of the time, attractions will drop down to under half hour waits right before close regardless of the wait time posted.
The caveat there is that Rise of the Resistance does close earlier than the actual park closing every day. This is because of a longer turn around time than other attractions. Check the Disneyland App to see when it closes or walk over to the ride and ask a Cast Member earlier in the day. It is usually at 9 or 10 PM.
Finally, the other strategy to implement is utilizing the single rider line. For now, this is only available at Radiator Springs Racers. I know some guests will want to ride all together but the single rider line at Racers moves very quickly and you’ll often get to race against your family or friends in a different car. The line is typically under 20 minutes and offers the same exact experience as the longer standby or paying whatever the a la carte cost is for that day.
With these three different options, a guest could easily knock off all of these attractions in the span of one day. I’d guess the wait time would be around or under 30 minutes for all of them. Get to Disneyland before opening, immediately do Runaway Railway, hop over and single ride Radiator Springs Racers at some point and then back to Disneyland for Rise of the Resistance minutes before the attraction’s 8 or 9 PM closing time. That even leaves you the rest of the night to play with as well as most of the day. While this is an estimate, I think Lightning Lanes would maybe save you 40 minutes total against that plan and you’d pay an extra $40ish individually. That’s roughly a dollar per minute, which makes for a bad value.
There is a time and place for Lightning Lanes and paying for them, mostly when the park is extremely busy. But implementing a solid touring strategy will save you and your group a good amount of money while not wasting much time!
What are your thoughts on paying for individual Lightning Lanes at Disneyland? Let us know your thoughts, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below! If you are planning a trip to Disneyland, then check out our planning guide. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. You can do all of that on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!