I recently got back from visiting Walt Disney World, and was fortunate enough to try out their Disney Genie Service and Genie+. It was a pretty daunting experience ahead of time, but with a firm understanding of the system, I think my family and I utilized it efficiently during our time at Magic Kingdom. We used the paid service for both of our visits to Magic Kingdom, and I must say it really helped, especially with busy queues.
Genie was rolled out in Late 2021 at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, and was a brand new initiative replacing the former FastPass + service. This new service offers two tiers of tailored recommendations for a guests day, whilst also offering new Lightning Lanes (replacing Fastpass lines), allowing guests to skip the regular queues for $15 per day, per person.
How Does It Work?
Lightning Lane selections are only allowed to be made once at a time, meaning, you must redeem a selection or wait 2 hours before choosing the next one. Using this rule, there are a number of ways you can utilize Genie+ efficiently to make the most of your day.
You have the option of booking a busier, more popular attraction as your first Lightning Lane at 7am, however, must then wait till 2 hours after Park Opening to book 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 former FastPass experience.
How We Used It
For our first day using Genie+, we didn’t fully understand it yet, so went for a more relaxed approach to the tool, opting for the “book-as-you-go” approach, and it worked really well. We managed to get most of the park done on the first day using the service, even Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which we rope dropped.
On our second day visiting Magic Kingdom, we decided to use our first reservation for the more popular Lightning Lane selection Jungle Cruise – which had a return time of 12:40pm when we booked. This then meant we weren’t allowed to book our next Lightning Lane till 11am, 2 hours after park opening despite booking at 7am. It sounds complicated – but trust me, it isn’t.
Postive: Less Waiting = More Rides
Throughout both days in Magic Kingdom, a vast majority of rides had a really short return time when booking Lightning Lanes, meaning we could jump the busy queues for essentially most of the rides for all of the day. We essentially booked for a 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 the queues for were Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain, everything else was essentially “walk on”.
If you are in the parks for the whole of the day, then the service is really effective too. On the first day, we were still making reservations at 10:30pm, so don’t worry about rides closing their Lightning Lanes too early. Plus, if there’s a ride you love – you can just keep booking Lightning Lanes, just like what my sister and I did for Space Mountain, as you can see our enjoyment below:
Postive: An Efficient User Experience
The actual Genie recommendation system itself is really solid. The app asks for the things you want to do most, and will then look at the predicted wait times, show times and many other things and give you an itinerary based on them. I think it could do with some fine tuning, but the system itself was incredibly helpful.
Whilst we were there, Disney revealed a new update which now lets guests know when they can book their next Lightning Lane, which was incredibly helpful.
We didn’t choose to use them, but when you purchase Genie+, you do get access to a number of AR Filters or Lenses to use within the app. A nice little bonus, for sure.
Negative: The 120 Minute Rule
Lightning Lane selections are restricted to a 120-minute rule, or until a prior booking has been used, effectively like the old paper system. During that time, a ride you’re wanting to visit may run out of Lightning Lane offerings requiring guests to use the standby line (I know, how outrageous!)
Arguably, the wisest thing to do is aim for a return time before 11am, which would allow that ability to book again to arrive much sooner. However, you are limiting yourself depending on the busier attraction’s return times, like Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan’s Flight etc.
Negative: The Cost
It doesn’t go without pointing out that $15 per day isn’t the best of price points, especially when you’re visiting as a large party. A family of 6 would be required to spend an extra $90 per day. However, for a park like Magic Kingdom with a large number of attractions, it really does help get through the busier crowds.
Genie+ isn’t required for all of the parks when visiting Walt Disney World – if you are willing to, 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 by 10am on another day – meaning there was no point purchasing Genie+ for Hollywood Studios.
Despite our experience with Hollywood Studios, I can see why people purchase Genie+ for the park and EPCOT too. A 60 minute queue for Frozen Ever After isn’t too appealing, especially if you’re waiting for a Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind boarding group… (Take it from me.)
I do think it is a real shame that the old Fastpass system has evolved into a paid one, especially when you consider it is $15 per person. I’d argue that if Disney World didn’t offer the ability to park hop, that Genie+ should be priced differently for each of the parks, due to the vast difference in number of attractions. Comparing Animal Kingdom to Magic Kingdom, it is astonishing that someone would consider the value of Genie+ to be the same for each park.
Comparison to Universal Express
When our trip headed to Universal Studios, we had booked a hotel which had given us Universal Express as part of the package, and I thought I would compare the two services briefly. Similarly to Genie+, Express offers the ability to skip the standby lines for most of the attractions in Universal’s two parks. Express has a normal tier, and Unlimited – the normal tier allowing one use of Express per ride.
The service isn’t digital, or time-restricted, meaning you can show up whenever for whatever attraction you want, 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, pricing for the Standard Tier starts at $79.99, and Unlimited at $109.99 per person – making it considerably more expensive than Genie+
Would It Work Anywhere Else?
Disney clearly has the infrastructure in place to implement Genie+ in all of their 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 and €15 (depending on popularity/peak times), or a similar experience to Universal’s Express Pass for a higher cost (around €140), allowing guests access to one ride per attraction at both of Disneyland Paris’ parks.
I think guests would be more reluctant to pay for Genie+ as opposed to Premier Access, especially if costs were to stay the same to what they are in Orlando. Given the resort’s smaller size, Disney could look at different packages based on Thrill/Family attractions, or look to introduce lightning Lanes for all of Paris’ attractions. At the time of writing, Premier Access is only available on 13 attractions, 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 supported by some really cool tech, offering the benefits of the old FastPass system and more. The benefits definitely outweigh the negatives on this one, personally.
The service’s pricing will alienate families and groups, but solo visitors can definitely make use of the service. Disney Genie+ is a perfect, yet unfortunate representation of the Chapek Era of Disney Parks, and whilst paying for attractions isn’t ideal, the new service worked wonders on our trip, and skipping standby lines made our day in the park that bit more relaxed.