Is Walt Disney World’s “Disney Genie+” Worth It?
I recently returned from a visit to Walt Disney World and had the chance to try out their Disney Genie and Genie+ service. It was quite a daunting experience beforehand, but with a solid understanding of the system, I think my family and I used it effectively during our time at Magic Kingdom. We used the paid service for our two visits to Magic Kingdom, and I have to say it really helped, especially with the busy queues.
Genie rolled out in late 2021 to Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, and was an all-new initiative replacing the old FastPass+ service. This new service offers two levels of personalized recommendations for a day of guests, while offering new Lightning Lanes (replacing Fastpass lines), allowing guests to skip the usual lines for $15 per day per person .
How it works?
Lightning Lane picks can only be made once at a time, which means you must redeem a pick or wait 2 hours before picking the next one. Using this rule, there are several ways to effectively use Genie+ to get the most out of your day.
You have the option of reserving a busier and more popular attraction as the first Lightning Lane at 7am, but then you have to wait 2 hours after the park opens to rebook another. Or, you can “book as you go”, essentially using the tool as a queue jump, for instant lighting lanes – more in line with the old FastPass experience.
How we used it
For our first day of using Genie+, we didn’t fully understand it yet, so we opted for a more relaxed approach to the tool, opting for the “book-as-you-go” approach, and it worked very well. We managed to do most of the park the first day using the service, even Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which we ditched.
On our second day of visiting Magic Kingdom, we decided to use our first booking for the more popular Lightning Lane Jungle Cruise selection – which had a return time of 12:40pm when we booked. This then meant we weren’t allowed to book our next Lightning Lane until 11am, 2 hours after the park opened despite booking at 7am. It sounds complicated – but trust me, it’s not.
Positive: Less waiting = More trips
Throughout the two days at Magic Kingdom, the vast majority of rides had very short return times when booking Lightning Lanes, meaning we could skip the busy queues for most rides for the entire the day. We basically booked for one ride, joined that specific queue, and were able to book an instant Lightning Lane for another ride – it was a perfect ride-hopping tool.
I think the only rides we had to wait a little longer in lines for were Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain, everything else was basically ‘walking’.
If you are in the parks all day, the service is also very efficient. Day one we were still making reservations at 10:30pm so don’t worry about the rides closing their Lightning Lanes too early. Also, if there’s a ride you like, you can just keep booking Lightning Lanes, just like what my sister and I did for Space Mountain, as you can see below:
Postive: an efficient user experience
The Genie recommender system itself is really solid. The app asks you what you most want to do, then looks at expected wait times, viewing times, and more and gives you an itinerary based on them. I think it could do with some fine tuning, but the system itself was incredibly useful.
While we were at it, Disney revealed a new update that now lets customers know when they can book their next Lightning Lane, which was incredibly helpful.
We didn’t choose to use them, but when you buy Genie+ you get access to a number of filters or AR lenses to use in the app. A nice little bonus, certainly.
Negative: the 120 minute rule
Lightning Lane picks are limited to a 120-minute rule, or until an advance reservation has been used, like the old paper system. Meanwhile, a ride you want to visit may be running out of Lightning Lane offers forcing customers to use the rescue line (I know, that’s outrageous!)
Arguably the wisest thing to do is to aim for a return time before 11 a.m., which would allow that ability to rebook to arrive much sooner. However, you are limited by the return times of the busiest attractions, such as Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan’s Flight, etc.
Negative: the cost
It goes without saying that $15 a day isn’t the best price, especially when you’re on a big party. A family of 6 would need to spend an extra $90 per day. However, for a park like Magic Kingdom with a large number of attractions, it really helps get through the busiest crowds.
Genie+ is not required for all parks when visiting Walt Disney World – if desired, Rope Dropping was a great technique we used on our trip. We were able to do all of Toy Story Land in just under an hour, all of Galaxy’s Edge at 10am on another day – meaning there was no need to buy Genie+ for Hollywood Studios.
Despite our experience with Hollywood Studios, I can understand why people buy Genie+ for the park and EPCOT as well. A 60-minute queue for Frozen Ever After isn’t too enticing, especially if you’re expecting a Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind boarding party… (Trust me.)
I think it’s such a shame that the old Fastpass system has become a paid system, especially considering that it costs $15 per person. I would say that if Disney World didn’t offer the possibility of parking, this Genie+ should be priced differently for each of the parks, due to the large difference in the number of attractions. Comparing Animal Kingdom to Magic Kingdom, it’s amazing that anyone considers the value of Genie+ to be the same for each park.
Comparison with Universal Express
When our trip headed to Universal Studios, we had booked a hotel that offered us Universal Express as part of the package, and I thought I’d briefly compare the two services. Like Genie+, Express offers the ability to skip the line for most attractions at Universal’s two parks. Express has a normal tier and Unlimited – the normal tier allowing one use of Express per ride.
The service is neither digital nor time-limited, which means you can show up at any time for the attraction of your choice and simply join the queue. Altogether an easier system compared to Disney World and so much more relaxed. Not having to worry about a return time was great, however, Standard tier pricing starts at $79.99 and Unlimited at $109.99 per person, making it considerably more expensive than Genie+.
Would it work elsewhere?
Disney clearly has the infrastructure in place to implement Genie+ in all of its parks for sure, and I think from personal experience that Disneyland Paris would benefit from the service.
Disneyland Paris currently offers Premier Access (One and Ultimate), which offers “pay as you go” attractions, ranging from €5 to €15 (depending on popularity/peak times), or a similar experience to Universal’s Express Pass for a higher cost (approximately €140), allowing customers to access one ride per attraction in the two Disneyland Paris parks.
I think customers would be more reluctant to pay for Genie+ than for Premier Access, especially if the costs were to stay the same as in Orlando. Given the small size of the resort, Disney could consider different packages based on Thrill/Family attractions, or look to introduce Lightning Lanes for all Paris attractions. At the time of writing, Premier Access is only available at 13 attractions, spread across 2 parks.
Would I use it again? It depends. Was it worth it? Yes, 100%
I think the service itself is very good and is backed by some really cool technology, providing the benefits of the old FastPass system and more. The pros definitely outweigh the cons of this one, personally.
Pricing for the service will keep families and groups away, but solo visitors can certainly use the service. Disney Genie+ is a perfect, but unfortunate, representation of the Chapek era of Disney parks, and while paying for attractions isn’t ideal, the new service worked wonders on our trip, and skipping the queues made our day in the park a bit more relaxed.
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